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Research as a Game Design Tool

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
Ashland
Ohio
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Microbadge: Summoner Wars fanMicrobadge: Defcon StatusMicrobadge: RaxxonMicrobadge: Ra fanMicrobadge: Star Wars: Rebellion fan
Summoner Wars Release

Summoner Wars Online Beta 1.6.4 released:
* Forceful Attack works on units only.
* Frenzy and Primal Fury require adjacent enemy cards on both ends.
* When a card is returned to the battlefield after being discarded/destroyed, it is considered a new unit and so could sort of attack twice in 1 turn.
* (Big one, most likely to lead to problems) All card text is now generated by the app rather than from an image.

The point of that last bullet is to get a step closer to playtesting in a playtester-only version of Summoner Wars online, and for translating the app into other languages.

Playtesters have been patiently waiting while I've been in a lull, so my next priority is actually coding the Cloaks so they can start up again.

Otherwise, the top priority is still sealing in secret information.

Research As a Game Design Tool

I've listened to and read plenty of board game design discussions and tips. One tip that I can't recall hearing is that you should read about the subject matter you're designing for.

Regardless of how deep or detailed your game is, you should gain some perspective by reading books on your theme before you get in too deep. Reading is informative, can help you avoid stupid mistakes, and it can be inspiring, and even the smallest improvement your game gets from your research will have been worthwhile.

(Note: I'm not a great reader, but I am able to push through when I have a good reason. If you just hate reading, then consider some other form of research like audiobooks and/or documentaries.)

Before Forgotten Waters, my main contact of pirates was the Monkey Island video game series, a favorite of mine, as well as the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Even though we knew we weren't going for a realistic style, I set out to read some books to gain more knowledge.

First I read Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, and I have to say, it's still a phenomenally entertaining book. Then I read The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodward, a history book. Then I read On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers.


Even though we weren't aiming for a historical setting, all those books helped shape how I thought about piracy and what your typical pirate was like. In the end, it was On Stranger Tides that had the biggest impact on Forgotten Waters. In that novel, the emergence of magnetized iron has caused magic to slowly recede from the Caribbean. This inspired me to imagine a world where magic used to be commonplace, but something had pushed it out and made life ordinary over time.

I pitched Isaac on the idea of our first scenario being about a captain whose mission is to bring magic back into the world by finding a magical stone. Isaac added the ideas of the place "beyond the ocean's edge" from which no ship had ever returned, and how the stone was necessary to go there. If you've played Forgotten Waters, you know that became our introduction scenario and the plot device that framed the entire game.

Now, as I daydream in my spare time about the game I've mentioned previously about experiencing a space 4x game from the viewpoint of those being discovered and colonized, I've gotten to the point where I need to read again. I've got a vacation in a week and a half, and I've ordered the following books so far:
* Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism by Noenoe K Silva
* An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
* Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt

If anybody else knows a good book on the topic of imperialism from the perspective of those with less power, please let me know. Especially instances that don't involve the United States, since I'm even more ignorant on that front. Even in a space fantasy world like the one I'm creating, understanding the real history can improve the game. Even in a fairly abstract game like the one I'm creating, even a small tweak to the theme could go a long way, and I expect these books to have a much bigger influence than that.
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