Friday, June 8, 2007

How I learned to stop worrying and love the game design

My prime directive: Make all games multiplayer-interactive by some kind of interference mechanic.

So how was I to take something with a Dr. Mario mechanic, originally, before I nuked it, and make it fit this directive?

I thought first about making your performance increase the difficulty of your opponent by having additional little beasties spawn on them. That would definitely add some annoyance factor, and it would certainly speed on their way to defeat as you do better. It would also give them the balance of now having more beasties to clear so they can simply get more points than you.

But what about when they clear that extra gremlin / imp/ dancing little monster thing? I should consolidate my nomenclature... I will call them gremlins from now on. So anyway you have given an extra gremlin to your opponent, wont he just clear his and give it back? This becomes a balancing act I didn't want to deal with. I scrapped the plan and decided to do something else.

This is the part where I find it extremely helpful to have a story for every game. Even if the user never reads it, your game needs to be encompassed by a story. Something as rich as a short little story can always give you a firm place to stand and think. Sit with me for a moment in the Magic School Classroom. What do we see here? Whats life like? Well there are hideous gremlins all over the place so its not entirely a bowl of cherries at the moment but as we clear them up we get a chance to race our opponents. Lets be nasty to them too and try to tip the odds in our favor eh?

Then it comes to me, and it fits the theme and my mental image of this game. As you clear imps, or puzzle pieces that have built up and touch 4 of a kind, you increment a counter. When that counter reaches its limit, lets say 4, you will toss useless pieces in to your opponents field. You see this in our Quadria and Mega Gem Battle game too. The mechanic of this interfering piece, which I like to call interferons because I fancy myself a virologist, is different in just about ever game. Sometimes you have to activate them, transform them, or rid yourself of them by various methods.

I decided that I would make them bubbles. What magic is complete without puffs of smoke, flames, and bubbles? Add some paprika and you could have some really terrific chili too.

Anyway that's what I decided on. Bubbles. You will get these annoying pieces based on the performance of your opponent. They are weight triggered, so to pop them and get them off your screen you just have to stack up some stuff on top of them until they burst. Doesn't matter what you put on them, however you should probably try to balance out your immanent death from overflowing your field by popping them with wisely placed pieces which come crashing down and trigger a combo. They make combos so much easier. See how that works? They have to hinder, but the wise can turn that in to help.

Then the player gets that "Oh darn, you attacked me!" and then a "Thanks for that. Now I'm gonna make a comeback!" experience. Personally, I don't play puzzle games that lack this because to me they are unbalanced. One player pulls ahead, and you can just give up because then you cant catch them. Balance is key my dear readers, and now let us walk the tightrope of project management and get this game made!

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