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What makes the concept of 'transforming' special?

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Squinshee's picture
Joined: 10/17/2012

I've been working on a game design of mine and initially you'd create a team of three monsters to battle the opponent's three monsters. To accentuate my game idea, I thought about each player choosing one monster (let's say a dinosaur), and then selecting three out of a dozen or so forms of that monster to create your team (like a robotic dino, a flying dino, and a rock dino). The idea is that in-game you can transform into each of the selected forms to aid your victory.

Here's my problem: other than improving the theme and concept of my game, what does transforming add to my game design that selecting a team of ANY three monsters not allow for? You don't need to know any of the specifics of my design to answer.

I'm wondering what makes the concept of transforming special. I know that it let's players grow fond of certain playstyles and characters designs, but BEYOND that, why is this a concept people latch onto? It may not fit this specific game design, but finding transforming's essence might inspire a new game idea because of how fun of a concept it is.

Any thoughts?

Joined: 11/19/2012
One of the main ways that

One of the main ways that video game developers extend playtime is to offer "rewards" over time. As you play... you earn experience and "Level Up". When you level up you feel a sense of accomplishing something as your brain releases it's happy chemicals. This constant stream of rewards is a factor of why people often play video games for hundreds of hours.

The thing is... we adapt to certain states of mind as they occur. First time it happens... you feel great, second time it happens you feel good, third meh etc. While the same event is occurring, you are used to it and the effects are lessened.

This is where transforming comes in. You've been building up to the moment... gaining levels and fighting enemies for a longer period. You've adapted to the level up and then suddenly BAM!


It's a new stimuli and your brain goes all out "YAAAY!".

Because these occur far less often than a normal level up, you don't adjust nearly as quickly. Instead, You have something to look forward to as you gain experience. You are now working TOWARDS something rather than just grinding for more levels.

- - -

Realistically, this doesn't really apply to board games and it's why you don't see it often here.

Video games are intended for dozens of hours with the same game. You are constantly building the same team, the same enemies, the same everything. You need the constant stream of feedback to make your actions feel important.

Board games are intended for an hour or two. Most of your feedback comes from the other players... the enjoyment of interacting with friends/mortal enemies. At the end of this period, everything is destroyed and you will start from the beginning again. The progress doesn't need to be as large, because you are only trying to hold their attention for a few hours.

While an aspect of transforming can be used,such as gain 10 XP and switch to the next form, they aren't as important to a board gamer. If you can create an engaging experience without transformations, then don't worry about them. As long as the game works... nobody will miss them.

Squinshee's picture
Joined: 10/17/2012
I agree that progression like

I agree that progression like that works better (and has little place) in traditional board games. However, I think you misunderstood what I meant. I don't mean transformation in the sense of progression, I meant it in the sense that morphing into a different form with different stats, not better stats. You'd transform into forms to allow for different strategies not stronger abilities.

Look at the aptly named Transformers - they have a vehicle form which makes them mobile, and a robot form that makes them combat viable. You wouldn't call one form better than the other. They simply have their own advantages and disadvantages.

My question is: what makes transforming in this way special? For Transformers, it's visually exciting to watch cars morph into robots. Without the intricate animations, what are ways to convey transformation?

In the game I'm designing, player's pick one monster, then select three of its forms to comprise a team. So perhaps the monster has a 'basic' form that gives the same abilities to each form. This would help convey that it's one monster with some abilities that are consistent with each form, but each form has its own abilities too.

My problem is that if I want transforming (or morphing, whatever I end up calling it) in my game, I want to incorporate the concept as much as possible. What makes it special? If there isn't much of a difference between transforming or picking a team of any three monsters, why use it at all?

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Subconscious stuff

I think on two accounts, first is immersion. If it is one character with multiple forms, then I get all the projection psychological benefits of having an avatar. Whereas with a team you are a step outside of the team as the coordinator.

Second is perhaps a childhood thing, where every ordinary thing (including yourself) may somehow, secretly be something totally extraordinary. It's not a yo-yo, it is a spinning cyclonic disk of doom, muahahaha.

It can also enhance your sense of expertise development within a game. If you play bob the transforming vaccuum regularly, you feel you own it and are an expert in him whether or not you win games. If it is a team, then mostly your growth is measured by success in the game.

Joined: 10/20/2013

I think you have more decision making as far as when to transform and what to transform into. It's kind of like in Football when a coach decides to switch up the play. Sometimes a risky play can pay off and sometimes it will blow up in your face. With the 3 individual monsters the emphasis is more on team building like in a regular miniature's game or deck building in a deck building game.

I don't know if it's "more" special or not, just a preference of what kind of gaming experience you want. If you want an emphasis on team building then the multiple monsters are important, if you want an emphasis on play calling then the transformations are best.

In Heroclix, teams are usually built for a specific game plan and that is how you're supposed to play the team. In Magic the deck of cards is built to function a specific way. If in Magic let's say you could change out cards in the middle of the game then your decision making during the game is much more important.

A good comparison is Dominion to Magic The Gathering. In Dominion your deck of cards transforms based on how you want to play and how the other players play the game; while in Magic you work out which cards work best together in any given situation.

Just think of which experience you'd like better, your game will not satisfy the wants of every player.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
RPS-3 might be elegant

Squinshee wrote:
...Here's my problem: other than improving the theme and concept of my game, what does transforming add to my game design that selecting a team of ANY three monsters not allow for? You don't need to know any of the specifics of my design to answer...

Well what I think is that your *transformations* could follow an RPS type of mechanic:

"A" is stronger against "B" is stronger against "C" is stronger against "A".

This could simplify the number of transformation and kind of standardize them. I am thinking (in my mind) about the "Power Rangers". For some un-godly reason I am thinking that they transform into different robot forms that depend on the nature of their opponent. This could be true or a complete lie... I just got to thinking this.

But I think it makes sense to go with a RPS-3 and with rules for the transformation, like it takes 6 turns before transforming back into form "A" or it takes only 3 turns to go into form "B" (from A). Although an RPS-3 sound very simple, the transformation rules can be pretty SPECIFIC. You could have "A" to "B" = 3 turns, but "B" to "A" = 6 turns. Working out all the other possibilities you can *STREAMLINE* them and say when increasing to a newer *stronger* form, it cost X. But to revert back to the previous form it cost 2X.

Having standard rules means less writing on the cards themselves. Listing all the RPS-3 combination might be too much for the card. So finding some way to streamline them would make for simpler card rules.

However I think this might work in your case... With or without the streamline *transformation* rules.

So obviously the various forms of transformations have different stats in addition to bonuses against an opponent (according to the RPS-3). Does this mean that players will rotate between "forms"? Probably if they want to maintain an edge. One thing for sure, is that if they do, your time about thinking about "transformations" will have been well worth it! :)

Update: Another *simplification* could be varying only ONE (1) stat per "dinosaur". So if the stat is ATTACK for the dinosaurs, "A" might have the weakest attack but have an attack ability X. "B" might have a moderate attack and have a defensive ability Y. "C" might have the most aggressive attack but no special ability...

I think to keep things simple, you would probably need three (3) different cards to manage all three (3) forms of the "dinosaur". I think this would offer the most *readability* instead of trying to *cram* three (3) distinct forms onto one (1) card...

But that's just a gut feeling...

Note: Using a RPS-3 the number of *transformation rules* to define is six (6). Or more easily two (2) on each card/form. Two is reasonable and you can easily define the rules like ("A" to "B" = 3 turns, "A" to "C" = 5 turns, etc.) Plus you have enough room to add bonuses or penalties of the various forms. In addition you can define different stats (if you are doing things on a per card basis).

The only *distinction* between "Transforming" and just another card, is the RELATIONSHIP between the forms. Those rules about "A" to "B" = ???, "B" to "C" = ???, etc. So it's those RPS-3 rules that make the distinction between three (3) cards ONLY and three (3) DISTINCT forms.

Joined: 07/03/2013

To sum up my thoughts on the subject: uniqueness. You have a unique game concept that essentially means that you're different, and that you might appeal very easily to a young audience (as stated above).

However, the other part of this uniqueness of which I speak is that you control one unique monster. There is no team of monsters that you can withdraw/replace. Your monster is yours, and if it gets damaged in one form, that damage carries on throughout the battle. Thus, your opponent could take advantage of a temporary weakness and wound you while transforming to better get on top of the enemy, or they could transform themselves such that they are resistant to your attacks, and you have no way to hurt the other monsters they own because their one monster is theirs, the only target.

However, be careful that you don't oversimplify with this type of game. If it becomes a slugfest until one of you draws a card that lets you heal or do more damage or something, then you'll have a hard time making in fun. Having more than one player in the game could make it interesting, but it means that one will swoop in after two have already duked it out.

Have you considered a team mechanic, where working with a friendly monster/player of certain abilities allows you to become more powerful as you apply certain strategies? Perhaps a certain transformation allows you to be more mobile (as with wings) and carry a friend (who might adopt a slow-moving, heavy-hitting form). Then, the ability to transform takes on new meaning as you try to work together and maximize your combined effectiveness, and you have to protect your friends while they finish transformation.

As always, I don't know if I helped here, but I had fun thinking it through!

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