Today I have an interview with Civilization V designer, Jon Shafer. Jon’s an experienced 4X strategy game player and creator, and I wanted to talk to him about the design issues these kinds of games tend to face. Here’s a few subjects we talk about:
Lack of dynamics in the late (and often mid) game
How combat should be resolved, if it exists at all
… just to name a few. Jon is currently working on the successfully Kickstarted At the Gates, which you can play an early access version of here.
Note: Jon’s audio is a little bit spotty in the first 10 minutes of the interview, but it clears up! Enjoy!
Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed the show, please consider supporting my work at www.patreon.com/keithburgun. Special thanks to Jean-Marc Neilly, and a big thank you to all my patrons for making this show possible.
Since Push the Lane entered this latest phase back in mid-2017 (basically after the failed Kickstarter version, which was much more puzzle-game-like), it has become much more videogamey. By that, I mean, it has focused a lot more on fighting, monsters, items, special abilities, moving around a big map and such. I have been thinking of it more like “a Rogue-like DotA” recently; a turn-based, single player League of Legends.
With that thought, I always kind of had it in the corner of my mind somewhere that it would be pretty cool if the game had “loot” somehow. My general feeling and belief about loot has been, for years, that it has really no place in strategy games. But maybe there’s a way? First, let’s define the term.
What is loot?
I think most of the time the word “loot” is used, it refers to randomly dropping items. For me, the classic version of “loot” is item drops in Diablo, or a Rogue-like. More recently, it’s popular to have “loot crates” in games like Overwatch, which give the player some random metagame items, such as skins. Continue reading →
Strategy game designers should start thinking about alternatives to “score systems” for their games. In this article I will talk about how and why we use score systems right now, what their weaknesses are, and how we can (as well as why we should) move beyond them. Much of this article is written with respect to designing single player strategy games, but the theory absolutely applies to multiplayer strategy games equally.
Score Systems in Videogames
Score systems have been relied on by all kinds of interactive systems designers since the beginning. Early videogames such as Pac-Man and Galaga had high score boards that players would compete for places on, whereas Super Mario Bros. had a score feature as a sort of extra added feature that really serious players could try to maximize if they got tired of beating the game.
It goes back further than that, of course. Pinball, which laid many of the foundations for videogame design tropes, also used a score system, not to mention some ancient games such as Go. Today, there are strategy games that use score systems, such as games like Civilization, Rogue-likes, or my own Auro: A Monster-Bumping Adventure. They’re appealing to designers because they’re so simple to implement and design; you can pretty easily take just about any simple toy/sandbox activity and slap a score on it, and then it almost instantly feels a little bit more competitive, a little bit more replayable, a little bit more “strategy-game-like”. Continue reading →
Today, in Episode 36* of the Clockwork Game Design Podcast, I had a great conversation with BrainGoodGames‘ Brett Lowey. If you don’t already know BrainGoodGames, they make some of the best single-player strategy games out there. All four of Brett’s games—Militia, Axes & Acres, Skyboats, as well as his latest, Minos Strategos—are available on Steam.
But making great games isn’t necessarily enough for me to want to have a conversation with someone. What made me interested was “BrainGoodGames’ Design Commandments” which he posted on his site recently.
The conversation was great and went to a bunch of interesting places. We covered his commandments, of course, but discussed his origins and what he considers to be the successes and failures of his games.
I should mention also that Brett is one of the editors over at gamedesigntheory.org, the new site I recently launched that highlights current game design bloggers and media producers.
Enjoy the episode!
*PS I think I said it’s 35 in the episode itself – ignore me!
What are the criteria that make something a good “Clockwork Game”?
The Clockwork Game Design model is something I have been working on for the last five years or so. It is specifically an effort to figure out how to make the most elegant and effective strategy games possible. There are certainly practical reasons why you might not want a specific game to be a Clockwork game. But to the extent that you want your strategy game to be elegant, you should adopt as many of these principles as possible.
Above: my book
Below is a list of criteria that strategy games should strive for. I am sorting them by how controversial they are. In other words, I am putting the stuff people pretty much agree upon towards the bottom.
These are not ordered by priority. I am making no statements about which of these is more or less important; just that they are all something to strive for. Continue reading →