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Critique the Sept 2008 GDS Challenge Entries

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Brykovian
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Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries submitted to the September 2008 Challenge of the Game Design Showdown, entitled "Hidden in Public". (found here: http://www.bgdf.com/node/300 )

Enjoy,
-Bryk

Kactus
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My thoughts

I suppose it is fitting that the first entry (Treasure Hunt) is mine and the first critique is mine. :) I'd be very interested in any feedback.

Entry 2: One Arm Bandit
It seems to me that the best strategy would be to keep one of each card in hand and never spend any money/cards... so noone would pay to remove cards from the centre and the game would never end. I could be missing something however; feel free to roll your eyes at my foolishness and explain to me how it is in people's best interests to pay to remove cards. :)

Entry 3: Busted
I don't really understand the rule that says the holder of the bust, if not nominated, may swap the centre card for the bust and discard all excess cards in a single move. DOes that mean only after a nomination? Or on their turn after a round of not being nominated? How does the bust get back into the hands of the players after that?

The time limit seems kinda unneccessary (though only playtesting can prove this), but I like the flavour it gives the game. :)

Entry 4: Geocache Hunting
Placement seems like if should be stricter or more random, though I suppose every player is aiming to loot every cache so perhaps this is not necessary.

I liked the "in the case of a tie there are many winners." I like the idea of this game, once I understood it. I was very sleepy when I was reading entries and had to read this one twice or three times to make myself make sense of it. :)

Entry 5: The Gold Bug
Voted for this one, I want to play this to see how it works. Actually I'd like to play this in it's final form, with pictures and flavour text on the tiles and so on.

Edit: Also, face down cards or tiles are a bit of a cop out in terms of the challenge criteria. I had some ideas that I thought would make more fun games than the one I entered, but I felt they didn't fit the criteria as well as the one I did submit, they basically had facedown cards etc.

tinymachine
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The second game was mine, so I'll follow suit

Treasure Hunt

Beautiful hiding mechanism and well explained, but i couldn't see much of a game here. maybe if the coins were turned into sweets or gremlins kids might like this. There is just too much luck involved and then too much flatness to make any interesting dsecisions. I think the robbing should be built up. if somehow players have half information as to where the coins are that might up the excitement. perhaps players can hire excavator trucks to dig up more coins at once - basically needs more stuff in it.

One Arm Bandit

Mine - i haven't playtested this - so i think the number of cards or card types may need to be lowered. The hardest part of the design was working out exactly mow many cards to start with in the slot machine so that exactly one card will be left after removing three others and turning one up, i think i have it right. I planned for it to be a relatively tense 10 minute filler game with players bluffing each other as to what they are going for - with a small memory component to track the final turn-over. I think it may need an extra rule to stop players hoarding money until the final section but this may be counterbalanced by a player who takes a stand early on and eliminates one of the types - despite it being in everyone's interests to keep all types in. I'm not quite sure about the money rule at the end - perhaps should only count the converted money. yes i expect that is better.

In answer to the question above - the answer is that a player can't do nothing on a turn - so has to decide the ratio of removing central cards to creating money (reducing their hand). if one player removed all of one type then obviously the others would follow suit - so a sort of chains of discarding and removing should happen. but as i say i haven't played it yet - it may be flawed as you suggest.

Busted

Suprisingly similar to One Arm Bandit - players exchange cards to be left with a specific hand. I like the Gold Bust idea - in some ways in card games it is very common for stuff to be hidden but it doesn't quite follow the spirit of the suggested theme (my own entry suffers from this too). The problem i have is the last line:

"The gold bust wins if no one has their artefacts displayed with in an hour."

there's no way i'd want to be playing this for an hour. the level of content makes it seem filler like. I'm guessing any reasonable players would stalemate this game pretty easily - just in the way that PIT gets stalemated - with no body willing to give out the winning hand. I can't quite see the rules about the gold bust - is it an advantage to hold it or not?

Geocache Hunting

Good theme, and nice details. This suffers from the same problems as Treasure Hunt, the game is too flat and random at the same time - nothing inspires movement in any particular direction. Maybe contestents had difficulty with the hidden aspect of the theme - if something is hidden to everyone (as games 1 & 4 have it) then all you can do is find it blindly (ie randomly) and this leads to a problem of flatness of gameplay. The answer may be to search larger areas as i suggested above, or (and i think this happens in Mykerinos) you can search for longer for buried treasure at the expense of other tasks in the game). As it is it might be a fun kids game with nice pieces and a little coordinate maths to learn.

The Gold Bug

I was expecting some sort of cipher puzzle. I like this one, i think this one is the most interesting and best fills the brief. Kind of reminds me of Project KGB which i played as a kid. I'd have to play this to comment more but i suspect that bunching may occur where everyone works on the same building - and the game gets knotted. I'll make this one up if i get time and give it a go.

Kactus
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I do see my entry as a kids' game

I do see my entry (Treasure Hunt) as a kids' game. It could certainly be expanded on and given more depth too, I'm just not too sure what to do with it. I just love the idea of having the main part of the game hidden; I tried to make a game using that concept as a kid but it didn't work so well. Thanks for the feedback :)

Katherine
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Kactus, I also think treasure

Kactus,

I also think treasure hunt would be good as a childs game but I want to wait until after the voting is over before giving feed back. Is this ok or does feed back have to occur before voting?

seo
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shazzaz wrote:I want to wait

shazzaz wrote:
I want to wait until after the voting is over before giving feed back. Is this ok or does feed back have to occur before voting?

As a matter of fact, waiting for voting to be done before the "paternity" is made public and feedback is given has been the norm so far. The goal of that is to have at least some degree of anonymity, so voting is not influenced by friendship or popularity, and game ideas are judged purely on their own merits.

Also, voting has always been a must-do for entrants: you are expected to vote if you are taking part in the contest, and voting for your entry is not allowed. This is not written on stone, but has been a gentlemen agreement most participants have tried to fulfill.

Kactus
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I did wonder.

I wondered why no-one commented before me in the critiques thread *gasps* Will wait until the voting is over next time :) And I'll check back here after the voting is over too.

Katherine
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I changed my vote twice

I changed my vote twice because I went back and re visited this month’s GDS criteria as suggested. The one armed bandit appears to keep a single object hidden until the last turn. The three board games hide multiple objects.

#1 Treasure hunt
This could be a good children’s game. I experimented with a matchbox and invited the three yo old to lift the lid. He loved the sense of discovery, pocketed the coin and lost the token.

Suggestions and questions
I think arrowed dice and a compass in the corner of the board would be a good thing for children too young to understand direction.
I do not like illegal behaviors in designs for children. Please replace stealing with some cheeky eg: hiding the coin in a magician’s hat

Does the player have to move the token to lift the lid? Can it be an alternative square?
What is the outcome of not moving, or not lifting the lid?
Does the player have to return to the start square every time they find treasure?
If players do not return to start between plays – how does the treasure get back on the start square?

#2 One armed bandit
The CFH and I experimented with a couple of standard decks but did not get “it” until we modified the rules and got out the money box.. That changed the interest completely. There were too many cards for us to manage comfortably during “play” but we could not find a third person.

Suggestions and questions
Play test and see how it goes before reducing the number of cards. An alternative to reducing cards may be to increase the reels by two. I guess this would mean a recalculation of the cards.

Did you intend for this game to have a board?
Is the reckoning area divided into pick up / leave?
What is the significance of the bells?

The components of the next two entries could not be simulated so I comment after reading the rules and doodling on paper.

# 4 Geocache
Suggestions and questions
Initially the rules tricked me into thinking this game was for women only and I spent some time trying to figure out why. Try to rewrite the rules without referring to a specific gender. I do not think the actual game will be too random or flat. I do think the person setting up could be tempted to stack the tiles in a pattern.

Why is there no electronic tools such as a detector or gps?
Why are players restricted to two tools?
Did you intend to force the players to change direction by adding the one pawn / one tile rule?
What do you mean by “in case of strangers exploring”

#5 Gold Bug

Nice job, even if I did have to look up orthogonally, no suggestions.

Questions
How many times did you play test?
Did you make components?
Why is the hunter kicked out of the hospital?

Katherine
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#3 busted. This was my entry

#3 busted. This was my entry and had two cryptic messages hidden in the "game". Busted is not a game yet - it is an idea for one.

public: The game is broken (title)
hidden: A critic (bust) can smother art.

Scurra
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My comments...

...and an apology for not voting. This was my own fault. These notes were written when I first saw the entries, and take no account of subsequent comments on this thread.

Comments on the GDS games

]1. Treasure Hunt. OK, so this is basically a reworking of the much-loved and oft-derided Buccaneer, but replacing the movement system with a die, and the Island with a random treasure allocation system which does at least have an actual “hidden” element to it. Mind you, I think that aspect is utterly ridiculous, unless the game comes with a set of tweezers or something so that you can actually get a coin out. And how much of a coin has to “under” a square (or, rather, a tile, since that's the only way I can envision it working) in order for a player to be entitled to take it? It also strikes me that the board is far too large for the game; as it currently stands, I would estimate an average game to take about three days. (Yes, I am being facetious. But not very!)

2. One Arm Bandit. I think this fails both counts. Sure, a casino is open to the public, but it's hardly a “public place”. And there is no “hidden” element here at all that I can see, unless it's the unknown slot machine cards? The idea of removing cards from the game by using them as currency is quite interesting, but games with this sort of mechanic typically use it as a dilemma – in order to increase the value of a particular card (i.e. by having it left over), you need to discard one (i.e. reducing its presence in your hand.) Here, you don't seem to have that dilemma at all since you can discard anything, so it becomes a little high on luck as to whether you have kept or lost the likely winning card type, although the payment idea feels quite neat. There's the germ of an interesting idea lurking in here somewhere, I think.

3. Busted. Another distinct lack of “hidden” element here; a face-down card is not hiding anything. The central idea is similar to mine - players are trying to collect a complete set, but in this case it's unclear why they are doing it, and what's the gold bust got to do with anything?! The actual game doesn't appear to work, or I'm misunderstanding it (the “nomination” rule only happens once in the game? And once the Bust is on the table, it plays no further part in the game?) But the end game condition is excellent if rather excessive – it feels to me as though the deadline should be 15 minutes tops, not an hour. That would make for a fast paced game which I think it wants to be.

4. Geocaching. [I would have voted for this if I had remembered!] Now this one I think has a lot of potential. The hidden element is a memory one, and the interaction of the different tools and locations is nice (although probably too limiting to make the game fun rather than frustrating; I'd suggest two valid tools for each location type, but obviously in a cycled pattern e.g. location type 1 needs tools A or B, type 2 needs B or C, type 3 needs C or D etc.) I even like the dice mechanic, even though it's horribly bolted on. There's probably a much better way to achieve the effect of caches steadily being removed to increase the tension, rather than having them randomly and erratically go as it is right now.

5. And my game, the Gold Bug. Which seems to have bits of everyone else's games in it! There's the set collecting from #3, the memory aspect of #4, the concealment of tiles from #1 and perhaps the tactical blocking from #2. It's also part of my on-going quest to take old titles and remove the irritating bits. In this case, the game is 221B Baker Street, an old Sherlock Holmes game, where you went to different buildings and picked up clues to solve a specific case. Here, I have removed the roll-and-move (which is a flaw shared by a lot of those early games) in favour of much more freedom, albeit restricted by the other players pieces. And I was rather pleased with the idea that the “treasure” as such was kind of a quantum treasure, since it would only exist once someone effectively fixed it in place by completing a set and going to the right place to find it, even though another player might have a different set and be merely a single move away from going to their correct building! The other two driving factors were the incomplete town and the magnetic tiles. The fact that not all the buildings would be placed each game means that some abilities wouldn't be in play, which makes for variety - and the pentominoes made for a fun mini-game at the start without the hassle of an actual board, which is something I have been trending towards recently. And I liked the magnetic tiles idea, because it let me hide several things under a single building without the player having to pick them all up individually or by having them publicly revealed. The actual mechanism of the game (swapping tiles) is woefully under-explored, especially the idea of leaving your “hunter” tiles behind for other people to use later; although I don't like the stealing idea, but I couldn't figure out how to make a trading system work. At least not in time or in 800 words... Oh, and a quick comment on the name: I did, of course, want to call it National Treasure but I figured I'd get into even more trouble :)

Scurra
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shazzaz wrote:#5 Gold

shazzaz wrote:
#5 Gold Bug

Nice job, even if I did have to look up orthogonally, no suggestions.

Questions
How many times did you play test?
Did you make components?
Why is the hunter kicked out of the hospital?

"Orthogonally" is a really useful word in game rules - especially when you are trying to fit inside 800 words!

And in answer to your questions:
1. Never! I literally wrote it almost off the top of my head; it seemed to fit together OK even though I didn't realise quite what I was doing at the time.
2. Again, no. One of the great things about the GDS is that you can fantasize about ideas that it would be tricky to prototype (I remember one submission where I had a mechanical revolving lighthouse...) Yes, you could do this with bits of paper, but it wouldn't be as much fun without magnets.
3. The Hunter isn't kicked out of the Hospital. The target Hunter is kicked out of whichever building they are currently in. This sort of ability is essential in a cramped game, as otherwise players will get stuck too easily by being blocked. I should stress that I have no idea about the relative balance of the suggested powers - they just seemed like appropriate ones for that sort of game.

I must confess that it felt good while I was writing it - I'm tempted to make up a set myself just to see how it actually works (if, indeed, it does...)

Kactus
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Quoting Shazzaz

shazzaz wrote:
I do not like illegal behaviors in designs for children. Please replace stealing with some cheeky eg: hiding the coin in a magician’s hat.

Sorry to have offended you, I wasn't trying to specifically design a children's game with illegal behaviours in. I had in my mind the game we used to play at school in phys. ed. where we would have teams and would race to get a certain number of balls in our circle, and one of the rules was that you could STEAL balls out of the other teams' circles. It's just a word, and just a game.

I do not plan on giving in to your demands that I change my entry, as the competition has finished and I am not taking this game any further as it was just an idea.

scurra wrote:
1. Treasure Hunt. OK, so this is basically a reworking of the much-loved and oft-derided Buccaneer, but replacing the movement system with a die, and the Island with a random treasure allocation system which does at least have an actual “hidden” element to it. Mind you, I think that aspect is utterly ridiculous, unless the game comes with a set of tweezers or something so that you can actually get a coin out. And how much of a coin has to “under” a square (or, rather, a tile, since that's the only way I can envision it working) in order for a player to be entitled to take it? It also strikes me that the board is far too large for the game; as it currently stands, I would estimate an average game to take about three days. (Yes, I am being facetious. But not very!)

Regarding the size of the board, it might need some testing I guess. And regarding how much of a coin has to be under the tile before you can pick it up: I figured if the player can see it and get it out then they are entitled to it. Size of coins relative to tiles would probably need to be tested too. But as I said above, I'm not taking this any further, it was just a fun idea I had.

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