Monday, February 9, 2015

What's in a Game - Part 2

When I last left off with my "What's in a Game" series, I promised to provide some more concrete examples of the game's evolution over time. Well here you go:

I decided to revisit the "Giant Monster Battling Game" that I had started for last year's contest with some major changes. This year I felt I had the time to make something truly "epic." Work quickly began in the complete wrong direction. I decided that the coolest thing to do with a giant monster themed board game was to simulate the creation of giant monster movies. This wasn't wrong, but I didn't do it quite right. I started with something way to complex. I had to change and cut a lot just to get something barely playable, which taught me my first lesson in game design: "The easiest way for a beginning game designer to set themselves up to fail is to start with something too big and too convoluted."

At first, it was an actual movie simulator. Kaiju were directly pulled from movies and every game was a unique scenario based on that movie. This was impractical for game that had ambitions of actually getting published. Besides copyright laws and licensing nightmares, the rules would need to be specific to every single scenario. Also, there would be a ridiculous amount of unique pieces that needed to be produced that might not have a lot of reusability between scenarios. This could be solved by having generic, uninteresting pieces that could represent a variety of actors, props, or other things, but that's not very visually appealing. Therefore, I tossed out the scenario idea in favor of a more collaborative game building experience where the players made the game unique each time it was played. This required only a single rule set that revolved around kicking the other daikaiju's ass.

In this version, I had a game master, called the director, who controlled the set, military, and other things. They had a lot of control over each individual game, but couldn't win. They also had a lot of sway over which player eventually won the game because of the game altering power they held with their twist deck and military units. This wasn't fun and it took a lot of set up. The Director built a whole new twist deck for every single game and the multitude of military units were too tedious to keep track of. The twist deck was a cool idea so I give one to every player and got rid of the Director. The military is an interesting "faction" that could be implemented in a later version of Daikaiju Director, but it will require some major reworking.

That left me with something that very closely resembles Daikaiju Director as it is today. The set is built out of some "set tiles," which are made out of hexes and filled with props. There's 4 different monsters that players get to control on a city-wrecking rampage that ends with one Daikaiju becoming king of the monsters and the star of the show. Each player had a twist deck tailored specially to their chosen monster, which played differently than all of the others due to different stats and abilities. The resulting game was quick and easy to learn, while giving enough choices to give value and consequence to every action. Gameplay was fast and varied and after a few play tests and minor rules tweaks Daikaiju Director is well on its way to being a fun and interesting game that I'm excited to share with the world.

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