Friday, November 30, 2007

Last Night's Playtest

So, last night I playtested the game with my roommate. We didn't have time to finish before he had to stop, but we did get like the first three turns in. For the first time we used the full-blown character creation system. What really struck me about this game is that basically, it worked, and we hardly had any real problems. Not only that, but we both picked themed parties of our own accord. I mean, we've now tested only a handful of abilities, but still, it's nice to see that the system works.

I've been pondering a lot about group actions. So, in my game, each turn both players are limited to a certain number of actions (usually 5), when the must control 10 people. However this can be somewhat circumvented by using "group orders." In a group order, a player tells a certain group of characters in close proximity to do the same thing. For example, "Hey you three over there, run forward!" In some ways this encourages specialization, and I had hoped it would give players additional choices when planning. However, I worry that it might be unbalanced. Here are my concerns:
-Group orders can only be given on move actions, shooting, and a few special abilities. It cannot be given to things such as casting a spell. My main worry is that this overpowers archers, who I have already been seriously thinking are too strong. I also worry that it will take something out of more specialized parties, since they will basically need to ignore one board in order to act.
-When I designed a game with only a limited number of actions per turn, my goal was to create a need for strong planning. Basically, when you have 10 things you want to do, but can only do 6 of them, it really puts you in a pinch, and you need to rank how important each action is. I worry that with group actions, it takes something out of that (since rarely do I not have enough orders to do everything I want).
-A major reason I don't have certain orders available for big groups is how specific they need to be. For example, to program a construct, you need to name a character, her constructs, and what order they'll be given. In some ways, this doesn't work for groups, since they couldn't all target the same construct. I have considered making the game less rigid, so that you don't need to declare a target when making an order, and this would solve that problem. However, I worry that that takes a lot of the planning out of the game.

The best way to figure this out is just to playtest a game without group orders, and see how it changes (and whether players revolt). However, I've had a few thoughts on how to improve them:
-Make more things available as group actions. For example, multiple characters can throw the same spell. (I mean, I guess this is reversing an initial problem: The first time I played the game, one player gave everyone Teleport, and just overwhelmed his opponent with group orders. The solution seemed to be limiting it, so that if you really wanted to do something special with a lot of people, it would cost you several orders. Maybe I went a little too far...)
-Alternatively, I could consider making shoot no longer a group action (however, that means I basically have "move" and "retreat", which seems kind of crappy).
-Lastly, I could make it easier to move with summoned creatures. In my last game, each of my vessel characters had a pack of summoned creatures they were ordering around. Because of that, to move an entire party, it meant that I needed to use 5 actions (each using a command summoned creatures ability). Maybe it would be better to do that differently, where moving with your summoned creatures counts as a move action. My worry though is that it would somewhat overpower summoned creatures (because now you can group them up), which are already fairly powerful to begin with. Maybe not though.

A final thought: I was talking to the roommate a few days ago, and I brought up removing group actions. He said I should leave them in, since it's very much in the theme of my game. Orders represent the head prisoner barking commands at her lackies, so why shouldn't she be able to say, "Hey you three, kill that!" It made me wonder, is a game mechanic worth leaving in, just because it fits so well with the theme?


“‘Where to we go from here?’ ‘Who says were’re here?’” – George Carlin

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sad-ish realization

I'm starting to realize that I probably don't have what it takes to get this game out the door before I leave. I could whip something together real fast, but I don't really want to. I worry that it will just be crap that won't sell (and really, this game could use a bit more playtesting and developing before I get it out the door). So, the plan is to just bring it with me to Africa, and keep working there. I probably won't be able to playtest from that far away, but maybe will be able to talk my friends into trying it. If nothing else it will be a good time to work on really developing the world.

Oh, yeah, so I'm not sure if I went into detail on this, I guess not, but I ended up signing up with a group called WorldTeach, who do the same basic thing as Peace Corps, and will be going back to Namibia in less than 2 weeks. So, yay!


“Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.” – Winston Churchill

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I'm starting to ponder, well, the economics of this all. As my background, I should explain that I was a math/biology major in college, who never took a business class, and though I understand little of the field, my mom was an accountant (and I think at least a little has rubbed off).

I'm trying to figure out, if my goal is to at least break even, what costs I have, and how much I can charge. I mean, at least the theory in accounting is you take (up front cost + desired profit)/(expected sales) = (profit per unit), I think anyways. However, what gets me is this: what are the expected sales, how will each cost (mainly artwork) affect sales, and how will price affect sales? I mean, as I've said, if I can sell only 1 of my games for $500, then I'll be in the black, but that probably won't happen.

I guess what I need to ask for each cost is "Will it pay for itself, or is it needed?" I mean, if I spend $100 on artwork, will that generate at least 13 extra sales? What if I buy a cover art piece, will that generate the 15 sales to cover it's cost? What if I doubled my art budget, would I realistically be able to sell 60 copies? And if my art budget doubled, would I be able to sell my game for $17 or $20 instead of $15?

I've posted to The Forge about this, and am waiting for a response. Most of the previous things I've read have been very qualitative (things like, "You need to make a strong visual statement") but little in terms of actual numbers. I mean, maybe I'm expecting the economics of indie RPGs to be a science (the way economics kind of is), when it's not. Or, maybe I just didn't see the right posts, and actually all of my questions have been answered already but are hidden from me.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A thought...

You know, maybe this is just me talking crazy, but given my approaching deadline, I'm starting to debate whether I really want to put campaign rules into my game. I worry that I won't be able to do them justice in time, and I slightly worry that they're not original enough. I guess I can always put them into a (possibly free) expansion that I'll put out later (maybe when I come back).

Just a thought, going to let it stew for a few days...


“Peeing Rocks!” – Mike

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Advancement Ideas...

Happy November everyone!

Okay, so here are my ideas for possibilities on how a character can advance:
1)At the end of each game, everyone gets a random (low) chance at gaining an advancement.
2)At the end of each game, each party gets a certain number of advancement dice, which will give the player a chance to of advancing.
3)Each player gains an automatic advancement for killing another character.
4)Each mission will grant chances at additional advancements.
5)Beating a stronger army grants more advancements.
6)Not using all your Luck Points gives extra advancements.
7)Surviving or winning a battle gives extra advancements.
8)Advancement chances are determined by the number of actions you make, or by the number of times you roll a "1" (or something equivalent).
9)Losing a battle grants extra advancements (since in real life you learn more from losing than from winning, and losing already sucks).

1 seems a bit simple, though I kind of like it. 2 I like also. 3 seems too close to other games, and might lead to a bit of a death spiral (though maybe not), and requires book-keeping. 4 I like, though need to figure out how to incorperate it into missions. 5 I like, and will probably do. 6 I think might just be silly, though maybe it could be interesting. 7, maybe, although again I worry about the spiral thing (although, maybe these are canceled out by 5). 8 is too much book keeping, and might generate actions for the sake of actions. 9, well, I think players would revolt.

So those are my thoughts. I need to do that and the missions, but then I think I've got the campaign thing under control.


“It may not be possible to cover the entire surface of the earth with leather, but to cover your own two feet is the same.” – Shantideva