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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Hello!

Eustonius wrote:
This idea and the accompanying analysis is a very good example of how to match mechanics to a theme... and still another variant for me to playtest. I'm not entirely convinced of removing the fixed time limit, but I like the idea of an exciting end to the journey; and if I understood it correctly, you still have a choice between taking the risk or trying to stay within the time limit of two years, which ties in well with the strategic feel of the game.

Yes, that was my intent: if you stay within the 2 years time limit (+ 3 months, actually), you are definitely safe and nothing bad happens. If you spend more time travelling, you risk failure, but you do not know exactly when that failure occurs.

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The reason is that you have to achieve diversified results to sway the public opinion: return with only some types of result, and you leave the door open to critics about other aspects. One important result that came to my mind during brainstorming was exploration and holomap-making: if you reach locations in space that allow to "look" out of the sector with an accuracy far superior compared to what you can do from Earth, you open a world of concrete possibilities, which is a strong incentive to further voyages.

Certainly, making visiting Corners optional (with bonus points) would help take care of time management, but I fear it would also water down the trade-off management in the Boundary Readings.

I agree that making the corners optional would take a lot away from the game. Actually, you would have very little incentive to leave the straight line to the source...

This being said, I am wondering about the story explanation. Given that the ship encounters lots of extraterrestrial life, it seems odd that that by itself should not be sufficient.

But your mentioning the different view gave me an idea: the exploration of one of the corners may be a means to verify the location of The Source. Thus, by exploring the corners, you actually gather more and more accurate data about The Source. This is then needed to prove that the results on earth were genuine and that the location you visited was actually The Source.

Yours,
Deathworks
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Paolo G
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Deathworks wrote:
This being said, I am wondering about the story explanation. Given that the ship encounters lots of extraterrestrial life, it seems odd that that by itself should not be sufficient.

But your mentioning the different view gave me an idea: the exploration of one of the corners may be a means to verify the location of The Source. Thus, by exploring the corners, you actually gather more and more accurate data about The Source. This is then needed to prove that the results on earth were genuine and that the location you visited was actually The Source.
You meet extraterrestrial cultures, but they are not necessarily advanced and capable of space travel. Many Events were conceived as interactions with non-advanced cultures (say, technology comparable to our mid-twentieth century or earlier), and some with artifacts / AI entities.

Your idea about the Corners giving information on The Source is yet another interesting spark, though: I think it ties well with the special Event taking place at The Source which I'm currently playtesting.

Thanks again for your contributions: the game is becoming better in no small part because of them.

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Paolo G
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Mid-way through the third round of playtesting, the first after public feedback came in, The Herald has made some progress.

Events now offer more strategic choices with respect to both consequences and Officers; the balance seems to have improved, as on average you can obtain four/five successes in the positive Events, and two/three failures in the negative Events (probabilities are differentiated now). Leadership management has become too easy, but that can be fixed more easily than other aspects.

Time management is still an issue, but there is now a special Event taking place at The Source that lets you recover technology and knowledge you can use to improve the STEC Engine, so at times you can actually take back the clock. Also, revised rules for the Direction Reading help steer your course through the Holomap.

Defeat is now usually by a narrow margin, at a short distance from Earth, but it's still too frequent. With the Events improved, I'm going to concentrate on making the game easier to win; aiming for a winning percentage of about two-thirds, with some thrilling results decided at the very last, seems like a good goal for a long(ish) game like The Herald.

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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Eustonius wrote:
With the Events improved, I'm going to concentrate on making the game easier to win; aiming for a winning percentage of about two-thirds, with some thrilling results decided at the very last, seems like a good goal for a long(ish) game like The Herald.

That's what I like to hear! If I'm playing solitaire, I don't want to win every time, but I don't want to lose every time either.
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
davekuhns wrote:

That's what I like to hear! If I'm playing solitaire, I don't want to win every time, but I don't want to lose every time either.

I'd even be fine with losing the majority of the time - I'm accustomed to losing. But I want to chase that chance at victory.
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
The third round of playtesting is over; I will probably do another, final round next week, but I don't expect significant changes at this point.

The different game elements now definitely feel more balanced: time management is easier and therefore less prominent, while other elements now have a greater impact. You really have to keep track of everything to win, but the feel is more "look hard, play easy (and create a nice story to enjoy)" than "survive the stones that the game will throw at you".

In fact, the game may be a little too easy now; I'm looking for some optional rule to make it more difficult for those players who might prefer it.

Some of the changes in the rules:

1) As said earlier, there is now a special Event at The Source which lets you recover advanced travel technology: in some case, you can now take back the clock.

2) The Time track now ends with a Final Countdown that implements Deathworks' idea of an uncertain clock advancement, which eases time management and makes for a more exciting end of game.

3) Events come in two different Difficulties, so successfully navigating through the Event matrix is more important and challenging. And if you really need to succeed, you can declare it a Dilemma and increase your Officers' chances at the cost of your own Leadership.

4) There are tighter limits on Bad Reputation (at most two markers allowed), Leadership (starts at 4), and Supplies (start at 4).

5) Readings have been revised: tracing your route is now easier, Resupply is more powerful but can't be done at the same time as a Shore Leave, Counterintelligence is handled differently, and the STEC Engine is less unstable.

6) There are now only two Sector "Corners" (and I need a better word for them).

As I said, victory is now much more frequent; and when you lose, it's more often because you pushed your luck too much on other elements rather than because you ran out of time. Winning percentage is probably closer to three-out-of-four rather than my goal of two-out-of-three.

In the coming days, I'm going to update components for the new rules.
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Awesome sauce! I can't wait playtest & to get the full color components updated! The changes sound VERY interesting! If I can come up with anything to notch up the difficulty without sacrificing playability I'll be sure to pass it along. Hopefully we can get ya back down to the 2/3 win you are looking for xD
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
I've played five games. I lost all of them, but I enjoyed the game. I like working on several options and possible actions. It's a difficult game (probably an impossible game), especially for the events and because the number of turn is very tight.

I would like to modify the difficulty of the game, perhaps varying the number of turns or the score needed in the events.

I would like to modify dice rolls. How? Perhaps I can use Leadership points to modify them, or throw five dice (instead of four) and select only four of them. Sometimes you can not make useless moves. These situation makes that I must leave the game several turns before the end because you can not return to Earth on time.

Good game, but need some improvements to work.
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
eximeno wrote:
I've played five games. I lost all of them, but I enjoyed the game. I like working on several options and possible actions. It's a difficult game (probably an impossible game), especially for the events and because the number of turn is very tight.

I would like to modify the difficulty of the game, perhaps varying the number of turns or the score needed in the events.

I would like to modify dice rolls. How? Perhaps I can use Leadership points to modify them, or throw five dice (instead of four) and select only four of them. Sometimes you can not make useless moves. These situation makes that I must leave the game several turns before the end because you can not return to Earth on time.

Good game, but need some improvements to work.
Thanks for trying the game out, Santiago!

Yes, the version of the game which is currently available is too difficult; that's due primarily to changes which I introduced a few days before the Contest's submission deadline, and I could not therefore playtest sufficiently before making the files publicly available.

The game has been improved after the deadline (see posts above), although I may not make the new files publicly available under the Contest's rules. Some of the changes actually reflect your remarks and suggestions!

Anyway, I'm happy to hear that you have enjoyed the game nonetheless, and I hope you will come back for the final version.

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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Eustonius wrote:

Anyway, I'm happy to hear that you have enjoyed the game nonetheless, and I hope you will come back for the final version.


I'll play this final version, sure!
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
The last round of playtesting is over: The Herald is now ready.

With minor tweaks to the Final Countdown and Counterintelligence, the overall game difficulty has been increased a little, and is now within the comfort zone between 1/2 and 2/3; this allows the player to focus more on the story that unfolds, but still requires attention to the strategic part of the game.

The thing I'm most happy about is that games turn out to be rather diverse while keeping (necessarily, for a small game like The Herald) the same overall structure. Each time you are likely to have a different concern, and during playtesting I've had some interesting surprises.

I've also revised the score a bit, and, if you need a further challenge, you can now also try to earn the coveted Orion Star.

Here is a preview of the final low-ink components:

 


Now, let's wait for November 16th...

EDIT: grammar.
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
2 - 3 more modules to make and then I will finally try this game. (Don't worry, Paolo. I know you don't want a module done.)
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
radchad wrote:
2 - 3 more modules to make and then I will finally try this game. (Don't worry, Paolo. I know you don't want a module done.)
Thanks for your interest in The Herald, Chad; at this point, though, while I would be happy to know that someone still wants to try the game in its current state despite its flaws, I'd consider waiting for the final version, which is surely more balanced and enjoyable.

About Vassal: for those who do not know the antefact, Chad offered to make a Vassal module for my entry in last year's Contest, but I turned down the offer because I have mixed feelings about Vassal ('mixed' meaning that I've actually used it in the past, and still use it at times, though very rarely).

I'd like to stress the fact that I like Chad's Vassal modules, and that my refusal is not in any way a negative judgement on his work: in fact, I'm positively impressed by the modules he has done (I tried to make a Vassal module once, so I know a little about the obstacles you may have to overcome).

And after the Contest Chad played and reviewed my game: the first review of a game of mine here on bgg!

EDIT: grammar
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Hi Paolo

I just noticed that your game is a "no assembly required" game, so far I had the misconception that it wasn't.

I've read the rules on the way home from work and they generally seem very easy to understand (though the real test will come when I try the game).

I have a single question so far: When I face a challenge and have an officer that have the right expertise for one of the two challenges of the turn, but don't have one for the other, must I then assign the officer to the first challenge? The way the rules are phrased makes me think that I must, but that seems a bit weird to me, so I wanted to check.

I hope I'll get the chance to try the game before the voting deadline, but I'm not sure whether I will.

Cheers
- Morten
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Hello Morten,

and welcome to the thread.

mortenmdk wrote:
I just noticed that your game is a "no assembly required" game, so far I had the misconception that it wasn't.
Better late than never!

mortenmdk wrote:
I've read the rules on the way home from work and they generally seem very easy to understand (though the real test will come when I try the game).
I hope they are, and I'd really like to have feedback on whether they actually are.

mortenmdk wrote:
I have a single question so far: When I face a challenge and have an officer that have the right expertise for one of the two challenges of the turn, but don't have one for the other, must I then assign the officer to the first challenge? The way the rules are phrased makes me think that I must, but that seems a bit weird to me, so I wanted to check.
Good catch. Yes, you still have to assign the other Officer, who will therefore have her Effectiveness decreased. Thematically this may seem strange, but picture yourself in captain Kollin's shoes: when you face an Event, you don't necessarily know or discover immediately which Challenges will be involved, so it could happen that a Challenge becomes clear, and you choose an Officer to deal with it, and then the second Challenge becomes clear, and you discover that you have no Officers that can deal with it. Gameplay-wise, it is a "(small) penalty" for pushing your luck too far with regard to your Officers' Effectiveness.

mortenmdk wrote:
I hope I'll get the chance to try the game before the voting deadline, but I'm not sure whether I will.
I thank you for your interest, and hope you will try the game out, but, as I said to Chad above, at this point I'd rather wait for the final version. The currently-available version is almost unplayable: it could certainly give you a feel of what the game is (although the final version is different in some key mechanics), but it could also cause some frustration.
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
I went ahead and tried a game. Since you're going to make a new version very soon, I didn't take notes for detailed feedback while playing.

I enjoyed playing and I think that there are some interesting ideas in the game. I think some coloring and symbols might make the event and officer tables easier to use.

I didn't make it to the source, but made the thematic decision to turn around as I was running out of time. I made it back with two turns left, three diplomatic successes, one research survey, all isolationist cell overcome, 2 leadership, 2 supplies, one officer with one point left and the rest exhausted.

I have one rule question: I'm not sure about the resupply action. I can't see anywhere in the rules that you lose resources continually, so I'm not sure what the resupply action does. Does it mean that any loses I incur this turn from sabotage and events have no effect or am I missing something?
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
mortenmdk wrote:

I have one rule question: I'm not sure about the resupply action. I can't see anywhere in the rules that you lose resources continually, so I'm not sure what the resupply action does.

You spend a supply every turn you don't resupply; page 2, bottom-right, under the 'B2' heading.

The table would be better written as:

1-3: -1 SUP
4-5: No Effect
6: SHO

(Where SHO/Shore Leave is "choose between No Effect or +1 TIM, +1 SUP, +1 Effectiveness to everyone")
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Bichatse wrote:
mortenmdk wrote:

I have one rule question: I'm not sure about the resupply action. I can't see anywhere in the rules that you lose resources continually, so I'm not sure what the resupply action does.

You spend a supply every turn you don't resupply; page 2, bottom-right, under the 'B2' heading.

The table would be better written as:

1-3: -1 SUP
4-5: No Effect
6: SHO

(Where SHO/Shore Leave is "choose between No Effect or +1 TIM, +1 SUP, +1 Effectiveness to everyone")

Ah, I somehow missed that. Thank you clearing that up. This means that I would have run out of resources quite early in the game, but I think the game is much better that way since the environment die seemed unimportant most of the time.

I agree that the table would be better written the way as you suggest here.
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
mortenmdk wrote:
Bichatse wrote:
mortenmdk wrote:

I have one rule question: I'm not sure about the resupply action. I can't see anywhere in the rules that you lose resources continually, so I'm not sure what the resupply action does.

You spend a supply every turn you don't resupply; page 2, bottom-right, under the 'B2' heading.

The table would be better written as:

1-3: -1 SUP
4-5: No Effect
6: SHO

(Where SHO/Shore Leave is "choose between No Effect or +1 TIM, +1 SUP, +1 Effectiveness to everyone")

Ah, I somehow missed that. Thank you clearing that up. This means that I would have run out of resources quite early in the game, but I think the game is much better that way since the environment die seemed unimportant most of the time.

I agree that the table would be better written the way as you suggest here.
Jake is right (thanks for chiming in Jake).

The table was an unfortunate left-over from a previous playtesting version that required you to decrease Supplies each turn when you advanced Time, and then allowed you to increase Supplies if the Environment Die was favourable. The double action needlessly increased fiddliness, so I streamlined it in the rules, but failed to update the Captain's Pad.


mortenmdk wrote:
I enjoyed playing and I think that there are some interesting ideas in the game.
I'm happy to hear that!

mortenmdk wrote:
I think some coloring and symbols might make the event and officer tables easier to use.
Components have been revised, and hopefully improved. But if you have specific suggestions, feel free to post them nonetheless.

mortenmdk wrote:
I didn't make it to the source, but made the thematic decision to turn around as I was running out of time. I made it back with two turns left, three diplomatic successes, one research survey, all isolationist cell overcome, 2 leadership, 2 supplies, one officer with one point left and the rest exhausted.
You almost did it!
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Eustonius wrote:
mortenmdk wrote:
I think some coloring and symbols might make the event and officer tables easier to use.
Components have been revised, and hopefully improved. But if you have specific suggestions, feel free to post them nonetheless.

My suggestion is that instead of writing "+ SUP" you put a symbol that represents resources and for "- SUP" you show that symbol with a red "X" over it etc. If you choose the symbols well and color them differently that should make it much easier to read the event table quickly.

I suggest doing something similar with the skills. If it's hard to come up with suitable symbols for those then use color coding. If you stick to text I'd recommend skipping the first part of each skills name it doesn't contribute anything to the mechanics of the game, but instead makes it a bit harder to spot the skill you're looking for.

Eustonius wrote:
mortenmdk wrote:
I didn't make it to the source, but made the thematic decision to turn around as I was running out of time. I made it back with two turns left, three diplomatic successes, one research survey, all isolationist cell overcome, 2 leadership, 2 supplies, one officer with one point left and the rest exhausted.
You almost did it!

Well if I hadn't missed the rule about decreasing resources then I would have done much worse.
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
mortenmdk wrote:
My suggestion is that instead of writing "+ SUP" you put a symbol that represents resources and for "- SUP" you show that symbol with a red "X" over it etc. If you choose the symbols well and color them differently that should make it much easier to read the event table quickly.
I had explored that possibility early on (including the red "X"), but could not develop convincing icons for all the resources; I was a bit reluctant to settle on "+" and "-", but after all they are two of the most universally recognized symbols, and I think they add to the "digital" feel of the Pads.

Colour-coding could improve things to an extent, although the impact could be limited without different symbols, and the small type size doesn't help; but I'll see what I can come up with.

mortenmdk wrote:
I suggest doing something similar with the skills. If it's hard to come up with suitable symbols for those then use color coding. If you stick to text I'd recommend skipping the first part of each skills name it doesn't contribute anything to the mechanics of the game, but instead makes it a bit harder to spot the skill you're looking for.
Dropping the Field code in the Event Pad is worth exploring; in a sense, it's there more for thematic reasons: it had a greater impact in the earliest playtesting version, but I've streamlined things afterwards.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
Eustonius wrote:
mortenmdk wrote:
My suggestion is that instead of writing "+ SUP" you put a symbol that represents resources and for "- SUP" you show that symbol with a red "X" over it etc. If you choose the symbols well and color them differently that should make it much easier to read the event table quickly.
I had explored that possibility early on (including the red "X"), but could not develop convincing icons for all the resources; I was a bit reluctant to settle on "+" and "-", but after all they are two of the most universally recognized symbols, and I think they add to the "digital" feel of the Pads.

Colour-coding could improve things to an extent, although the impact could be limited without different symbols, and the small type size doesn't help; but I'll see what I can come up with.

mortenmdk wrote:
I suggest doing something similar with the skills. If it's hard to come up with suitable symbols for those then use color coding. If you stick to text I'd recommend skipping the first part of each skills name it doesn't contribute anything to the mechanics of the game, but instead makes it a bit harder to spot the skill you're looking for.
Dropping the Field code in the Event Pad is worth exploring; in a sense, it's there more for thematic reasons: it had a greater impact in the earliest playtesting version, but I've streamlined things afterwards.

Thanks for the feedback!

No problem. I'm subscribing to this thread and is looking forward to seeing the next version of your game.
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Paolo G
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Re: WIP - The Herald [2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest] - Stage: Contest-ready
The Contest's results have been announced: congratulations to all winners!

Also, The Herald now has its own bgg page, and the rules and components for the final version of the game have been uploaded there.
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The full-art components have finally been uploaded as well; it's now time for a little wrap-up.

The Herald was born as an attempt to marry a clear three-act structure, more typical of adventure games, to dice allocation and resource management mechanics, more typical of strategy games. Many strategy games are said to have an emergent three-act structure, but I wonder whether that is really emergent or rather players are simply superimposing the structure to rationalise and concisely describe the development of a typical play.

The Herald tries to achieve this structure with an explicit sequence of goals along a sort of "main quest" line, coupled with a game pace that spreads the fulfilment of these goals, so that they together span the whole game. This is nothing groundbreaking, but that wasn't the intent: rather, it is an exploration to see whether this approach can work, and whether it makes any difference, especially in a solitaire game.

To give variety, the game also has "sub-goals" that must be achieved, but not in a fixed order. These other "quests" can have an impact on the main goal sequence, which is itself only partially fixed. No game has infinite replayability, but The Herald tries to offer a varied experience and possibly surprise players, at least for a few tens of plays, and to do that with as little "content" as possible (after all, content often turns out to be not that diverse even in larger games).

So, I hope The Herald gives you all some fun nights of space-exploration-and-comeback; the response in terms of views and downloads has been pleasing so far, and I hope to see some feedback in the game's page.

And that's it: time to move on. I now consider this thread officially closed.
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