Week 14: Final Games

The Lands Between

Week 13: Final

Andrew Win

Chereen Tam

The Tarnished and the Graced fight in the Lands Between.

A two player PvP game where the objective changes with the board.

Design Waypoint

To continue refining the idea of parallel worlds/opposite realms and the board flipping mechanic. 

Mechanics and Play Design Elements

Concept Phase

During this third phase of our concept development, we had great difficulty in trying to choose a direction we should go with. On one hand we really enjoyed the story aspect and game mechanics in our second official class iteration. However, during the gameplay, we realized that there were many issues surrounding the logic of the game. There were many instances and situations where something would loop infinitely or one of the players were significantly over powered. On the other hand, we found storytelling/RPG style games would be very difficult to make simple and playable under 15 minutes. So, we began to diverge from the underworld and overworld narrative and switched to a strategy game instead. 

In this new idea, we attempted to create a strategy game that still focuses on the board flipping idea. We did not want to let go of the flipping because we thought the mechanic was new and different in terms of the games we’ve made throughout this semester. We wanted a unique game mechanic that would be constantly used throughout the game. So, in this concept phase for the strategy game, we attempted to create a game that had very simple mechanics, was fast paced, and used the board flipping mechanism. We went through many iterations of the mechanics and did play tests with others, we had good responses from players who enjoyed board strategy games such as chess. However, we both did not enjoy playing or making this type of game, as we both don’t enjoy purely strategy games. 

This led us to go back to the RPG game since we wanted to make a game that the two of us could actually enjoy. We decided that we would have to have very simple and reduced mechanics or mechanics that were left to RNG to create a game that would be playable in a very short amount of time. The two of us realized that if we did not keep it simple, we would have a several hour long game. So, we decided to keep the board flipping and to stick to simple and relatively intuitive mechanics that would not take long or be difficult to learn. 

Prototyping and Internal Playtest

During the first half of the week, we were focused on prototyping the strategy game idea. We made a very simple board that was easy to flip back and forth to try out the different mechanics. We decided that we wanted each player to have three characters that they control. Each person would have a king piece and two minion pieces. Depending on which side of the board, one player would be the chaser and the other would be the runner. The runner would always start first, as they should have a head start. The goal of the game was to kill the other player’s king piece using any of their playable pieces. After every round, where each player goes once, the board will flip and the players' dynamics will swap as well. So, the runner now becomes the chaser and the chaser becomes the runner. The minions served two purposes. First, to kill the other player’s king piece. Second, to block the other player’s characters from getting to your king. Furthermore, we decided that these minions could never die because we didn’t want the game to resemble chess too much. Throughout the week, we playtested over 10 different iterations of this game where the mechanics were changed. We needed to find a balance of movement between the two characters. So, we tested board movements where the players had differing permutations of movement between the numbers 1-3. We also made iterations where the minions would have different mechanics such as they could only move if they were adjacent to the king piece, if the minions had shared movement, if the minions could absorb each other for boosted movement. The issue we ran into during internal playtesting was either the game would take too long or the one of the players had a large advantage over the other. 

As we were stuck on trying to create an even balance between the dynamic flipping and movements, we decided to have some external playtesting to see if we could pick on one of our previous iterations and build on it. However, in this play test, the players initially thought that it was similar to chess, this was unfortunate because we did not want the game to resemble chess. They also thought that we needed more random and predetermined aspects in order to make a faster paced game. This threw us into more of a frenzy because, although the playtesters enjoyed this game as they enjoy chess, we did not feel motivated or excited to continue this game. So, we decided to switch back to the RPG game as it was a much more comfortable realm for the both of us. We decided to iterate off of our midterm idea but simplify everything to reduce the need for difficult game mechanics. As our previous game was very complicated, we switched a majority of the mechanics as something predetermined or something that was left to luck. We decided to choose the amount of moves the player could get per move, to leave the summoning to a coin flip, and to fight with a simple rock paper scissors mechanic. We also decided that our storyline and goal would be that the “Graced” character is in the underworld to defeat the “Tarnished” boss. We did 4-5 rounds of iteration to adjust the number of cards and movements to find the optimal amount to play within a 15 minute timeframe. On our last internal and external gameplay, we were able to finish both games with an average of about 14 minutes. Some took a little longer due to the RNG aspect of the game, but it did not prolong it a substantial amount.

Class Playtest and Observed Dynamics

During the class playtest, we noticed that many of the players took 2-3 rounds of playing to really begin understanding the game mechanics. Fortunately, it seemed quite intuitive and relatively easy to understand, which was our intention. However, we did encounter a situation where there was a set of players who were having a difficult time understanding the gameplay and the mechanics. As we asked them for feedback, they both mentioned that they have little to no experience with RPG games and mechanics. During the games, we saw a lot of emotion such as sadness, frustration, and excitement when the Tarnished player was playing due to the loss or gaining of minions and the RNG aspects of the game. There was also a good amount of excitement and tension when there was a boss battle because the Graced player knows the possibilities of cards the Tarnished may have and the Tarnished player is finally able to play a hand. 

The players also really enjoyed the physicality of the game, such as the moving pieces and flipping of the board. Players tend to be quite excited when they flip the board for the first time. The playing dynamics between the two players were very different. As one could only rely on RNG and the other player had to think about strategy a little more. As some of the Graced players revealed, depending on the cards they had on hand, they would either be bold and attack or they would run and be on the defense. Because the Graced players had more personal decisions in their gameplay, the Tarnished players found it a little frustrating that everything was predetermined or left up to luck until the very end of the game. However, some critics mentioned that it was not necessarily a bad thing because they enjoyed the vast difference in mechanics between the two characters. Perhaps, we would only need to iterate and give the Tarnished players a little more personal decisions while maintaining the predeterminedness and the luck aspects of gameplay. 

We also had some repeating questions through multiple gameplays, such as “can we move diagonally” or “Can I redraw cards yet?”. Perhaps to fix this issue, we could do a demo play that shows the movement and mechanics of the game. 

Aesthetics and Feedback

Evaluation and Ideas for Next Iteration

As many of our class members and critics enjoyed the board flipping and magnetic aspects of the game, we would try to continue our idea using the same board mechanic. However, as some mentioned, the ability for the Tarnished player and his minions to actually play during the game had too much pre-determinedness and luck. This caused tarnished players to feel helpless when their minions were dying. Originally, the game was much more complicated with an HP system, however, we removed it due to the class playtest time constraints. In our next iteration, there would be no need to worry about time constraints, so we could add in all of the elements that we took out. During our playtest we also noticed that many Tarnished players wanted to be able to do something when their minions were being attacked, and the only time the player would actually be able to make a non predetermined attack was at the very end. So, we could try to implement some ways in which the Tarnished players could help their minions, for example boosting their attack or having some sort of power up system. This would allow the Tarnished player to make unpredictable moves in the gameplay. 

We would also like to continue iterating on the white side of the board. Currently the white side of the board does not feel important. Instead it seems like a pathway or roadblock that is stopping the player from finishing the game faster. There is no real objective in the overworld. The players’ objectives are trying to get back in the underworld. So, perhaps we need to create a reason that players would want to be on the white side of the board. We would need to create an incentive, such as powering up, or a goal to complete. This would help balance out the gameplay between the Overworld and the Underworld.