Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Good enough"

There was a post I remember reading on The Forge about how it's better to release a meh game then not to release any game at all. It's something I'm eventually going to need to convince myself, but it's hard.

There are really two elements that I worry will not be good enough. The first is the theme. My game is set on a prison island. It is supposed to be about survival, and is supposed to be dark. At least in the real world. In the fantasy world, it is supposed to be utterly surreal. I worry that I don't do either of those points justice. I'm trying to work on that. I've debated trying to do my own artwork for the surreal part. I've also been working on flavor text to stick here and there, and on changing the names to really reflect this. Still though, I've sometimes thought that perhaps my basic back-story is not good enough.

Second, I worry sometimes that this game isn't getting playtested enough. I mean, it would take years and years to playtest every combination of abilities. I worry that inevitably there is going to be one or two strategies that dominate the rest, and that'll be no fun. Plus I worry that I won't be able to thoroughly test each special mission and special rule. I've debated if I should just give it a one or two time go, and see if they're alright. The later I'm less worried about, because if, say, the Assassinate mission is horrible, then no one will play it. I've sometimes debated if I'm going to need to drop some of them (or if it would be better to just release them under insufficient playtesting).

I don't know, I remember reading on The Forge a comment about a game (can't remember which one, but saw it a few times), that the game had such a good idea, but just wasn't well done. I worry sometimes that that will be Illeria. I don't know, as I said, I'll do what I can, but at some point a meh game is better than no game.


PS Random note: I really need to change my bio, stop saying that I'm about to go to Africa. I've done that, I'm back

“The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to be credible.” – Mark Twain

Monday, March 16, 2009

Trend towards simplicity

There was a post recently on, where someone asked if our games tended to become simpler, or more complicated as time went on. This game has done both, though honestly, I feel like most of it has been towards simplification.

The one asterisk I add to this is that I tried to develop the game in pieces. The last major game project I worked on ("Conquest of Diluna," a fantasy A&A-style game), the game began by me throwing everything in at once. The result: nothing was balanced, and I needed to balance several items at a time. In short, it was hard. It really took to about the 7th or 8th playtest before I had a game that didn't radically change from one time to the next. Here, the first time I played this, it was as simple as it gets. Each character had 1 advancement. There were no classes. There was no magic. There were no summoned creatures or animated creatures. And there were only 5 special abilities per world (including stat boosts). All I really wanted to do was test out if my basic mechanics (3 phases, orders that are mostly unchangeable, 2 worlds) were fun. It turns out they were. So, with that, I went into the game, proceeding slowly, trying to make sure each level of complexity worked before adding something new in.

That said, here are things that I've added in since the beginning (that weren't originally envisioned):
-Multiple missions
-Abilities where one character can influence their doppelganger
-Player aids (although, this is an addition that simplifies things)
-Terrain types
-Partial actions (although, this somewhat replaced disobeying commands)
-The "Retreat" action

Here are things I've dropped:
-Different classes having different stats
-Randomly determined HP
-A separate weapon system (never added, but originally I planned on it, this just got absorbed into abilities)
-One character must meditate at a time (basically, originally when a person was up in one world, they needed to be down in the other)
-Group orders
-Disobeying commands
-3 different types of savings throws
-The "Defend" order

Here are things I've streamlined:
-Spell failures (from roll a d10, on a 1, roll on another table -> to roll 2d6 whenever a spell fails)
-What happens when the general dies (it went from everyone makes Intelligence tests every turn -> to your # of orders are reduced)
-Damage (from either you do full damage or half damage -> to either you do full damage or x2 damage)
-Animated creatures (from you give them a specific order that you need to write yourself, much like programming a computer with a set of "if: then" statements -> to you choose from a list of pre-made commands)

There is probably more, although this is all that I can think of for now. Cheers!


PS It's still weird to think that after all of this simplification, the rulebook is still almost 70 pages long.

“Everybody has their moment of great opportunity in life. If you happen to miss the one you care about, then everything else in life becomes eerily easy.” – Douglas Adams