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Subject: [WIP] - Android: Agencies rss

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Mario López Menés
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Hi there, everyone!

First thing you have to know: I'm a HUGE fan of cyberpunk, and specially of FFG's Android universe.
Second thing you have to know: When I discovered Android, I was AMAZED by the concept. Investigating a crime while developing the personal stories of the characters, all that noire flavor dripping... it felt amazing. But it didn't work out that nicely: the game had some major flaws, from my point of view.
Third thing you have to know: I do enjoy developing games in my free time, mostly as an entertaining activity.

So, with those facts in mind, welcome to the Android: Agencies WIP post.

__________________________________________________________________


Android: Agencies is intended to be the game that I wanted Android to be. Many years have passed since its release: we have had Android: Infiltration and, most importantly, Android: Netrunner (and even New Angeles!). We have more tools in order to articulate the universe, and I will try to make a good use of them.

So yes, Android: Agencies does actually use the FFG's Android setting. It is nothing more than a fan fun project, and I guess I'll be much more likely to find playtesters working with a well-known IP. Everything here will be done for the sake of it. I will use images that may have copyright or that will be taken from FFG's Android art. I will also use FFG's characters to integrate the game into the universe.


What am I keeping from Android?

The main theme: solving a crime through the whole New Angeles, moving between different locations, meeting characters that can help you and having potencial troubles because of your character's personal problems.

The personal background: the best thing in the original game by far, I will try to retain that feeling of knowing your characters and seeing them evolving through the game. My take on this will be quite different though, less narrative and more mechanical.

The favor system: one of the greatest features in Android: in this environment, many things are paid in favors, not money. I will create an Influence system from this, in which you will have to earn Influence that you will spend later on to have favors done to you. This way, Influence will come and go as you expand your contact network and ask them for favors.

The importance of the locations: in the original game, your character could visit some locations to gain special privileges, not only because the location was directly related with the crime. This will happen here too: some locations in New Angeles can provide you unique perks that may help you later on, so visiting them could be worth it.

The resolution: as in Android, the winner here is not necessarily the one who solves the crime. The winner is the one who has left his agency in a better place at the end of the day, as it happened in Android with your characters. After all, a new day will come when this week finishes, and nobody will really care about who solved that specific murder.

What would I like to change?

The crime investigation: I know that this is kinda controversial, but Android didn't feel as an investigation game to me. It was just like trying to put the crime onto someone rather than discovering who had really committed it. This was by far the main turn-off for me.
Android: Agencies will have a real investigation with just one criminal to be found. Different witnesses will allow you to gradually discover the clues... or you could just run into your opponent's servers to see the information they have in there.

The personal scope: Android is all about your character investigating alone. As you may have guessed, here you will lead a private investigating agency which will start the game with 3 Detectives on it.
The agency will expand its network with new contacts, who may end up being part of the agency themselves. You will also adquire new stuff for the agency, ranging from fast hoppers (Android cars) to new icebreaker programs that allow you to run into servers more efficiently.

The personal stories system: the original game is quite long, and the narrative parts on it heavily contribute to slowing down its pace. While it is very evocative, I will try to develop a more gameplay-focused system.
To start, every initial Detective in your agency comes with some cards that form your starting deck... and those cards are related with them, both narratively and mechanically.
Characters in the game will also have Addictions. Those are things that they usually love to do, but that can cause troubles to them. As a player, you should be able to balance risk vs benefit and let them fall into their Addictions if you think it is reasonable. Because of this, Characters may end up developing Traumas: in-game effects that cause them trouble... until they are able to overcome them. If a Character overcomes a Trauma, it stops being harmful and gives you bonus VP at the end of the game instead.

The static city: apart from two other characters, the Detectives seem to be all alone in Android. I will try to develop a system that reflects the activity in the streets and locations, so the characters can react to it. It is much easier to get killed if you wander around the lonely, seedy places of New Angeles than if you stay in the always-crowded Broadcast Square. It can be even difficult to drive around it when there are too many people there!

The lack of hacking: being from the same universe as Android: Netrunner, the original game did lack some runners here and there. In Android: Agencies, you should be able to develop a rig in your agency, so you can try to run into your opponents' servers. If you manage to pass through their ICE, the information will be exposed. Who wants to go after witnesses when you can just take a look at your mates' notes?
Just be careful not to encounter a Snare in there!

The lack of real risks: your character can never die in Android. Only suspects can die, and even that isn't easy. That doesn't seem very thematic, as we are talking about the same world in which Scorched Earth exists. I expected a little more danger from a city with that many seedy places to visit.
In this game, your Detectives can die. You can always recruit new characters for your agency, but that won't probably be cheap, so try your best to keep them alive. Witnesses can also die, so you'd better run to them or they may expire without telling you a thing. Interrogating them and then killing them so they cannot tell anyone what you just heard? Sounds pretty impassive, but some detectives here are not coming precisely from the NAPD...

What would I like to change, but I probably won't?

Complexity
Android is a complex game to learn. Hopefully, taking away most of its narrative aspect may make it a little easier. But I want to develop a game that can give its players an immersive experience, while reflecting some of the great features that other games in this universe have.
That is gonna need some rules, so I guess this won't be a simple game. Anyway, I would love to maintain it as simple as possible.

Why am I opening this thread?

I'd love to have feedback from you, guys. It'd be great to hear someone who has read the Android novellas, for example, as I'm pretty sure about having mistakes over things that have been already stated by them. I'd like the game to stick to the Android canon as much as possible, just cause I love it. So if you have something to tell me around that topic, don't hesitate.

I would also love to have gameplay-related feedback, obviously. Some mechanics in the game are maybe more complicated than they should, or not making the gameplay better. All those things are much better seen when you are not the developer, so any comment around that will be highly appreciated. I'll be specially interested in getting feedback from people who has played other games in this setting (not really counting Android: Mainframe, while my depiction of Nero Severn is kinda influenced by it). Android: Netrunner players would be very valuable when evaluating some parts of the game.

Apart from all that, I just want to have fun developing this, and it is always funnier when you can share your progress. I hope we can have fun together with this project, and would love to maintain discussions with Android fans about almost every aspect of the topic.

When and how will this end?

When: I do honestly have no idea. Nowadays I have plenty of time to work on it, but that may change. I will just upload this when I have something meaningful to tell, and that may be every three days now and every two months in February.

How: when the project is finished, I will upload a PnP so anyone can play it. It will probably be a huge PnP (+200 cards, a board, pawns/meeples and cubes...) so don't get too hyped. We don't know when will it be ready and it's gonna be hard/expensive to make. On the other hand, it should have a decent quality, as I'm a graphic designer and I'm planning to use this project as part of my portfolio.
I will probably try to see it published too, in some way or another. But there are tons of things to do before even thinking about that.

__________________________________________________________________


That's it for now, people. If you wanna make any comments, feel free to do so. If you have ever played Android, knowing what was good and bad for you would help. If you have never played any Android-related game, knowing what expectations would you have can also be inmensely helpful.

I'll upload the thread with some info about one of the key mechanics soon. I'd like to have a card mockup before that, the explanation should be much easier.

Thanks!
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Benj Davis
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But the personal stories are the best thing about the game...
 
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Mario López Menés
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Jlerpy wrote:
But the personal stories are the best thing about the game...

The concept is definitely nice, in fact is the most interesting thing about the game. But I find the gameplay application of it a bit clumsy. Your story is predetermined from the beginning of the game (with different outcomes, but it is still the same thing), good and bad cards feel a bit random or not really related with the characters, and it isn't easy to follow every story in the game apart from your own one.
It is also slow, as reading the flavor text stops the game, having nothing to do with the actual gameplay.

FFG has been telling us a ton of stories about the Android universe in a subtle way: flavor text on the Android: Netrunner cards is a great example. That is the path that I will try to follow for the game.

The main characters (your first Detectives) will carry their families, friends, favourite programs or devices with them to the agency. That way, every agency should be different by combining different Detectives to create it. Your starting deck will then be related to your 3 Detectives, featuring their children, their bosses or the tactics they've been using for their whole lives.
While this should feel thematic, and avoid having random characters with no stories behind them, it is also fast and directly related with the gameplay.

The other aspect of Android's personal stories is the ability to overcome the difficulties and get a happy ending. Well, while this sounds great, it wasn't that good in the game for me. Everything felt "guided", and substracts importance to the crime, which should always be the main focus.
In the game that I want to develop, characters may get traumas if they succumb to their vices... and they can work to overcome those traumas, therefore having "a happy ending" in that sense. Some of the characters may even start the game with traumas. But everything, from the vices to suffering and overcoming traumas, will be strictly related to the gameplay and the crime (providing penalties or buffs, and encouraging some actions over others while still solving the case, always the main priority).

I hope those mechanisms are enough to give the game that cinematic feel that Android had, presenting real characters with problems who can focus themselves on their virtues and achieve "happiness" in one way or another. Anyway, the game is intended to be much less narrative, abstracting many thematic pieces of information into actual game mechanics.

Achieving that is one of the main goals of the project, while probably difficult. Thanks for the comment. When I start uploading information about these aspects, I'd love you to check it and tell me if they work properly for you.
 
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Jake Staines
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I'd be interested in seeing where this goes - although it's only fair to point out that you're almost certainly going to have to change the name and disassociate yourself from the Android universe if you want to be able to release this in any form. FFG will feel obliged to protect its trademarks, and I seem to recall that they don't accept external submissions for designs.

Moondraco wrote:

The other aspect of Android's personal stories is the ability to overcome the difficulties and get a happy ending. Well, while this sounds great, it wasn't that good in the game for me. Everything felt "guided", and substracts importance to the crime, which should always be the main focus.


In your opinion.

I think the thing you have to bear in mind when playing Android is that it's a total eurogame. It's dressed up with theme, but it's totally a euro, and your goal is simply to maximise your points within the constraints of the game. The stories give you another thing to concentrate on precisely because it distracts you from the crime; it gives you more things to juggle at once.


(Thematically, I'd also disagree that the crime should absolutely be the main focus. Android is clearly heavily influenced by Blade Runner, where the actual crime is so far from the point of the movie it probably couldn't see it with that fancy looking-around-reflections-in-photographs device.)


Moondraco wrote:

The lack of hacking: being from the same universe as Android: Netrunner, the original game did lack some runners here and there.


To be fair to FFG and Mssrs Clark and Wilson, Netrunner was brought into the Android stable four years after the original Android board game was released, so it's hardly surprising that this particular element wasn't played up.

I get the impression that FFG bought the Netrunner license from Wizards and then used it to prop up the Android setting that they'd rather over-developed for that one board game, rather than originally intended Netrunner to be an integral part of the franchise, but I could be wrong. IIRC the original Netrunner from the 90s was set in the RTal Cyberpunk RPG universe.
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