The Visceral Experience

Terminology sucks, sometimes. In the process of developing our card game prototype, we've switched names from "Attack" to "Defense" to "Defense Break" to "Target" for one value, and your "Base" deck to your "Attack" deck to your "Aim" deck. Seems trivial, but the problem is what you name things, particularly in an abstract form like a card game, has a huge impact on how you think about what those numbers really *are*, and until you get the names sorted out correctly, it can be incredibly difficult to think about what you're actually doing.

I'd had a mental model in my head for a while about how things worked, and how things should be named, and it wasn't until talking it through in detail with the other half of WS that it became clear that my naming convention sucked & was making things harder. We then adopted her naming convention, and suddenly things came together.

combat_mockup_1

None of the mechanics changed - the only thing that changed were the names, and yet now it's completely clear & understandable, and before it "worked" but was chaos.

I'm SUPER excited about it, because what it means is that we can get the depth and "immersion" of a fairly hardcore game - animation, characters, combat, etc. - but keep the controls really simple, because as a player, playing on a phone, you're playing something as easy-to-play as a card game. But now, there's gonna be a really cool "reward" for taking your turn to see things play out in this really visceral, physical way.

Now the only thing we have to do is actually *get* to that point - but it's a neat jump, going from something that was conceptually cool but very simple (for the player, and to build) to something significantly more complex - it'll be a *way* better experience for the player, but also quite a bit more difficult to build.

The other thing I'm psyched about is, simply, the ability to make large-scale changes to what we're building in order to make it better. We're incredibly fortunate to be in a situation where we can build what we *want* to build, and we've got enough experience with it that we know how to build things in stages. combat_mockup_2 We're working on playable versions of the basic mechanics now, then there's undoubtedly a step between an implementation of the "card game" elements of things and a full-blown animated turn resolution where we just use a bunch of canned images to show how it'd generally "flow". Then there's the whole insane "metagame" that goes on top of the card game that gets added on after that.

Undoubtedly the plan will change again and again, but it's always wonderful to see the evolution of this kind of thing. It starts as one thing, and ends as something else - usually a hell of a lot better than what you started with.

The awesome thing about this is, at least as far as I can tell, none of this is "hard" to build - it's not something where building it presents a huge number of technical challenges whose solutions are unknown. Nor is it a bonkers design challenge (like Fleck) where everything was an unknown and unknowable problem. The core of this game is really straightforward, and the mechanics are pretty easy to deal with. Long-term progression has a lot of elements that make sense, and can be modeled after existing games with similar kinds of progression.

The whole metagame is kind of new, but it's more that our application of this kind of data, and dealing with cooperative social multiplayer will be interesting and different, but the competitive elements and the single player elements should, again, be relatively straightforward.

There would be a ton of art that's required, but even then, we're not talking about AAA console levels of art, we're talking about a range that's still within the capacity of a smallish team, possibly with support from contract artists. So it's a game of fairly ambitious scope, but one that can be developed in stages with a small team.

Our goal's always been to keep things small, and when it comes down to it, I usually tend to cut "flash" in favor of development speed. But in this case, the flashy bits are going to be really crucial to making it feel like a game, and figuring out how to develop those with limited resources is gonna be a really interesting challenge.