BGG 24 hours game contest – May 2015 – Knight at the Inn

Follow the links below for the components and rules to my BoardGameGeek.com 24 hour game contest entry for May 2015. If you want to know about my journey in board games so far and the development of this game, then read on.

Knight at the Inn Components

Knight at the Inn Rule Book

Getting into Board Gaming

As an aspiring game designer, I have really enjoyed diving head first into the world of board games, or more specifically the side of board games known as designer games or hobby games. I have enjoyed a lot of games over the years (although even back then I had to have my arm twisted to play Monopoly or Cluedo). I guess it was inevitable that once I had a taste of games beyond the mass market stuff found in high street toy shops, I would get hooked.

For me the game that started it was Talisman, I got myself invited to a game and had a blast, it was an experience like the western RPG videogames I enjoy but on cardboard. I began learning all I could about the hobby and before I knew it I was through the looking glass, down the rabbit hole, in at the deep end and all the other clichés for getting deeply involved in something. After that my collection began to rapidly grow, I converted my girlfriend Gemma into a board-gamer as well and we have not looked back.

I think one of the things I like most about the hobby is transparency of the design in the final product. If you know where to look, there is every little obstructing the player from the designers decisions. The rules and all the components are all there for you to see and analyse in the box. And as a game designer I can’t help but try to deconstruct every element; why that number of cards? Why is that action worth that many points? Why are those dice results special and not another combination? Which makes it all the more impressive when it all comes together to make an interesting, well balanced and fun game. So having established that I have been suitably inspired, it’s my turn…

BoardGameGeek May 2015 24 hour game contest

– My Entry – Knight at the Inn

Playing Knight at the Inn

Playing Knight at the Inn

I had attempted a game or two before, and have had dozens of designs in my head. But never had I gotten past the prototype phase. So the 24 hour contest was looking like it would be a great challenge and a good incentive to get over that hump. I was a little unhappy with the theme being “Knight” I was struggling to come up with a concept that didn’t revolve around killing things with swords (I don’t like to go for the obvious choice). Inspiration struck thinking about chess pieces and knights marching across a medieval countryside. What formed in my mind was an abstract strategy game about knights returning home and staying the night at inns along the road home. And being a big Game of Thrones fan, I thought about the way that main characters traveling across the land would always end up in the same tavern.

I quickly put together a pen and paper prototype and tried It out with Gemma. I wanted it to be a tactical game of maneuvering your knights across the board whilst blocking your opponent. So I made sure there was limited space at the inns for tactical blocking and covering of pieces. And I tried to give the pieces variable abilities to allow them differing roles in gameplay for players to discover. The lone knight as an easy to move but vulnerable pieces ideal for dashing about and pinning threatening opponent pieces, the King is a difficult to move piece but can be a strong tool to muscle your way though and block pieces.

After the first play though, we realised we had had a great time. Sure new rules were implemented on the fly but it was fun, we could see clearly where we could move, who we could block, where would leave us exposed. The tension seemed to really build towards the end, just when you thought you had a handle on it and could run away with it, your opponent would get a foot hold. A happy accident of the design, that as you got more pieces to the end space, you became more vulnerable to being pinned down or blocked. Most games we have played seemed to come down to the last few pieces. I felt I was onto something good when after one play, we immediately wanted to set it up again and go another round.

Development we pretty well but I made a mistake of starting my project a few hours before I had to be in bed for work early the next day.I spent about 4 hours setting up the basic rule book and pieces before I had to call it a night. I may not have stuck strictly too the rules, but three days later all I needed to do was make some pretty pictures for the pieces and finish up the rules before making my final presentation.

Going Forward

I have had a bunch of plays of this game with Gemma. But I think the next step would definitely be to have some others play it. See whether it merits further development, I have my concerns about it and things that I like, but it’s hard to say what direction I should be taking those elements right now. So far I haven’t gotten much feedback form other people, so I will have to start going after play testers some more. That or I will just move onto the next project. One thing I know is that the rules need a little clean up.

Advertisements
Link

A new game jam and a new tool

A health issue has meant I haven’t been able to do as much work on games as I’d like recently, still don’t know what is wrong with me but half of the last month I spent with headaches and or dizziness that makes it hard to concentrate on anything, let alone game development. Although being off work has given me a lot of time in between dizzy spells to hone my craft (when I wasn’t just being lazy). I realased a new game, one I was quite proud of (In depth post-mortem coming soon). And thanks to the Humble Bundle I have found a new game design tool. RPG Maker VX Ace and it’s promotion on Humble Bundle is being tied in with a Contest!

So I bought RPG maker, installed it and got to learning it’s ins and outs. I must say, so far, I love it! It’s packed with sprites, animations, audio and all sorts to get you started (plus the extra packs I bought) and the software is set up to run an old school final fantasy style RPG of your own design with minimal fuss.

A lovely home for my hero that I knocked up in minutes. This would have been hours of hard work before

A lovely home for my hero that I knocked up in minutes. This would have been hours of hard work before


This really is a clever piece of programming, it didn’t take long for me to run through some basic tutorials and feel confident enough to start my own project. All the time I was learning, inspiration was flying into my head. With the software taking care of most of the heavy lifting in terms of scripting, and with the bundled assets taking care of the arty bits, my mind was left to concentrate on plot and game design. Which will be a refreshing change as the programming and asset creation is the grunt work that has taken up most of my time on previous projects. Right now I’m in the process of writing a script and planning my plot and characters out for my project. My hope is to enter it into the RPG maker contest. I may not win anything (make that probably won’t win) but it’s nice to dream and it’s a good learning experience for a whole bunch of reasons.
Anyway. It’s late and the night is dark. More updates coming soon. I promise.

OneGameAMonth Challenge – April 2014 – Idle RPG

Once again it is clear to me that the advice I read is completely true, I need to make game design/development a habit, I should do a little every day. Whether it’s a day off when I can do substantial work, or a busy day when I can only do a little. But by doing a little each day I can surely make much better games, be it making one sprite, or writing one paragraph of a design document. It’s all practice and it’s all learning. I’m now three months into my personal #1gameamonth challenge and if no other experience was gained from this month’s challenge, it was getting a taste of the crunch, I had made a good start for Aprils game, then life and laziness got in the way and I found myself without any free time left in the month and a project nowhere near completion, so my Sunday was spent frantically trying to pull together a game. It was a stressful experience and made me really wish I’d devoted more time to the project throughout the month.

The project was chosen for it’s perceived simplicity, and once again it proves to me that there are now simple projects. The brief I gave myself was to make an Idle RPG (a genre of stripped down RPG’s with minimal mechanics, game currency/experience builds up over time automatically and you buy upgrades to progress and accumulate money/exp quicker), it looked easy, there was no game play so to speak, not in the traditional sense, surely there’s nothing more to code than just variables affecting each other over time. And variables is a big part of it, and far harder than I expected. It’s actually a difficult challenge, I created some graphics to convey the setting of the game, but the game play is all numbers, and with nothing more than numbers, you need to shape a sense of progression and find a good balance of fun and challenge. I chose to make the increasing numbers grow procedurally; I made calculations so that the price of upgrades and strength of the blocks that the player would destroy would grow exponentially. At this I feel I failed, at first the numbers grew so rapidly that they quickly became far too high for the game, I scaled them back, and in the end, the growth became flat and un-enjoyable, there were no peaks and troughs in challenge, progression was as hard at the beginning as it was at the end, and worst of all, the upgrades lacked any kind of punch, when you bought an upgrade, the affect was often, hard to notice.

This experience has really highlighted how important variables can be in game design. Computers after all don’t speak English; they speak the language of Mathematics. You can’t program a game by telling the computer that this enemy is strong and this one is weaker but faster. You have to translate all that into number values. The enemy has X health points as can deal Y damage to your player, and move at Z pixels per second. Getting this wrong is the difference between a frustratingly hard (or impossible) challenge and a piece-of-cake boring ride to the finish line. But somewhere in between is the balance that comes with great game design and you can never get there with guess work and assumptions. What this game truly lacked, was iteration in the design. To try and try again until the numbers made a great experience.

 

#1GAM – Loops – My first published game

It’s not much, but the important thing is that I finally started a game project and saw it through to the end. It’s called Orbit Dodge and you can play it here… https://www.scirra.com/arcade/addicting-action-games/13694/orbit-dodge

Image

I learnt so much, even from this simplistic game. The important thing now is to build on this success and drive my education forwards. I can look on it as a positive that the game is so bad in a number of ways. It’s a positive because I can see a lot of areas to concentrate on and improve (although the game hardly represents the sum of my abilities, I was most concerned about actually finishing). It would be futile to list the infinite ways in which the game falls short of the best AAA games, or even an average free-to-play game. So what is next of the agenda for me to advance my skills:

  • Writing – ie I should do some. I’m interested to play around with a game with some kind of narrative or dialogs
  • Gameplay – I can’t say I did much to optimise the gameplay in Orbit Dodge, once I had the mechanics working, I only tweaked a few things for the sake of difficulty. Next project should definitely have more time spent making it actually fun to play.
  • Visuals – Superficial yes. But the truth is, the better your game looks, the more people will play it. With that in mind I’ve installed my graphics tablet and Photoshop Elements on to my development machine and played around a bit. Until a time at which I can work with an artist, I’m just gonna have to get better at making things look pretty.

That should do for now. There’s a lot of food for thought there, and with luck, will be miles ahead of this first attempt. And it’s March now and onegameamonth has set it’s next theme, Neon.

It’ll definitely be a challenge, I imagine neon effects are a lot easier to achieve in a game engine that has lighting effects. Though thinking about it, I’ve never looked at Construct 2’s effect library, there may be something useful there. I’m already getting some ideas around the theme, should be fun.

#1GAM – Loops – Getting Back into Construct 2

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

I’ve wanted to make video games for almost as long as I have played them. I’ve missed opportunities to learn game development and design in the past, but now with my life settling down, and the basics of survival and paying the bills taking up less of my time and concentration, I really have no excuse to put it off any longer. And what a great time to learn to make a game. The indie game development community is thriving and is full of positive role models, everyone from small web game developers to break-away success stories, all seem to start making games and sharing them with the world for the shear joy of creating something and having another enjoy playing it.
You see, I’m preparing to start a new position at work, one that pays well, but also offers four days off a week, and when my father asked me a simple question (“What are you going to do with your days off?”) I had to stop and think, so apart from keeping my house cleaner and doing more exercise, I decided I would use the time to develop my game making skills. At the beginning of this post I quoted Stephen King, he was talking about writing, but I’m thinking the same should apply to game design.
“If you want to be a game designer or developer, you must do two things above all others: play a lot of game, and make a lot of games”
Not so succinct, but good words to live by I think (for an aspiring game designer like me at least).
So when Feb 1st rolled around, I decided to dust of the Construct 2 (https://www.scirra.com/) free edition sitting on my laptop and went to see what the months theme would be on onegameamonth (http://www.onegameamonth.com/). At first I wasn’t getting much inspiration from the Loops theme. I wanted to make something simple. Something to get me started, To have a game under my belt so I could later build upon the experience to make something bigger and better.
Inspiration came in the form of re-runs of a British TV game show much loved by Brits of a certain age. Crystal Maze was one of my favourite shows growing up, and looking at it now, it was like a miniture, analogue app store or online arcade. The contestant had to collect crystals by winning mini games, they would choose a type of challenge (mystery, physical, skill or mental) and they would be given two or three minutes locked in a room to complete the game or exit before the time ran down, failure to do so would lead to their incarceration in the game room until their team mates decided to buy them out with a hard won crystal. More crystals meant more time in the crystal dome, a rather anti-climactic end game that almost no-one ever won.
One game on the show I saw was to use a long chute to place balls representing planets into their correct positions on an orrery. The looping orbits got me thinking and I soon realised that a solar system could be easily simulated on a small scale in Construct 2 and fit the loop theme on onegameamonth perfectly. And after I rolled around a few game play ideas, I settled on a frogger type game, with the planets providing obstacles for a UFO running back and forth to the sun.

Image
Next: What I have acheived so far, and what can I use the rest of the month for in terms of polish and improvements to this game.

So today is the 14th (happy valentines day) and I have the rest of the month to make this simple little game into something i can feel proud of. I’ve met the main criteria of the onegameamonth challenge, Now is the time for improvements and learning. 

I’m fairly happy with the gameplay, obviosly it’s not going to blow anyone’s mind, but what I really want is to expand the game as far as I can. For now, my to do list is (in order of priority):

  • Sound
  • More visual feedback 
  • More of a menu and options page
  • High score’s (local scores at least, maybe including scirra’s arcade leaderboards)
  • Improved assets
  • Difficulty curve the longer you play
  • Bonus’ and power-ups of some kind