Week 6: Midterm Games Pt. 1 (3/1)

Prototype Prompt

Mad Hatter

Week 6: Midterm




A two team puzzle game where players race up and down to capture their opponents flag. But be careful - the rooms move!

Design Waypoint

Create a competitive puzzle game with a whimsical aesthetic. We want players to feel challenged and immersed in the playful environment.

Mechanics and Play Design Elements

Concept Phase

We were initially inspired by the whimsical theme, and wanted to create a game with a playful aesthetic. We thought of Alice in Wonderland as invoking the aesthetic, and wanted to incorporate the Mad Hatter into our game. We chose to narrow the scope to a PvP game with a board and territories. We eventually decided on having a rotatable tower with different floors.

Prototyping and Internal Playtest

When thinking about possible game boards, we wanted to experiment with 3d game play because we were interested in getting the players physically involved into the game. We thought that by making players physically move around the board, looking up and down the floors, and changing the landscape of the player space, the players would be better immersed into the magic circle of our game. Keeping these concepts in mind, we began brainstorming up a tower with rotatable rooms. This would make the up and down movements tangible and allow the players to move and explore their landscapes. So, for the first iteration of our board, we created four small squares that would resemble 4 different floors within our building. Each floor was sectioned off into four separate rooms. We lightly tested the mechanics of moving up and down and created a blueprint. Then, we decided that this function had potential to experience a 3d way of board game playing. 

The next step, we decided to create a fully functioning, low-fidelity prototype of how we envisioned the “board” and its functions. We were interested in creating a group dynamic where players would be able to work together to think and discuss strategies. So, we decided on a “capture the flag” kind of game play where players would attempt to steal the other team’s flag and had to take it back to their base to win. This would allow the players to interact with each other as well as shifting the landscape to hinder the opposing side or to help your team win. 

In our initial gameplay, we formed two teams of two and tried having players move only one step or rotate the wall. We enjoyed the physical mechanics of this playthrough, but we thought that we could try to split each room in half to create more character spaces. During this playtest, we realized that players would never be able to cross to the other side of one room because we restricted the movements to only being up or down or rotating the room by 90 degrees. So, in the next playtest, we tried to add random one way doors throughout the different rooms to allow players to move side to side in certain situations. Through all the play tests to test the playability and mechanics of our game, we slowly realized that a full game was never finished. As a result, we reduced the building to 3 floors and removed the split rooms. The gameplay continued to be very slow, so we pivoted to having players move and rotate walls on the same turn.

Several issues that we noted were that the players took too long trying to figure out a strategy. The analysis of the other players’ positions and contemplating the best course of action severely extended the gameplay time. Players also took time discussing with their teammate which further pushed the play time of the game. Another issue was that the games constantly resulted in stalemates because players were rotating the same floor back and forth to prevent someone from stealing the flag. Because the game was very flag centric, there would always be one play standing still to guard the flag. Subsequently, there was no sense of urgency for all the players to move around the board, creating a very slow paced game. 

We also did some external playtesting, asking a few of our friends from IDM to try our game. This playtest was done with just two players, so each player controlled two units. From our observation, these two players played a lot more aggressively than expected. They were in combat roughly every two turns. This may be due to the two players being very excited with the combat outcomes. With this playtest, the game did actually end, however it took a long time. The game was won by the opposing player being unable to stop the attacking player from bringing the flag back to their respective base. Our playtesters also commented that while the outcome of combat was fun, the combat itself was not. It relied too heavily on luck.

Class Playtest and Observed Dynamics

For the class play test, our goal was for others to test out the player mechanics and the landscape changing, which would inform us of what basic/ fundamental mechanics will need to be changed for the final prototype. Thinking back to our prototype, we had several issues such as the pace was too slow, the players spent too much time thinking, and the players resulted in a stalemate. In all these internal playtest situations, we have never been able to complete a game. So, we decided to add gnome pieces into the game that would allow the player to gain an additional turn. 

For our first class playtest, players took some time to understand the rules and how the game functioned and played. Throughout the game, we had one person physically demonstrating the gameplay and answering questions as the playtest went on. We initially added 7 gnomes throughout the board. However, there were only a total of 12 slots, so the person who went first had a large advantage. During the initial playtest, the first player was able to pick up and use 3 gnomes which resulted in him grabbing the flag and almost making it back to their base. About 7 minutes later, the game ended with the first player returning to their base. Although we were able to see the game end for the first time, the opposing team felt like the game was over before it even started. The player who went first had such a large advantage over all the other players, creating unfair player dynamics. 

To adjust the unreasonable amount of gnomes, we reduced the number to two total gnomes on the board in the second playtest. Since it was much more difficult to find, the game became more balanced because the players would strategize when to use the gnomes. During the second round, the gameplay lasted longer and there was much more interaction between the two teams. We noticed that there continued to be discussion between team members, but as a result, the pace of the game was very slow. 

During the two playtests, several issues jumped out at us. The gameplay was not very intuitive. There were constant questions throughout the game, and it took all the players some time before they were able to understand all the mechanics and goals. Although the team members were communicating with each other, they were unable to help or support each other in the actual gameplay. 




Aesthetics and Feedback Quotes

Positive Feedback:

Critical Feedback:

Evaluation and Ideas for Next Iteration

Overall, while players enjoyed maneuvering the rotating game board, there were several mechanical issues with our game that caused it to drag on and left players feeling dissatisfied. Players reported that the pace of the game was slow, it was difficult to see the board and effectively coordinate strategies in the teams, and the gnome feature was overpowered and unbalanced. There were also negative reactions to the randomness of the battle mechanic, as there was little strategy involved in winning or losing the battles. Players did, however, find the game board itself to be interesting and novel. We can leverage that in our next iteration of the game, playing up the fantasy elements of the board and incorporating those aesthetic qualities into our mechanics.

For our next iteration, we want to rethink movement and combat. Taking account of the feedback from our playtests and our observations, movement and combat feel a bit clunky. One idea we had was to implement a card system that would also serve as movement as well as combat. We plan on playing Onitama to get a feel for how movement can be implemented into cards. 

Another observation we had was that the win state, though achievable, took too long to attain. There were many factors that contributed to this. Team coordination, and forgetting player colors were a few of such factors. To remedy this, we planned on decreasing the players from 4 to 2 as well as ending the game after each player has made 12 moves.

Finally, the placement of the pieces in the beginning was very confusing and we felt that it didn’t really add anything gameplay wise. For the next iteration, we are thinking of removing this, and having players start in their respective throne rooms, which will be on opposite sides of one another.

Ideas for next iteration:

Documentation Media

Brainstorming and Prototyping:

External Playtest:

Classroom Playtest: