Thursday, 18 June 2015

King of Slimes - What I learned

Hello World,

This past week I decided to give myself a quick reprise from working on Trials of the Magi, in hopes that a change of scenery would revitalize my work ethic towards the game. This break took the form of King of Slimes, a quick party game that has players contesting over a bowl of candy; trying to get as much of the hoard to themselves.

The motivation for this game first came from reading the rules for another game called “A Week in the Life of a Lv. 1 Slime”. This game had a unique sense of humor, and centered around pulling candy out of a bowl. At it’s core the concept was brilliant but reading through the game fully I found that it’s execution fell flat of my expectations, as the game was a solitaire RPG.

Intrigued by having a bowl of candy as the core component of a game, I wanted to explore other ways in which it could be used, and thus King of Slimes was born. This was a really fun project to work on as it allowed me to create a hectic party game as well as push my skills as a developer. But that’s enough backstory on the game, let’s get to the meat of today’s post, what did I learn while making the game.

Well for starters, I learned how large of an impact the ability to win has on a player’s mood on the game. One of the major facets of King of Slimes is that when a slime is defeated by an adventurer, it explodes, and reanimates as the largest remaining piece. This means that a player has the potential to be sent back to square one on each of their turns. And in early versions of the game we found that players who exploded late into the game were very miserable until the game ended. They felt as though they had absolutely no chance of winning anymore. Two major changes were made to overcome this, the first was to allow players to keep all of their Vibrancy Candies on defeat. The other was to shorten the length of the game by reducing the number of candies in the bowl. This shortening of game length kept each round fast paced and fun, while not ruining the night of the last place person. Losing isn’t as bad if you can hop right back in and try again.

Another thing I found very interesting was that any time the potential existed to help another player, it would lead to the formation of alliances. Alliances that were not enforced by in game mechanics, but by verbal contracts.

“If you help me out now, I will help you out next time you are in trouble”

Or even agreeing to team up and take down the first place person. These agreements added a lot the strategy and flow of each game.

This then leads to the final major lesson I learned developing this game. Having mechanics that allow players to sabotage or help each other, leads to a very competitive game. What started out as a simple lighthearted party game, quickly felt like a grand strategy game, when playing with the right players. This isn’t nearly the type of emotional response I thought I would get, but it lead to a fun gaming experience none the less.

Overall I am very happy with how King of Slimes turned out and It acted as the perfect break from Trials of the Magi.

If you are interested you can find the game at the following locations:

Thanks for reading!

-Patrick Lapienis

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Why Should an RPG Have an Encumbrance System?

Hello World,

One of the major joys unique to tabletop roleplaying games is the act of getting into character and losing oneself in an imagined world. This is such a major aspect of the hobby that simulation has become one of the 3 main pinnacles of RPG design. The innate purpose for an RPG system in terms of simulation is to add structure and consistency to the game that is being played. That being said, rules constructed innately for promoting simulation are often the most tedious and annoying.  In most games, the purely simulationist rules are dropped and ignored by players. Things like counting rations, encumbrances, and travel fatigue are all simulation rules that rarely add anything meaningful the Gamist or Narrativist aspects of a game. This got me thinking, if these rules are so commonly dropped and disliked by players, why are they even in the game to start with?

After doing a lot of research into simulation games like HarnMaster I think I have good idea of why these seemingly extraneous rules are so important. They firstly act to add a sense of grit and weight to the world being played in. Before reading through some gameplay scripts for HarnMaster, I had never seen players so scared of a wound getting infected, or running out of rations.  So immersed in feeling the weight of every choice and action they make. These are all down to earth feelings not normally seen in other games.

These simulation rules secondarily act as an anchor for new players and Game Masters, giving them a mechanical way to understand the world their characters are in them. If a player jumps down a 30 ft drop with the mentality that they are a game character and fall damage shouldn’t hurt them, they will be in for a rude awakening. Same goes for a player trying to loot everything in sight so they can sell them when they return to town. There are clear in game rules that state how many finally crafted chairs and statuettes the player can carry without being weighed down. And as players begin to understand that real world physics and laws of nature apply to the game world, they are more readily able to connect to the game world. It is much easier to imagine a world when we can use the knowledge of our own world to paint it in. When it comes to being a GM anchor, these rules apply a spelled out, mechanical way to translate commonly understood laws of nature into the game space. Removing the extra work of the game master determining consequences on their own.

Most veteran players drop these rules because they no longer need that sort of anchor to understand the world around them. They are able to get a good enough picture of how much their barbarian can lift and won’t try to lift more than that. The other major reason is that the game they are interested in playing isn’t as rooted in simulation, instead focusing more on Gamist or Narativist play. In this case, these extraneous simulationist rules just seem like pointless tedium.

However it all depends on what type of game you are playing and the people you are enjoying it with.

-Patrick Lapeinis