• Andrew Jonhardt

I've suddenly got 3 projects

Something in my post last week caused a few of my friends and family to be concerned. They felt I was potentially taking the results of my last session of group testing too seriously, and discarding a perfectly decent design in the process. As a result, I spent much of this past week thinking about both the new racing card game design, which I'm calling Pass Defense, and the design that came before, which I'm calling FTR.

I now believe I was too hasty. Pass Defense has simultaneous turns, a heavy focus on track positioning, and very little in terms of decks or cards. Players are expected to spend almost all of the game as close to each other as possible. It's an entirely different design from FTR, where players may create huge distances between each other through speed and deck management.

I've decided 3 things from last week:

  • I'm going to return to working on FTR while continuing work on Pass Defense.

  • As long as players are having fun, I don't care if anyone falls behind.

Since the beginning, I've been in conflict with myself over how to handle players falling into last place. Being in last place sucks so, if you can somehow strip elements of the last place out of a racing game, you've scored an easy win with players, right?

Wrong. The potential to come in last is a condition of agreeing to play a racing game. If you don't enjoy the experience of coming in last, either the "depth" of the game (framework provided by rules and a player's actual interest in exploring the limits of said rules) will draw you back in to try again, or you'll quit and go play something else.

The idea that players must agree to abide by rules they don't like in order to play has always sounded bad to me in theory. However, as a player, I've come to admit that I agree to take on such rules all the time in order to participate even in videogames. It's a necessary part of experiencing a game's design, and what that design is intended to convey. Plus, as a game, it will always stop if you say so.

If there's no safe word, you're not playing a game.

So, after finally getting myself to a place where I could stand to have a last place player, I started looking at changes I might make for FTR.

If you'll recall from last week's post, the chief complaints that bothered me for FTR were game length and complexity. In order to target this pain points, I reformed the last solid design for the game (30 card decks, hidden and randomized event cards, etc) and made the simplest changes I could think of:

  1. Redline cards: These cards have a high cost for a powerful effect, and trigger a 2nd phase for as long as they are in play.

  2. Phase 2: So long as a Redline card is in play, all cards that would affect Speed have +1 Speed. This affects all players, regardless of whomever has the Redline card in play. It also makes cards that would reduce speed less painful and more attractive to players.

  3. 25 card decks: Fewer cards means that Burning cards is more of a threat, that the cards in the decks are more focused, and that the game moves faster.

  4. All of the random Event cards are now placed face up, to help with planning.

So far, the changes to FTR are positive. Players have the potential to Burn themselves out before a race is over. Redline cards accelerate turns while a slower initial pace is maintained. Games finish faster, so any player who suffers the bad luck of Burning all of his or her Accelerate cards (the only cards that provide Speed) won't have to wait long.

Obviously, I'll need to expand to testing with people. At this point, I'm just happy to be looking forward to doing so with FTR. And, it'll be nice to have Pass Defense along to see if it's fun.

I'd love to end everything there, but unfortunately I've come up with a 3rd project. I'm under no illusion that a 3rd project is in any way a good idea, but I can't stop thinking about it!

I'm going to avoid saying much for the time being. The influences behind the idea are the Imperial Guard from Warhammer 40k, Catch-22 (the Hulu series is pretty good), and a desire to test my Godot skills in a limited capacity. The project will be a short game (between 1 and 2 hours playtime max), probably mostly drawn by myself (ugly), designed as a quick and dirty top-down shooter, and will be put out into the world for free (I may use this as an excuse to borrow assets). I'll have more to say when I've got something to show.

Until next week.

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