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 6 for Project Dreamscape: Expanding Meaningful Choices

Sarah Reed
United States
Rancho Cordova
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Written by Will Reed

As it turned out, the game design was fairly tight when it came to how the abilities fit together. Minor tweaks were made to a few of the abilities, but, for the most part, the game stayed identical to the original draft. Now that I felt comfortable with the game as it was, it was time to toy with the idea of expanding the game in some way. In order to do this, I needed to figure out something extremely important.

Meaningful Choices

At first, I had a number of ideas that explored different elements of the game. However, as I matched them up with the goals I set for myself, it was very difficult to find something that could fit into the web of abilities I had weaved.

This meant I had to get more precise with the criteria for a good ability. In order to figure that out I had to determine what constituted a “meaningful choice.” Given the fact this game is a bit of a hybrid between American and European style games, the typical choices you would make didn’t quite apply.

An example of this is an American game might find a meaningful choice in how well you can destroy others while a European game might call a meaningful choice something that helps build an engine you use. Well, neither of these choices really applied in this game. Therefore, I worked back to figure out what do both game types have in common.

The answer turned out to be maneuvering. American games often require you to maneuver to exploit weaknesses while a European game has you maneuver to capitalize on a particular strategy.

When I compared the idea of maneuvering with Project Dreamscape, it exactly matched up with this concept. This meant I now had a new ruler to introduce abilities to that provided a type of guide in their creation.

Additional Abilities

Originally my goal was to see if the game would last longer if you just added abilities in. That quickly turned out to be not the best choice. Adding just one more ability in the mix disrupted the tight balance of the game and the frequency in which abilities showed up.

However, the abilities did work extremely well if you swapped in/out on a one-for-one basis. Additionally, the dynamics of the game shifted dramatically with the introduction of an ability and the removal of something a player might subconsciously count on.

This in turn let me introduce other player personalities into the game. The Conservative who uses Empowered Dreaming to use abilities, but is not forced to put those cards in their REM stack to clutter things up. The Speed Demon, who uses Paradigm Shift to move the Dreamscape faster than ever. And the Chaotic, who uses Invasive Dreaming to finally swap cards with the Dreamscape and another player.

Next Time

I will talk about trimming the game down and preparing for the various logistics in making the game.
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