Friday, February 22, 2008

Solutions not Pathces

Last evening I playtested one prototype of mine with my friend Stefano.
It is a game from 2 to 4 players, so we tried a 2 player game. It was the second playtest (the first one was in 4).

I'm not going to describe the game here, but I would like to point out about an aspect of the game that was not working and how I want to try to solve it.
The problem is about the mechanism of the combat: it is the first time I'm working on a game where it is possible to have a fight between players.
So I am a little bit worried about, even because fighting is not excatly a typical german game mechanism...

During the playtest simply the combat doesn't occur. The main reason was that it was not neccessary to figth because we had enough space where to expand our villages whithout moving in conflict. Maybe the board was too big for 2 players, so that it could be resolved by a fine tuning of the dimension. Or maybe both our nature let us finding alternative strategy other than a fight.

Because the combat did not occur we also avoid to choose the "warrior cards" during all the game. Warrior cards were an option during a specific phase of the game where a player is prompted to choose between different actions. One of these actions is to "hire" warriors and it was never used. From a design point of view this phase were weaker because of the reduced number of choices.

As Knizia wrote in an interesting interview reported into the book "Rule of play" when something goes wrong during a playtest, you have to search for a good solution, not for a patch. He was talking about the playtest of his "The Lord of the Ring" collaborative game and how he found good solutions to resolve several problems all in once instead of applying a patch for each issue.

In my situation I had 2 main problems:
- the combat never occured
- the choice in a certain phase is less interesting (due to the avoiding of combat)

But the game was quite good even without fights! And Stefano convinced me to remove from the rules the possibility of a combat.

Instead of trying to make a patch for the two problems I would like to search an alternative solution where these problems are simply no more reported!

Let's assume that it is possible to play, with fun, without any combat as Stefano suggested.
In this case I still have the second problem to resolve: infact if I have no more combat I have no more "Warrior cards". So I have less choice.
I need more choices during this phase in order to give more spice to the game.

Another thing I had notice is the lack of a final score system. Up now I have a scoring during the end of each turn and an intermediate scoring during specific rounds, but still have no final score (for the end of the game).

I would like to resolve both lacks in once single way, as Dr Knizia teachs. So if I am able to introduce some actions useful for the final (or intermediate) score I maybe fix these problems.

Let's see in future playtests.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Client side technology

Let's talk a bit about technology.
In this post I will talk only about the client part.
I have started my idea last year when I started a new job in Padova in Java web application. It was surely for me a return to a job I did several years ago (I worked with Microsoft tecnology in the meantime for non-web applications).
It was an opportunity to update my knowledge in the web development world.
I surprsly found something new: it was called Ajax. I don't want to talk in detail about Ajax because you can find a lot of tutorial on the web. I would only to note that the Asyncronous concept (the "A" from Ajax) is excatly what surprise me simply because it was what a normal web application lacked in order to become a game application!
Infact the "rough" of a web application (against the non-web applications) is that normally when you perform an action (a click on an image, or on a link) you see a page reload. That means a window flickering! That is excatly what makes a video game on web unplayable in terms of good feeling.
Moreover I learned about JavaScript framework such as Prototype and Scriptacolous and Mootools. These frameworks introduced a set of functions (a library) for specific grafic effects! The result is something unseen on a traditional web application. It is what now is called RIA: Rich Interent Application.
This was also possible thanks to the fact the main browsers (Internet Explorer 7, Firefox and Safari) became quite standard in interpreting JS and HTML.
So I started to learn these frameworks and the power of JavaScript and decided to try to develop a simply game using only JavaScript.
After almost a year I found this tecnology too difficult to use. I need to know a lot of CSS and DHTML other than JavaScript and the frameworks (I foucused on Mootools because seems really better than Scriptacolous).
Moreover debug JavaScript can become a nightmare!
In the meantime I discovery ActionScript 3.0 that is also known as Flash 9 and is included in the new Adobe Creative Suite. ActionScript 3.0 is a great evolution respect his preceding mainly because it is full Object Oriented. For a programmer who worked for more than 8 years using Object Oriented languages such as Java, C++ and C#, learning AS 3.0 is a joke!
AS 3.0 has also other advantages: the Flash player is a plugin that is mainly present in almost all the browser (and it is easy to install in any case). It easier to debug and to develop. And has a complete set of native objects really useful for videogames (but this is not a news of the 3.0 version).

So my target now is ActionScript 3.0. I worked for less than half time to have the same result I add in JavaScript.

Next time I will talk about the server side technology.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The effects of broken rules in a political game

In this post I would like to point out how a bad rule development can let the game be a disaster.
I am just using a methafor in order to talk about political facts.
If you didn't know anything about the political crisis of Italian governement you can read this CNN article.

It's really a drama!
And this instability on the Italian governement is due to the election rules.
Rules, that we do not need to forgot, was acted by Berlusconi in the last weeks of his last governament. And we do not need to forget that Prodi's governament in 2 years was not able (or lack of will) to change these rules.

The final effect of this instability is that Italy governament is not working for people needs!
Because of we have not new rules, we are asked to go to the election day next 12 and 13 of April to play such a game with so broken rules! With a result that will be something unchanged, at least from the point of view of people needs.

I thanks Bruno Faidutti that invited me to his Ludophatic Gathering for the same weekend. At least I will the pleasure to play a lot of good games instead!

PS.: I suggest you to read about Italian disaster rules in the Beppe Grillo's english blog.