Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Big Day

Throughout the entire process of game design, from choosing a proposal to making our final prototype, our group has gone through many ups and many downs. Paramount to all of these other learning experiences, the most significant thing we learned from our challenging journey is that no success can come without positive group flow. Today, the day of our final presentation to the professional game testers, we learned that even after a game seems to be completely finished, there is always room for collaborative improvement. As different groups of play testers, composed of professionals and experienced students, rotated through our game, we were able to fix some aspects that we, as the designers, were blind from seeing.
                After tweaking certain mechanics of the game last week, like increasing the number of initially dealt Civilian Cards from five to ten and eliminating the unfair advantage of a player continuously flipping Faiths or Misfortunes by implementing an automatic change of fate for every four of each fate collected, our team thought we had worked out the final kinks of the game. Although, we, as a team, thought these changes perfected the playing experience, the new players felt that certain aspects could still be polished. So, after the first round of play testers suggested that four of one fate was too many to have to collect before getting the other fate, we tried a round of the game with three. The players who constantly flipped Misfortune enjoyed this change while the players who constantly flipped Faith loathed it. In between switching games, Joe and Christian, who had been observing our game being played, called Patrick and me over to discuss the issue.  Patrick and I saw our other team members’ concerns, but we reminded them that we came up with the number four after play testing the game ourselves and concluding that three same fates, non-consecutive, was too frequent to warrant award or punishment. So, I suggested that we try going back to having fates be consecutive to warrant an automatic change on the next turn. Although we were unsure about this conclusion, Joe said he would try it on the next round of game testers and let us know how it went. Fortunately, the next group had positive feedback about the fixed mechanic.
                Each time we played our own game and each time it was played last week, there was never even a thought about giving initial Resource Cards, but with new groups of play testers this past class, the suggestion arose. Initially, Christian was hesitant about giving more cards to start because such a decision would cause more cards to be on the table and more points to be doled out freely. However, after giving it a try, he realized that by giving only two Resource Cards at the start of the game, a lot of the Faith and Misfortune Cards worked more effectively since many of them have Resource Cards involved in the choices. When Joe, Patrick and I returned to the table, we were amazed that none of us had thought of such an idea earlier.
                My group and I have agreed that collaboratively designing our very first game has been one of the most eye-opening group learning experiences that we have ever encountered. It is easy to learn about how to reach a good group flow, but it is much more difficult in practice. However, once we bypassed the short period of stubbornness and slight turmoil, we realized that moments of criticism and disagreement may seem negative but are actually the only way to arrive at the best, positive outcomes.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Final Touches!

We have now reached the last week to finalize our game into a presentable product.  The in class activity we did to play test each groups game was very helpful in illuminating some last minute flaws that went unnoticed. This helped a lot because it eliminated the in-group bias by using out of group play testers (our classmates) who had a relatively fresh perspective. While testing the game in class, we soon came to the realization that starting with 5 civilian cards for each player was not enough. As most misfortune cards eliminate civilians or resources, players feel too much impact too quickly. To fix this problem and to slightly minimize the impact of the misfortune cards, we decided that it would be best for each player to start with 10 civilian cards instead of 5. Also, once 4 misfortune cards are drawn, the 5th time the player flips a misfortune draw; he or she should instead get a faith card and restart the misfortune count. This way the player isn’t completely overrun by a streak of bad luck and has a chance to recuperate. Another change that we made was with the Guardian Angel faith card. Instead of keeping the card out in front of the player for one turn, we decided that it was better if the card could be activated at the players discretion. It then turns into somewhat of a “get out of jail free card” and can be used to protect the player from another attacking player, when he is in fact attacked.

Although we had managed to work out flaws in the rules, there was still a lot of logistical and design work that needed to be done. We decided that Sunday night would be a good time to meet and finally completely finish that game into something presentation worthy. It was a coincidence that the new episode of “The Walking Dead” was playing while we worked. During this meeting we worked together to finish the game manual, game box, faith and misfortune coin as well as a system to keep count of what day it is. We decided that it was best to use a system of cards on a key ring that would be flipped after each turn. During this last finalization, we ran into a severe printing problem with a set of our faith cards, which then needed to be reprinted.

I took the trip to Kinkos to reprint the messed up cards and to get the game manual professionally done. I was also on a search for a ring to hold the day cards together. After a tedious hour and a half of technical malfunctions, I had finally gotten everything printed and squared away.  Finally, we were finished.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rippin' It

This week, our team reached a very important milestone of our game design journey. This milestone came in the form of developing our first playable prototype. In our group’s meeting between this week’s class and the prior week’s class, we were content that we had completed much of the detail for all of cards. However, when we actually had to sit down to make the physical version of the cards, we realized that we had some technical problems that needed to be fixed. One problem for example, was that the amount of text on each faith, misfortune and action card was not enough. Although the descriptive text to be written on each card seemed perfectly fine in our word document outline, it was far too much to be legible when printed on a card. Therefore, in order to go about fixing this problem, Nicole and Joe made sure that each text on the cards was concise. Then I worked out the aesthetics on photoshop. The process of designing each individual card was much more time consuming than we had anticipated, but the collaborative effort of my designing, Joe’s printing, and Nicole’s cutting kept the prototype design process moving.
Even though we managed to get through the physical prototyping without much difficulty, we encountered many problems when playing our game as a team for the first time in class. One of the main problems that we came across was the great role that luck played in the outcome of the game. Despite the rare nature of the scenario, we realized that it is very possible for a player to flip a misfortune throughout the whole game. Professor Parks had warned us of this problem earlier in our game design process. I was very hesitant to change anything about the coin flip because it is not only a major mechanic of the game but also draws on the randomness of fate that occurs in the show. However, Nicole brought out the point that she would have a very negative playing experience if she was playing the game and still had not flipped a faith by the 7th day. Joe suggested that we just give something to someone if they flip a certain number of consecutive misfortunes. Nicole suggested that after 3 misfortunes, the player should get an automatic faith card. Joe and I thought that 3 was too few and instead recommended that the number of misfortunes be 4. Nicole was willing to use the increased amount, but we were all unsure whether the compensation should simply be one faith card. Nicole then proposed giving the disadvantaged played a faith card and a resource card, so that the player automatically received a bonus point. Joe instantly responded by saying that such compensation was too much. We finally decided that a bonus point card would be given for every four misfortunes. However, this is subject to change as we have other groups test play out game.
One other thing we realized while playing our prototype was that there was potential to make the cards more like the show by slightly changing the actions that certain civilians and resources have when put together. Nicole was very weary of this idea to begin with because she thought it could over-complicate the game, but when I explained to her that the resource cards at the time were somewhat flat since they all were just worth 1 point, she agreed that something should be changed. Joe suggested pairing up resource cards and making them have greater values when put together. This idea worked for everyone. I then did the same type of changes for certain “couples,” but Nicole and Joe talked me into lessening the number of couples that had special powers or points together since that made it less of a specialized strategy. We look forward to further perfecting our game this week and trying out our new changes.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Getting down to business!

Last week, the group was able to initiate the tuning up stage of game design. We analyzed our game, the Walking Dead, and worked on tweaking the mechanics. Understanding the importance of detail and accurate mechanics, we began on working on the game's core. In the beginning of the discussion, the group seemed to agree on most of the decision being made starting from having 60 cards of faith and 60 cards of misfortune to the maximum allowance of action cards to be distributed. As expected, the team ran into some obstacles. One of those obstacles was deciding how to control the use of action cards. Surely, we did not want the players to take on the role of the chaos player and only use their action cards toward the end of the game to turn tables on each other. Many ideas came up to solve this debacle and after turning one idea down at a time, Nicole came up with an idea that got all of our agreements. She proposed to punish the players if they have more than 3 action cards left out of 5 at the beginning of the 7th round. Even though that idea seemed perfect, we still needed a way to punish the players while keeping the game appealing. We argued over whether the punishment should be to take away a resource card or force the player to play a misfortune for the round, etc...Finally, I proposed to punish the players by having them discard one of their action cards and thus bringing them down to the acceptable number of action cards.

Later through our work, we came upon the core of the game. Up till this point we have been working on the "numbers" of the game whether it was the number of cards involved in each pile or there point values. We started the prior week to come up with some of these cards especially the civilian deck. We were able to pick characters from the actual show and assign them numbers and based on their level of infamy or morality in the show the number assigned would change. We spent much of our working time designing the cards and what would be written on them. As we began to work on the faith and misfortune cards, we seemed to run into a problem. We designed the cards to have one action on them which, in turn, reduced the player's choice. A successful game must have more choice than luck so to modify and correct our error, we began to assign two choices on each card. For example, a misfortune would have a negative task as one of the choices or the player can avoid such action by discarding one of his/her resource cards and thus losing a point.

Starting this week, we will be play testing our game using actual cards that will be finalized before class. We have been working diligently to come up with all the card designs and customizing the cards to give them appealing appearances. We are still exploring and further analyzing our game to understand, fix and upgrade any gaps or errors in the mechanics of the game. Not only, is the group excited to present the final product, but also, we are looking forward to finalizing the game for playing. The walking dead is becoming more and more electrifying as is the show!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week 3

Last week our group started off on a positive note when we were able to unanimously decide on Christian’s card game, Walking Dead. However during this week’s class, our team started to understand the true complexities of game design. Although we all still agreed that Christian’s idea of a card game involving civilians, resources and faith and misfortune cards was a novel idea, after reading the Fullerton text and discussing the parts of a game in class, various group members began to see a few technical problems with Christian’s original concept. As a team, we came to realize that the problems all lied within the formal structure of Walking Dead rather than the dramatic structure. While determining the core mechanics of our game, I realized the first problem which was that our game involved too much randomness, also referred to as luck. I told the team that even though I liked the idea of flipping a coin of fate, we had to counter that random outcome in some way so that the player still felt like they could strategize and maintain control. Joe automatically agreed with me, and after some convincing, so did Christian. Unfortunately, coming to an agreement as to whether this mechanical aspect was an actual issue was not the hard part. The difficult part was coming to an agreement on how to solve the issue. After Christian explained to Joe and I that the action cards that each player would be given at the beginning of the game and the faith or misfortune cards drawn after the coin flip would give the player an opportunity to strategize, we collaboratively agreed that such aspects would suffice.

The next issue we ran into was unrelated but still very important to the development of our game, how many different decks of cards to have. Initially, Christian wanted to have two separate piles for resources and civilians because in his original proposal, a player needed both resources and civilians to win. However, Joe felt that this design would leave us with too many decks of cards and would leave the player with too many “hands” to keep track of. Instead, Joe suggested mixing the resources and civilians into one deck. I understood Joe’s concern but also saw the need for two decks that Christian pointed out. So, we came to a compromise when Joe suggested that we keep two decks and make the resources contain a low number of cards. We also decided that it was a better idea to just assign a point value to the resources and civilians so that you do not necessarily need both to win.  Although we were able to work out some of the issues of our game, some things were left unresolved due to the time restraint.

When our group met this weekend, we were able to get a lot accomplished and solve some of the dilemmas that remained at the end of class. Together, we decided on appropriate point values for various civilians based on their characters’ roles in the show and how many cards would be in each deck. Although we hit some creative blocks along the way, our overall good group flow made this week’s meetings very productive.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Week 2

This week our group engaged in a few tasks. First, we shared our card game proposals with each other and collaboratively shared ideas on how to enhance or progress our individual games. We then chose Christian Pecoraro as our group leader for this distinct week based on fate and an even six sided dice. The group discussed the proposals and possible perspective reactions, improvements and alterations to each of the games until we reached a consensus. We saw that from all the games proposed, even though on point and having high potential as card games, Chris's game was the most appealing. Chris's game, as from the title of this blog and our team, is based on the nail biting series "The Walking Dead". The game plays during a time of zombie apocalypse where stranded groups of survivors fight daily to stay alive and protect the ones they love. The game attracts the players into a world of excitement as resources are running low and other groups are striving for the same essential survival elements as each other. Our group was introduced to two similar proposals as Nicole and Patrick presented their game proposals on games that fell under the theme of shopping. The goal is for the players to form the first outfit from the cards collected. Also, There was a proposal for a mafia game where the players are attempting to build the strongest mafia from cards they collect while preventing others from doing the same. Chris's game was the most enticing as it contains a very impressive them with a strong set of mechanics. Although, the game needs some adjustments and possibly some inputs on improving the mechanics, the group was able to come up with great ideas to make it a well worthy game.