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Is a Complicated Game Board Worth It?

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FrankM
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Black Hole

Hi everyone!

I have a game at the early stages of design, and I have a question for those with more experience in the getting-stuff-actually-made end of the business.

The concept for this game is that it takes place in the vicinity of a black hole, and I want to capture as much of the weirdness of that environment as possible without overwhelming the players. Things like asymmetric movement costs can be printed on the board easily enough, and I'm still working out how to balance time dilation (actions taking longer the closer you are to the event horizon).

One design element that could add to the theme would be to represent the curved space with an actual curved board. Something similar to the green wireframe image, but covered in hexes, and being cut-off at an event horizon so the bell doesn't get so deep that it's hard to manipulate the ships.

For a prototype, it would actually be laid out as a truncated cone pattern and use magnetic sheets on the underside to keep pieces in place. A production game would more likely use little pegs and holes to keep ships in place, and end up with more of a trumpet bell shape.

The alternative would be to have a flat six-sided hexmap with the black hole simply occupying the center.

I thought it prudent to make this decision now in the really early stages because it makes a difference for movement rules. It would be awkward for a magnet- or peg-based board to allow more than one ship in the same hex.

Though the curved board would better communicate the different spatial regions, and the problem of breaking it into bits that fit in the box can be solved, I'm wondering just how expensive a board-sized plastic sculpture would be. And if a publisher would immediately reject the idea as infeasible.

Or maybe there is a much simpler approach that I missed?

ElKobold
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I think warped board is too

I think warped board is too much effort. It will be awkward to use and a nightmare in production.
I would go with a flat board and use game's mechanisms to convey theme.

let-off studios
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Not Worth It

It's unfortunate that, at this day and age, publishers still balk at a handful of custom dice and the manufacturing challenges posed by this.

A custom, curved game board? Peg holes? Nope. I don't see it happening on any realistically-profitable scale. And I'm no publisher. My gut tells me very few of them would even consider the publishing expense, unless you have several "hits" under your belt already.

I second ElKobold's recommendation of mechanics demonstrating theme, particularly if you want to shop this around to publishers. At the very least, go with your hexmap idea and see how well you can make it work with your theme and mechanics.

radioactivemouse
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Build up to it.

I...wholeheartedly agree with a simpler approach.

I hear it all the time from would-be game designers. They want to make a video game (say an MMO) and they are working towards that. That's cool. But if you're a new or first-time designer you need to work your way up.

By creating simpler, smaller games, you learn...so much. You make "mistakes" that would be otherwise fatal if they were in a larger game. In order to learn how to build a house, you need experience building a box...then you work your way up.

I use this example: Remember when you built your first model or drew your first thing? Was it the best thing you've ever made? No, it was the crappiest thing on the planet, but you were proud of it because you accomplished making it in the first place. Subsequent projects became easier, and with more wisdom. Are not games more complicated than building a model?

Why should game design be any different?

Rick L
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I love the black hole concept

I love the black hole concept - I've always been fascinated by astrophysics and theoretical physics.

I don't know much about publishing such a concept but I agree that a flat board would be more elegant than an awkward funnel with pegs or magnetic pieces.

But it's a cool idea, and I'm interested in seeing what comes of it! Since stellar sized black holes are generally supernova remnants, you could do a gorgeous space-scape, especially if it was part of a binary or multiple star system, with a few planets thrown in. Makes me think of cool planetscapes in such a bizzare high-gravity environment, like in the movie Interstellar. Could make for some cool card art.

Don't know if you had anything like that in mind, but it got me thinking!

ElKobold
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let-off studios wrote:It's

let-off studios wrote:
It's unfortunate that, at this day and age, publishers still balk at a handful of custom dice and the manufacturing challenges posed by this.

How much do you think they cost?

Daggaz
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Go to a custom-dice webpage.

Go to a custom-dice webpage. The jump in price, just moving from standard d6 to d10s is telling.

gxnpt
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flat map

see http://www.bgdf.com/sites/default/files/images/hole.jpg

use modified movement rules for each "ring" color section to represent the gradient

something like this seems to be the simplest approach

FrankM
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Thanks for the advice

Thanks everyone. I'll go with the flat hexmap, though if I can figure out a simple method I might try to twist the hexes near the center.

Mokheshur, the closest real black hole is a couple thousand light years away from Earth. Since FTL ruins the whole point-of-no-return quality of a black hole, this setting will be a relatively nearby (<50ly) unremarkable star from which a "We come in peace" message was received, then almost immediately afterward suffered a catastrophe. Earth of course launched a "rapid" expedition (still taking a looooong time to arrive), but on the way learned that the star was centrally located between several civilizations trying to find out what the hell just happened.

Rick L
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Cool, intriguing storyline!

Cool, intriguing storyline!

Daggaz
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FrankM wrote:Since FTL ruins

FrankM wrote:
Since FTL ruins the whole point-of-no-return quality of a black hole, this setting will be a relatively nearby (<50ly) unremarkable star.

You can safely include FTL in your setting, for what its worth.
For reference: http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/physics/90-the-universe/black-holes-and...

X3M
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Daggaz wrote:FrankM

Daggaz wrote:
FrankM wrote:
Since FTL ruins the whole point-of-no-return quality of a black hole, this setting will be a relatively nearby (<50ly) unremarkable star.

You can safely include FTL in your setting, for what its worth.
For reference: http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/physics/90-the-universe/black-holes-and-quasars/falling-into-a-black-hole/457-could-you-escape-from-a-black-hole-if-you-were-able-to-go-faster-than-the-speed-of-light-intermediate


https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/calculating-gravitational-time-dil...

What if certain ship engines make a possitive bending of space. Neutralising a bit of the black hole influence on the space time. It could cost energy though, over time. Which you need plenty of if you want to remain safe. A temporary FTL if you will.

With this effect, the black hole might also become a bit unstable, ejecting mass away in the opposite direction. Who knows, who gets hit :) When one player takes a risk closer to the black hole.

questccg
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Not just the board

The thing is, even if you COULD design a "fancy" 3D board like your sample picture... The question remains:

Q: How on earth are you going to fit this in a BOX?

While it might be feasible to design a "fancy" board - the box to ship it in will be HUGE and expensive to ship.

That's the concern nobody has mentioned that I thought would be an important point in the design of such a board.

FrankM
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What X3M said

X3M replied before I could. The only (relatively) feasible methods of traveling FTL involve bending spacetime, which would allow the craft to dip inside the event horizon (from a distant observer's point of view) and come back out... but not dive all the way in to peek at the singularity and make it back.

One misconception of black holes is that there is a definite location for the event horizon (for a non-rotating black hole, it would be a sphere with the Schwarzschild radius). The event horizon is actually from the point of view of a specific observer. A person who somehow survived crossing over the Schwarzschild radius would not find a radically different environment on the far side. The apparent event horizon simply recedes from the infalling observer (a very rough analogy can be drawn with the Earth's horizon receding as one travels along the surface). The event horizon defines the region from which light could never reach the observer. At some point the observer gets crushed to death, and then it doesn't really matter what their event horizon looks like.

One important part of the board is going to be the black hole's ergosphere, which is outside the event horizon but close enough that the black hole's rotation imparts enough twisting to the space to cause some exotic effects.

FrankM
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It would be Trouble

questccg wrote:
The thing is, even if you COULD design a "fancy" 3D board like your sample picture... The question remains:

__Q: How on earth are you going to fit this in a BOX?__

While it might be feasible to design a "fancy" board - the box to ship it in will be HUGE and expensive to ship.

That's the concern nobody has mentioned that I thought would be an important point in the design of such a board.

Thanks, I think this would be solvable (breaks down into four pieces or so), but it would still be a fairly deep box. My question was really about just how much more expensive it would be to see if it was worth even contemplating.

I mean, "Trouble" has a board-sized plastic sculpture, so it's not impossible. Just not a good idea for my first or second project.

Rick L
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I once calculated that if an

I once calculated that if an average human were to become a black hole, he would have a Swartzchild's radius of 10^-23 millimeters and would evaporate within 1/4 of a trillionth (pico-) of a second!

Frank, sounds like you've put a lot of thought into incorporating bizzare physics into the game. Do you have a way to work in the way one part of a ship (closest part) could accelerate towards the event horizon faster than the rest of the ship? Basically the extreme tidal forces in the ergosphere?

FrankM
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You will feel a slight ripped-apart-at-the-seems sensation.

Mokheshur wrote:
Frank, sounds like you've put a lot of thought into incorporating bizzare physics into the game. Do you have a way to work in the way one part of a ship (closest part) could accelerate towards the event horizon faster than the rest of the ship? Basically the extreme tidal forces in the ergosphere?

This is a relatively simple mechanic or two. Ships close enough to feel significant tidal forces take structural damage and/or rotate within their hex. Ships also get some "free" motion to orbit the black hole, to the point where it would take more movement that the ship's maximum to stand still. Combined with time dilation (reduced action points per turn close in), it can be nigh impossible for the player to maintain control of a ship's location.

The ergosphere is the region at which even moving lightspeed in the opposite direction would be insufficient to stand still. You'll be in trouble before you get there.

The problem is going to be coming up with simple-to-understand markings within the affected hexes. Can't overwhelm the players! Besides, I still have quite a lot of work to do on basic stuff before I get to the fancy physics.

Daggaz
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The event horizon is defined

The event horizon is defined exactly from the inertial frame of the black hole. An outside observer watching somebody falling in is the one who gets tricked: they see the person approaching the horizon and slowing down asymptotically such that they will never cross the horizon in the lifetime of the observer (or the universe).

The person falling in can indeed cross the even horizon and will not observe any major difference as you mention, at least not if the black hole is supermassive and tidal forces as one approaches and crosses the event horizon are minimal.

What happens when you cross though? What can you see? That gets wierd. Light can come in, so you can conceivably see out. But light cannot get back out, and it isn't because gravity pulls on it. Spacetime is curved, instead, so there are no paths out. This means that when you look "out" of the black hole, you will also be looking back in.

What happens if we can warp spacetime from within this curvature? Nobody knows. Can you reconnect spacetime, or do you influence the curvature locally, confined to the bubble you have already entered? It's probably not a very safe experiment, either way.

Daggaz
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The event horizon is defined

double post from inside of a black hole.

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