Game Designer Lockdown

About my work in these days of the lockdown.

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Goal! Goals!

Friedemann Friese
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Yesterday I decided to invent goals for the solo campaign for my Unpublished Prototype

Today I did. Then I wanted to try something for the balance of the cards, but did not succeed, because the game is flexible enough to give the player the chance to focus on specific resources etc. You can try to play some cards more often than others. I have to test this again Face-to-face, no chance here to test it solo at my table.

Limited time today: My son has to go to the dentist and later to sports. I had to bring my daughter and get her back (including a friend of her) and later to piano lessons. Soon cooking for the evening and I had cooked also for lunch.

This is ok for today. Working on some computer programming issues, feedback bug-fixing. And I started 2 days ago a new "challenge": Look at ALL bgg game entries. (just looking if I heard of it played, this is kind of fast about 400 games a day is easy) By now I`m at number 1200. The goal is over 309821, because the Fight! is number 309821.

The Fight! : played it yesterday 4 more times and yes it works and yes it is fun, but if I do not get some more meat to it it is not really a good product. Status by now: put it back on the shelf and maybe some day get back to it... (next week both kids will have 4 days a week school again, this could mean more time for me to work ...... or to look at all bgg game entries....)
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Wed Jun 17, 2020 5:03 pm
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The problem of finding the best way

Friedemann Friese
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In my Unpublished Prototype everything works well with 2-5 players, but I'm still working on my solo campaign:

The base idea was to have a solo game campaign to go for a highscore.
Works very well in this game, because all player build a common structure, nobody owns anything built; you only get benefits by building not by owning and everyone else can use the common structure whoever has built it.

In solo your are the only builder. This is great and fun and getting better is rewarding. I just played it the 7th time solo and now I just know what to do, but more important I do know how the structure will look like after the game. I'm not building an ever changing structure, I just know what I'm gonna reach. This gave me a new highscore of 275 today (much better than before), but it is getting repetitive. Arghhh: There are some words I don't want to hear about my games:
- repetitive
- low replayability
- broken
- predictable
- etc, whatever a lot more....

I have included in my campaign advantages. The first game you just play normal. Second game you get some more starting cash. Third game.... and so on. The goal was to get better (score) every time. I also added some goals for additional +5 VPs. The problem is, I do qualify to all these goals with my actual strategy. What I'm gonna do now is to use goals but these goal are requirements to get to have success.

The idea of the campaign is: You start a usual game and try to reach a good score. Next game you get the first advantage and you have to get a better score, but also you get an additional goal how the structure has to look like. If not you failed.

A goal for each game. --> New idea!!! A list of goals and in each game you can mark one of these goals. In the beginning of the campaign it is easy, because there are 6 goals to choose from, but later when getting better you really have to focus on another goal. And the goals have to be very different and are against the structure I got used to build in my 7 solo games.

Work, work, work.....
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Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:35 am
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Solo has its own rules

Friedemann Friese
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In my Unpublished Prototype there is a variable game ending. 12 cards shuffled. In the 12 cards there are 4 ending cards. Whenever all of these 4 are drawn the game ending phase starts. This unpredictable game ending works very well in a game with more than one player.

But if you play for a highscore in a solo campaign, this is unsatisfying. You just cannot get as many points if the game ends too early. Today I only got 220 point. The last time I had 242. And today I even had a better advantage and achievement. Maybe I played not that well, but it was obvious I would have needed some more turns.

What happened. In a multiplayer (even 2 players) game you only compare in this one game and it is only important to have the most points. It doesn't matter if the maximum points are 220, if you reach them, because nobody can reach 242 point.

But in this solo campaign you compare scores from 2 different games played. This is my main complaint for all these beat you highscore solo versions. Very often it depends too much (IMO) on luck if you beat your highscore. I had this feeling in Viticulture. The solo automata is really well thought, but if I loose 1, 2 or 3 worker placement spots really makes a difference and I had the feeling my possible game score depends on what card were drawn. I did not like that.

In Finished! (my solitaire game) it is all about beating the game and finish it, but the more I played it, I was looking for a scoring. We are now working on a scoring method, but it still totally depends on how well the deck is shuffled in the beginning, how well you can play. There would be the best method to compare different gamers with the same deck to see if you are really doing well....

Back to my Unpublished Prototype:
For the solo game I just let the 4 game ending cards to be the last 4 of the deck, means shuffle the other 8 cards and put them on the 4 endings cards. For calculating a "perfect" score this is perfectly fine, because nobody has to wait for another player to calculate the best option. This is the benefit of a solo game:

AP is not a bug, its a feature!
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Mon Jun 15, 2020 3:49 pm
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To be short..

Friedemann Friese
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Still working on my solitaire campaign for my Unpublished Prototype

Yesterday I had 242 + 5 + 5 VPs. Today I only got 237 base points, but 5+5+5+= 15 extra points. This is exactly the same.


This perfectly ok with me: The idea of the solo campaign is to get better every time you play and get 1 more achievement (5VPs possible) and 1 more advantage. I should be to get higher scores because you have more options to get points and start better, but you still have to play as good as the time before, but this is not always happening, because there are shuffled cards.

Whatever, I do not have time now...


Next week a better update. The week after next week, we will have 4 days of school for the kids, means I can work better....
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Fri Jun 12, 2020 4:53 pm
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When life gives you lemons,

Friedemann Friese
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make lemonade.

Still working on the solo campaign for my Unpublished Prototype. [I read comments ]

Today the third game: 242 + 5 + 5 for the 2 achievements. This does work and I'm getting better every time. I think it is both getting better because knowing how to play the solo game + the advantages. Tomorrow the fourth step.

Now I'm thinking if it is necessary to get these achievements, but on the other hand, I wanted to get better, I got better and it was still very engaging to play.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." was the phrase one of the test gamers mentioned not long ago. And yes there are these games that feel like that. You might have your plan which strategy you want to play this time, which kind of cards you really want to achieve, but the game gives you different things and the best hint is to use what you get to make the best out of the situation. Do not wait for the right cards to come.

Dale Yu just mentioned that he likes games like that and plays them this way. He developed Dominion for Rio Grande Games and said this is something he knows from Dominion (and he played it a lot). Another play tester was once complaining that he cannot do anything, because the right cards did not show up for fulfilling his "money" strategy. Later I mentioned he should just have spent all his money for other cards and he agreed he would have played better by doing so. But this was the game where I had the idea that 6 players is playable but not good. So the game will only be for 1-5 players.

Back to the idea of using solo variant to develop my games better. [I'm still thinking of it] It is still obvious that this is helpful, but I truly believe doing this too much leads to multiplayer solitaire games. If my games have something in common, it will be the interactivity without to much "Take that" (by now I would say without "take that", but my first design had it and Friesematenten as well). I'm aware!!

One thought from the game testing today: Yesterday I re-calculated the values of the cards but mostly their order, today I should calculate their outcome. In my Unpublished Prototype the beginning cards give you resources and the late cards need resources for VPs (a very usual concept I know, but it works so well, why not use it). The next thing to do: Calculate the amount of resources all cards will give to the players, against the resources you need to fulfill the later cards. I'm not sure if this is the same as it should.

Whenever I meet Kevin Wilson (mostly at the Gathering of Friends) we look at each other and know that we do have "our" game designer headaches. I once talked with him about it and we agreed game design causes a special kind of headache. I remembered this today because only thinking of recalculating my deck of cards gave me these well known headaches. But whatsoever it has to be done....
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Thu Jun 11, 2020 2:23 pm
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Intensive and exhausting

Friedemann Friese
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Wow,

got my solo campaign going on. Got 222 VPs + 5 Bonus (achievement, changed from 10 down to 5 VP). This was good!!

A big jump from 168 yesterday (or 178 my highscore) with only 6 more starting cash. This will be interesting tomorrow, because I don't know if I will be as good as today, but I get a new achievement and a new advantage.

I totally understand why this is helpful for the design process to have a solo version ready. Vlaada Chvátil codes his prototypes in his computer, before he even glues and cuts them. I found this method very helpful, too. (the programming, I still use glue and scissors first) I did this with Fabled Fruit for instance and it made the design process much better. I even have my computer version of 504 and this would have been impossible to do without the help of the computer.

Back to the idea of this solo campaign to get higher and higher scores because of getting achievements and advantages. Yesterday I was thinking it could be an overlying strategy to start poor and get a little better all the time. I cannot do this. Today I played so much better than the last two days and therefor it will be difficult to beat me tomorrow. And with only having a little bonus for beating the highscore today. I will see.

Oh yes I changed a small rule in the setup because of my solo adventure, means it is helpful. But on the other hand, whatever you do with your prototype is helpful. Thinking about it, playing it against yourself, writing the rules, ....

Mathematical and structural it is important to have all these work to be done, but it will never ever be better than playing the game on a table with different people. Game Night rules!

But, I have to calculate all the 60 cards again (also necessary), before I get back to my family for childcare....
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Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:59 am
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Solo! Solo! Solo!

Friedemann Friese
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Yesterday I started my work on the solo campaign for the game to be published in fall.

This is my first beat the highscore solo version. In Feierabend the next game this year there is a beat the automat solo version. In Feierabend there are 6 different solo opponents to beat. A lot to discover.

Now this. Thanks to the comment I know now that Uwe Rosenberg uses these highscore solo versions to playtest his prototypes. I'm not much a fan of these highscore solo games, because games are interactive fun to me and not number crunching VP calculations. I'm always surprised that Power Grid is called mathy (yes it has some arithmetics up to numbers over 100). For me as I studied maths, mathy games are these VP number calculators. It is ok to have it in the last turn of a game (like in Power Grid, the last turn is really a lot to calculate), but I really dislike games, where I have to do this the complete game. Sometimes it is even working against the theme of the game, only to include this VP scorings to a game.

I once talked to Uwe Rosenberg about his Agricola and I said the game was fun to me up to the last three turns, where the game changes from being just a thematic farming game to a scoring-pad spreadsheet calculating activity. A lot of people love Agricola, but this was a downer to me.

Back to my game: Yesterday I reached 178 VPs, today only 168 VPs and I thought I was doing better. The problem with solo gaming: I sometimes forget to build a city (put the marker on the board) because I just took the benefit from the action. So I'm not quite sure if I did it right.

This solo VP stuff is ok to me right now. It is fun to play the game for beating my highscore. Tomorrow another day another score. But I really want to make it a campaign.

Some weeks ago I tried the APP: "Jump Ball-Bounce on Tower Tile" [What a name?!] on my iPad. I was surprised that I was almost every time beating my highscore. After looking what's happening: Whenever I finish a level, I will start the next game in the new level I'm actual in and have not to start over. But more important whenever I jump over an obstacle I get the points equal to the number of the level. Every obstacle is giving me more and more point from level to level.

I wanted to include something like this in a fable campaign for a future game. Now I do think if this is possible to include this in my solo campaign.

First game: You get a game sheet. Just play for points. After the game: When you beat your highscore: You can mark a success on your sheet. So you get something for the next game. For example: More initial money, more VPs for special buildings, VPs goals for the game.

The goal is to fill all these campaign goals and to get more VPs every time you play it. Yes you can cheat and play the first game for a low score and then it is easy to get better every time. So cheat on yourself in a solo campaign. Fine, if you like it, do it, it is your time you invest in the game. I'm ok if the gamers like my games. To be honest the reasons for that are not really that important. Just have fun!!
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Tue Jun 9, 2020 11:52 am
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It has to be soloable!

Friedemann Friese
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Today I just worked on my game for the end of the year. Yesterday my son gave me an interesting thought. I had to add some bonuses for buying cards that stayed longer in the market than others. He was convinced it is better to use the markers as discount instead of bonuses. The difference is easy: To have discounts, you just play less (means you don't need the full price, just the discounted price.) if you have a bonus, you have to pay the full price but later get the bonus back.

I agreed that it is better and nicer to the gamer if you only have to pay the lower price.

One thought leads to another: There is a card where I can pay 3 different resource to get 3 VPs and 3 money. But you can replace one of the resources with 3 money. Do I really want to change it to just pay one resource less to only get 3 VPs. I decided: No!

But what is the difference. Why is a buying discount better than a reward bonus, but if you play/pay a card it feels not right to calculate the cost against the benefit. It feels so bureaucratic to not allow it. As a german I now what this feels like, but in this game it has to be kept.

So we included this new discount system, but did no change the rest.

So my focus was on this game and in these times games are better if you can play them solo. With Feierabend it took me about a week to build a solo automata to fight against you, but my new game is much more complex and it is impossible to build up an easy automata. An AI would be very difficult to code. But yesterday I had the idea of really playing it solo for a highscore. This morning I tested and it was really good. The small changes worked out to be absolutely right. It feel always good, if an idea is working well. But now I have to play it for the rest of the week against myself: Sooooo much work!!!
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Mon Jun 8, 2020 4:50 pm
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Is setup time always horrible?

Friedemann Friese
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Yesterday we had a vital discussion about the time it takes to build up 5x15 to play. I know I do not have any trouble with this right now, because I made my own APP to play it, but what is it all about.

I remember playing the Montana solitaire years ago and yes it was kind of long, but on the other hand this was always part of playing a patience. You have to shuffle (very well) and sometimes splaying cards other times build a layout. Whatever this is a patience and this for me is always part of the play. It is kind of meditation to build this up. The word patience means something like this. On the other hand I always wanted to start, but I think we are playing so much on the computer right now, that this is really an argument against a game if the setup time is to long.

I heard yesterday a friend of mine is doing some mistakes, by not limit the game to 16 columns. He was tempted to put a card to the right in the 17th column, because it easy to overlook this. My computer does not allow this.

By now I think I could publish 5x15 with nice square pieces in a limited edition.

Another discussion for The Fight was (and I already thought of it, but the feedback helped a lot to convince me) just to start the game with the open(initiative) card (and 12 cards), because it feels so much more, that this is the real game (and having a special form of communication through the open card.) Maybe next week I'm gonna have some energy for looking at the Fight again. I'm not done yet!!

Tomorrow is not a working day!
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Thu Jun 4, 2020 2:07 pm
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Back from Holidays!

Friedemann Friese
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https://opinionatedgamers.com/2020/06/01/5x15/

This is nice. I liked: "So I tried Montana. I tried a few other games in the family tree too. They were…less good."

Isn't it all about it. To make games better. In this case I took a game I already liked and played a lot years ago. A public domain, classical game design. It is not always the new game to design, sometimes it is just the new view to old stuff.

It was more the work of a game developer than at the work of the designer, but who cares, as long as we get better games!

With "5 Gurken" I did the same, take a classical and (re-)interpret it. UNO is nothing else.

I had this short holidays last weekend from Friday to Tuesday with friends, two families, 4 adults, 4 kids, a lot of games.

So I had the other 3 adults try The Fight!. I must admit: It is a fine game, but it is not a game I should publish in the way it is right now (I could publish 5x15 as it is right away.) Even with the new order of the levels, it still feels like small decision moments that do not really add up to a game. It is nice to play it, but it is (hard to tell) forgettable. By now I just don't know how to deal with it. Is there a way to make a remarkable game out of it? As I wrote some blogs ago, if you make a game inbetween two other games, this game could be not add up all the good things about these games instead just adds up all the mediocre parts. If you look between two peaks normally you find a valley (not best if you are looking for a peak), only in rare moments there is another peak and even less probable a higher peak.

The Mind ist great, The Crew is great, The fight is not great by now and it is possible that I cannot turn it into something that is great. Sad!

Now something completely different, whatever! Wherever my work will lead me now.

It is so nice to have a good game I'm working on. We played 2 times my new Essen (this year not Essen) game. One time 3 players. Second time 6 players. 3 players is fine. 6 players seems to be not the best number for this game. We have to put a warning on the box. If you already know the game and you play it fast, it is suitable for 6 players, but only then!!
This is a game I should publish and I will!
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Wed Jun 3, 2020 11:22 am
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