Ideas for a New Modern-War Game

Table-top war games have always been my go-to games whenever I want to have a game night with family or friends. Why?  Because they offer a unique form of fun that makes them stand out from other board games.  Games like Stratego, Axis & Allies, and Risk all offer great experiences. They are not only a lot of fun, but they also require you to think.  If you were to go into one of those games without any plan, you will most likely lose.  Every move seems to have a weight to it and they all seem important.  There are momentum changes and tense stand-offs that make this type of game really appealing.axis and allies

That is why the type of game I want to make is a table-top war game.  It will be one that brings in other concepts as well, which will make it different than a lot of war games out there.  I want it to not only contain the strategy of a war game, and chess, but to also have some random elements in there as well in the form of cards.  The game will not totally be a chance-based game though because there will be plenty of strategy for players to grasp and use to accomplish a win.

The game will be a board/card game hybrid.  It will be a two player strategy game that will pit the two players against each other in an all-terrain game of war.  Each player will have a base, with a strong defense, that the other player will have to destroy.  The bases will be on opposite sides of the board, which means players will have to form strategies to bring this base down.  The board will also contain different terrain zones in different areas.  Some examples of terrain we want to include are urban areas, flat valley areas, and mountain areas to name a few.  We will also probably want to include water as terrainwell.

Players will be able to move around the board in the form of units that they can produce.  However, they will not start with all of their units on the board at the start of the game.  This is where some of the chance-based mechanics will come in.  Each player will have a deck of cards that will have different units on them as well as different resource cards.  They will almost be like trading cards, with each card having a strength stat, defense stat, and other things like special abilities and range of motion.  At the start of the game, players will draw 7 cards from their respective decks.  Their hands will contain a variety of resource and unit cards.  Each unit will have a description of how much resources are required to place the unit on the board.  Once a player gets enough resource cards for a certain unit, they will be able to spawn it on the board near their base.unit card

Their will be a variety of units in the game, each with their own strategies and abilities.  We will have vehicles like hum-v’s, tanks, and other armored vehicles.  We will also have units like infantry and spies (scouts).  Some of these units will have ranged attacks, while others will require you to go up next to an enemy unit in order to attack.  Each unit will also have a range of movement that they can have each turn.  Where you move on the board is also important, because we envision that some terrains on the board will offer different units special abilities on top of the abilities they already have.

tankThe object of the game, as I mentioned before, will be to destroy the other players base.  Players will have to constantly make the decision of defense vs offense. While it will be important to go on the offensive, they also can’t forget about defending their base back home.  It’s these types of strategies that players will have to develop as they go.

As with most strategy games of this nature, there are some challenges and difficulties that we will have to overcome.  First of all, balancing will be a prime issue that we will have to take care of.  Will some units feel more powerful than others?  This will have to be overcome and tested through numerous play-throughs.  We also talked about the possibility of having air vehicles in the game, but this also might add to the balancing issue of the game.  These planes will seem pretty powerful and invincible if no other unit can touch them.

Another problem we will face is the aesthetics of the overall game. war game board pieces Basically, we will want the game to look pretty and fun to look at.  Nobody wants to play a game with a board that has scribbles all over it and post it notes as their units.  We have to make a professional looking game in the short amount of time that we have.  This problem can be solved by tackling the game early and getting the mechanics worked out.  We just need to be vigilant and smart about what we are doing.

Lastly, we will need to make the game have a lot of complexity, but not at the expense of the player’s understanding.  Even though we want the game to have a lot of features and strategy, we need to make sure that the game is not overly complex and hard to learn.  This is a major detractor and it will drive away players if they can’t grasp the game’s concepts and rules.  We will need to make sure that we clearly explain the rules of our game, as well as make the mechanics simple, yet complex at the same time.  It’s this balance that we will need to maintain as we work on the project.

The game has a lot of potential to be fun, with its challenges aside.  If we can overcome these challenges and make a fun and strategic game, we will have a fun game on our hands that differs itself from other games of its kind.

 

The Mystery of the Sabotaged Led Zeppelin Concert

clue boxOne mechanic that is used in a lot of games, old and new,  is the concept of imperfect information, that is, information that is concealed from the player either at the beginning of the game or any other time throughout gameplay.  Taking away information from a player is an extremely good way to change how a player plays a game.

The game of Clue probably uses the concept of imperfect information perfectly.  For those unfamiliar, the game is a classic “who-dunnit” game which pits players against each other in order to find out who murdered Mr. Boddy, the games murder victim.  The players roam from room to room of a big mansion in order to scope out clues as to who committed the murder, where the murder took place, and with what weapon.

At the start of the game, all of that info is put in a classified file that is only revealed at the end of the game, after everybody has made their connections.  The remaining cards that contain the different players, rooms, and weapons are distributed to players evenly.  The players play the roles of the suspects, who will deduce and take notes on the different clues that they find.  They can only make accusations in the rooms, not in the corridors, and the weapon in question is moved to their room.  The other players can disprove the accusations because they may have a card that contains some of the information that the player poses.  The point of all this madness, is that it pits the players against each other, to accuse each other of information in which they have no knowledge of.  clue characters

A murder mystery like this one would be no fun if the player knew all of the information before the game even started.  It would probably just end up with the other players cornering Mrs. Peacock in the Dining Room and killing her for killing Mr. Boddy.  It would be a horrible mess of a game.  Keeping the important murder information from the players keeps the game grounded and it in general makes it more fun and meaningful.

With that being said, lets relate this example of Clue with a Led Zeppelin concert.  Now, your probably wondering how the heck these two things are even remotely related.  However, when you really start to think about the possibilities that can arise from a mix of the two, you can see why this may be a good idea.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHLets go back in time to January 1975, back to a time where Led Zeppelin was performing at Chicago Stadium.  It is a big night for them and the concert is going to be huge.  Lots of people have bought their tickets and it looks like it is going to be a sold out concert.  The atmosphere is going to be amazing.  But, the big news surrounding the event is the sabotage that has taken place the day before the concert.  It turns out that someone on the crew has destroyed all of the sound equipment for the show.  This could end up being a disaster considering there is no point to a concert if there is no sound.

Can you see where I am getting at?  This situation could be the background behind a new video game.  The game will put the player in the position of a private detective that has been hired by Led Zeppelin to investigate the situation and quickly solve the mystery before the big night.  The answer to the mystery will be withheld from the player as they go around talking to people backstage and around the stadium about the mystery.

You can interview people, asking them questions about where they were during the time of the destruction, or a plethora of other questions.  The player can also snoop around for objects or specimens that could somehow be related to the mystery.  This would continue up until the point of the concert.

By this time, the player would be asked for their accusation.  They will have to give their insight as to who destroyed the equipment, where it was destroyed, and how.  If the player gives the correct information,  the sound equipment can be fixed and the concert will go on just as planned.  But, if the player accuses the wrong person, the concert will be successfully sabotaged.  And most likely the blame for the disaster would be put on the master detective, you.  You don’t want a stadium’s worth of angry fans after you, that’s for sure.Chicagostadiumnight150

Additionally, to improve the replay value of the game, the information can be changed up every time.  Not only would this game provide the players a chance to go back in time to the golden age of Led Zeppelin, it would allow you to learn the history behind them and what went into making the Chicago Stadium concert a reality.

When you think about a game about going back in time to a Led Zeppelin concert, a game based of Clue is probably not what you expect.  But the mechanics that make Clue work so well would make for an interesting game about Led Zeppelin, one that is totally unique from anything else out there.

Fallout and My Trip Into the Wasteland

When I think about a game that has really gripped me recently, I immediately start to think about the game Fallout 3.  Although the game originally was released six years ago in 2008, I found myself joining the bandwagon a little late, about a year ago to be exact.fallout 3 boy

Fallout 3 takes place in the post-nuclear wasteland of Washington D.C.  This was actually one of the main reasons why I really wanted to play the game.  I lived a big chunk of my life in the D.C./Maryland area, and I was interested to see what the area looked like when it was all destroyed.  In the game, the “Capitol Wasteland” is full of monsters, raiders, ruins, and even some attempts at civilization.  The game was massive, and there was so much to do over every hill that I crossed.  The minute I started the game, I never wanted to stop.  There was always something waiting for me…

The most important reason my Fallout really got it’s grasp on me was the massive amounts of endogenous value that it fed into the game in literally every single moment.  Whether it was the rich story lines that ran through the game or the different items that were scattered throughout the land, endogenous value was every where.  Let’s dig a little deeper and look at the different forms of endogenous value that the game contained.

First off, the game gave me a rich story right off the bat.  In a sense, the game takes place during a large portion of your character’s life.  The game puts you in the shoes of a small baby who wakes up in Vault 101, a nuclear bomb shelter.  As you grow up in the vault, you start to learn different things and before you know it, there is a bigger arching story that is waiting for you.  Your father ends up leaving the vault and it is up to you to go out there and find him, as well as the answers to some questions about your character’s life.  The main story line alone is chock full of value that kept me playing till the end.  There are story twists and surprises that all reveal themselves by the end of the game.  It was simply amazing.

I felt really invested in the story.  The makers of the game really did a great job of making me care about what happened.  In the beginning it is implied that your character is curious about what information is being withheld from him, and I found myself extremely curious too.  This in turn, made me anxious to get out there into the world and figure out the mystery for myself, just like my character.

fallout 3 screenshotWhen I finally stepped outside the vault into the harsh world that was above, I was immediately drowned in a wealth of locations that I could explore.  I took a look at the map and saw my little blip on the map in comparison to the huge wasteland.  This piqued my interest in finding every single location out there.  It seemed like every location that I ended up finding contained it’s own story.  Even the smallest shack on the map seemed like it had a connection to the main story.

I also found myself instantly starting a bunch of side quests as well.  I would talk to the different NPC’s on the map and they would have their own stories to tell, and they wanted you to help them as well.  For some reason, I found myself on a mission to complete every side quest I found because they all meant something to me.  I can’t remember a bland side mission that I found myself doing.  They all had value to the story, and I was rewarded pretty well too.

One of the most interesting parts of the game was the karma system that they instituted into the game.  This concept was new to me, I’ve never played a game that had this sort of system in it.  I found that everything that I did in the wasteland had some sort of positive or negative value attached to it.  It really made me think as I was exploring the wasteland.

For example, you would get negative karma for killing someone, obviously.  But, stealing a dish from a table in a house could give you negative karma as well.  To get positive karma, you had to help other people with their troubles, if their problems didn’t involve killing another person or stealing something.  In other games, there isn’t really too much consequences for helping someone, or killing someone.  In Fallout, every possible thing that you did had some consequences that went with it.fallout 3 items

Lastly, their was a wealth of items that could be found throughout the wasteland.  Some items in the game are junk like tin cans or silverware but you can find other items of higher value like weapons, armor, chems, and bottle caps, which is the game’s currency.  Every time I walked by a trash bin or a container, I had to check to make sure I wasn’t missing an item.  You could either keep these items or sell them to the different vendors throughout the wasteland.  Some people even wanted junk like tin cans, and were willing to pay me a pretty penny for them.  It seemed like every item in the world had a value somewhere.

In conclusion, the endogenous value that was present in Fallout 3 was unprecedented for me.  Up to that point, I never played a game that absorbed me into it’s world as much as Fallout.  It was one of my favorite gaming experiences I had in a while. fallout 3 bottom image

 

 

Donkey Kong: A Truly Harmonious Game

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When Donkey Kong first came out in arcades back in the early 80’s, it made a huge impact on players everywhere for many reasons.  Some could say that the game had great mechanics that kept gamers playing, even after the Game Over screen.  Others may say that the technology at the time was great, or that the aesthetics of the game were unmatched for the time.  Even some people could make an argument for the story.  However, to truly appreciate the game, it’s important to recognize that it used all four of these aspects in perfect harmony with each other.

First we should start with the story that drives the game.  Donkey Kong is about a familiar plumber named Jumpman.  Jumpman, as some people may know, later turned into the familiar plumber named Mario, one of the most iconic video game characters of all time.  But for our sake, we will stick with Jumpman, because that is what his name was in the game.  Jumpman’s girlfriend Pauline (who some may identify as Princess Peach) is snatched by the evil gorilla Donkey Kong.  Jumpman is then set on a quest to retrieve his girlfriend from the grasps of Donkey Kong, who has a peculiar love for barrels.  Donkey Kong will throw everything (literally) in Jumpman’s path in order to stop him from getting to his prized possession, Pauline.

This may not be the most elaborate story that has ever graced the video game medium, but it does it’s job so wonderfully.  Even though the story may be simple and primitive in nature, it gives the player a motivation to play the game, and to beat Donkey Kong.  The player obviously sides with the interests of Jumpman and the player, just like Jumpman, wants to see Pauline back in the arms of her lover.  The story works well in giving the players a reason to keep on coming back and never giving up, even if they get a Game Over screen.  They will push in another quarter to have another go at saving Pauline and defeating Donkey Kong.

Now let’s look at the mechanics of the game.  The whole idea of the game is to get to the top of the system of ladders and platforms in order to reach Pauline and Donkey Kong.  In the players way is a bunch of obstacles like barrels and fireballs that Jumpman has to jump over and dodge.  The concept is simple enough, but it’s challenging.  Especially as the game progresses, when the obstacles get tougher and the enemies more frequent.  Whenever you get up to the top of a level, Donkey Kong will snatch up Pauline and take her to the next level.  This continues until the final level, where if completed successfully, will save Pauline and destroy Donkey Kong.

The rising difficulty as the game goes on tends to make players experience a sense of urgency.  The obstacles that the player must face seems challenging but the prospect of saving Pauline from the grasp of Donkey Kong continues to motivate the player to go on.  When the game gets harder, it signals to the player that the end is near and that the final scenario, the final encounter with Donkey Kong, is looming on the horizon.  The simple mechanics of the game end up playing a huge part in making the game as great, and meaningful, as it is.

When the game came out in arcades, it was housed in a simple arcade machine that had two buttons and a joystick that was for moving Jumpman around the levels.  This technology was simple for players to understand and it also augmented the feeling of tension that players would experience as the game progressed.  If a player was making it far in a game, their hands would start to get sweaty and it would get more challenging to maneuver the joystick and use the buttons effectively.  Interestingly enough, this helped the player feel the rising tension of the scenario.  The final level, if players made it that far would be extremely challenging due to their sweaty hands.  The stress of saving Pauline was humongous and it was satisfying whenever you rescued Pauline after all of the hardships that you had to overcome, including sweaty hands.

Lastly, the aesthetics of Donkey Kong tend to be overlooked by some people.  Even though this may be the case, the aesthetics of the game still hold equal importance as to why this game is so harmonious.  The levels featured red platforms and blue ladders.  The background featured nothing but plain black, which created a bleak and depressing atmosphere in the game.  The final level contains blue platforms and yellow ladders, signaling that it was the final challenge that the player would have to overcome.  If a player were skilled enough to get though the final level, the player would be met with a image of Pauline being saved and Donkey Kong falling through a break in the platform towards his inevitable doom. This victory state stuck with a lot of players because it was so iconic and meaningful to them.  The player successfully got through all of the challenges and obstacles and their goal was achieved; seeing Donkey Kong be destroyed and finally saving Pauline.  This image, for a lot of players, was the last thing they saw from the game and it was a good lasting image.  It cemented the victory that the player achieved.

When you go back and examine all of the different aspects of Donkey Kong and how they all worked in unison with each other, it is easy to see why this game was such a brilliant piece of game design.  The four major aspects of any game (Story, Mechanics, Technology, and Aesthetics) where all used in Donkey Kong and they all helped put the player in the dire situation of Pauline’s kidnapping.

Back in the day of the arcade, when Donkey Kong thrived, players may not have had this outlook on the game, probably because all they wanted to do was get the highest score so they could brag to their friends about how well they do.  In order to truly appreciate how harmonious this game actually was, you have to take a step back and examine all of the parts of the game.  When you do this, it is extremely hard to miss.

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