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Metal Storm Playtest

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JayceThomson
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Joined: 12/22/2014

Well, after all the wonderful feedback I've received, I finally got my first playtest done... and it had some positives and negatives.

First, I finally decided on a damage system. Each component of the mech has an armor value. When setting the game up, add up the total of the armor values, and that is your mech's "health". Once all the health is lost, each hit (not damage points) will destroy a component.

Second, LOTS of balancing. I just slapped together some stats for a playtest. I'm gonna need to work on the balance a bit more.

Third, it felt a little... dull? I didn't use burn cards or terrain, and I used the same basic mech, so adding those will spice it up. The other thing that will help is using around 4 mechs per player. Do you have any ideas that would make it more interesting?

Fourth, and here's the big part; I was playing with a single action per mech: Move, shoot, Unload, or Core. It felt... slow, but not to the extent that it was horrible. My REAL issue is that once both mechs get into range, they tend to just stand there and unload at each other. Besides, there's no incentive to move around, really, especially with only one action. This is my biggest problem that I need help with!

JayceThomson
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Joined: 12/22/2014
Any input?

Any input?

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
Playtesting

JayceThomson wrote:
First, I finally decided on a damage system.

Sounds like a reasonable system.

JayceThomson wrote:
Second, LOTS of balancing.

Of course. At this stage of the game development, I wouldn't even worry too much about balance (in terms of cost vs damage rating, etc). Any changes you make to the mechanics are going to throw out the game balance anyway. Just create the components (game effects) that you want to have, but don't assign them costs yet until the mechanics are solid.

JayceThomson wrote:
Third, it felt a little... dull? Do you have any ideas that would make it more interesting?

You've hit on a fundamental truth of most of these "build an army and throw it at the enemy" games: There's not much at the heart of the game. This is particularly true of commercial games like WHFB and WH40K. Fancy miniatures, beautiful sourcebooks, and a host of customisations can distract attention away from, but never change, the fundamental nature of the game.

However, don't give up. There are many different solutions depending on what kind of game you want. It's up to you to work out what you want to be at the heart of the game.

Historical wargames tend to focus on recreating historical scenarios, so that the game is a way of exploring history as much as it is of playing a game. Some use it explore "what if". What if the reinforcements hadn't been delayed? What if the rain had struck half a day earlier? What if the ambushers had managed to stayed hidden until it was time to strike? Pushed to an extreme, the game starts to merge with interactive fiction where the mechanics are just a way for the players to create a story. For this reason, many wargames are either designed for solo play or players play them solo anyway.

Many games (including many historical wargames) solve the problem by addressing the objective. "Last man standing" by its very nature does not lend itself to interesting gameplay. That doesn't mean "last man standing" games can't be interesting, but it takes a lot more work in other areas of gameplay to make up for the weakness of the objective.

Often, the further you can separate the objective from "kill the enemy" the more opportunities can emerge for interesting gameplay, because then players have to make decisions about whether to focus on the objective or focus on killing the enemy. If the objectives are asymmetric, then it adds a another dimension to the decision: focus on achieving my own objective, focus on blocking my opponent's objective, or focus on killing the enemy. In a "last man standing" scenario these three decisions generally all converge on the same action so there are no decisions to be made.

Asymmetric forces is also a good way to make things more interesting. If one force is twice as strong they are guaranteed to win, but maybe the objective is for the smaller force to hold out for X turns or to inflict at least X casualties on the larger force (regardless of the casualties they receive). Another technique which some wargames use is asymmetric forces combined with playing each scenario twice -- once as each side -- and the combined victory points of the two playthroughs determines the winner.

Some games take a different approach where the battle itself is kept relatively simple, but the "real" game is about what happens between battles. So you might have resources to collect during the battle, which you then spend afterwards to buy more mechs or unlock new components for the next battle. These kind of games often turn the battle into an extended push-your-luck scenario, where you have to decide the optimal point to retreat so that you can walk away with the most resources without losing too many mechs in the process.

Yet another approach is to keep the battle simple and use the mech construction phase to create an extended rock-scissors-paper scenario. This only works if you have enough differentiation between your weapons/equipment so that different weapons are countered by different defences, and the game must be designed so that there is no single mech that will always win against any opponent.

JayceThomson wrote:
Fourth; My REAL issue is that once both mechs get into range, they tend to just stand there and unload at each other.

You could start by trying a rule such as: 2 actions per turn, but you can't do the same action twice. This at least creates the opportunity to try something different, whereas with only 1 action per turn you're guaranteed to spend it on shooting.

Terrain could help. If your plan for the mechs is the destructible cardboard minis, then you could do the same thing with destructible cardboard terrain that absorbs damage. So there is incentive to get into good terrain, but if you stay there too long it will get blown away and you'll have to find some more.

Or just embrace the simplicity, aim for 10-minute battles at the longest, and focus the heart of the game on the mech construction.

Keep up the playtesting with lots of different ideas until you find one that suits your image of the game.

Regards,
kos

JayceThomson
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Joined: 12/22/2014
New idea!

You know, you're completely right! But, after reading your article, I see the problems with it. Your asymmetric gameplay stood out to me, though, and funny enough, I got a new idea from it. Have you heard of the video game Evolve? What if I made a game based off of that?

One player is the monster, and tries to evolve and the either complete an objective or kill the other players. I could see it when it evolves, it gets to add/replace parts on the figure! You then have (_) other players as the trappers, trying to kill the monster. They would either have a custom loadout, or something like that.

I think I toyed with that idea a little while ago, but got stuck on how the monster was supposed to hide from the trappers, and they where supposed to track it down.

Anyways, I think Metal Storm was more of a fling than an actual concept. Mechwarrior has a bunch going for it, and mine was... meh. Oh well, onto a new idea! Maybe Evolve?

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