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 10 for Project Dreamscape: Unconventional Player Interaction

Sarah Reed
United States
Rancho Cordova
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Written by Will Reed

As we received feedback from play testers, some groups claimed that Project Dreamscape had very little player interaction. This seemed rather odd to me since I left only one aspect of the game free from player attack. So I want to get your opinions on the subject. I believe my game does have a lot of player interaction, just not conventional.

Conventional Player Interaction

Judging on what people have said, I want to first identify what I think is meant in what I’ve identified as “conventional player interaction.” Essentially, you damage the other player. This could be health, troop strength, destruction of things built, hand size, space denial, or pretty much anything that lets you say “take that.”

Now I admit this is a very direct form of player interaction. However, for me this only covers the concept of attack. I’m not even addressing cooperative player interaction which is, for the most part, the opposite of everything I mentioned. What seems to be missing from this equation is maneuvering.

My Version of Player Interaction

Attacking is fine, but it in the end feels as subtle as being wacked with a stick. I prefer to wage wars against my opponents where not a single shot needs to be fired. I want to have more buying power than my opponent while controlling part of their actions by dictating what is available.

In Project Dreamscape, this idea is brought to the forefront. The game does not necessarily revolve on getting the most of any one thing, but knowing how to out maneuver your opponent(s). This is done through leaving things they can’t use in the shared play area.

Now, I know there is player interaction in play-testers’ games that report little player interaction because of two major points. The first of these is the low scores. Generally, when you work against others, your scores are low. Second, the presence of group think. Generally, they all start playing one another, which means they fight over similar abilities.

Surprisingly, I’ve only seen one person who can commonly buck the group think mentality. As a consequence, he often out maneuvers everyone and wins the game consistently. While the rest of us struggle with getting 10+ points, he’s scoring in the 20s.

I also have a friend who totally believes this game has immense player interaction. As an example, he did the following. He flipped three cards in the shared play area that I needed to their face-down side. This means they could be bought as currency or I had to wait to get an ability that flipped them back. However, he didn’t stop there. There was one card left that I could still use to good effect. He used another ability to push it all the way back in the most expensive spot possible. This meant on my turn I could either barely afford a partially useful card, not afford a very useful card that got drawn since he also reduced my currency stack, and left me with the option of buying up all the currency cards which count for negative points at the end of the game.

He did all this without killing a hero, stealing from me, or reducing my life points. Now there were still elements of a traditional attack in what he did. However, he accomplished this by leaving behind extremely poor options for me to deal with.

So what are your views on player interaction? How do you define this crucial element of game play?

Next Time

The game needs to look good. This means we had to sit down and figure out what art direction to take. I’ll generally outline the process we took to make the game look like what we wanted.
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