Monday, September 30, 2013

In-Class Game Testing

While I did not have much revision to do since the previous testing, other than the balancing of characters and rewriting rules for clarity, it was still important to test it again, even if that was something I was supposed to do in class. I paired up with Terry and we got cracking.

First off, for a pen and paper prototype, the rules were still quite extensive. I knew it was going to be hard to read it and understand it in one guy. The fact that Terry had to play as three different characters did not make it easier. Terry still had problems with understanding the rules so I just ran through the game a few turns to show him how it works. It was then that he got the hang of it.

Allow me to explain the core rules in detail though, which I neglected in the previous post.

Like most pen and paper RPGs, actions are resolved via dice rolls. The game system requires only the six-sided die, otherwise known as the D6. A character rolls a number of D6s equal to his ability rank. Instead of counting up the results like one does normally, success is determined by the amount of dice that rolled a 4 or higher. For example, if I had an ability rank of 4, then I rolled 4D6. If the dice results were 5, 2, 4, 3, that would mean I have a success of 2, the 5 and 4 counting towards my success count. The number of successes must equal or exceed a target number in order to succeed.

The second key feature of the game is the stamina system. Stamina is used as a form of combat resource, such as mana for most games with magic. Stamina recovers over time (2 points per round), and stamina is spent every time a character does an action. Some action requires more than 1 stamina. When a character reaches below 0 stamina, they go into the negatives and receive a penalty for every negative they have. This forces players to consider what sort of action should they execute. The kinds of action a character can do is move, attack, rest, and special ability. Special ability encompasses a grand list of different abilities, each will tell you what they do.

The last key feature of the game is the combat. The attack sequence of the game is pretty simple. It is broken up into 3 steps: attack, protection, and conclusion. When a character attacks another character, they roll dice and compare the result to the target number, which is mostly the target's defense value. If the attack hits, then damage is dealt to the target. The target is allowed a protection roll and each successful roll reduces the damage by 1. The difference is then subtracted from the target's health points. When a character reaches 0 health points, they are removed from play (i.e. dead.)

Here's an example of an attack sequence. An attacker attacks a target. The attacker has an attack score of 4D, the defender has a defense score of 3. The attacker rolls his dice, and he gets 3 successes, landing a hit on the target. The damage dealt is 5. The target has a protection score of 3D. He rolls his dice and comes up with a success of 2, reducing the damage to 3 instead of 5. The target now decreases his health points by 3. Now, onto the play log.

Terry seemed to be the kind of guy who likes to win so he was really thinking carefully on how to position his men and which abilities to use. He used the Shield Knight extensively to defend his other characters, but his stamina dwindled so low that he had to give him a break.

The glorious Shield Knight protecting his comrade-in-arms.

Unfortunately we had to end the game early. Time was running out but he knew how to play now. He described it as a hack'n'slash kind of game, which it sort of is. I suppose when somebody describes your game in a way that you agree means it's a good design.

That's it for now. I think I am going to focus on character progression and a list of equipment now that I have a reference point for dice rolls and combat values. The next test session might just be about character creation.

Prototype Testing & Development

While I have yet to give a name to the current game I am development, I figured it's best to not waste too much time on that. A simple set of rules is not something I am entirely good with. I cannot say I understand what simple means as much as most people, but I will do my best to explain the rules simply. The game is a turn-based tactical game meant to simulate medieval combat (though not entirely realistically.) The core feature of this game is a sort of "combat resource", represented by an individual's stamina. A character expends stamina for actions on the battlefield, such as moving, attacking, and other special abilities. Characters can recover stamina while on the field, and it can be modified through equipment, usually decreasing stamina for heavier equipment, a sort of trade off. To resolve conflict, dice rolls are made, the six-sided die being the only type used.

The first testing phase of the game on my own time actually had a simple rule set. Unfortunately, it got completely nowhere. Stamina as a resource was not very important, there was an abundant of it. There was a strong but slow character and a weak but fast character. The stronger character ended up chasing the faster character all over the field with nothing happening.

 They actually ran to the bottom right corner first and backtracked up to the top in the second image.

While tactical games aren't necessarily the opposite of simple (example: Chess and Checkers), I figured the best way to test the game in a "simple" manner is to go over the dice rolling mechanic. I rewrote the rules of dice rolling, coming across many types of different rolling functions, and rolling them to see how they would function. I began with a simple d20, to rolling d100s, and ended up with a d6 dice pool. Different sets of rules were applied to the dice pool to give it some "depth", such as the concept of a bonus die, which replaces unsuccessful rolls (a success counting as a die roll of 4 or greater per d6.)

As a tactical RPG, there was no question that equipment, the ability to customize your character, had to be implemented. However, I assumed that creating a list of equipment and balancing them out would be too difficult without actually testing a fight. So I created pre-made characters with arbitrary values that seemed balance enough, not counting extraneous information. With these I was ready to test the game once again.

I cracked out the game with some friends during a break from animating in the lab. I explained the rules simply to them and told them that it was perhaps better to just jump into the game and learn while you play. After all, that's how I learned to play Dungeons & Dragons.

While it was not recommended to make any art during the prototype phase, I decided to make some art anyway, even if they were crude. I like to have some fun while testing a game that might go unfun. The game was set up and my friends were given pre-made characters to play as. They were the knights at the top, the enemies, played by me, were the other minis at the bottom.

It started off slow with the players just doing nothing and letting the enemy come to them. The minis started falling so I just kept them in that position, it was less of a hassle.

Time went on with the testing. To my surprise, the dicerolling system I had created went extremely smooth and easy to understand. The issues of balance was only apparent in the red mini, who was way too overpowered. Perhaps I was lucky, but this does give me a reference point.

I found myself creating rules on the fly during play. With the dicepool system, any rolls that turn up as a 6 merits an extra die to be rolled. If that roll turned up as a 6, then there was too another roll. Theoretically one could get unlimited successes. I decided to disable that feature for "minion" characters, who were represented as weapons on the maps. I decided that minions should not be very lucky in that sense, they are there to fill up space. On a side note, I thought 6's would come up too often, but found that they came up almost an ideal amount. It was not too common of a roll, neither too uncommon.

The game drilled on with some lucky 6's for our heroes. They managed to take out all of the spears on the map and were left to fight the red knight. However, the shield knight hero had some unlucky rolls concerning defense and ended up dead.

The game actually delved into a chicken chase without the sturdy shield knight, with the bow and twin-sword knight running around away from the red knight.

I decided to end the game at that point. We needed to get back to our other homework and it looked like we were getting nowhere.

With the conclusion of the game, there were some things I've observed. The rate of stamina decay was awfully close to what I wanted. When one stayed in the middle of a battle for far too long, their stamina dropped quickly. This is what happened to the shield knight, who had the best equipment, but the least stamina from that. Nobody had ever gone below 0 stamina, but some got low enough. Players became more cautious when they got that low.

The red knight was unfortunately too overpowered. He seemed nigh invincible. He had too much armor, too much stamina, and his powerful abilities did not cost him a lot of stamina.. While his minions were easily dispatched, they still posed some sort of threat if not dealt with properly. They were ideal, their leader was not.

The HP of each character, which were given an arbitrary value, seemed to be not too high to drag on a battle too long, but not too short to make encounters passing.

Now that I know the mechanics are fairly solid, I am now comfortable on working on a character progression system as well as devising a list of equipment, as well as adding new tactical features that I have considered, such as ability lists, combat stances, and even possibly a magic system.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Werewolf Mafia

I've always loved playing Mafia. Mostly it is because I loved to make up stories to either defend myself or accuse someone of being a mobster. In class I played the same game, the only difference being that it involved werewolves instead of the mafia. I was the werewolf during the game, and let me tell you about how somewhat complicated the strategy is.

The serious players are always watching your behavior, which includes your body language and speech. They will attempt to signal out somebody who is acting strange. Unfortunately, their thinking is ultimately arbitrary, because people aren't the same. People act differently. You cannot assume a base behavior of people.

The werewolves however have the choice of who to kill. Who you choose to kill can greatly influence who the peasants accuse. When playing as the werewolf, I restrained myself from killing the person who constantly accused me. It may look suspicious. However, do continue to kill those who constantly accuse others. Another thing is know who has information. A friend of mine reasoned that another person cannot be the werewolf due to circumstances, and he was right. So I refrained from killing that certain person until I needed to, like when there is too little people left and my friend could only trust me and not the other two people. Cut your losses, sometimes you want to accuse a fellow werewolf and hang him. When everybody else is doing it and there's no chance of him getting out of it, defending him only shows that you are trying to save a fellow werewolf.