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:
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Keeping things fresh

United Kingdom
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Original Post

I get a lot of positive feedback from the wizard academy playtests, but one of the things that keeps recurring is that people really want to know what the spells are. Some players flip them all at the end of the game, others avoid this explicitly so that there will be more surprises next time. A lot of people request to be in subsequent playtests and this curiosity is a factor. I'm going to be interested to see how the game holds up once players know all of the effects in the deck, I know that I'm still enjoying playing games with other people despite knowing all of it back to front and inside out, but I'm aware that I'm kind of odd. So, how long will it be before I can do tests with people who've seen the whole deck?

It'll be eight games before a given player is likely to have had every spell appear in a given game. That doesn't mean they'll have seen them though, I should really correct the calculation to account for the notion that only two thirds of the spells get seen in any given game.

This might present a problem. Curiosity is definitely one of the emotions that I want this game to evoke and I do enjoy the look on testers faces when they're about to discover the consequences of some new spell. That having been said, I want the game to stand up on its merits even when the deck is known, so I need to test how it influences players once this has happened.

Part of my reasoning for setting up the puzzles is that they're a good way to check that the game can still be interesting in situations where all of the variables are known. Given the number of testers and the length of the game, I could be over 300 hours into testing before I start to get quality feedback on what it's like to play the game once you know it well. I may need to change my approach to testing to get to the bottom of this.

I'm also interested in how changing the number of spells impacts the game. At the moment I've devised 64 spells, but I could easily bring that number to 100 if I thought it'd make for a better game. That gives us a graph that looks more like this:

That makes a bigger difference than I might have thought. I guess a lot of it comes down to asking how many times are people really likely to play the game. I own a lot of games and there are some I've played hundreds of times, but these are the minority. An awful lot of them I've only played a handful of times, including several games that I'd describe as really good games. I need to think a little bit about how typical this is, I could try to gear the experience towards players who are still discovering things about the game on the basis that this is what most plays will be.

Something about the notion of a game that only has so many plays in it doesn't sit right with me though. I'm going to keep working towards something that'll still entertain people long after they've seen all of the components. I just need to recognise that it's going to be a long journey to get feedback from testers who no longer have a sense of wonder.

Well, I'm looking at sticking another 30ish hours in the playtesting box this week. Personally, I have to wonder if that box will ever be full.
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