Friday, October 18, 2013

Week 6 - Hai Anh Nguyen

During this week's class, we had professional game designers come in and test out all of our games. From what i heard from Trisha, everyone seemed to enjoy our game very much. When i played our game with one of the guest player, she mentioned how although the game may not be perfect yet, it is still very much enjoyable. Even though the game is complex and have multiple things happening at the same, it is very easy to learn. It seems as if most of the prior problems we had before, such as the length of the game, has been addressed and fixed. After hearing comments like that, I felt it was totally worth the long hours of compiling all of the cards together and the hours we put in as a group during our regular weekly meet ups.

The main challenge that i saw during this whole entire process was balancing the game because there were different effects on different characters. However, the process of smoothing out these problems was very easy because everyone in the group contributed equally to the game. Before last class, we met again on Friday and play tested it for the last time. However, because we were in constant contact with one another over text, the meeting went very smoothly. It did not take long because we fixed all of the character flaws before meeting up. Therefore we only needed to use this last meeting to figured out the final presentation details, such as where to print and how to print it.

There is nothing I can say about my group members besides how great it was to work with them. We all contributed something unique to this game. Trisha was the brain behind the operation. She would come up with the values of the cards to balance out the game and added many great ideas, including the brothel. Isaac would also provide the group with solutions because this game came about from his proposal. He was always the one who gave us multiple outlooks and solutions to pick from. I was in charge of the graphics of the card and Mihaly was the lovely chaos player who pointed out the flaws within our game. Together as a whole, we worked really well with one another. When there were problems, there were never any arguments. Everyone was very calm and collected and was very efficient in dealing with the problems. We would brainstorm and discuss the possible solutions and then pick which one would be the best for the game. The chemistry between us four surpassed the original expectations I had when I first met them.

I can say for us all that we are very proud of the game that we have created. We even joked about taking turn holding onto the cards and teaching our other friends how to play it. This might be biased to say but I think we have one of the best game in the class. This again is something that I am very proud of.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

week 5 - Trisha Patel

Last class everyone finally got to play each others games. I decided to be the one who stayed back as the coordinator for our game, because I was especially curious as to what the comments would be. Some comments I was happy with, others were rather irritating.

The first play test had an equal learning curve between all the players, including myself. Although I was the one to create the game, I actually never played it with completely new players. It was interesting to see the actions new players were executing between the building, buying, destroying, and stealing options. I did however have to help some of the players throughout the game, which defeated the purpose of the play test. It was necessary though, because otherwise the game would have never moved on. I wish our group would have produced a rule book that all the players could have read before the play test so all questions could have been addressed before the game started. I had players getting frustrated that they had to continually had to consult with me, and some made comments that this is a downfall to the game. I was offended by this comment! Of course you have to consult me, I made the game, and there is no rule book, therefore I AM the rule book.

Anyhow, the second play test was executed slightly different because of the fact that I had just played one round five minutes earlier. I now had an advantage to what techniques work the best, and a fresh recollection of what options are available. During this round is when I realized that playing with paper cards is probably the most frustrating part of a play test. Although Hai Anh designed extremely aesthetic cards, every time someone took a deep breath the cards were flying. This is a nuisance especially in our game, since building cards are directly placed in front of the builder. However, this did not bother anyone besides me, because I knew it was part of the theme of the game. The new players were more focused on how our cards looked like a professional game!

The last play test round was when comments and details got nitty gritty. There were only three players (including myself), and I realized that this game is NOT worth while if there are less than four players. The game runs too slow, buildings aren't built, and it is just plain boring. The two classmates that played my game seemed tired from playing games for 3 hours now, so they were not putting as much effort as the first two groups I saw. However, one classmate did take time to tell me that the theme of our game is wonderful, but she had a lot of issues with the mechanics. I appreciated her criticism, but how exactly does she expect me to change my entire game because she did not understand the techniques the other 8 players easily adapted? This comment is what put our group in the most trouble, because at our next meeting we had to simplify the game for those players who believe there are too many options. We tried to make the playing field more leveled so both creative players and logical players can adapt their own techniques.

I personally enjoy playing our game each time we play, and I am not just saying that I took part in creating it!

Trisha Patel

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

week 4- Mihaly

This past week we met once in class, and twice out. (One of those times was actually the day before class, but it didn't make it into the last entry, so I'll write about it here). We fine-tuned the rules, going through one iteration of card design each time, and play-tested with some non-class players.

For the meeting on Tuesday before class, Isaac and I made up a preliminary rule-book that described how to go through a turn (at the time it was picking 2 actions out of a list of 5), described the two win conditions – 16 buildings being built, or running out of money. The document also had some ideas for card values and names. Hai Ann and Trisha brought in a set of cards based on that document, and we met at a table near the Livingston student center Dunkin Donuts.

Before we even started playing, we realized we didn't have enough cards to finish a game. There were also 3 different sets of card values – the ones drawn on the cards, values Isaac brought with him on a paper, and the ones in the prototype rules document. We tried to use Isaac's, but it turned out to be too confusing to try to play with values that were not on the card, especially when there were conflicting values drawn on the cards, so we switched to those.

I found our first attempt at playing the game very boring, but everyone else enjoyed it. I chose a character that had a cool skill, but started with no money. The way the deck was shuffled and Isaac started, I ended up drawing gold my first turn, having it stolen by Isaac, then the mine collapsed and I had to pass at least one turn, then just drawing gold for several more turns while everyone else did interesting things. So that was that was one major issue. We also found out that winning the game could be done too quickly. In a few turns, Isaac was able to buy anything he wanted from the store. He commented that we unknowingly set the price of some of the buildings to be the same as the price of a pick-ax.

We stopped playing pretty much right there, since the card values were basically broken. The game could be won very fast by a player before someone that started with a bad character choice could even start playing. Trisha came up with a preliminary solution to that problem very fast, and we spent the rest of the meeting – 1.5 to 2 hours – implementing that. The implementation consisted of Isaac naming cards, and Trisha giving us a value/effect for the card. She came up with a price range for building cards (all these values would be cut by half next play test, but the synergy and effects made it to our current prototype) and the tool/action cards.

At this point we had two disagreements about the post office and using it to trade. My suggestion was using it to pay for any agreed-upon trade between a visitor and any other player. That was unanimously (except for by me) rejected, I still don't know why, but a week later I'm glad it wasn't implemented. Argued for it for about 10 minutes though. As cool as the idea sounds, later play tests show it being both useless with our decks, and disruptive to the game balance. No one wanted to trade anyway, and players interacted enough on their own during the game. There was also enough to pay attention to between two shops, card synergy, hand management, and so on, that having to consider other players' cards as another source of resources would have become overwhelming. The other idea that was rejected was having forced card-swaps with other players. Stealing was implemented, but forced card swaps felt wrong.

During the class meeting, Hai Ann brought an updated color deck, and we tried another play-test. It was a lot more fun, but we didn't even come close to winning, it took too long to get closer to the win condition. This test was also cut off early, and this is when we halved the building costs. Now they overlapped with the higher end tool costs, but on our next playtest, it looked like this condition would be attainable. We cut it off when we started getting a lot of ideas for new rules and cards, and worked on that. After talking about the game representing a town, Trisha came up with the idea that the game could be won when enough of each part of town was built, and based the requirements on some famous Hierarchy of needs. We grouped the cards more-or-less into those needs, gave each need a color, and a pyramid-like progression of how many buildings would be needed from each level. The professor gave us several good ideas to strengthen this theme – making the workers require housing, and facing the buildings inwards, and discounts for higher tier cards when buying lower ones among them.

Our final meeting was at Hai Ann's apartment on Friday. I was about 10 minutes late (bike maintenance issue), but when I got there Hai Ann, Trisha, and two of Hai Ann's friends were deep into the game. They seemed to be enjoying it, and this is the first time the game was tested start to finish, and the first time it was done with outside players. The game took about 45 minutes, and the entire time the four players were into it enough that Isaac and I were pretty much ignored, which I think is a good thing.

We didn't have time to implement many new rules during that meeting, but we did find some problems and make some observations during that play session:
  • balance seemed OK – Scores were reasonably close at the end, Trisha won, but one of the new players were almost tied for second
  • some game cycles forced players to draw gold several turns in a row – boring for a turn or two, player wanted more actions. One possible fix, currently implemented, is 3 actions per turn instead of 2. Problem with that is that 2 works during the beginning. Maybe 2 to start, and an easy way to increase 3 at the right time in the game – pending solution we're happy with.
  • Being a chaos player (this is my role in about 75% of games I play, card and otherwise) isn't possible to game-breaking extent. The most I can do is be mildly annoying, the tools are just too expensive. I never have enough money to do more than one annoying thing every few rounds, and those actions were easy to recover from.
  • The amount of concentration required to play seems to have luckily turned out about how we wanted it. The 2 design-team and 2 new players had interactions about ¾ game related, ¼ unrelated social, and I didn't notice anyone getting bored, even during the aforementioned gold drawing cycles. That might be a result of the players being friends though, I get bored on cycles like that in other games.
  • We found that we didn't balance our deck right. Two cards critical to winning (some high level buildings needed to complete the town) didn't come up for 45 minutes. Hopefully fixed by taking out some of the huge surplus of low level cards, and adding some high level ones, but we didn't test yet.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week 3 Blog - Trisha Patel

Today our group continued to work on our game. Even though we already decided to use Isaac's game, every time we meet we seem to forget what the core mechanics of the game are. For example, we didn't decided until today what exactly the purpose of the game was. However, I think it worked out better that we waited two weeks to make a decision; otherwise it would be a rushed decision. We had time to put all our thoughts from Citadel, San Juan, Guillotine, and parts of all our games to make a complex yet fun game. 

I particularly wanted to have a deck of cards with "gold points" in it, all holding different denominations. However, we had conflict because Hai Ahn pointed out that it would be hard to buy and trade goods if some items cost 3 point but you only have a 4 point card. We aren't incorporating an exchange or change system in our game, so this would be a disadvantage for the players. Isaac suggested that we make a prototype for next week that includes a range of denominations, and we can change it if this mechanic causes NPE.

We also started working on the more interesting parts of the game, the theme! Since we have an 49er's theme with the California Gold Rush, we brain stormed different buildings that would be found in this time period. Mihaly had a clever idea of using the Post Office as a medium of trade between two players, which will lead to player interaction. However, we did have issues with how the town houses and hotels are different. We were not sure what their special functions would be, because they don't tie in much with the team of gold mining. However, as a team we finally decided to have all rest areas as a set of cards that encourages players to buy buildings of the same type. Players will have incentive to incorporate both town houses and hotels into their part of the town, and the makers of the game find a way to incorporate the buildings into the theme. 

Overall, today was a successful class, mainly because we finally got through a full game of San Juan! Last week, the game seemed like rocket science to all of us, or at least to me. However, this week my classmates walked through the first few turns with me until I got the hang of the game. Halfway through the game, I noticed we were using strategies. I was building all violet buildings, Mihaly was being a chaos player and always picking Prospector, etc. After playing this game again, I realized how many different options the players have even though they are only picking from one deck of cards.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Week 2 - Isaac Tyan

Brainstorming together during class has greatly helped us figure out the core mechanics of our card game. Each member makes a unique contribution to our discussions. Hai Anh and Trisha have a lot of great ideas that help guide the brainstorming process. They provide direction to our discussion. Mihaly balances things out by asking important questions and identifying potential issues with the decisions being made.

Right now, our group seems to be in a good spot. We are comfortable with working together and are not shy to throw new ideas onto the table. The next phase of the design process should really bring our game to life and help us get a better sense of what can be improved and changed.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Week 1- Hai Anh Nguyen

To start off our card game project, we have decided to go with Issac's idea. The idea is relatively simple but it has alot of potential to be a fun game. What I like about his game is that it is very easy to explain. Once we figure out the end goal, it will be easier to figure out the smaller details. A problem with our group is that we all have analysis paralysis. As a whole we tend to be very indecisive and cannot make any decisions. However, I like that we're all open minded and the group engage in the conversation well.