Designing Games: A Couple's Perspective

This blog chronicles the game designing journey of husband and wife team Will and Sarah. Mostly written by Sarah, this blog is meant to be informative, interesting and fun. Oh, and a historical account so we can come back in the future and laugh at our naive selves. ;-D
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Designer Diary 5 for Project Dreamscape: Timing & Number of Players

Sarah Reed
United States
Rancho Cordova
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Written by Will Reed

Now from the outset, I was looking to make a filler game. In my mind that is a game that lasts around the half hour mark no matter how many players you play with. This was easily done by making the deck of cards the timer for the game. However, I still had to justify why I would allow certain player counts.

Two Players

The majority of my gaming is done with my wife. This means I have a high regard for games that deliver a solid two player experience. As a general rule, I don’t mind if a player’s turn lasts a bit longer in a two player game because no matter whose turn it is, the other player will always play next.

For Project Dreamscape, this is a surprisingly intense game. Every decision you make will directly impact the other player. What you leave and how you leave cards behind will dictate the course of the game. So I was very happy with how the game plays.

Three Players

This is where the game starts opening up. You have another player that makes it harder to plan long term. However, I reasoned a good player will still pay attention no matter whose turn it is for the following reasons.

On your turn, you must pay attention to play. On the player after you, you need to pay attention because what you leave them on your turn can directly mess them up. However, you need to know what they do on their turn to make a greater impact on their play. Then the player after them is important because what they leave behind is what you will have to deal with on your turn.

Four Players

This admittedly is the most casual way to play. The timing of the turns for the person before you and after you is the same as the three player game; however that last player opens up a lot of room.

In terms of timing, a good player will use that turn to consult their REM stack and figure out what types of abilities they will want to look for. This gives them time to prepare for when it is important for them to pay attention.

Given the sheer amount of technology available to people at the table, a game can’t demand constant attention especially if it is a filler game. Therefore a space for downtime is allowed which makes turns less intense.

Along with shortened attention spans comes a level of impatience where people want it to be their turn again. This means turns have to get quicker without changing how the game plays. It was decided that four players is the maximum amount of downtime that would be allowed that still provided enough game tension to be interesting.

Single Player

After working out all the timing for two to four players, I was a bit disappointed to find I couldn’t stretch the game to five players. That’s when the idea of going the other way and making a solo variant for the game was born. Now, for this to work, a few abilities needed to be changed. However, once made, the game becomes this diabolical machine that forces you to figure out new ways to utilize all the abilities to their full potential.

As for timing, the game still comes under the half hour mark I was looking for even though the length of each turn is greatly increased. I’m actually surprised how well the game works as a solo version and I found I can continue to tie thematics in by adding a score ranking chart.

Next Time

I will discuss how I approached expanding the game and figuring out what is a meaningful choice within the game.
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