Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Last Mechanic...Hopefully

A few weeks ago I completed the latest updates to HeroCraft and playtested it with two different groups of people. With the exception of some printing errors and one abusive combination, things went really well. The changes to Spells helped curb the balance issues, and the core economy, balance, and pacing remained stable. Yet throughout all the minor successes, I still feel like something was off. Specifically, the victory condition of the game, Quest cards, weren't robust enough. By using Quests as the points system to win, I pigeonholed the game into a small and inflexible number, three, to work with. Additionally, if any of the Quests were easier or harder than others there was an inherent incentive to find the easiest ones, and no one would venture into the Western lands.

For those that haven't played, HeroCraft was (and is until I solidify my new changes) based around getting Quest cards that have an objective, and completing that objective. The first player to complete three Quests won. As I mentioned above, this really meant that players would skip or ignore the possibly awesome but hard-to-achieve Quests in favor of the easier ones.

As I titled the post, I truly believe this is the last major change to the game, mechanically. I'm revamping Quests and introducing a unified points system, which is something I should have done from the start. This points system is tentatively called "Fame", and the new rules will be that whichever player reaches 10 (or another arbitrary number at this point) will win. This allows me to merge the Quest decks back into a single deck and step back to evaluate which were fun, which were challenging but rewarding, etc. Since I now have a much greater range to work with, I can assign Fame points based on difficulty. Easier Eastern Quest objectives will only be worth 1 Fame, while traveling to Paradise Valley and slaying monsters will earn you 4 Fame.

Beyond (potentially) fixing those issues, this change addresses a complaint about PvP. Previously players who wanted to focus exclusively on PvP couldn't win without the perfect storm of PvP Quests. With Fame, I can assign points to both Heroic Monster battles and PvP duels. With some minor tweaks this will also eliminate the "sudden" win that occurs, as whoever can defeat the winning player can steal a minor amount of his Fame, evening the board for a few turns.

I'm a little concerned that by introducing Fame points there will be another thing to track, but I'm desperately clinging to the hope that my player cards will be a panacea to the tracking issue. On the scale of number-of-things-to-track, HeroCraft still falls in the middle of more casual games, like Settlers of Catan, and pen-and-paper RPGs. I'm really big on optimizing and streamlining, though, so things will be trimmed further as time goes on.

More so than any other update, I am excited for version 0.8 because I think it will closest resemble the finished game. Here's to hoping.

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