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Subject: Seeking some feedback on my work in progress' theme! rss

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Alex Stanmyer
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Hi everyone. I’ve been working on a baseball-themed game--with a fantasy twist--for a couple of months now and I’ve gotten the core mechanics to be somewhere that I’m pretty happy with. Core gameplay focuses on the mind games that occur between the pitcher and the batter, but there is also a deckbuilding portion of the game as well. Here’s a link to a quick gameplay preview (just scroll down a bit until you hit the first picture) so you can see a snapshot of how I envision the matchup playing out. If you’re interested in more, here’s a link to the current version of the working rules if you’d like to check them out. I do plan on making a WiP thread once I get a bit more settled on some of the game’s design nuances.


My question for you all today is about my game’s theme. From what I’ve read around here sports games are traditionally a tough sell.


Originally I saw Baseball Quest! as a “fantasy” baseball game. Think gelatinous cube first basemen, goblin shorstops, rock golem catchers, and so on. After some research I found that there’s at least one other game that has done a similar idea for a theme (though, from what I gather, with very different core gameplay): Fantasy Fantasy Baseball. They were able to reach their Kickstarter goal running with it, so that does give me some hope. Blood Bowl also is another successful game that took a somewhat similar approach to theme (though I’m sure having the Warhammer license didn’t hurt).


But I’m wondering if a “fantasy” baseball game is enough of a difference from traditional sports to make it something marketable. What does BGG think? If it’s not different enough, then how do I “reskin” my game into something more appealing that still makes thematic sense with the game’s core rules? I haven't done any work on the art-side of things yet, so there's no sunk cost there.


One option I’ve come up with is the idea of morphing Baseball Quest! Into a jousting game. Perhaps instead of a pitcher, the player would draft a champion that would ride against a team of challengers over the course of several tilts? Instead of trying to guess pitches, the jousters would target different spots on their opponent’s armor. The challenge here occurs when the challenger scores a success, as there are no baserunners in jousting. As a solution, points could just be awarded based on each individual success. Additionally, there are no positional requirements on a jousting “team” like there are on a baseball one.


Past this jousting one, I'm a bit stumped on further ideas


So, what do I do? Do I hope that I eventually get some great art that sells people on the "fantasy" baseball theme? Or do I "reskin" and rework the game so that it fits some other gamer-friendly theme? Let me know what you think!
 
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Martin Windischer
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I always had the impression that the thing with sport themed games is not the tough sell. It's rather the fact that it's really hard to make a good game around this theme.
The main game mechanics used in sport games are luck and maybe a bit of bluffing or pre-game deck construction, which makes these kind of games pretty limited (and nobody is looking for a luck driven game these days).

Just be sure that the game is also fun to play for players who have no knowledge of baseball and that there is enough strategy/tactics involved.
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Brendan Riley
United States
Chicago
Illinois
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Baseball has seen a slight up-tick in this last year, with both Baseball Highlights: 2045 and Bottom of the 9th getting pretty positive reviews.

How is your game similar/distinct from Fantasy Fantasy Baseball?
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Alex Stanmyer
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Hi Brendan! Thanks for the reply!

From a thematic standpoint, they seem pretty dang similar as things are now. Fantastic creatures playing baseball.

In game play, though, they differ. From my understanding, Fantasy Fantasy Baseball focuses more on a simulation of a season where a character's raw stats--in addition to events and other special abilities--are what determines who wins each "week".

Baseball Quest! is more of a fantasy simulation of a single game of baseball. In Baseball Quest! the core game play takes the form of a sort of rock paper scissors guessing game between the batter and the pitcher that, on the surface, seems pretty simple, but in actuality is perfect for the creation of all sorts of multi-layered mind games. Bluffs, cat and mouse style traps, and strategic setups all occur naturally.

Both games feature a drafting system where players build a deck or lineup. In Baseball Quest! you are competing directly against your opponent's pitcher, so hate drafting and planning around the opponent's stats adds another layer of strategy to the game.

Die rolls are also a part of the resolution of at bats in Baseball Quest! where I don't think that is the case in Fantasy Fantasy Baseball. As anyone who watches or plays it knows, randomness is a part of baseball. That being said, Baseball Quest! is set up so that an experienced and thoughtful player will win much more often than they lose.

 
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Glen Dresser
Canada
Calgary
AB
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I think the challenge with sports games is that you need to try to capture what people love about a particular sport. And often, that's a really elusive element to try to put into a game.

So I actually think you've got a good instinct here in that you're focusing on what to me is the most interesting part of the game, that batter / pitcher mental game. I'd worry about that getting bogged down with positional play and the sheer grind that a baseball game is. If you've got the gameplay of that pitcher duel down really well, dressing it all up with a bunch of fantasy-creature positional players might be taking the game in the wrong direction.

Do you think you can get the rest of the gameplay up to a point where it adds, rather than detracts, from the pitcher duel? Or is it better to go the other way and strip things out? I haven't played Bottom of the Ninth, but I appreciate the approach of stripping a very long game down to one tense and tactical situation.



I wonder about a game where you draw a card, and that gives you a game situation (current score, runners on, etc.); it then gives you 'scoring' for your particular situation (sometimes, inducing a ground ball is the best outcome for the pitcher, in another, you need to go for the strike out, or a fly ball, depending on the game situation. The situation plays out, each manager scores points (zero sum) based on how they do, then the roles are reversed and a new card is drawn for the game situation for the next matchup.
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Alex Stanmyer
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Thanks for the thoughts Glen!

octothorp wrote:

So I actually think you've got a good instinct here in that you're focusing on what to me is the most interesting part of the game, that batter / pitcher mental game. I'd worry about that getting bogged down with positional play and the sheer grind that a baseball game is. If you've got the gameplay of that pitcher duel down really well, dressing it all up with a bunch of fantasy-creature positional players might be taking the game in the wrong direction.


Definitely something I've thought about. Do I really need the fantasy theme? As the game is now the answer is no. It would work just as well as a straight baseball game, so the only reason to include it would be to appeal to a more "traditional" gaming audience. However, the fantasy theme could allow for some interesting abilities if I chose to go that way. I'm thinking players that could roll back time, curse other players, etc.


octothorp wrote:

Do you think you can get the rest of the gameplay up to a point where it adds, rather than detracts, from the pitcher duel? Or is it better to go the other way and strip things out? I haven't played Bottom of the Ninth, but I appreciate the approach of stripping a very long game down to one tense and tactical situation.


That's a great question. I'd say that right now the pitcher/batter duels take up about 80% of total playtime. I do like the team-drafting mechanic that I've created, as it allows a skilled player another area to gain an edge though their decisions.

As things stand now, I do have the concept of base runners included in the game, but I'm wondering if it's a necessary inclusion. I think it does allow for some more interesting player abilities: I currently have speedy players that can take an extra base on a single as well as slow players who have better stats overall but can't hit doubles. If I were to remove base runners, maybe points would just be awarded automatically on successes. A single is worth one point, a double worth 2, etc. Something to think about for sure.

I've thought about creating a sort of quick-play rules variant that would eliminate the drafting and give each player a relatively balanced team to just jump right into the game with.


octothorp wrote:

I wonder about a game where you draw a card, and that gives you a game situation (current score, runners on, etc.); it then gives you 'scoring' for your particular situation (sometimes, inducing a ground ball is the best outcome for the pitcher, in another, you need to go for the strike out, or a fly ball, depending on the game situation. The situation plays out, each manager scores points (zero sum) based on how they do, then the roles are reversed and a new card is drawn for the game situation for the next matchup.


That's an interesting idea! It wouldn't fit the mechanics of the game I've created now, but I like the concept a lot. I also need to check out bottom of the ninth, as it seems like there would be a lot of ideas there for me to learn from. Thanks!
 
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