Putting your Designs on the Chopping Block

For those of you who deep-end swim in game design, you're probably acclimated to axing pieces - or even entire concepts - from your games. It's rarely a comfortable thing to do but it is part of the process.


If you are new to designing games, this is something that you may struggle with. Every element of your game is usually birthed from your own brain and feels like a treasured child. However, some of these children end up not serving the betterment of your game in one way or another and you need to get rid of them. More often than not, I comfort myself with the notion that just because a concept/rule/component/mechanism doesn't work for THIS game doesn't mean it can't work in ANY game. Put it on the shelf and save it for a different project. You'll find a place for it to fit if it is a viable element.


Currently I am putting some polish (preliminary polish, albeit) on the mini-games that make up the heart of Missions and Tasks in Living Starship. The game uses custom polyhedral dice whose rolled results are used to activate various polyomino shapes that are then used to fulfill missions as delineated on a 5x5 grid. The game is rather massive in scope even though its underpinning mechanisms are familiar and easy to grasp (especially for established gamers).

There are 5 types of Missions you will need to send your crew on over the course of a game: Authority, Conflict (not depicted here), Production, Travel and Research.


Each of these play slightly differently, the most straight-forward of which are the Production missions. For these your dice-triggered polyominos need to be placed on the grid to completely cover up the turquoise spaces. There might be time limitations or other impediments to doing so.


Each of these mini-games is played utilizing a roll & write mechanism. For CONFLICT missions I want to make sure that there is a visceral sense of incoming missiles approaching your ship and you are scrambling to employ there various defense systems of your vessel before impact. You are also simultaneously working to fire back at your enemy and incapacitate them.


To me, at least, the simple act of filling in polyonimo shapes on a grid misses out on that feel of watching bad things approach your ship and yo having to figure out the best use of your crew abilities and their dice pools to ameliorate as much of the impending damage as possible. The variations of game methods I kept coming up with addressed this issue but would necessitate additional components to be added to the game (actual physical polyomino shapes) which, of course, add to the cost of production and weight of shipping.


So, what I am currently tinkering around with is the idea that an enemy ship can launch one or more 5x5 grids at your ship and it progresses toward you over a series of turns or actions from long range to mid range to close range to impact. On these grids might be icons representing your need to fire your own missiles to shoot down incoming ones, employ computer counter-measure to negate malware attacks, activate sensors to penetrate jamming frequencies and deliver damage directly to the source of these attacks. Each of your actions would still utilize the same method of activating your polyominos with dice rolls and filling them in on the grid to cover up the incoming attack icons, but the physical action of progressing the card/grid itself toward your ship captures that visual sense of urgency without creating the need for components that the other missions don't require.

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