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Adventure of D» Forums » General

Subject: The journey to AoD (Designer's Notes) rss

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Jack Darwid
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Well, AoD for us (and especially for me) is a great experience. We published the game ourselves from our house, (HERE is the story laugh ), and I want the game to be the best I can. This is the Designer Notes I made while AoD is in the design process, I write an entry whenever I find something interesting in the process.



My Goal for AoD:
1. make a multiplayer version of the Power Card system (IoD2/DoD).
2. a fun fantasy adventure for the family to enjoy (it must be easy enough to play, but must be interesting too)
3. A.C.A.P. As Compact As Possible.

The Multiplayer version of Power Card system!
People were asking about the multiplayer version of IOD2/DOD. I have tried many times (really!) but I couldn't find a way to make it good. Why? Because IOD2 and DOD were designed as a solitaire/solo game from the beginning. I can put a more complex mechanic for solo games, but when I tried them as a multiplayer game, it just didn't work, too fiddly/complicated. Even I feel bored, blah. Bad.
I have to lower the level of complexity, so the game can be quicker and easier to play.
This time, the focus is on 2-4 players from the scratch, so you can have a fun fantasy adventure with your girlfriend/wife, or other family member. Don't worry, I will put an exciting 1 player variant inside.

The Wife Factor
My wife is not a gamer. Really, really not a gamer. It's hard to make her to like a game (even my games !). And in the first playtest, my wife played AoD 4 times in a row (2 players with my friend) until 3 o clock in the morning ! It's a hit! I know this will be my next game !

Take That ! ... or not !
In a multiplayer game, sometimes I don't want to hurt each other. And in this family game I don't want the Players to have hard feelings to each other after the game ends. So, there are no direct take that! action. Yes, a good multiplayer game must have a way for the players to interact (if not, it will be a multiplayer-solitaire game). The player will interact with each other indirectly, and sometimes direct but not in the hard way. So this (hopefully) will be a friendly (but competitively) multiplayer game for your family!

After IOD, IOD2, DOD and GOD, this is my fifth game. I believe that the more you playtest a game, the better the game will be. Usually I playtest the game too much in a short period of time until I got bored then after I released the game, I seldom play the game again (pssstt, this is a secret!). But this time, we have playtested AoD so much
(my highest playtested game so far, and counting....) and today we (including my wife) still love to play this game ! Is it a good sign ? We hope so

Card Arts
Because I want a family game, I choose a cartoon theme for the cards (and I always love simple and "clean" drawings, like the Simpsons). Plus, it is easier and quicker to make. One of the playtester, my good friend T'Say, has agreed to create all the cards art. We have worked very hard to finish all of the cards (T'Say do all the arts, we both do all the designs) and I like the final result. Clean and fresh.

Inspired by
The game that inspired AoD from the first place is: 100 World Story (this is an old NES game). The final result is very different because (I have counted just now) from the first scratch (April 2008), AoD is my fifth tries to make a multiplayer-RPG-fantasy-adventure game ! So this is a result from a long journey...

Inside AoD: Friendly Blow
The Friendly Blow uses a different mechanic (bluffing) and adds suspense, guessing and becomes a refreshing aspect in AoD (you will learn about this soon when you play the game more!). After a lot of playtests, I make Friendly Blow as a "blocker" for opponents, because the defender has the advantage to choose what status to use (STR/INT/AGL), thus has a greater chance to win the Friendly Blow. This way, your Location where you REST will effect your opponents because your opponent will have a disadvantage if s/he move there. There is a way to avoid Friendly Blow, though, if you meet a Shadow when you MOVE there. Or use TELEPORT.

Are you sure this game is not another multiplayer solitaire game?
AoD is a race game and from our playtests I'm pretty sure there are enough player interactions to make this game exciting and different every time you play. Even though AoD doesn't use a direct "take-that" mechanic, the major player interactions are put inside the two REVEAL NEW EVENT phases every Turn where you decide the Events for your opponents. Blocking a good Event for your opponent will cost you 3 MP, or 1 of your precious HP. This will create tension, almost every Turn And of course there is the "take the Event first before your opponents" pressure, the Friendly Blow, etc.

Inside AoD: the final destination (Tower of Death!)
When designing IOD2 and DoD I always try to make an exciting ending, but all I can find is the repeating high tests in all of the stats. Even the result is good enough, I was not really satisfied and want something more and different in AoD. After many playtests, I am satisfied with the current result. The final encounter is not a Test, thus not keyed to the stats(STR/INT/AGL). Yes, you still need to reach a point to enter the Tower of Death(your STR/INT/AGL must be 5 or more), but after that it's the preparation that's count. You need to prepare extra carefully to enter the Tower since a failure means wasting 1 or 2 Turns to recover, and usually your opponents will have a great advantage. If you have around 60% chance to win, do you wait for another Turn to prepare some more or dare to enter the Tower now, before the next Player enters the Tower and win the game? In some playtests, all 3 Players enter the Tower one after another and all fail ! In other playtests, all Players already have enough stat (to enter the Tower), but struggle for some Turns just to enter the Tower! With a random Map every game, sometimes the Tower has a rather easy access, sometimes has a hard access. This excitement in the final encounter is one of the aspect in the game which keep us (the playtesters) entertain so we keep playing again and again....

The solitaire version (only a last minute addition or a good game by itself?)
As you can see that almost all of my games are for 1 Player only (IOD, IOD2, DoD), and build from the scratch from that point of view: to make a solo game. To be honest, when designing AoD I focus more on 2-4 Players with 1 Player as a bonus, so my expectation for 1 Player in AoD is not very high. But from my latest 1 Player playtests, to my surprise, with just a little change in the rules, the 1 Player version works really well! The tension is there and because of the new final encounter type, the whole experience is very enjoyable. There are still random elements, yes (just like in real life), but if you play the game well, your chance to
win the game is much, much bigger. In my last 2 sessions (1 Player) I make some good moves to win the game eventhough the luck is againts me(under pressure all the time!), and win the game with satisfaction. This way I can safely say that the 1 Player version is as good as, if not better than, IOD2 (the duration and the feel is almost the same with IOD2, but with different and IMHO better final encounter).

Tell me the truth, what are the bad things about AoD?
Well, nobody and nothing is perfect. While we enjoy playing AoD very much, there are 2 things that can make someone dislike AoD. ONE is the time between Turns. Since in each Turn a Player has 4-8 HP (depends on the Location) and continue playing the game until he Rest, in a 3 or 4 Players game (especially with one or more new Players!) the time between Turns (the waiting time) can becomes rather long. That's why we suggest that play 3/4 Players game only if all the Players are experienced Players.
Number TWO is in 3-4 Players game, there can be a king maker problem (a Players decision will benefit/make other Player a clear winner). We always played the game the best we can (each one of us always wants to win!) but if you like to (always) give the "winner" title to other Player then this can be annoying for the losing Players.
Fortunately, these two problems will not happen in a 2 Players game(since there are only 2 Players), it is usually a close and fierce duel !

One of the best thing about AoD for me? This game teach me a bit to control myself... (really!)
I remember my Magic:the Gathering /MTG years a long time ago, from around Homeland until around Weatherlight expansion. I remember winning a tournament or two at that time. And one thing I learn from MTG is to control your emotion. One bad move, and sometimes you can ruin yourself and your game, because you curse the game, the luck or yourself and you becomes too emotional (especially with the pressure from the tournament environment). People make mistakes, but if you let your emotion to control you, you will make another mistake, and another mistake again and you will lose quickly. Always control your emotion and play the best you can (of course you need a LOT of preparations, including the deck building).
Now to my surprise, I have similar experiences with AoD (and we are not doing tournaments, yet). Just like MTG, there are some luck and you have some steps to do in your Turn. Usually the game is quite tight until the end and sometimes you make a mistake (or sometimes just bad luck) that make you one step behind. It's very easy to let your emotion control you and curse the luck and ruin the game (make another mistakes and lose quickly). Stay calm especially when you have bad cards or right after you make a mistake. Let it go, and try to think with a clear mind (again), because maybe your opponent's cards are worse than you (hehehe), or he/she will make a mistake next Turn. If Plan A fails, think Plan B ! Just be calm, and do your best... (of course, it's easier said then done !)

What is this "Power Card system"?
Have you ever played an RPG computer game? Usually in that game you travel around completing objectives (send something to somewhere, kill an enemy, gather ingredients, etc) while fighting wandering monsters all the way. I try to capture this feel in a card game, and the result is the diceless Power Card system. I like Power Card system better than the standard roll of the dice to determine the result because with Power Card you can control 'half' of the luck. You must plan where you MOVE and where you REST carefully, and you can predict the wandering monster (in AoD called the Shadow) but you will never be 100% sure about this (except in the Castle of Light where the chance to meet a Shadow is 0%). So you must prepare if something happens in the middle of your journey because your HP is (very) limited. This system is used in 3 games so far: IOD2, DoD then AoD, and you can see that in each game I try to improve the Power Card system.
If you want to try the quick solo version (15-30 minutes) of Power Card system, you can print and play IOD2, and the easiest way to learn this system is by playing IOD2 Flash Game,try it ! If you want a full-blown solo version (1 hour or more) of dungeon crawling fun, you can print and play DoD. If you want both the quick solo version and the multiplayer version, you can buy AoD

Hey, where is the story (flavour text) in the cards?
I have tried to put a lot of story in the cards (see IOD2 Location Cards, you will know what I mean), but the cards became too crowded. For a solo game, I can do that but from the result of playtests in a multiplayer, (sadly) I have to throw away all the flavour text. This is a good thing though, you can make your own story from the mechanic (after defeating the Red Hound, you will get the Red Hound Horns Item, take the Horns to the Garden of Mushroom to get AGL+1. I'm sure you can make up a good story from that!)

Are you sure that Solo game is winnable on the Hard Level?
For the solo game, the Beginner Level is only to try how the game works, after that there will be no more challenge. You have to move to Easy Level, then to Normal Level. Try the Hard level only after you are an experienced Player. Lately I played 10 straight solo games on the Hard Level, you can see the result HERE.

Why you design the components (box, cards, manual) that way?
The shipping cost will be a big problem for consumers outside my country. After checking to the Post Office, the minimum shipping cost has the weight limit of 250 grams. So we try to design the components that the final weight is below that mark. And we are succeed ! A copy of AoD (with the package) is around 240 grams !
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Still has a lot to learn for me in my own design
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