Monday, September 30, 2013

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.

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