For thousands of years, we've relied on randomness of various kinds to help our interactive systems work. While there will always be a place for randomness of all sorts in some kinds of interactive systems, I believe the current assumptions with regard to randomness in strategy games are largely wrong. The major point I'd like to make is that noise injected between a player's choice and the result (here referred to as output randomness) does not belong in a strategy game.
Hello! If you're reading this - hey, thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate it. I'm sorry that I haven't been writing more articles, but as you may or may not know, the reason for that is primarily that I am writing a book! Not my first book, which came out in 2012 - a different book! Let me take you through the things that I've been doing. New Book - I'll probably write more about it later, but for now, it's a game design textbook. My first book was more of a treatise or something; an overall look at the state of game design, an analysis, and lots of theory. This book, on the other hand, is going to be much more hands-on, direct, and rather than pointing out specific problems, I hope this book gives people the tools to identify problems themselves. Anyway, I'm excited for it. Auro - Also, I'm burning the midnight oil trying to get Auro together, which should be released at some point this summer. It's really coming along, and I am so, so proud of it. It's the kind of thing where, even if we had released it 6 months ago, I think it would have been one of the strongest single player games ever made. But now the level of polish and tightness is just so high - I really think people are going to love it. Empire 1.3 - Empire: The Deck-Building Strategy Game (iOS | Android) just released its 1.3 patch, which I had been working on the design for for months. If you haven't given the game a shot yet, now's the time, for sure. It's vastly improved. Monsters now roam around the map wildly, unit production requires you to build new cities, and tiles can be improved (and destroyed by them roaming monsters!) Reddit - This doesn't really make up for the lack of game design articles, but I do run the official "gamedesign" subreddit - go check it out. Every week (or, roughly every week, at least), I try to write a "weekly design problem", which is like a question about game design in general. It's pretty fun, and gets some decent responses. Beyond that, you should definitely come by the Dinofarm Forums if you haven't already. I'm there every day working with the Auro beta testers and getting into fights about various stuff. If I have any other big news, I'll be sure to post it here. And I do have 5 or 6 half-written article drafts lying around... perhaps I'll finish and publish one of those soon. Again, thanks for reading.Read More
Yesterday EMPIRE, a game I've been designing for Crazy Monkey Studios for the past 8 months or so, was released. It was a pretty quick turnaround - after working on 100 Rogues, which took about a year and a half, and AURO, which so far has taken nearly two years, it's nice to design a game, make it, and put it out there. It was a pretty different experience, process-wise. Unlike AURO, I really knew what EMPIRE was going to be at the get-go. The game that it ultimately was released as was very close to what I had in mind from the start - especially combat, which I feel is very strong in version 1.0. Despite the fact that I'm really happy with where EMPIRE is now, I feel that version 1.0 is just the beginning. I have a lot of other plans for the game in future updates. For instance, I'd like to change the way that monsters work on the overmap. It would probably be good if monsters had the bases that they have now, but also sent out troops which milled about randomly until they came in contact with the player's city. That way, there's a bit more life/emergence to the monsters, and it also makes the whole "I target you, you target me" thing - which is kind of strange at the moment - less of a problem. Monster cities would never "attack" you, only launch wandering monsters. Monsters themselves would attack, but simply by walking onto your city. Since you and the monsters are already very asymmetrical, it makes sense that the way they attack would be different than the way you do. Another thing that I think the game might need is some third resource - perhaps "gems", or perhaps "settlements" - that you can see through the fog at different locations on the map. These would be required for certain tech things (such as perhaps Shaman's Huts), but also finite, and could be wiped out by wandering monsters. This would give exploration a much-needed boost in its coherence as a mechanism. Anyway, overall I'm so excited about having another game I designed out there. I can't wait to hear what people think of the game. If you know anyone who wants to review the game, send me an email and I can probably get you a promo code. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GIlf6Mb3djsRead More
Today I wanted to introduce people to a new game that I'm designing called EMPIRE. In order to do this, I think it makes sense to first talk about what already exists, and then talk about what I'm doing that's different. EMPIRE is my take on the so-called "4X Strategy" genre of digital games. I've always been a fan of games like Civilization, and even more so of Master of Magic. I do have a number of problems with the genre, problems which have not been getting better. For instance, Civilization V, the latest game in the Civilization series, did not correct most of the games worst problems. You can read about my problems with that game, which are fairly similar to my problems with just about every game in the genre, here. Suffice it to say that with EMPIRE, I have an opportunity to do what I did for 4X games what AURO does for roguelikes: namely, find some kernel of an actual core gameplay mechanism, and build a carefully constructed system around that. So unlike most videogames, this game will be system-based, not component-based. Why does that actually matter? Well, because it means that we can have an elegant design, which in turn means that we can have a system that's both extremely easy to learn, and equally difficult to master. In short, EMPIRE is a modern, elegant solution to the problems of 4X strategy games.