Game Designer Lockdown

About my work in these days of the lockdown.
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Scoring rules changes games

Friedemann Friese
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Every single day I work on the APP for Finished. Eric Snider is doing it. In Finished! the only goal is to get the 48 cards sorted before you run out of coffee. It is my absolute most played game in the world ever. I really play it every day at least once. Before Eric came to code it, I played the physical version. By now I still have about 10 worn out games. You can tell the 48 by its back in all of these games, because it is the card to be played most. The 1,2,3,4 looks like new, the higher the numbers get, the older they look.

After playing a lot I counted the leftover coffees as bonus to compare if I have done better or worse. I also counted in the leftover candies, but I really wanted to have a score to keep track of. In the game there are 10 candies (used a action points) and whenever you have 10 candies and would get more they are lost.

But playing it a lot, leads to have a lot of candy and of course in the end for scoring better I wanted to have all 10 candies leftover.

Later I thought it could be nice to score extra points when you have all candy but would get more. So I includes some scoring tokens for that. In the end it was: 1 point per token, 2 points per leftover candy and 25 points for each leftover coffee. The most important thing should be having coffees leftover, because this is really better if you need less coffee.

For me this was absolutely fine. Because winning was kind of standard. 10 candies leftover standard. The number of coffees 2 or 3 (I played the game with 5 candies to start and 5 coffees.) A score of over 50 was good and everything near 100 rocks.

Now we are doing this on the iPad (I play it on the iPad) and Eric found out that sometimes a good game does not count as many points as a game that felt worse. And yes he is right, because of getting more points I tend to play this game as long as possible to get more and more points, because +1 point per candies over 10 is unlimited and if I manage to keep playing and just pushing the 48 in the future again and again, I will score better.

I changed the game! Finished! was a game about sorting a deck 48 cards and the goal was to do this. After playing it as often as I did, it became a game to manipulate the deck to score better. hmm?!

But we wanted to have a scoring. First we changed the scores to add a base score for winning, because just doing nothing gave more VPs then playing (for newbies), because if you just play without paying any candy you will not win, but you will have 10 leftover candies and a lot of points for extra overpaid candies, but you will not win. Adding a base score for winning and giving each card you have points was much better. For me it was never necessary because I played only for the win and only secondary for points, but if you have a leaderboard this has to be done.

I reworked the points to 200 VP for winning. 10 VP each card. This is 480 + 200 for finishing. 5 points for leftover candy, additional 50 points. each coffee leftover is 50 points and we play this game on the beginners level: 7 start coffee and 7 start candy. 4 leftover coffee is not unusual = 200 points.

200+480+50+200 = 930 points is a good base to have a highscore around 1000. And I played a lot more and got my personal highscore up to 996.

But still the game was changed. You get more points for longer games than for fast games. Eric suggested to give more points for sequences to be score to the scoring pile. 5 points for the first card, +6 (second) etc.

This changed the game immense (and he really beat me). I got 1198 and he jumped up to 1222. I disliked the scoring before he overtook me, but it is very difficult to consider if I dislike it because I was overtaken me or because it is not good.

It took me some time to analyze to find out what the problem is: With this kind of scoring, you play the game to keep the playing pile as big as possible (and sort it). But you really do not want to score cards early and when you sorted all the cards then you get a very long sequence to score. (again a scoring game and not a game to get things sorted fast). Leftover coffee (50 points) is not to important anymore, because I had a sequence of 15 to 48 and the 48 scored 38 points. 48 + 47 scored 75 points. This is more than a leftover coffee. I hope Eric agrees that this focuses on the wrong parts of the game. (But he is also emotionally influenced, because he beat me the first time in the leaderboard)

I think going back to not getting anything, if you already have all candies and would get more candy is necessary, because this was always a problem in all scoring methods.

But I want to have a more diverse scoring, to avoid ties in the leaderboard.

The big question: Is it better to gain a candy and spend it than just not getting anything and spending anything. I think it should. So I should award points for getting candies. Maybe it works just that way: Get 1 Point for each gained candy (if you already have 10 candies, no candy no points, sorry).

I would like to have the actual scoring:
200 per win
10 per card on the scoring pile
50 per coffee left
5 per candy left
1 per candy gained....

This is so much my topic. Scoring! Scoring! Scoring! I don't like point salad games (surprisingly I like the game Point Salad), because most authors add to many ways to score to their system. You have to focus on the scoring and no longer on the game mechanic or mechanism.

The first time I had this feeling was Ra. I really really like the mechanism with the auction and the suns, but to many ways to score. I will never ever play this again. To much math involved. (the little arithmetics in Power Grid are nothing in comparison).

I know people tend to like these scorings a lot, but I'm still the boss of my games. On an abstract view on games there are only two kinds of games: Scoring games or racing games. Scoring games have a game end independent from scoring (more important whoever ends the game is not the person winning the game) and when this happens, the players score. Race games have a goal to achieve and whoever achieves it wins.

I know there are mixed up version, but I'm still a fan of racing games. Finished! is a racing game, because you try to beat the game, like Friday. Power Grid is a race game for the most cities powered. Don't be tricked by the money tiebreaker it is racing!

Ahhhh game ends and designing them, is one of the most important parts of game designing itself. Engine building stops to be interesting in the moment where the game ends (depending on the benefit, 1 or 2 rounds earlier.) Games tend to change drastically in their ends. Power Grid is very successful, also because of the game end. The fact that you cannot really tell if this is the last round or if there is one more. Please keep your money hidden to guarantee this great experience.

IMO saving the game end by using a lot of scoring is the poorest design attempt to solve the problem.
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