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Adapting 8-bit game concepts, part 1

After most of my recent creative efforts going into writing as well as development of a large board game idea that's going nowhere fast, I'm trying to get myself motivated and focused on making some solo games for a friend of mine who has his 40th birthday this year.

We grew up together in the 8-bit computer era so I'm looking at trying to put together tabletop tributes to some of our favourite games from that time. For various reasons, a compact solo game is the best thing for him at the moment, especially as we rarely see each other.

The first one I'm looking at is Cinemaware's Defender of the Crown which seems eminently suitable to this sort of adaptation. There was a multiplayer effort at this in development some years back at BGG but it seems to have been abandoned but, in any case, I'm looking for a solo and compact design by comparison.

I was looking at how to implement the computer game's map and detail of who owns which territory and what income that gives them, but with multiple NPC powers on the board I think that will make for too many components and too large of a board. So I'm thinking of doing something inspired by Victory Point Games' States of Siege series wherein various NPC threats are tracked on a sort of flowchart to keep the management of pieces to a minimum.

I think this could work well in principle but I need to put together some sort of rough draft and see how the various elements will overlap with each other. In other words, I need to go against my usual instinct and dive in to mocking up a design without planning everything in detail first. This first hurdle may also be the biggest because I hate starting something and not having a sense of how it'll turn out. Still, that's probably a habit that needs to be broken.


Hostage Negotiatior & More

A few thoughts that may help you out.

- It may be that the token tribute to 8-bit games of the past would be enough to sate your friend for this initial effort. Kind of like how anyone playing Boss Monster knows they patterned it after the 8-bit era based on the artwork and thematic link, and pretty much nothing else.
- Defender of the Crown does have a lot of moving parts. Maybe narrow the focus to perhaps two rival factions facing off against the player? Remember, you can always go back and refine/expand things for his 41st birthday. :)
- The game Hostage Negotiator is a recent solo game that helps keep the player grounded and focused on the task at hand by limiting the expansion of allowed actions based on how well the player does on previous turns. There are also dice involved which keep things tense, dramatic, and unpredictable. You may want to consider a "buy an action" mechanic, tempered with dice rolls, to allow for repeated plays and increased tactical/strategic depth.
- Time limit. I cannot stress this enough. Make sure there is an integrated deadline that makes each action count. When used well, it can increase immersion, enegement, and drama for a single player, which I think is a mark of great solitaire games.

I turned 40 earlier this year myself, and I am thoroughly informed by the 8-bit entertainment era (I technically started with the Atari 2600 but I'm just splitting hairs, as I personally hit my game-playing stride with the 8-bit NES). Sounds like a lot of fun to develop. Best of success on this project! :)


I'm fully willing to make changes to make it workable, hence the change in the next blog entry from 18 counties to 6 regions. I hadn't thought of your suggestion of reducing the number of factions, however. Given that you play one of three Saxon lords (with whom you are nominally allied at game start), against 3 Norman lords, it might be enough to make it the player vs a Saxon faction vs a Norman faction rather than 5 other lords.

I was already looking at "AI" actions being based on who controls each castle so if a given Norman controlled 3 castles he'd get activated each time that castle came up on a card, and this may be functionally similar to limiting the enemy to two factions. I'll have a think about it.

I'm aware of Hostage Negotiator as I was actually one of the early playtesters! Using income from territory to buy multiple actions rather than having the "one big action" mechanic of the computer game might be good as you suggest.

The time limit is something I had already decided to include. I'm going to put it down to "the lords already established in England are fighting for the throne, but if they don't choose a new king soon, enemies will invade from mainland Europe and they will all be put to the sword".

Thanks again for the comments and support!

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blog | by Dr. Radut