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Typical hero role in games

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Paul Ott
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Joined: 01/22/2018

Background: I made a dungeon crawler and in an effort to combat Alpha Player Syndrome, I gave each player unique objectives: Story cards that give Posterity Points when you accomplish certain goals. You win by getting the most Posterity Points. Then over time the game shifted and became more competitive and less cooperative. I'm okay with that, BUT...

The game challenges some of the typical themes about games. In my game, some Stories can get points even if the player is dead. One card (of seven, and inspired by Romeo and Juliette) specifically gets a big bonus of points if they die after another player has died.

Sometimes it is even advantageous to die. As you have to have the most points when the game ends, and the game ends when there is one player left alive, sometimes killing yourself to end the game while you have the lead is the best strategy.

Personally, I like the unorthodox nature of the game. However, I recently demoed it to a publisher and this is the first professional feedback I've gotten: fun, chaotic, and unlikely to be picked up by a publisher. I think 'chaotic' is due to the game objectives. People don't seem too sure what to think about a game where character death is treated so unusually.

So now I have a medium-heavyweight game that I don't know what to do with. This is my first serious attempt at a game, and I expected it to be a learning experience. I also expect the next game to be better than this, and the one after that to be better yet.

Looking for advice from wiser, more experienced minds:

- Should I keep going and try to self-publish anyway? Do some targeted, niche marketing for others like me who enjoy the idea of unorthodox games and aren't being served by the major publishers?

- Should I keep the core mechanics and redo the objectives? Maybe go back to a pure co-op game or pure arena game or both? Would this make make it easier to market due to broader appeal or would it actually hurt me by putting me in the same category as almost every other dungeon crawler out there?

- Should I scrap it and move on to the next idea with the lessons learned and view it as a two years of coursework?

questccg
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I'm not so experienced like Jamey or James... but...

I've converted a "The Game Crafter" game into a Kickstarter of $42.5k. Moderate amount of success, considering that my game is crazy fun for kids, parents and adult gamers. It's hard to say that all in one sentence, but it is very true.

And now to help you... The thing about "dying" isn't so dramatic... The question that I ask YOU is: "Is this game of yours, FUN???"

Your game needs to be FUN to play. I know that "FUN" is very subjective ... but usually (if you're honest with yourself) you'll know if it's a 5/10 or 8/10.

If it's a 5/10, I would shelve the game and focus on something NEW. However if you feel that the game is an 8/10... Well then other people may feel the same way... because it IS FUN! And sometimes it's sheer "luck" that a design comes together... Other times it's with all sorts of "iterations" and fixing and resolving issues with the game.

Game Design can at times be very taxing too.

Just try to be honest with yourself. Figure out what you want to do with this game too. If you feel that the game does NOT have mass gamer appeal... How do you think the Kickstarter will be? Will it be successful if only a LIMITED amount of people are interested?? Probably NO. UNLESS you can make it relatively INEXPENSIVE and maybe even use a POD service like "The Game Crafter"... That could be one possibility.

And so I've addressed Question #1 and #3.

What about #2... Not sure how to "change" your game. OR even IF to change it. My question to you would be again: Do you want it to be MORE appealing to make for a larger audience of players? Would you be happy with getting the game out as it is to the people who will truly appreciate it and its differences??

Again I would consider a POD. Limited audience = limited production.

But then your game is OUT-THERE and people who really like it can BUY it.

Depends 100% on what YOU want to do with YOUR game AS-IT-IS now. Gave you some food for thought.

Cheers!

Paul Ott
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Joined: 01/22/2018
Thanks man. I needed some

Thanks man. I needed some food for though. You might be right. I may need to shelve it for a while. I might just be burning out.

questccg wrote:
The question that I ask YOU is: "Is this game of yours, FUN???"

Your game needs to be FUN to play. I know that "FUN" is very subjective ... but usually (if you're honest with yourself) you'll know if it's a 5/10 or 8/10.

Well, 6 months ago it was more of a PvE game and people seemed super excited about it. I was a little surprised at how much the playtesters enjoyed it.

But I'm a hyper-competitive, adrenaline junkie. I wanted more tension/competition in it. I love the added Story objectives and the game now, but other people don't seem to enjoy it as much as before.

Maybe the added competitive elements may have made it too unstructured? I don't know.

questccg
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Ask your playtesters!

Paul Ott wrote:
...Well, 6 months ago it was more of a PvE game and people seemed super excited about it. I was a little surprised at how much the playtesters enjoyed it...

The easiest thing to do is ASK your playtesters what they thought of the earlier version. What made it exciting? What made it that they wanted to play?? Was it the PvE aspect that attracted them initially to the game???

Asking questions from playtesters is the best solution in answering those questions... To finally KNOW what playtesters LIKED about the previous version.

Paul Ott wrote:
But I'm a hyper-competitive, adrenaline junkie. I wanted more tension/competition in it. I love the added Story objectives and the game now, but other people don't seem to enjoy it as much as before.

Maybe the added competitive elements may have made it too unstructured? I don't know.

Well here's a bit of a nugget of knowledge that other BGDF designers brought to my attention: you know when a game is complete (done) when there are no more elements that you can REMOVE.

That's right: you need to streamline your design. And make it as lean as possible while still holding on to the elements that are critical to the design. So maybe while you ADDED some elements, they may not be as interesting as YOU thought... Because maybe the design was already in a good state... So by adding elements, you sort of unbalanced the whole design... And changing it to make it more competitive maybe was also the not the best direction especially something that was cooperative.

So your design was already COOL and streamlined... And then you added a bunch of ADDITIONAL elements and suddenly the experiences wasn't as good.

Again talk to your playtesters... Ask them questions! That's the best way of knowing what did and doesn't work.

Maybe it was purely an impression you got... How can you be certain that the playtesters liked the new version LESS than the old one? Did anyone mention anything? Comments?? Feedback???

Anyways get to the bottom of this: ask them questions.

Cheers!

Paul Ott
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Joined: 01/22/2018
I have had different

I have had different playtesters at different stages of development. The only consistent one has been my wife, bless her heart, and she doesn't love board games. So it is hard to ask questions about how things change.

I have to go by first impressions from those playing each iteration. I got mixed feedback ~6 months ago with some being super excited about it and now reactions are more subdued overall.

I'm starting to think because it is medium-heavy game, maybe the extra layer of competition doesn't work as well for newbies? Might be just a little too much to keep track of while if you're trying to contend with every other player too, especially if some of the mechanisms to gain points are unorthodox?

Still trying to unpack it, and I appreciate y'all letting me bounce thoughts back and forth a bit.

Lowenhigh
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Joined: 03/20/2018
It is important to note: it

It is important to note: it has been said that players can only remember between five and nine things at any given time. Asking people to memorize more than that or to remember even the simplest things in addition to gameplay can create a major problem.

And example from my own game, which is also a dungeon crawler, was from my character card. There were large symbols that represent it basic stats of each character such as strength, dexterity, wisdom, health, move, and range. These were not titled, but were instead given very obvious symbols. Even though all of the symbols were used very regularly in many aspects of the game, i found players would routinely ask what they were, or confuse one for another.

I added abbreviated explanations for each stat, and reduced the need for a NEW PLAYER to memorize 6 things. Nobody complained, but I discovered this through observation. New players would spend at least five minutes examining their character card at the beginning of the game.

Also, I am a big proponent of removing elements. Using my character card once again, I ended up removing one core ability from each character. I was unhappy with this at first, because I enjoy rich complex experiences and choices in RPG‘s. But the thing that I did not understand at the time was that deceptive simplicity is more important than richness of choices. If the game is very hard to play the first time, but easy to play after two or three runs, you might think it’s fine, but players will never make it to two or three runs if the first run is not fun understand at the time was that deceptive simplicity is more important than richness of choices. If the game is very hard to play the first time, but easy to play after two or three runs, you might think it’s fine, but players will never make it to two or three runs if the first run is not fun!

Paul Ott
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Joined: 01/22/2018
I think I'm contending with

I think I'm contending with perception more than anything. I made a randomized, modular hex-grid, fairly free-form dungeon crawler. There's monsters, traps, treasure, lairs, and a final boss. The three stats are simple, and their combat mechanics are defined right on the player mat. Each player's turn is straightforward too: play or rest. If I play, I can use each card to move or I can use its main action, all of which is described on each card.

There is very little to memorize or keep in your head. And I think this is evident in that I have been beaten on multiple occasions by first time players.

I've been really struggling with this the past two weeks, and my latest thought is that I'm battling against people's perceptions. It's a pretty awesome dungeon experience. People assume their main purpose is to use their unique abilities inside a team to explore, discover, loot, and accomplish goals.

But, I instead tell one person they get points for only opening doors, another gets points for only killing, and another they get points for keeping other people from opening doors. Some people sorta stare blankly at the this intriguing dungeon, and aren't sure what to do. I think the issue is: they expect and want to play against the dungeon. When they see they are supposed to be focused on their individual points instead, they lose some of the excitement.

I'm fighting stereotypes and familiarity, which is an uphill battle. These objectives also change the story itself.

questccg
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I understand

So how about making a CONSCIOUS decision to make this either a 1 vs. 1 game OR a 2 vs. 2 game. That would definitely "change" the perception quite a bit... Once you KNOW who is/are your opponent(s)... Well then using the right characters might be more self-evident.

By doing this you kinda say: "These players are trying to conquer the dungeon" AND "These players are trying to PROTECT the dungeon from being conquered".

When you make it an evident fact that players are NOT on the same side... I'm sure most players will become more immersed in their respective roles and your game will feel CLOSER to what you "sort of" had in mind.

Lowenhigh
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Paul Ott wrote:People assume

Paul Ott wrote:
People assume their main purpose is to use their unique abilities inside a team to explore, discover, loot, and accomplish goals.

But, I instead tell one person they get points for only opening doors, another gets points for only killing, and another they get points for keeping other people from opening doors. Some people sorta stare blankly at the this intriguing dungeon, and aren't sure what to do. I think the issue is: they expect and want to play against the dungeon. When they see they are supposed to be focused on their individual points instead, they lose some of the excitement.

...

Yeah - I have to say that would totally kill it for me too. If I'm staring down a dungeon, but my goal is to keep people from opening doors, and thus progressing through said awesome looking dungeon... that is random and would turn me off.

If you're going to make a dungeon crawler, don't make it *too* different, or people will be unhappy. You may want to save the competitive idea for another game.

I am a fan of a competitive co-op style, where you might have a secret objective or be a scoundrel that steals the treasure and runs from players or something. But I need to experience the classic things of a dungeon crawl like a "level up mechanic" via gear, experience levels, new skills, etc. as well as player vs dungeon. You can have another player control the dungeon, but that player should also grow in strength too.

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