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Subject: Waterdeep Article, and the concept of "Doing the math" rss

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T Harrison
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I'm looking for advice as a new designer who seems to always get stuck when getting to the point of having to "do the math". I feel that I have good conceptual ideas, and mechanics involved, but not sure how to tackle the details of actual cards and the act of assigning values.

I recently read this article on the creation of Lords of Waterdeep

http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/drdd/20120307#...

..and when they talked about that portion it got me curious as to what methods people use to accomplish this task? I dont have any statistical background whatsoever, and am looking for any advice anyone has to get to the neck step in my game designing. Appreciate any info!

http://leberusgames.blogspot.com/p/deck-building-board-twist...

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Nate K
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The "math part" should probably come later. Early on, what you really want to do is throw a lot of ideas for cards out. Some will be underpowered, some will be overpowered, and some you'll actually get right on the first try. The key, though, is to just guess, and then test. If a card is clearly unfun or broken, tweak it or throw it out! And then try something else.
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Ben Pinchback
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kurthl33t wrote:
The "math part" should probably come later. Early on, what you really want to do is throw a lot of ideas for cards out. Some will be underpowered, some will be overpowered, and some you'll actually get right on the first try. The key, though, is to just guess, and then test. If a card is clearly unfun or broken, tweak it or throw it out! And then try something else.

What he said will get you rolling faster than anything else.
Tell you what though, someday when I get to meet the good Dr Knizia I'm gonna ask him if he calculates out his games or just guesses and tests like us mortals.
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Brook Gentlestream
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I usually have to create one card or unit as my baseline. For my latest game it was the Hunter-class Interceptor ship. It's cost and stats were more or less arbitrary at the time. I invented other stats using this as a baseline and tried to adjust the price accordingly "This is worth about 2 hunters," "this is almost as good as a hunter", etc. As you get more cards, you'll notice some will be conditional: this is a good thing but will mess up your formula a little. "The Stalker-class is almost as good as a Hunter in most situations, but way better in this situation".

This technique will help you in generating some early stats and numbers with some degree of confidence. Actually settling on any of these numbers has to wait until you actually create some workable prototype and begin trying it out in a continual design-and-playtest-and-redesign loop.

Even now, in the later stages of Alpha Testing, I have three baseline ships: the Raider, the Hunter, and the Guardian, each of which excels in a particular broad situation in my game. All of the new design ideas and modifications are compared with these three ships when determining their initial values/cost.

It's important to remember that nothing is set in stone this early on, and for a variety of reasons, you'll discover now "rules" or formulas that you established to create your stats will apply once you begin Alpha Testing and adjusting the stats.


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John "Omega" Williams
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Im horrible at mathy things so I usually start with the number crunching right off so its not an obstacle later.

I write down the tables or factors and puzzle out a good balance for what I want. My early games were alot more numericallly involved while several of my newer designs are minimal to nil.

But my most recent project needed alot of figuring as it has a much more involved system. Once everything fell into place it was great.
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Jay Sheely
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Quote:
I usually have to create one card or unit as my baseline.


That's what I did as well. I chose a worker cost of $5 as a baseline. Everything else branched from there: initial starting money, cost of this, cost of that...
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Guido Van Horn
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Man or Astroman wrote:
Quote:
I usually have to create one card or unit as my baseline.


That's what I did as well. I chose a worker cost of $5 as a baseline. Everything else branched from there: initial starting money, cost of this, cost of that...


I think that is a good easy way to go about it, since the importance of value is relative to everything else. so picking a basic unit and adjusting the values of everything else relative to that unit is what the game is all about.
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Timothy Marlorme
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Plenty of patient playtesting and a hefty helping of humility can mitigate missing math mastery.
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Herc du Preez
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TeaIsForTim wrote:
Plenty of patient playtesting and a hefty helping of humility can mitigate missing math mastery.


Amazingly astute alliterating ascertainment.
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Matthew Rogers
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http://gamebalanceconcepts.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/level-3-... and the whole blog goes into this and will give you a grounding in the math.

But as he says in there and has been said above, just give it a whirl... statistics work better once you have something to analyze. Part of the reason why people always say that you need to have ten or so games under your belt before you get serious is in order to train your intuition so that you'll get closer on your first guess. That doesn't mean your first guess will be right, but you've got to take the chance the first time and you'll get better every time you do.

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Alex Weldon
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I use a mixture of intuition and math. Probably more the former than the latter. I use math mostly for figuring out the odds of some weird thing occurring, which is sufficiently rare that I'd have to playtest too much to get an idea of how common it is that way. E.g. in one of my upcoming games, I thought it might be a problem that if the cards got dealt out just so, no players would score any points at all. So I crunched the numbers, realized that's going to happen once in 100 million games, and decided not to worry about it.

In terms of probability and stats, there are basically three formulas I use all the time:

P(x and y) = P(x)*P(y)
P(x or y) = 1 - (1-P(x))*(1-P(y))
P(x or y) when P(x) and P(y) are very small = approx. P(x) + P(y)

(in all those P is a probability expressed as a number 0.0-1.0)

And the "X choose Y" formula, which is hard to do in one's head because it involves factorials, so I tend to just type "8 choose 3" (or whatever) into Google and let it do if for me. What "X choose Y" means is, "out of a deck of X unique cards, how many unique Y-card hands are there (assuming card order doesn't matter)".

For instance, if I've got 5 cards ABCDE, the number of 3-card hands I can make is: ABC ABD ABE ACD ACE ADE BCD BCE BDE CDE = 10. If you type "5 choose 3" into Google, you'll get that result.
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Philip Migas
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I agree with the other posters. The original draft should be done at random to start. Once you have a playable game that is fun, then you can balance the cards. I use excel to balance everything. You can usually figure out the probability of a single card fairly easily. Then you can autofill cells to help calculate the rest. Use a standard commodity as your baseline whether it is money, hits, hit points, XP or victory points. If you run into trouble with the math, ask this forum for help. There are some really smart people who hang out around here.
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Peter Lee
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There is a difference between understanding the math of your game and having it balanced. The reason I wanted to define Waterdeep's math at the beginning of the process wasn't to figure out how the components interconnect.

The main purpose for "doing the math" is to reduce all currencies to 1 primary currency: in Waterdeep, that was VP. When we assumed that a basic action would give you 4 VPs worth of goods, the rest of the work all fell into place. You're designing the system - everything you do at this point might get thrown out. (For example, none of the Waterdeep basic buildings survived without at least one change.) Once you're comfortable with the main system, then you start experimenting with the actual content. (in reality, these steps are blurred together. The point is if you don't have a solid foundation, you're ultimately building what old be a house of cards.)
 
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