Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/58777/index
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Murder TV: Items

Greg
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(Original post here , I'm getting better at BGG so there's not too much difference now. I guess the original post is still slightly nicer because the images are centered?)

Playtesting showed a some problems with Murder:TV. One of them was that some options in the game seemed irrelevant and were never used. Another was that the decisions in the game weren't interesting enough to support the theme. More relevant options lead to more interesting decisions, so solving the first problem will go a long way towards solving the second.

Let’s focus on two things that didn't matter very often: The search action and popularity. The search action tended to be used to obtain items that were weaker than those the player already had, making it a waste of time. Similarly, making an effort to be popular with the audience was rarely worth the effort, as the rewards for doing so tended to be weaker than things the player already had.



These problems emerge from the same underlying problem: the items in version one don't work very well. I'd decided that weapons came from two places, those from the creators of the show that were chosen to be entertaining on camera and those that the players could scavenge from their environment. This lead to me initially giving players and NPCs (non-player characters) good weapons and having only poor weapons available to find. Popular characters were sometimes rewarded with a card from the show deck, but by the time this happened, they already had a pile of these items as they'd got one from each NPC who'd died nearby. The old items looked like this:



The numbers are range, damage and accuracy. The shotgun is not only a mechanically better weapon than the mop, it's more fun to use too.
"You know like in the movies just as the good guy is about to kill the bad guy, he cocks his gun. Now why didn't he have it cocked? Because that sound is scary. It's cool, isn't it?" -The Caller, Phone Booth

There's no incentive here for a player to spend any time on search actions. So, redesigning the items requires a different set of priorities. Now all of the weapons will come from the show, but are divided into those the contestants are given at the start, those scattered about the environment and those awarded by the audience in phone votes. Thematically it makes sense for these to be in ascending order of power, and mechanically this solves the problems with searching and popularity being irrelevant.

This should make the game more interesting to play, as knocking off weaker NPCs to gain experience now comes at a cost of not spending time searching for better weapons or being nice to people (and risking being shot for it) to become more popular with the audience. The new items look more like this:



I have this rule of thumb: if it happened in a film and was memorable it's a good idea for a murderous reality TV show prop. I hope this is a good rule, because it's hard not to like it, but sometimes I worry that some rules might seem obscure. I'm not sure what proportion of the normal population has tried to use a three piece staff without hitting themselves in the face, but I'm guessing it's not so large as I might like.

Inspirations aside, mechanically the starting items generally have some sort of significant drawback, whereas the items a player might search out have been planted by the show and are something special and the items awarded as prizes are either strictly better than the generic search items or allow for one spectacular attack.

These changes should address some of the problems the game is facing within the existing mechanics. One of the most common pieces of advice I get as a new designer on the BGG designers forum is to try to take things away before adding new things. I've not quite managed that (though I did merge the audience opinion trackers into a single 'popularity' score) but finding solutions that add depth without adding complexity seems like a good principle
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Subscribe sub options Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:42 pm
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