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Subject: Introducing Volcanoes, a New Game Prototype, Ready For Feedback rss

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Simon Dorfman
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(Cross-posting from my blog: https://simondorfman.com/volcanoes1)

Elevator Pitch:

A two-player abstract strategy game where you race to grow a ridge of volcanoes halfway around a planet. What’s unique about this game? Three things:

1. Played on a sphere-like shape called a Pentakis Icosidodecahedron. It’s like a 20-sided die, but each triangle face is cut into four triangles. So there are a total of 80 spaces on the board. And the board wraps around in all directions.
2. Volcanoes erupt once they get to level five, destroying neighboring-opponent-volcanoes and accelerating neighboring-friendly-volcano growth.
3. Two plays per turn with growth phases between turns.

External image


What kind of game is it?

It’s similar to a connection game (like Hex). But one player’s connection doesn’t necessarily block the opponent’s connection, so perhaps it’s more of a race that feels connection-game-ish. But it also has capturing (via volcano eruptions), so that can feel a little Go-ish.

How do turns and growth work?

Orange and blue volcanoes alternate placing their volcanoes on the board. But each color gets two turns in a row, with a neutral growth phase in between. (See Turn Clock illustration.) Volcanoes start at level one when they are first played. You can also spend your turn increasing the growth of one of your existing volcanoes.

External image
The red arrow rotates clockwise after each of the six turn, then repeats that cycle until the game ends.

How do eruptions work?

When volcanoes get to level five, they erupt with the following effects:

1. Adjacent enemy volcanoes are destroyed (removed)
2. Adjacent friendly volcanoes advance one level on the growth track (this can trigger more eruptions)
3. The level-five-volcano that erupted resets to level one on the growth track

Try the game!

You can download a digital prototype of the game, if you have a computer that runs Windows. There’s an installer (named something like this: Setup-Volcanoes-v0.4.2.exe). Or you can just download the zip (named something like this Volcanoes-v0.4.2.zip), unzip to a folder and run the Volcanoes.exe file in that folder. I recommend playing against these four AIs (ordered from strongest to weakest):

1. Parallel MCTS Beeline
2. Monty Carlo Beeline
3. Monty Carlo Beeline
4. Parallel MCTS

Thanks and Kudos

My buddy Scott Clayton, an amazing programmer, made the beautiful digital prototype linked above. Without his help, this game would probably still be languishing in my game design folder. His work enabled me to make significant progress. It’s amazing how great it is to be able to test ideas with a bunch of AIs kicking the tires.

Video Introduction:

 
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Daniel Piovezan
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Interesting!

I wonder if the board would be more intuitive if a side numbered X were to always oppose a side numberd X+10 or X-10, and if cells always opposed cells with the same letter.

Edit: it seems possible that a volcano would reach a level higher than 5 (if more than one surrounding volcano erupts). What happens then?

Edit edit: what if two neighbouring friendly volcanoes erupt at the same time? Do both become 2s?
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Alek Erickson
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I’m interested how mcts was implemented for this game
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Simon Dorfman
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BozoDel wrote:
Interesting!
I wonder if the board would be more intuitive if a side numbered X were to always oppose a side numberd X+10 or X-10, and if cells always opposed cells with the same letter.
I was thinking the same thing! Nice to hear that this idea is intuitive to someone else. Unfortunately, the way Scott implemented this, it would not be trivial to make that change. You can see our discussion about this idea here: https://github.com/skotz/volcanoes/issues/31

BozoDel wrote:

Edit: it seems possible that a volcano would reach a level higher than 5 (if more than one surrounding volcano erupts). What happens then?
Yes, that is possible. I just tried it out and the way we implemented it currently works like this. 5 or higher erupts. Higher than 5 has the same behavior as just reaching 5.

You can paste this turn sequence into the game to watch it happen:
7A 9A G 14B 12B G 12B+ 14B+ G 9D 7D G 7A+ 9A+ G 14B+ 12B+ G 2C 4C G 9D+ 7D+ G 12D 14D G

BozoDel wrote:

Edit edit: what if two neighbouring friendly volcanoes erupt at the same time? Do both become 2s?
Yes, correct, they both become 2s. You can paste this turn sequence into the game to watch it happen:
7A 13B G 9C 7D G 7D+ 9C+ G 14C 15D G

Screenshot of how to paste these game codes into the game so you can watch them playback:
From gallery of SimonDorfman
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Simon Dorfman
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alekerickson wrote:
I’m interested how mcts was implemented for this game
Scott Clayton did all that and I don't know enough to understand it, but I can point you to the code here:
https://github.com/skotz/volcanoes/tree/master/Volcanoes/Eng...

Any of the files that start with "MonteCarlo...". e.g. https://github.com/skotz/volcanoes/blob/master/Volcanoes/Eng...
 
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Daniel Piovezan
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SimonDorfman wrote:
You can paste this turn sequence into the game to watch it happen
No Windows here, sorry! And it doesn't work on WINE. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 
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Rich Russell
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I got a chance to play an early build at BGGCON, and the strategy was surprisingly deep. You have to pay close attention to opposing volcanoes, as they can quickly cause chain reactions that can wipe out your chain.

I think the biggest challenge for me was wrapping my mind around the shape, a Pentakis Icosidodecahedron, being splayed out flat on the digital game board. It was not immediately apparent to me which sides connected on my first playthrough. If money was no object, and someone had the skills to prototype it, I'd love to see this game transformed into an electronic Pentakis Icosidodecahedron you could hold in your hand, press the faces to insert your volcanoes, then hand it to your friend for their turn. Each face could change color from orange to blue and back again, and would display a digital number 1-5 to mark the growth level.

Physical product dreams aside, I'd love to see a digital version with an actual 3D Pentakis Icosidodecahedron that you could rotate on all axes with a mouse click or finger swipe. You could make it look like some bizarrely shaped volcanic alien planet and overlay the triangles for volcano placement over it. The player view would be from outer space, with the screen centered on the planet. Around it would be your standard backdrop of stars and galaxies. Similar to the digital set up of Terraforming Mars.

Best of luck Simon! The game is fun and there is some great potential here.
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Simon Dorfman
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BozoDel wrote:
SimonDorfman wrote:
You can paste this turn sequence into the game to watch it happen
No Windows here, sorry! And it doesn't work on WINE. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Shucks, I wonder if I could get it to compile for linux. What flavor of linux are you using?
 
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Simon Dorfman
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Richcraft wrote:
I got a chance to play an early build at BGGCON, and the strategy was surprisingly deep. You have to pay close attention to opposing volcanoes, as they can quickly cause chain reactions that can wipe out your chain.

I think the biggest challenge for me was wrapping my mind around the shape, a Pentakis Icosidodecahedron, being splayed out flat on the digital game board. It was not immediately apparent to me which sides connected on my first playthrough. If money was no object, and someone had the skills to prototype it, I'd love to see this game transformed into an electronic Pentakis Icosidodecahedron you could hold in your hand, press the faces to insert your volcanoes, then hand it to your friend for their turn. Each face could change color from orange to blue and back again, and would display a digital number 1-5 to mark the growth level.

Physical product dreams aside, I'd love to see a digital version with an actual 3D Pentakis Icosidodecahedron that you could rotate on all axes with a mouse click or finger swipe. You could make it look like some bizarrely shaped volcanic alien planet and overlay the triangles for volcano placement over it. The player view would be from outer space, with the screen centered on the planet. Around it would be your standard backdrop of stars and galaxies. Similar to the digital set up of Terraforming Mars.

Best of luck Simon! The game is fun and there is some great potential here.
Thanks, Rich! I agree that a physical board game version would be awesome. In the mean time, getting a 3D version on the computer would be a great next step to make it much more understandable. I'll try to convince Scott to give that a go sometime. Failing that, you know any 3D game programmers?
 
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SimonDorfman wrote:
Shucks, I wonder if I could get it to compile for linux. What flavor of linux are you using?
Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit. Don't do it because of me though, I generally don't care playing against AI. I'll prolly just add Volcanoes to my awful long list of games to try some day... and when the day comes, I'll it play face to face.
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So, I was talking about this with a friend. One thing that came up was that, even though this kind of grow-till-exlode-then-chain-react mechanism is not particularly new, this is way more controlled. The number of pieces always decreases with an eruption, there's elimination of pieces instead of conversion, and the connection goal makes sure it's over before it gets too complex.

And he made a suggestion. Making the board different colors would make it easier to see the connections:

From gallery of BozoDel


Of course not that colorful, but maybe different shades of gray... or maybe all that color, yes, but making the board pastel and the pieces dark...
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Simon Dorfman
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BozoDel wrote:
So, I was talking about this with a friend. One thing that came up was that, even though this kind of grow-till-exlode-then-chain-react mechanism is not particularly new, this is way more controlled. The number of pieces always decreases with an eruption, there's elimination of pieces instead of conversion, and the connection goal makes sure it's over before it gets too complex.

And he made a suggestion. Making the board different colors would make it easier to see the connections:

From gallery of BozoDel


Of course not that colorful, but maybe different shades of gray... or maybe all that color, yes, but making the board pastel and the pieces dark...
Thanks for the suggestion! We are thinking along similar lines. I was just discussing the same idea with Scott a few days ago! Details here: https://github.com/skotz/volcanoes/issues/36
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SimonDorfman wrote:
Thanks, Rich! I agree that a physical board game version would be awesome. In the mean time, getting a 3D version on the computer would be a great next step to make it much more understandable. I'll try to convince Scott to give that a go sometime. Failing that, you know any 3D game programmers?
I do a bunch of 3D work in Unity (unity.com). Looks like Scott's code is C#, so it's technically possible (though it would probably be a ton of work) to get it working from inside of Unity. It would be very easy to reproduce the UI you have right now (but subbing in a 3D model for the gameboard itself) from in Unity. (Worth noting that Unity also lets you publish to multiple platforms "out of the box".)

Different topic: I just this last weekend played a different prototype they wanted to call Volcano. One of my suggestions was that a single (relatively common) world name is a bad idea for a few reasons: 1) It's really hard to own SEO for it. (I.E. it will be a long time, if ever, before your game appears near the top of search results.) 2) You will probably find other games with the same name, as well as (possibly) end up fending off other folks who want to name their games the same as yours. 3) It's much harder to trademark if you ever want to do that.

Of course while it's still a prototype, it's probably (definitely) okay for your name to still be in flux. (You haven't said that's what's happening here, but just covering my bases.)
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Simon Dorfman
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grid wrote:
I do a bunch of 3D work in Unity (unity.com). Looks like Scott's code is C#, so it's technically possible (though it would probably be a ton of work) to get it working from inside of Unity. It would be very easy to reproduce the UI you have right now (but subbing in a 3D model for the gameboard itself) from in Unity. (Worth noting that Unity also lets you publish to multiple platforms "out of the box".)
Well that's super exciting! I'll send you an email later today to talk more about this idea!

grid wrote:
Different topic: I just this last weekend played a different prototype they wanted to call Volcano. One of my suggestions was that a single (relatively common) world name is a bad idea for a few reasons: 1) It's really hard to own SEO for it. (I.E. it will be a long time, if ever, before your game appears near the top of search results.) 2) You will probably find other games with the same name, as well as (possibly) end up fending off other folks who want to name their games the same as yours. 3) It's much harder to trademark if you ever want to do that.

Of course while it's still a prototype, it's probably (definitely) okay for your name to still be in flux. (You haven't said that's what's happening here, but just covering my bases.)
I agree Volcanoes isn't a great name for SEO and findability and such. I guess now that I've put this out there, even in prototype form, maybe I should start thinking more about a final name. Hmmm...
 
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SimonDorfman wrote:
I agree Volcanoes isn't a great name for SEO and findability and such. I guess now that I've put this out there, even in prototype form, maybe I should start thinking more about a final name. Hmmm...
There seems to be a trend of using common non-English words (like Vinhos, for example). That's an idea.
 
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