Friday, December 17, 2004

FINAL POST Interview Q's

The final title for my game is Frisco Wars. That was the original title, but it went through some progressions only to come back to its first name. I had wanted to change it, but people in the class had quickly grown attached to the name, so I felt an obligation to keep it.

Frisco Wars has players controlling their gang members as he /she tried to take over the whole of the San Francisco peninsula. All they have to fight with is what they find in the neighborhoods they conquer and can only get around by using the less-than-totally-effective MUNI bus lines. The game play itself has players moving units in and out of the hospital, choosing and slapping down their weapon cards during combat, and engaging in a good amount of trash talking.

This game is much in the same vein as Risk, a game I have played very often and gotten very excited about on more than one occasion. Risk is one the board game that I always get the most emotionally invested in each time I play. Partly because each game requires such a huge investment of time and energy, but also because if you lose you feel at least to some extent that it is because your opponent was smarter than you. You can always look back on a game and see the dozens of wouldda couldda shouldda’s. Even if three people ganged up on you, you still feel you had a chance to beat them before you made one “wrong move” and it all came crashing down.

That is the key idea behind Meaningful Play; the idea that your actions affect what happen to you in a game. Zimmerman says that: “Meaningful play in a game emerges form the relationship between player action and system outcome; it is the process by which a player takes action within the designed system of a game and the system responds to the action.” In Frisco Wars I tried to heighten that feeling of control over your own fate by eliminating the random nature of the dice-based combat in Risk. Instead you can choose which weapon you will use when, and try to guess which weapon your opponent will use.

Frisco Wars is a game for four to six players, and can go on for at least as long as a good game of Risk. It can be played in any indoor environment big enough for the numbers of players plus a flat area for the board. It is a good game to play with a bunch of geek buddies on game night between episodes of Adult Swim and playing on the Xbox. It is not some game you can pick up and play for five minutes then leave, or something to be taken into a public place and played with a bunch of strangers. You play with people that you know to varying degrees, and try to use your knowledge of them to your advantage. While it is a good game to play to get to know someone, it is best when you already have an equal understanding of your opponent’s mental processes, and a long history, to turn a simple game into a diehard grudge match.

At first I had not intended to add the bus lines to the mix. It was originally going to be a game just like Risk, with neighborhoods for territories, and that was really the only change. Now the game is much more unique. There are bus lines true to the City, a police presence that can be called upon, collection money to be earned and items to be bought. Also, instead of being a faceless General of some nameless army, you are Carlos, leader of the hombres fighting against Elmira the cat lady and her crazy cohorts, and Sky Earthen with his Hippie warriors. This allows players to be more consumed by the Magic Circle and take on the role of a colorful character they’ve no doubt seen on the street instead of playing in the place for some ancient Commander.

During play testing I realized that even though there are alot of rules, I don’t have to hold back on making it deeper. Good game can be simple games, but complicated ones work, too...its just more difficult. Infact some of the best games are one that take a while to learn and have rules ontop of rules, yet are still balanced. (ex: Magic: the Gathering) There is almost a sense of pride for being able to play, when people watch and are stumped as to what is happening and how we know what to do. But again, it only works if all the rules are balanced, and the more rules, the easier one of them can be totally unfair. I was worried that with so many rules it wouldn’t make sense to players, and the game would be unbalanced in some unexpected way. Although it does take a while to explain all that is going on, once people begin to play it all seems to make sense to them, and there weren’t any major elements that were out of whack. So after I saw that making it complicated wasn’t necessarily a bad thing I was able to add elements that play testers had suggested, such as the police and money.

I was defiantly influenced by the idea of the Magic Circle when designing this game. The Magic Circle is something that most people who play games are aware of, but can’t really explain unless they’ve heard the term before. The Magic Circle is the boundary between the people playing the game and the real world. Inside the boundary, certain actions and behaviors are allowed that aren’t acceptable outside the circle, and those actions and even objects take on a new meaning and value inside the circle. Outside the Magic Circle a bolt is a bolt, and if you lose it you don’t care unless its the last bolt to put up a piece of furniture or something. But inside the Circle that bolt could be your warrior, leader, or even you, and if you lose it it can be very upsetting and you could cry out in anguish and even get angry at a friend. In Frisco Wars as you see units pile up in the hospital you start to get concerned. And when you can’t afford to treat all your units, the coins or bolts or whatever they are die from their injuries and are buried at sea, staying on the board but out of play for you to have to stare at for the rest of the game. Even though they are just coins moving around on a board, if they are in one area, you feel great because you think you may beable to win, but if they are another area you feel terrible and responsible for your gang members death. I want people to get deeper into the circle in Frisco Wars by heightening the role-play ability of the characters.

Next time I try and design a game for deployment I will try and pick a game where there is only one or two types of objects to be produced. Most likely it will be a type of card game, where when I work on making it I will only have to worry about making cards, and maybe tokens. It will be easier to keep track of what is done and what needs to be ready for the play testing deadline when you aren’t concerned with a map, units, player cards, hood cards, money, etc. Even though it is fun to make all these things, doing so while taking a full class load is less-than-enjoyable.

Although this is a final version of my game, I am certainly not done with it. I search San Francisco find all the weapons in the game and photograph them. I will try to make a computer version of this game. It would be animated and hopefully able to be played over the Internet. Although it will not have the same feeling of being in a room with your friend now turned arch-nemesis, being able to play on-line will open it up to a larger audience, and having the animations will create a larger appeal than the hundreds of little pieces and cards of the regular version.

I have enjoyed immensely learning about all the terms and elements of game design and be able to try my hand at it. I defiantly plan to continue to design game, and look forward to trying to create many different types of games.