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Combat Mechanics

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Kamon
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Joined: 08/04/2009

Hello, all.

This is my first post (I believe) on BGDF and I would like to provide some background information about myself before I continue with my questions. I am only twenty years old, but have played my fair share of games. Some of which include Yugioh!, Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, Shaman King, Dragonball Z, VS System (Marvel & DC), Duel Masters, The Spoils, and, of course, traditional board games. My level of understanding in the concepts and the inner-workings/mechanics of the above games range from fairly basic (Shaman King, Dragonball Z, Duel Masters) to exceptional (the remaining others). While I am young and obviously lack business-related experience in this "field", I do have a passion for board and card games.

Myself and a fellow friend (who, may I add, is also well-seasoned in numerous trading card games) have decided to try our own hand at developing a game of our own. The theme of this game is a setting of a collection of six planets (currently) home to six different groups/races/tribes; Nature, Dragon/Reptillian, Machine/Advanced Technology, Elemental, Demonic, and Angelic. This "rough draft" of a theme is definitely not concrete, by any means. We aren't even sure if we like it.

What we've been focusing on is the gameplay and "fun" level. There are certain card games that end rather quickly (Yugioh) and others that take considerably longer to play on average (Pokemon/Magic). Our goal is to narrow the playing time down to the ranges between these three. If anyone is familiar with the above games, you will understand the time differences I am talking about.

Yugioh begins with 8000 life points. The main goal is to reduce your opponent's points to 0 in order to win. The monsters in this game have, on average, an attack score of 1500-1900, which is more than an eighth of the total life. This means it takes only six or so direct attacks to end this game; resulting in a very fast type of gameplay.

The other two, Magic/Pokemon, usually take twice as long to play as Yugioh. I'd say close to 20 minutes per game. Of course, each example I have given is just that; an example. There are plenty of other cases where the games last much shorter or longer given the situation and circumstances.

What I am trying to get at is this; our game simply takes too long to "enjoy". It feels as if the games drag on for entirely too long for our tastes. And, if we aren't happy with the game, we can't expect anyone else to be.

This game begins with 25 life. While it is only 5 higher than Magic, the game is lengthy because creatures have to attack through the opponent's creatures before striking their opponent's life total. There is currently no "trample" or "peircing", so any damage is simply absorbed through opposing creatures. There is also no summoning sickness, meaning as soon as I play a creature, it can attack, provided it is before the combat step.

Another important detail is the lack of strikeback. Damage is dealt only by the attacking creature. The defending creature basically takes the damage and either has it's "health" lowered or dies completely.

The payment or cost system is utilized through a mechanic slightly similar to Magic's mana, but is actually entirely unique. When trying to imagine our game, simply think of Magic's land cards for now. Usually, at the very most, two creatures enter play at once.

As you most likely tell, the game does indeed linger into an "unfun" timeframe. We enjoy the idea of being able to attack with a creature the turn it enters play and a cost mechanic is most likely the way to go.

After hopefully absorbing the above information and, just possibly, forming an idea of how our game's combat system currently works, what other options or paths are we simply over-looking? We have tried to think of different methods, but it is, in all actuality, very difficult to generate new combat ideas that would make our game end faster.

Anyways, I'd like to thank anyone and everyone who have taken the time to read this post. I look forward to your own suggestions (and criticism).

-Kamon

Kamon
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Joined: 08/04/2009
More Information

I forgot to mention our "creatures" have a strength rating of 3 on average. The highest is 8 and the lowest 1.

zmobie
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Joined: 11/19/2008
locations instead of life

Instead of a player having life totals, have each player controlling 3 or 4 planets or some other representative 'areas'. Instead of throwing all your creatures at one target and their creatures standing in the way, you can choose who attacks where. This idea is derived from the legend of the 5 rings ccg which utilizes a similar card/location mechanic.

Louard
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Joined: 02/09/2010
No great answer for you, but...

It sounds like you've got a working prototype of the game. My suggestion is, if you're happy with the way the game presently works, simply play with the variables you have. Simplest would probably be to tweak the amount of health the players have until you achieve the desired game length.

Also, I'm curious about a couple things. You say that creatures don't have summoning sickness. What's to stop me, as the first player, from summoning a monster and having it do full damage on you on my first turn because you have nothing to block with? Also, if there's no 'strike back' as you say, what's the risk in attacking? Like, why wouldn't I just attack with all my creatures every turn?

Kamon
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Joined: 08/04/2009
There is no summoning

There is no summoning sickness, but the player going first cannot attack and cannot draw a card. The game becomes more of a battle for card advantage and having protection since there is no strikeback. First turn, if you wanted to play a 2/0 creature, you could. But next turn, I'd run it over with one of my own.

The concept of all creatures being able to attack was adopted for faster play. The drawback is that if you have a 8/8, I can send a ton of small guys into it and take it out, since none of mine would die.

We are playtesting more today to try a couple new ideas to give the game a greater "surprise factor" like Yugioh!, while keeping a cost system similar to Magic: The Gathering.

Hmm.. The idea of attacking their "planet" never came to mind. We will talk it over and possibly brainstorm a few ideas. For now, adjusting life is our goal if we decided to change something.

Thanks for the replies. Keep 'em coming.

-Kamon

Pastor_Mora
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Joined: 01/05/2010
Logical inconsistencies

Well, you told us what you don't like about similar games. How about the thing you like about yours? That could give you something to focus on.

Besides, most things you took away were damage-dealing mechanics, and damage is what shortens things up. Plus, you gave the player more life points?? No wonder why you game lags a lot.

My advice is: forget about Magic (and the others). Do YOUR game. Specially if its the first one. Trust me on this, it will stink!! But, hey, you'll enjoy it and will have learned very valuable things from it.

Second advice: Keep it simple. Don't start with six races, factions or whatever you call them. Playtest white vs black until the mechanics work. THEN spice things up with variety.

Welcome (back) to the forum. Make it shorter next time.

Keep thinking!

drunknmunky
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Joined: 06/25/2010
Speaking from my experience

Speaking from my experience with both TCGs and board games I see one big problem here. You are trying to set a constraint on time which, in my opinion, is a variable restraint that comes as a result not as a design plan. When Richard Garfield went into designing Magic, robo-rally, or any other game I highly doubt that "time played" came into discussion until well after he finished designing what he saw as a fun, exciting game! Even now, the R&D team for Magic actually REMOVE the restriction while play-testing. They give infinite life, infinite mana, and infinite hand sizes so that they can playtest the interactions between mechanics without worrying about variable constraints on that reaction. An unfun game I always see as coming from sacrificing interaction for less important variables (such as time).

This brings me to the aspects that you've adjusted. To "save time" you've removed the parts of the game that force thought, complexity, and well... fun! One of the most intriguing and exciting parts of games like magic are things like strikeback. It adds a layer of complexity to the attack phase AND allows you as the designer to have more design space! By worrying about the time constraint you want, you removed one of your best aspects of any battle game! More people playing magic complain about combo and counterspells because it reduces interaction between players and stops the evolution of the game. A combo deck will do nothing "take the hits" and then win in one turn with nothing to stop it. A counterspell stops something new from affecting the game and allowing new interactions of cards to happen.

You should think hard about whether or not your game is not fun because of the length or because there isn't enough excitement in the game to warrant the length! If a game is fun, exciting, and engaging then people will WANT to spend more time playing it! Many times if a game is fun to me I lose track of the time I spent playing the game and focus more on what I can do next that would overcome my opponent or make the game more interesting for everyone playing! If you are thinking too hard about the time frame you are not thinking from the angle of a player, and you need to do that as well as design.

All I can say is design the FUN of the game first THEN worry about time, number of players, age group, and the like. Those can all be adjusted by adjusting the minute details such as your life total. If you want a game to last only about 15 minutes then AFTER the fun and mechanics are installed, then tweak life in the playtesting. Give each player infinite life (seems counter intuitive I know) and keep track of exactly how long it takes each game for the first player to lose 10,15,20,25, and 30 life. Do this a couple dozen times and you'll begin to see a pattern of when and where the sweet spot is for life. Add another player and do it all over again to see if it's a constant or if it changes how long the game plays with more people. Some games even end faster with more players! (fluxx comes to mind!)

Now as far as the details, think about the logic of the setting. Most magic cards that are hated are hated for their storyline malfunctions. You're a ship in space! If you attacked a ship, why wouldn't it shoot back?? Or even if it's ground fighting of the different species on the planets, no one is just going to roll over and take the pop-shots hoping they don't die! 12 mice won't kill a cat without the cat taking some of them out! maybe change how the strikeback occurs. Instead of just dealing the damage right back, maybe it fatigues the attacker making the next attack on it twice as powerful. That way there is still a drawback for attacking all willynilly.

Also I love the idea of having planets for life! Maybe each planet has a different "life" total of it's own and also an ability that changes how the player plays! One planet could be alot of life, but no ability while another one could have very little life but allow you to attack twice with each creature! Then when you lose the planet you lose the ability on that card! It will evolve the game the long it goes on and will allow the length of the game to be less stressful or unfun because things will constantly change. I find most games that get boring in later turns get boring not because of length but because this 20th turn is identical to the 19 that came before and you're just going through the motions.

just make the game fun and the time won't seem to be a problem. If it still is then rethink the small details before removing the fun

Kamon
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Joined: 08/04/2009
Thanks

I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has commented. Like, I said, I'd love to hear criticism. My friend and I have already began brainstorming new ideas about utilizing Planet cards. Its not that we don't believe the game is fun. In fact, he and I both really enjoy it. The reason I assume "time" to be a problem is because when we introduced the game to friends, they actually complained about the game taking too long.

Since then we have changed even more mechanics and hope to discuss more on possible ways to give the game a "refreshing" feel to it each and every time we play. Even he and I have noticed the game taking, at most, one hour to finish a game. Most games last 40 minutes. The games I usually play in Magic only take 20-30. This is the time-frame we're looking for. Yugioh is almost too fast, imo.

One big question we have is this; How would you feel if the next time you played a game of Magic, VS, or WoW TCG, you didn't use lands. Instead your "Hero" or deck gained 2 mana per turn. But you could only play cards that followed the turn count.

An example would be a 1 cost card turn one, 2 cost turn two, 3 cost turn three, etc. Not a 4 cost turn three or a 6 cost turn four.

drunknmunky
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Joined: 06/25/2010
for your last question I

for your last question I recommend looking into the "mana" mechanics of Battle Spirits card game. It is almost identical to what you discribed and has an interesting way of tracking and utilizing those things.

Louard
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Joined: 02/09/2010
In regards to what you propose.

I think your turn count/cost restriction is intriguing, but could ultimately be way too crippling.. Unless you mean play anything of cost=to current turn OR LESS.. as opposed to having to equal the current turn. I think it's definitely worth trying and seems quite novel to me.

As a mana alternative, you could have all your units have a 'focus' value representing how much mana you can pull from them when deciding to 'focus' the unit rather than attack with it or whatever.

drunknmunky
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I was thinking about this too

I was thinking about this too and what he could do is have each card have a "turn" level. That way cards don't become obsolete if they aren't played on the right turn. Maybe that turn one card is better to be held on to until turn 4 when it becomes twice as powerful when you play it! he would need to develop some way to keep track as to when one thing or another was played of course, but it'll help solve the restriction/dead cards problem!

Kamon
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Joined: 08/04/2009
Will talk it over

Interesting ideas.... I had never thought of giving them abilities by turn counts.

To clarify, I did mean you can play cards that follow the turn count or anything lower than the turn count.

So far, everyone has been extremely helpful.

One big question I have; Assuming he And I so finish this game by the end of the year, do we have any chance of actually taking this game all the way? We have never developed a game before, so I'm sure that wouldn't exactly ''help'' our quest when it comes to developers most likely ignoring newcomers with no experience.

Pastor_Mora
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Translation/interpreter

I don't speak fluent Russian, but the spam bot is probably saying no. Finding a developer is usually a long pilgrimage. You have to really commit to your project to see it through. I don’t think developers ignore newcomers by default. But a sound knowledge of the business, or at least showing some increasing eagerness to learn it could prove your commitment. Remember, developing games is no touch-and-go activity for a developer, so in my opinion it shouldn’t look as it is to you (hopefully it isn’t). Maybe if you enter a contest (and win) the game will draw the necessary attention. But this is most probably not what you should be thinking about now. Completing (really, really, really completing) a game design (including lots, lots, lots of playtest) is far, far, far more demanding that what it looks like at the beginning, when that bright idea dazzles you.

Mind about all this later. Keep working!

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