Friday, March 22, 2013

Player Cards and End Game Content

Last night we played a four-player game of HeroCraft, mostly due to our regular Risk: Legacy session being post-poned (one of our regulars is busy preparing for GDC). I had just finished my first pass at a prototype of the player cards, and was eager to see how they performed.

Player cards are what the players choose at the start of the game and grant a small bonus towards one of three color paths. The purpose of the cards is to give the player their starting information: HP, Base Attack Value, and Bonus. In addition, I wanted the cards to be a resource for tracking both HP and Fame, and ideally Attack modifiers as well.

The largest problem was how to track information. I settled on the use of 14mm clear glass marbles and a number track on the sides. I also opted for a 5x7" card size due to physical size limitations on the 2.5x3.5" cards. Lastly, I wanted to preserve the full-art aesthetic I had set for the other types, a challenge even without the extra tracking component!


I wound up cutting the Attack tracking aspect, and it was noted during the testing as a desirable component. My next challenge is to try and design and incorporate it into these designs, as I'm already fond of how they worked in-game. The flat, clear marbles sat nicely on each number and even magnified them a bit. Glancing at the table, players could easily gauge how far into the game everyone was by looking at the Fame track.

Apart from the player cards, the biggest takeaway from last night's session was the balance of end-game content and the distribution of rewards, specifically Fame. It's definitely still a weak point in the design, and something I have to address. Currently there is a stagnant period in the beginning as players struggle to gain enough power to tackle the Quests, and then an exponential increase as they complete Western Quests with high rewards. To solve this I plan on removing the variability of Quests and make each card have one Eastern and Western objective. This way players who draw Quests don't get stuck with a really challenging Quest from the start, and subsequently waste time trading it in for another. This will give me greater control on the exposure of the rewards too, which I hope will be a big enough tool to even out the reward distribution curve.

End game content is nearly an enigma, however. We don't get to test the Heroic Monsters as much (optional enemies that act like bosses or raid-mobs) and so one of my next projects will be re-evaluating Heroic Monsters and designing their prototype cards. It's hard to gauge what the appropriate strength of the Monsters should be, but I think scaling towards more powerful attacks and less HP will make the fights more interesting. I really like how they have "scripted events", triggers based on HP thresholds, but it still feels like an underdeveloped area. All-in-all, the end game content needs some love, and that's my next goal after tweaking the aforementioned balance issues.



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