Week 7: Midterm Games Pt. 2 and Meatspace Affordances (3/8)

Prototype Prompt

Second Midterm Iteration Writeup

No other homework, enjoy your break!

The Whimsical Gather

Week 7: Midterm




A game where two players fight to claim the treasures needed to rule the kingdom!

Design Waypoint

Create a game where the play board was both a game object, and game space, with the theme of whimsical, and to evoke feelings of competitiveness and uncertainty. 

Mechanics and Play Design Elements

Concept Phase

Our initial concept was based on whimsical, which was proposed by Diana. We wanted to keep this theme as well as keeping the goal of making a board game with an interesting mechanic. We knew from the start we wanted to keep the rotating floors, but couldn’t come up with a smooth experience that could incorporate it during our first iteration. We thought of ways to incorporate the whimsical theme into our aesthetics and gameplay while addressing previous feedback. We also broadened the inspiration, going from Alice in Wonderland to just Fairytales. This gave us more flexibility and freedom.

Prototyping and Internal Playtest

Firstly, we leaned heavily into the aesthetics for the game. Because we wanted a higher fidelity tower, we used acrylic sheets and utilized the laser cutter. From our previous playtest and feedback, we knew there was a lot we needed to tweak in our game. Playtesters noted that while rotating the floors was fun and interesting, the movement and combat could be improved. Movement felt lackluster and lacked strategic weight, while the combat felt shallow and purely on luck based with little input from players. These two aspects combined gave our players an awkward experience. For the next iteration, we started from scratch keeping only one thing: the rotating floors. We tackled each problem we had with our initial iteration individually. The first mechanic we addressed was movement, which dragged on despite being able to move and rotate every turn. We decided to turn all possible movements into cards, with simple movements being more common than more complex movements. This change made the combat easier to address; we added an attack value on the movement cards and common cards had lower Attack Scores. Finally, we addressed the length of play time for our game. In our previous playtests, both internal and external and in the classroom, the game took a long time to end. We added a clock at the top of the tower, which serves as a 24-turn countdown for the end of the game. Each player gets 12 rounds before the game ends. We also added the treasure collecting mechanic to give the players an easier to understand goal. 

In our first playtest, we were able to end the game after 22 rounds. On the second, we ended in a tie. We decided to not add any sudden death rounds and let stalemates stand. We also did some external playtests with players outside of our class, as well as outside of NYU. The general consensus was that the game was intense, but still fun. We also encountered a few situations that we never considered. For example, players initiated combat and kept drawing until they ran out of cards, but the combat still ended in a draw. We decided that, in that case, the combat result is a tie and both players would refill their hand.

Additionally, it was difficult for players to differentiate cards from different decks. To fix this, we printed color coordinated card backs that would represent the light and dark cards. We also designed one card in particular that states “Rotate 270 degrees” but tried to omit the fact that it could be spread across the floors. We wanted to see if any players rotate each of the 3 floors 90 degrees each, however no one did. We decided to update this card to be a little more explicit, changing it to “Rotate any floor(s) 270 degrees”. 

Class Playtest and Observed Dynamics

During the class playtest, our players were a little confused at the beginning, but quickly understood the game after a few rounds. The rulesheet may be too verbose, as it took about 5-7 minutes for the players to read, and even then, they didn’t seem to fully understand the game. During the beginning of the round, players played safe and prioritized collecting the treasure over combat.

The players spent about 15-45 seconds observing the tower to find the optimal moves. After movement and/or combat, the players tended to forget which pile they had to draw cards from. All the treasures were collected around round 20. This was when the players became more aggressive, engaging in combat every chance they got. Beforehand, players were relatively reluctant to engage in combat. One interesting behavior we saw was that the player who was in the lead didn’t run away. Rather, they fought back to claim their treasure back. 

Players also stayed in the same room and kept fighting for the token that they lost in the previous round. When a player lost a treasure to their opponent, that player would steal that treasure back because they knew that their opponent had that treasure.

Both players also seemed to forget about the clock at the top of the board after a few rounds and Andrew had to manage the rounds. The players also expressed a little confusion about the tokens towards the end. In total, the game lasted about 25 minutes, excluding the time to read the rulesheet.

Aesthetics and Feedback Quotes

Our goal for this playtest was to address the major complaints we had from our previous iteration. We also wanted to make our magic circle more accessible, and make our players become more invested in the game.

Evaluation and Ideas for Next Iteration

For the next iteration, we want to change the color of the tokens. Because two out of our three floors are dark, the tokens tend to blend in a little with the rooms. On top of changing the color of the token, we want to change the color of our cards. A player commented that they were confused about which color represented which team. 

Another thing we would like to improve on is the clock at the top. Players forgot about the clock multiple times. A player commented that the clock was hard to remember because it didn’t seem related to the goal, which was collecting the treasure. We want to design the clock and place it in an area that would be more intuitive.  

We believe that these two components could help the game be more self-sufficient, and not require a GM.

We also designed our game in a way that promoted movement and action, because we were afraid of the game becoming too slow. However since the players asked if a turn could be skipped, we are considering if it may be a good idea to allow that. 

Lastly, we want to just make the board look better and make the board more immersive. We wanted to create a diorama for each room but didn’t have enough time. Dioramas in each room would allow for the players to enter our magic circle more easily.

Documentation Media



Internal Playtest:

Classroom Playtest:

EXTRA CREDIT Writing: Physical Games vs Digital Games

Over the break, I played a combination of board games and digital games and the two experiences were enjoyable for different reasons. For board games, I played Onitama and Tortuga 1667; Onitama being a two player game and Tortuga played with 9 players. For digital games I played Lost Ark and Elden Ring. 

To me, the main differences between the two mediums is that digital games are more immersive and allow me to imagine and role-play more, whereas physical games allow me to socialize more. I think physical games are less immersive, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. Because it is less immersive, it allows you to interact more with the other players. It is easier to talk to the player next to you, while another player is taking their turn without the worry of speaking over said player in voice chat. There was a lot more banter between myself and the other players when we were playing physical games. I also felt like our bond deepened between us after playing, and arguing for 4 hours. 

On the other hand, after playing Lost Ark for 7 hours, I felt as though there was much social interaction between the players. There was less banter and socializing and more strategic talk and how to tackle the raid boss. Another thing to me is that while Lost Ark is an MMORPG played by thousands of players, it felt like separate single player instances for the most part, aside from the raids of course.

I also played Elden Ring (a lot) solo for the most part. It’s been a long time since I played a single player game and despite there being no players with me, I never felt alone. Elden Ring’s message system allowed me to see hints from fellow players who have ventured the same path that I was on. Elden Ring was the perfect blend of socializing and single player immersion and concentration. It’s nice to unwind and just have time to yourself and Elden Ring allowed me to do that without making me feel lonely.

The last thing I’d like to compare is the idea of playing with friends vs playing with strangers in both physical and digital games. In both physical and digital games, the playstyle of both myself and my friends remained the same for the most part. We joked a lot, and there was a lot of banter. When playing physical games with strangers, I noticed that we both tended to play more “proper”. We followed the rules a little more closely, and didn’t try to joke as much, at least at first. It felt as though the goal was to win, whereas with friends, winning was the secondary goal; the primary goal being to just have fun. However, after a few rounds and getting to know the other player, we both started to joke and the goal changed from winning to having fun. In digital games, the way gameplay is affected by strangers is completely random. I was invaded by random players while playing Elden Ring, and I remember two specific encounters. 

The first was a naked character with a giant metal helmet running up to me and squatting down next to me. Of course I responded by doing the same, and I felt that a bond was instantly formed. We skipped the introductory rounds from physical games and went straight to bantering. The next encounter was less fun. A dual wielding samurai invaded my world, and having just recently shared a moment of kinship with the naked helmet character, I ran up and squatted, hoping the invader would also do the same. He did not. He attacked me immediately and killed me. It was pretty amusing though.

I think the reason digital games are a little more unpredictable is because it is digital. There is the safety of anonymity, therefore allowing people to banter or troll without having to worry about being judged. In the end though, I benefitted the most from both physical and digital games during the break.

EXTRA CREDIT Writing: Elden Ring

I would like to start by mentioning that I have never played any Souls game before. While I haven’t played any Souls games before, I have watched a few playthroughs of Dark Souls 3 and Bloodbourne. Elden Ring was the first game by FromSoftware that I gave a real chance, and I’m glad I did. Elden Ring is made by FromSoftware by Hidetaka Miyazaki and George R.R. Martin. The story of Elden Ring is vague and only tells you the end goal, to become the Elden Lord, without much context on how. Judging from what I have watched in previous Souls games and Elden Ring, I think Miyazaki’s design goal for Elden Ring was to make the Souls genre more accessible to the general gaming community. Elden Ring has a few design tools that make it more accessible to newcomers to the genre. 

One of them being the message system, which allows other players to leave messages in the world that would show up in your world. From what I’ve seen these messages are helpful 50% of the time and the other 50% are trolls or jokes. That being said, even when the messages aren't helpful, they are pretty entertaining to read. The messages that are helpful provide something essential to progressing in the game; information. The most important kinds were the bloodstains. When reading messages, or bloodstains, a spectral form appears in the shape of the player that placed the message. If it is a message (in white) it’ll show the player doing an action or something. If it is a bloodstain (red) it’ll show that player’s last moments before death, and how they died. There were a few times where before I walked into a narrow corridor there was a message at the entrance of the corridor warning me of an ambush as well as many bloodstains on the floor. Occasionally spectral forms of other players will appear showing what other players did in the same area that you are in. 

There are also messages placed in areas that open up after bosses are defeated congratulating you on a hard fought victory. This gives that feeling of being in a community, while maintaining the difficulty that is synonymous with Souls games. Co-op play is also available in Elden Ring, but I learned that this feature was also present in previous Souls games too. As far as I know, previous Souls games didn’t have the message system. Of course the message system is only available when playing online. 

Playing online brings the benefits of messages and co-op, but also leaves you susceptible to invasions by enemy players. I personally did not want to deal with PvP on my first playthrough, so I played offline. The main design of Elden Ring that I believe makes it more accessible is the fact that progression is not linear. Unlike previous games, if you are stumped on a boss, you are not blocked from progression. Elden Ring allows you to venture elsewhere and come back to the boss at a later time. You can also fight the bosses in any order. I believe this freedom is what makes Elden Ring enjoyable and accessible. On top of this, there are of course the summons that assist if one really needs. 

Another aspect that I was impressed by is the narrative of Elden Ring, or rather the lack of. With most RPGs, it often feels akin to reading a novel. Elden Ring gives a small glimpse of the story and lets you figure out the rest through item descriptions, NPC dialogues and quests. The reason why I was impressed is because the designers assume that the players are smart enough to piece the story together if they want and leave the decision to the players. For me personally, I enjoyed this style of storytelling, it creates mystery and intrigue and serves as another motivator for exploration.

I can also see influences from other games in Elden Ring, specifically Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, and Death Stranding. The non-linear story progression of an open world from Breath of the Wild, and the online community assisting system from Death Stranding.

Aesthetically to me, Elden Ring seems brighter in tone while staying true to the grim worldbuilding of previous Souls games,  and I think this is reflected in the design too. There are a lot of brightly lit areas and giant golden glowing trees in the sky. If previous Souls games were dark, depressing, and daunting, Elden Ring seems to evoke the sense of awe and hopefulness while maintaining that gritty atmosphere and difficulty. This is done, in my opinion, with the assistance of the online community helping each other and rooting for each other through the messages. While the creatures and demigods you face are terrifying and challenging, you are not alone on your path to becoming the Elden Lord.