This week we looked at elements of chance within games and how randomness and chance can be utilised to further the fun and replay ability of a game.
Some elements of randomness in a game can massively enhance the players experience within the game as every time they play it something different will happen, while other times it can feel like the player isn’t in control and is at the mercy of the game. Most games contain some elements of chance, but this should be a conscious design decision to create scenarios and dynamics that are desired by the developer. There are two types of randomness, input randomness which is something that happens prior to the players input and output randomness, which is a random chance resulting from a player’s decision or action.
Randomness can increase tension and victory in a game but could equally frustrate the player as the game feels unfair or rigged against them. Different games can have different levels of solvability, for example there are very few ways to solve noughts and crosses so it feels easy and boring to most people, while chess has a very large solvability space so it can feel challenging and more engaging to play. Some games with low levels of solvability can mitigate the effects by having elements of randomness which adds more variation to the gameplay and increases the games longevity and fun.
In games with 0 randomness, the player with better skill will always win against a weaker player. Some people like this as victory feels earned but less skilled players may feel defeated and give up on the game early on. In order to mitigate this, you can add elements of randomness in order to allow less skilled players to win and maintain interest for longer. Games with no randomness always start exactly the same way and there will be patterns that the player will follow in order to always win. Randomness forces the player to have to deal with unique situations and use their skills in different and more interesting ways.
Having elements of randomness can also create dramatic moments when the tension is high due to a major decision which has a random element to it. The level of excitement created by chance increases in direct proportion to how much is riding on the results. Players are terrible at understanding odds so if they see that they have a 66% chance of something happening, they expect that to happen 2/3 times. However, there is still a chance of it happening all three times or not at all. Most developers show numbers that make something seem riskier than it is in order to avoid player frustration.
The Iron Designer Challenge
For this week’s Iron designer challenge, we had to design a card game with a limit on the number of cards we were allowed to use. For this challenge we created a game called “Black Market Bastards”.
Here is how it works.
The game is based on resource gathering set in space. Ideal for 4-5 players. The Player has to collect as many resources using Action cards and react to events in order to outwit and collect more resources than their opponents.
Skill emerges from the player knowing when to trade and who to trade with, manipulating and outwitting your enemies to always end up with the better end of the bargain. Emphasis on late-stage capitalism and how it functions. Money is earned in 1000, 5000 and 10,000 SPD. (Space Dosh.)
You play as a shady investor, attempting to overtake your opponents with shady, under the table deals and blackmail those around you to dominate the economy. Choosing when and where to use your abilities and resources is crucial to achieve victory.
Play action cards to debuff the player and remove their ability to play the game until they can literally not play the damn game. Action cards are not in the deck, and are crafted by resources. More powerful cards cost more resources to create.
Favor: A player of your choice gives you a card of their choice.
Blackmail: Force a player to give you a card of your choice.
Controversy: Choose a player. They are unable to trade for 1 turn.
Supply line struggle: Choose a player. They draw (1) less for 3 turns.
Thievery: Take 2 cards blind from a player.
Counterstrike: Cancel the action of any player anytime.
Blind man’s bluff: Choose a player, they can no longer choose cards to draw.
Backdoor losses: Choose a player. At the end of their turn, they must discard a card.
On their turn, the player will draw 3 cards and choose 2 to take. The player can play as many cards in their turn as they want. The player can then buy shares, craft action cards, play cards or trade with others in their turn.
Oldest player starts, going clockwise.
At the start of the game, shuffle three resources of each type into the top half of the deck.
The player starts with 6000 SPD.
During this challenge we used some sticky notes I happened to have on me to make the cards for our game with the intention of being able to playtest it but sadly the process to make the cards took too long and we didn’t end up having time to do too much playtesting. Overall, I am happy with the game we created despite some confusion at the beginning of what kind of game we wanted to make.
I think the game balances skill and chance perfectly as the 3 cards the player picks up are totally random, but they get to choose 2 of which to keep and discard the third card. This gives the player a sense of control and a feeling that it is fair.
The Games Design Document
Last week I didn’t post an update on the design document as I didn’t believe there had been sufficient progress to talk about. This week I worked on outlining what I need to include in the document itself, as well as building on and expanding the game.
Building on the idea so far, I decided to create a flowchart to illustrate the players first interactions.
This flowchart shows how the beginning of the game will work and how the game will then flow.
I also started working out how the game would progress from here and I decided that I wanted there to be a 4th wall break both metaphorically and physically. Utilising the fact that this game is in virtual reality, I wanted the walls to literally fall down around the player revealing a bigger room.
I then thought that I could use each wall break as a scene change and I would have 5 scenes in total. Since I want the narrative to be a strong aspect of this game, I looked at Todorov’s theory of equilibrium and how it can be applied to my game. I split each scene up into a different stage of equilibrium meaning that I had 5 stages in total. These were.
Disruption to equilibrium
Recognition of the disruption
An attempt to repair the damage
I decided that to begin with the player is within a small box and each corresponding opening reveals a larger box that’s slightly darker in colour until eventually the last box is simply pitch black and looks like it’s infinite.
These squares are not to scale as its difficult to decide on the size of each scene since it has to be obvious that it’s gotten larger from the players perspective in virtual reality.
After doing this I decided that it would be helpful for me to make a list of what items would be found in each scene as well as build onto the game and introduce more characters and mechanics.
Scene 1 Items:
Larry the Lever
Scene 2 Items:
Larry the Lever
Scene 3 Items:
Button is dead
Larry the Lever
Scene 4 Items:
The room (self-aware)
Larry the Lever
Scene 5 Items:
As you can see, I have started thinking about some major plot points of the game. So far those include the button dying, The desk and room becoming self-aware as well as the game ending in an empty void. While I have yet to specify on the narrative tying all of these events together, I think they all look interesting, and I am excited to explore how this all ties together in future weeks.
I have many ideas of how the game can progress through each of these stages and next week hopefully I can pinpoint how exactly they all tie in together and then work on the player progression and mechanics more from there.
I also want to make sure I keep a lot of the light humour throughout the game despite the dark themes of feeling trapped as the player is stuck in a box. I think these could clash very nicely and I look forward to exploring this idea further.
Argyrou, S., 2021. Todorov Theory. [online] Selina Argyrou. Available at: <https://selinaargyrou.wordpress.com/todorov-theory/> [Accessed 15 October 2021].