Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Don't include unsupported stuff. Don't hint at stuff that isn't there.

I just now completed Microbe Kombat. Spoilers ahead, insofar as this game could have spoilers.

This is a game similar to 'Feeding Frenzy' - avoid larger microbes and eat smaller ones. Red dots appear at regular intervals and whomever eats this - freind or foe - grows larger.

In the tutorial, the game mentions the 'extra abilities'. Most - stunning nearby enemies, being able to kill larger enemies or extra speed or size for a brief time - are obviously useful.

Two, however, seemed to have an interesting risk/reward system - splitting into 2 (diminishing your size whilst doing so) and exploding one microbe to destroy nearby enemies.

Suffice to say that I became increasingly disappointed that there never seemed to be a great time to use these abilities - I was eagerly awaiting some clever tactics to be necessiated, somehow involving multiplication of microbes and explosions.

If these abilities had never existed, I believe the game would have been improved. Rather than eagerly awaiting tactics that never appeared or hoping for challenges that never arose, I would have at least enjoyed what was there.

By their mere existence, these 'unsupported' mechanics simply draw attention to what's not in the game.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Game Design Challenge: Make Monopoly Fun (other folks' entries)

Well, having read the entries by others, I was slightly surprised by a few things:

- only one player proposed a winning objective
- Many of the proposals changed the game beyond what I'd consider 'Monopoly'.
- Where numbers were asked for, folk didn't even make a stab at a starting value - just calling it 'a number'.

I was actually kinda worried that everyone would do the same as me but even within the tight constraints, there was little overlap. Maybe because folk think differently? Or maybe others felt more compelled to stray further away from a game they dislike (or just wanted to show how far outside the box they felt)?

In any case, I shouldn't have worried so much about my ideas being 'unoriginal'.

Also, I shouldn't have worried about getting numbers etc. correct and should have just gotten whatever I had thought of into an e-mail. Now I'll never know if I could have been an 'honourable mention' or even a winner.

I'll take a stab at this week's effort though. Got an idea, it may be shit, but I owe it to my future self to spend at least half an hour sketching something out (unless aliens attack or something).

Game Design Challenge: Make Monopoly Fun (a non-entry)

I actually found out about a 'Game Design Challenge' - to 'Make Monopoly Fun' last week, a day before the deadline. I came up with some ideas in the subsequent few hours, but then never actually typed anything up or sent anything in.

This is my attempt to at least get myself in the habit of typing stuff. Next time, I'll do this quickly and send in whatever I have, rather than trying to get it to be better (or waiting when I could have easily made the time there and then).

For the record - the post declaring the winning entries has already been posted, though I haven't read it.

These aspects of the game need to be changed:
* the game has a very large amount of luck involved
* games go on for a very long time
* once a player has lost the game, they have nothing to do while others play

Only 3 new rules/rule changes


Ways to reduce length:
a - impose mandatory time limit (already an option in rulebook. Can feel 'artificial' and introduces 'meta-play')
b - introduce winning condition (as opposed to losing conditions)
c - begin game in mid-game
(e.g. hand out 'free properties' as suggested in rulebook's alternate rules. Or auction off a bunch of properties before the game begins - reducing luck slightly.)

Ways to reduce 'dead time' for losing player:
a - one loss is the 'ending condition' (as suggested in rulebook)
b - Give losing players some way to influence the game (can it still be interesting?)
c - have a 'winning condition' rather than losing condition

To increase application of skill:
- Introduce more reasons to NOT buy a property outright.

- Further necessiate trading, maybe by auctioning selected properties.

Currently, there are 3 major types of decisions to be made in Monopoly - whether to buy a property or not, trading and when to upgrade. The former is currently a non-decision. With the starting sum and our income from passing Go, it's practically always correct to buy whatever property we land on. Maybe introduce less money?

Decisions regarding private trading are where the heart and soul currently lie. When someone's able to collect a set without trading, the game is often won by them - even the first set, when fully upgraded, puts the unimproved rent of the blue set to shame. Maybe auctioning selected properties would help? But unless at least two of each set is auctioned off, we can't guarantee that no sets are collected through chance.

Auctioning off every single property before the game begins makes for an interesting game - though it doesn't 'feel' like Monopoly. It lacks any 'build up'. Also, it makes for a relatively long game.

Are there other ways to encourage trading? I think I need to remove the possibility of getting a set by fluke. Maybe just disallow buying properties without an auction?

Improving properties is a matter of risk assesment - upgrade as much as possible, whilst ensuring we remain 'afloat'. Seems fine.

Possible rule changes (numbers might change)

- Start with less money
- less money for passing go.
- no chance to buy properties outright. (Maybe formalise auctioning to give the player who's landed there a slight advantage?)
- winning condition - get £X?

Less starting money:
- reduces luck (by getting rid of the 'non-decision' involved with buying properties outright). If auctioning is compulsory, though, maybe this is nullified.
- increases luck (increasing effect of randomly landing on a bought unimproved property)
- I'll skip this.

Less money for passing Go:
- reduces luck (reducing advantage of high dice-rolls)
- might shorten game slightly, getting rid of 'slow deaths'
- would maybe lengthen game slightly and introduce a 'minimum length' for a game with a 'get £X' winning condition
- Maybe £100? Should be an amount that still feels like a 'reward' but is low enough to allow for a large 'minimum number of turns' before someone might have the winning amount of cash and isn't a significant factor in winning, compared to income from rent.
- Or maybe just 0? Advantages - simplicity, no memory issues. Disadvantages - folk can feel 'gypped' compared to old rules, though this will pass. - With no money 'entering the game', but money 'leaving the game' (due to tax, selling bought stuff) a winning target could become impossible.
- To increase rental income, maybe there should be 'dummy players', which just go round the board, giving players income from the bank. Could be complicate though and would need another new rule.

Sum should be > money lost each round so it can be a 'small' benefit, on average. Chance to land on tax place is about 2/7. 2/7 chance to lose £150 on average means £43 is lost on average, each turn. I think Jail loses £4 a turn on average. £50 might be fine, but this really needs to be played out.

No chance to buy properties outright:
- increases skill (increasing relevancy of auction-decisions and trading-decisions)
- If the required increase between bids is relatively high (e.g. 20%), then there could be some strategy in picking a value that others won't want to beat. Also, it'll ensure that auctions don't go on ridiculously long.
- Some people are bad at maths though. Maybe make it 10% so it's easier, whilst retaining some 'forced speed'?

Winning condition of 'get £X':
- reduces chance of 'deadtime'
- reduces length of game, killing the slow end-game
- The value should be high enough to ensure 'doing nothing and just collecting money from passing Go' is NEVER the best strategy but low enough so games don't go on too long and that the target is reachable.
- £2500?

Final Thing
Rule change 1 - Players collect £50 for passing Go.

Rule change 2 - When a player lands on a property, it is put up for auction. (The player who landed on it does NOT have a chance to buy it outright.)

Auctions proceed as follows - starting with the player who landed on the property and going left, each player calls out a bid. Bids must be AT LEAST 10% more and £5 more than the previous bid. Once every player has passed the bid, the last bid is successful and the player must buy the property for the bid value.

Players may not bid more than they can afford.

Rule change 3 - If a player is valued at £2500 or more at any time, they win. This includes cash on hand as well as the full value of existing houses, hotels and unmortgaged properties.