Archive for the ‘Aspects of Play’ Category

This is version 2 of my board game layout, because I felt that the first one was a little too small and it didn’t really look like a city layout at all, or even a section of a city in the end, it was just some blocks in a random street pattern that didn’t really do the board game idea any justice. So naturally I took to the sketchbook and started to design something a little bit more solid after looking at some of the top down views of the city, trying to draw inspiration from the street patterns.

Below are two images of my board game’s second iteration and I feel that this one is a lot better. The start point is in a better position, with there being plenty of small buildings that the players can venture into with their character avatars to find loot and defeat enemies that they encounter in there, then of course there are the streets with alleyway offshoots in which enemies can hide to form ambush squads as the players try to traverse their way to the target building which is housing the person or creature they have been sent to either take out or retrieve. As the characters are limited in their sight of the environment around them and the players aren’t allowed to know the contents of a house until they step inside, it has been designed so that the players can see which houses they can enter, by way of a door in place, then the contents of the building will be revealed to them once they step inside.

Once the players get their characters to the target building at the top of the map and enter it through the door, once they have defeated the security team there, the map will then change to the interior of the building, with the characters exploring floor by floor for items, enemies and then finally, the boss of the level, which is in turn the person that they are after. Once they have either incapacitated or killed the person, the player chooses which, they shall receive bonus experience based upon their choice and then the quest is complete.
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So since I plan on creating a map for my game that is based within a city, instead of a mix of forest, mountains and dungeons and the like from other board games, I needed to really look into how cities or city blocks and streets are all laid out from an aerial view, and for that I decided to use Google Maps. This handy tool is great for anyone that wants to get a look at how a city or town is laid out from a map view, aerial view or street view as you can use all these different views without having to do too much digging around or fiddling with settings. It is also done in real world environments, using photos taken from the air and street views for users.

I decided to use Hull as my first basis, close to the city center so that I could get a good look at how a large space has been set up with buildings and the ins and outs, especially looking at how people can travel from one street to another without coming into difficulties with things such as dead ends.

As can be seen in the image below, my screen cap from Google Maps, the city is actually pretty crowded. This is because I took a much higher up aerial view shot of the city center so that I could see many of the intricate street layouts of the city. But I think I will be moving closer into the city with the views so that I can get some better shots of the streets, I want to be able to pinpoint various enter and leave ways for people, so that I can really get into the nature of the city and how it allows the traffic to flow on the streets in the hope of being able to replicate this on my own map, because even though I want to be able to keep things going, I also want to have the option of letting players enter some of the buildings and search for loot with their characters, as well as take on enemies that may be lurking in the corridors or rooms there too.

Google Maps

Map Trial Version

 

 

 

 

 

 

So this is the first version of the map that I wanted to create and quite frankly, it is about as rough as it gets. While I have had the intention of creating a fully fledged Modern Fantasy board game, I have not had any experience with creating board games before and this threw me a little. So the above image is the first version of my board, created in Photoshop the board is quite small for purposes of a first design, as I do need to expand on it and create a better proportioned and thought out board, using more than just the rectangle tool to create the visual of buildings in a pattern, with the player characters starting in one area and then finishing in another, with some random enemy areas.

When it comes to upgrading the map and creating a better version of it, I’ll use a bigger map layout, with several different ways to travel between the buildings and in the streets, maybe with some smaller map areas to represent the characters being able to walk into buildings to find items, enemies and other information/items/clues that may help out in future quests and adventures through the streets. I need to work on the designs more, creating some more variants for the board so there is more than one adventure for the players so there is some variation, of course there will also be the chance for the players to create their own adventures using the board, such as searching for certain NPC’s for information, so that would involve using the mini maps of the buildings, hunting down individuals and squeezing them for information, or they could have gang warfare, with their friends taking on the role of a rival group of characters and there being gang battles in the streets and buildings for domination of the territory.

I think I shall have to experiment with the mini map idea for buildings, as within the game of Dungeons & Dragons rooms and buildings are represented on their maps, with entry ways for characters to walk in and out of, so they didn’t need to create additional quest maps for the purpose of the game, but I want to experiment with this because it would offer something different to the game and it would give players the chance to thoroughly explore the building areas and they could also find out more about the world that the game is set in.

So for my character design portion of my game, I decided that instead of creating all of the character professions and races, I would just create four starter characters in order to get some user testing in place before the hand in. I needed to look at several things when it came to the creation of the character sheets, which included the different attributes that help to create a character that fits within the game world that has been established.

Attributes:

There are several attributes that make up a character. In RPGs, characters have a base set of points within each attribute, making up the basics of their character, however through the use of skill points that are gained through leveling up through completing quests and killing monsters, the player can assign additional points to the attributes that they want their character to be strong in, thereby altering their character and setting them in a certain role in the overall character party.

Strength – Strength measures how strong the character is. Strength controls melee attacks and/or damage, and sometimes hit points. Weapons and armour may also have a strength requirement.

Constitution – A measure of how resilient a character is. Constitution often influences hit points resistance to special types of damage (poison, illness) and fatigue. Many games combine Strength and Constitution.

Dexterity – A measure of how agile a character is. Dexterity controls attack and movement speed and accuracy, as well as evading an enemy attack.

Intelligence – Intelligence measures the characters problem solving ability. Intelligence often controls a character’s ability to comprehend foreign languages and their skills in magic. In some cases, intelligence controls how many skill points the character gets at level up. In some games it controls the rate at which experience points are earned, or the amount needed to level up.

Charisma – A measure of the characters social skills and sometimes their physical appearance. Charisma generally influences prices while trading and the reactions of NPC’s.

Willpower – A measure of the character’s mental resistance (against fear, pain) when falling victim to mind-altering magic, torture or insanity. Some games combine Willpower and Wisdom.

Wisdom – A measure of the character’s common sense/ or spirituality. Wisdom often controls a character’s ability to cast certain spells, communicate with mystical entities or discern other character’s motives or feelings.

Perception – A measure of a character’s openness to their surroundings. Perception controls the chance to detect vital clues, traps, hiding enemies and might influence the combat sequence or the accuracy of ranged attacks. Perception-type attributes are more common in modern games. Perception is sometimes combined with Wisdom.

Luck – A measure of a character’s luck. Luck might influence anything, but mostly random items and outstanding successes/failures such as critical hits.

Relevance

The attributes list is quite relevant to my game idea as it is an RPG, so this sort of thing is found as a standard mechanic within this sort of game and I found that when it came to first creating my characters, I was a little bit lost when it came too designing the characters and how they would interact with the world that they were placed in when it came to the players controlling them and moving them through areas and encountering traps and monsters.

Looking back on previous experience of RPGs such as when I played Dungeons & Dragons I remembered that there are character stats and attributes that all work together to round up how the character should be used and defines their role within the game, so I started looking into them and the above list is the foundation upon which most characters are based, with the player using their skill points to improve the attributes that work in tandem with the role they want their character to assume within the game party.

An example would be the Dwarf Engineer that I will be creating for one of the beginner characters. Because he is an engineer, he can find traps and information within a room, I would want him to have additional points in his Perception attribute slot, so that he has an increased chance of finding out anything that is within the room or area, therefore he is increasing his usefulness as a safety engineer within the team. But because he is also going to be a bit of a damage dealer, with the ability to create improvised explosives, he is going to need some additional points within his Intelligence because he is going to need the help of the rest of the team to level up after combats and quests, because he will be hanging around the back of the team, not dealing too much damage, but being able to provide some support with his explosives, dealing area of effect damage, thereby weakening the enemy position.

With some minor changes to how the attributes work, I will be incorporating the attribute system into my character creation and into the game, so that the players can alter and work on their own characters, developing them and making them stronger in the roles that they want them to play in. Because the game is set within a more modern setting, instead of the same sort of mythical stuff as Dungeons & Dragons I want to make sure the attributes and the characters reflect the setting that they are in, but I don’t want to go over the top and lose sight of the original fantasy influences and inspirations.

Darts, one of the many games that tends to be overlooked when it comes to sports, because yes, it is a sport (No matter what some people say) and quite a popular one at that, with more and more people becoming interested in it each year. Sure the main place to find this sort of sport is either in the pub or in the garage, but it is a board game, and a sport and it’s great.

Aspects of Play

Agon: The game is highly competitive, with two players taking it in turns to throw their darts at a board, creating a score based on where the darts strike on the board, subtracting that score from either a beginning score of 301 or in professional tournaments 501. Then of course as I just mentioned, there are the tournaments. If a player wishes to take part in the World Championships at the beginning of the year, they have to spend their time and energy investing in practice, this is achieved by going to local and national tournaments, maybe even international tournaments in other countries if they fancy the journey, acquiring the points they need so that they can enter the World Championships in the hopes of becoming the champion.

Even the most basic pub game tends to be a very heated affair, with players taking in turns to throw the darts (likely while drunk) meaning they will likely miss the board a lot or there may be disputes or heated arguments about where the darts have landed on the board if it is unclear at first, in which the offended parties will proceed to spend many minutes discussing with the thrower that the wire is bent and it doesn’t count, while the other refutes this. It could easily go on for a while.

Agon is also a part of the game because of the level of skill involved while playing the game. Not only do the players have to be able to drown out all background noise and be able to focus on the board in front of them, but they also have to have brilliant hand/eye co-ordination in order to hit the intended targets instead of having their darts fly through the air and hit nothing, which of course can be very embarrassing. The players have to spend many hours per day, practicing and refining their throwing and aiming techniques to a level of professional play so that they stand a chance of winning any games they play in the future.

Ilinx: I’m throwing Ilinx in here with the game of darts purely because of the psychology within the game. While there is a lack of misdirection, there is definitely a certain psychology that hides in the shadows of the game, with the players battling it out for mental dominance in the form of concentration and “psyche outs” meaning the player that is performing the best is likely to disrupt the other players train of thought and may even derail their performance, making it that much easier for them to take the victory while the other player that they have out psyched is left to wallow in their own frustrations.

State of Flow

If the game is progressing smoothly and the player is working hard to win their games, either in sets, legs or a mix of both (three legs to a set, best of three sets) then they shall likely hit a state of flow and their performance shall improve even more, their senses focusing on the task at hand, sensing the victory that is so close and shall be theirs if they continues to play to the standard of play that they have struck up.

However, if there are factors, such as injury, lack of concentration or even external distractions, the player tend to be denied flow and their performance and subsequent victories shall indeed suffer because of this problem, it is necessary for a player to be totally focused on the task at hand if they are to be successful and anything that can put them off, whether it is an external force or whether it is the other player playing so well, psychologically putting them off their game because of their sheer skill level and performance, there are many factors to take into account when it comes to playing darts.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Aspects of Play

In 1943 Abraham Maslow published works titled A Theory of Human Motivation which stated that humans were a lot more complex than first imagined and that human actions were directed towards a series of predefined goals and achieving them.

Within the initial theory, Maslow highlighted that there were several categories of goals that humans tried to achieve, in the form of a pyramid, as it is shown in the image above.

However as Maslow researched into his theory over the course of 1943, he found that humans had several other sets of goals too, so there were more than just the first five that he thought there were.

The goals that are present in the above image correspond with the expansion in the realms of needs of humans, showing all eight of them in the levels and order that humans seek to achieve them. The levels are broken down thus:

1) Biological and Physical Needs – Air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex and sleep.

2) Safety Needs – Protection from the elements, security, law, order, limits, stability, freedom from fear.

3) Social Needs – Belongingness, affection and love from family, work groups, friends and relationships.

4) Esteem Needs – Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.

5) Cognitive Needs – Knowledge, meaning.

6) Aesthetic Needs – Appreciation and search for beauty, balance and form.

7) Self Actualization – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

8) Transcendence Needs – helping others to achieve self actualization.

Hierarchy of Needs within Games

There are of course going to be exceptions to the rules, especially when it comes to those that suffer from video game addiction. These people have become attached to video games in a way that defies logic or reason, believing that they need to live and work away within the games in order to live themselves. This normally starts out as a form of escape if they are going through a particularly rough patch in their life and they want to get away from it all for a few hours a day in a make believe world that makes them feel better about themselves in some way.

This of course can lead to an addiction, as the player will in all likelihood become attached to the games they play for their escapism, becoming more and more reliant on those games as they feel that they have a value within them that they lack or do not have in the real world.

While this seems to be within accordance with Maslow’s studies, it does in fact break them to some extent, as players that develop an addiction to video games shall often and regularly forego basic needs such as food, drink and sleep, so that they can continue playing their video games that have become their lives. It is also safe to say that they become afraid of the outside world, become secluded and isolated in their quest for their escape. Instead of working towards completing the first and maybe even the second of Maslow’s Hierarchy, the player may indeed skip straight to the third and fourth, depending on the games to give them a sense of belonging within a world and this indeed shall lead to them developing a sense of self esteem as well. Addiction also offers a strange sense of stability within a life that seemingly is unstable on the face of it and the player has become attached to something that is a staple in their life, almost like a lifeline.

There have been several instances within the world of players starving themselves to death and dying due to lack of sleep due to their addiction to a game, foregoing food, drink and sleep so that they can spend the maximum amount of time playing the game that has become their life. Below are several examples in the links provided, along with the games that they died playing:

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/358603/man-dies-after-playing-diablo-iii-for-40-hours/

http://www.ranker.com/list/8-people-who-died-playing-video-games/autumn-spragg

http://whatculture.com/gaming/10-video-games-people-died-playing.php

For the past couple of weeks I have been taking part in the closed beta for a new CCG (Collectable Card Game) Hearthstone, created by Blizzard. And straight off the bat I must say that it is addictive. Very addictive. Below is a screen cap of a game that I was playing earlier, I shall be referring to this as I work my way through the post.

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Ok then, so first off I want to break down the game and explore it a little further beyond the initial look.

 

 

 

Heroes:

There are 9 different heroes available to the player when they are playing the game. Of course the player first has to undergo a tutorial session with a hero of their choice, the deck that comes with the hero being a beginners deck so that players of all skill levels may play and get the hang of this new game. Once they have completed the tutorial, the player is then free to use the deck they have to challenge other players and unlock other heroes as they defeat them in games. The heroes themselves don’t just sit there on the side line while the deck works. The deck is more of a library of spells for the hero to cast. Heroes also come with their own special ability which they can cast once per turn, using up mana to do so. These abilities are more often than not one of the key factors in a game and can dictate whether the player is the victor or the loser. As can be seen in the screen cap, the Hero sits in the middle of the field, Uther being the example here as I was playing my Paladin deck. His hero ability is positioned next to his image along with the mana cost of that ability.

Decks:

The deck, as mentioned above, is a library of spells that the player uses to beat down their opponents and ultimately take victory. The deck size is limited to a maximum of 30 cards, so the player has to choose carefully from a collection that they gain as they progress, which cards go into their deck and therefore they dictate the play style of the deck, choosing cards which work together and work against their opponents for the best synergies. It is always worth noting, that like in other card games, the most expensive costing cards are not always the best and indeed there have been many instances where big expensive creature cards have been cast, only for them to be totally annihilated by the opponent in their own turn. So it is worth thinking up combinations and tactics for each deck that is built.

Decks are made up of a combination of spells that offer several different effects, such as damage, buffing or defense, and creatures, which are the primary source of damage in any deck.

Spells such as Lightning Bolt and Pyroblast are used to deal immense amounts of damage to either the opposing players life or to their creatures, which can either bring about a victory state or clear the way for their own creatures to make their attacks to clear other opposing creatures or deal damage to the enemy life total, either way they can be quite devastating. Other cards, such as the buff and defense cards, can be used to alter the stats of your own creatures, making them stronger and harder to kill, or the player can use debuff cards to weaken or remove effects of enemy creatures, making it easier to have an impact on the field.

It is always hard to know when the right time comes along to use spells, so tactics and thinking ahead for a long term game have to be taken into account as players can never be sure what the opponent is planning on doing next, holding off too long with cards could mean that the player misses the prime chance to wipe a creature away or deal immense amounts of damage, while dealing the threats too early on in the game could mean that the player is left short towards the end and they struggle to shore up their victory, maybe the move is so early that the opposing player is able to make a come back and snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. It’s always worth thinking turns through thoroughly before making a play, otherwise you could be left with egg all over your face when it backfires.

If it ever reaches a stage where the players run out of cards, unlike other card games, they do not lose if they deck out, instead a mechanic known as Fatigue comes into play. For each turn that a player doesn’t have a card to draw, then they shall suffer increasing amounts of damage in the form of Fatigue until either they or their opponent runs out of life, which is indicated next to their Hero icon.

Mana:

Mana is used to cast the cards from the hand. The players start with 1 mana and gain 1 mana per turn, getting up to a total of 10 mana if the game lasts that long. Cards each have a mana cost, which dictates how much mana the player has to spend in order to cast the card from their hand. There are of course cards that are available to give the player extra mana to use in a turn, most of these are only temporary effects and last for the one turn, but in that turn the player could mount up a huge advantage over their opponent because they have been able to surge ahead with their plans. There are cards that also deny so much mana for a turn, such as the mechanic Overload which is a condition on some cards where they are strong and can be cast early at the cost of being unable to use some mana the next turn.

Mana is represented by the crystals that appear close to the Hero icon on the bottom of the screen cap on the right, next to the number of cards in your hand. These crystals shall be depleted as the player uses mana, along with a counter next to the crystals, indicating how much mana the player has left for that turn with which to cast spells and make their plans.

 
Interactive Environments

It is a little difficult to explain this game in terms of how interactive it is, because it’s basically point and click every action that you want to do with the cards. While I say that, the game is very easy to navigate, with an easy to use layout and a clearly marked out menu system that makes it easy for the player to navigate their way around the system.

As can be seen by the screen cap below, the main menu is clearly set out, with the player being able to access the various areas of the game, such as being able to view their collection, quests and enter the shop as well as go into the arena and play area so that they can challenge other players with their decks. By going into the collection area, the player is able to view their card collections for each Hero and create and alter their decks as new cards become available.

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Below is a screen cap of the card collection screen, with the card collection planted in the middle of the screen with the decks that the player has created on the right hand side, with the mana costs of the cards displayed on top of the cards in their left hand corner. The player can use the search bar and the mana crystals to find cards of a certain type or mana cost, which makes finding cards easier than if they were to flick through the entire collection. Of course when it comes to editing their decks, the player shall become limited to the Hero collection and the Neutral card collections they have, so that they can make a deck out of those cards and not out of the cards that belong to other Heroes.

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Aspects of Play

Agon: There is a competitive edge to the game, due to the nature of the card game itself, with players competing with one another for ranks and wins which they keep track of in their quest log. The card game offers a competitive component as players are working to create decks that suit their play styles before going up against other players that are using either similar decks or completely different decks that have their own play style incorporated. There are players online that create and post competitive level decks, so that players can take to the ranking lists with a better chance of progressing and climbing those all important rank ladders.

Alea: Chance is another very strong component in this game, as with card games that use decks there is always an aspect of chance present as the players don’t know what cards they are going to get until they have drawn them from the deck. Which it is simple to alter the deck and increase the number of cards the player wishes to see more of in a game, with there being 30 cards in a deck and there being a 2 card limit on all cards placed into the deck, there is still that chance that the player shall not see the cards they need in order to achieve victory in their games, so there is the need to exercise patience within the games as chance can be a cruel mistress to some, while it can favour others and give them the cards they need in the right situations.

State of Flow

It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to enter a state of flow with Hearthstone, as the players often become engrossed in the decision making components of the game, whether it is making a deck or playing against other players. There have been instances where time has flown by and a number of hours has gone by before I have realized what is going in the world around me. It is also suffice to say that a level of addiction comes into being once you have created a deck that works on a competitive level, as the win total starts to climb and you find yourself with more wins and the chance to win more games, it becomes an addiction to continue and push on as much as possible, to climb as high as possible with the intention of becoming one of the top players. Of course this is not easy to achieve because the players become progressively more difficult to beat as you climb up the ranks, but this isn’t as much of a deterant as it might have been in other games, as the game is very well balanced and Flow can take the players into their own little world where they become the master of their deck and the cards.

It also isn’t that easy to break the state of flow in this game, as defeat doesn’t really dishearten the player as much, if anything it makes them more determined to succeed, so they shall spend more time looking at decks and cards, placing their strategies together and working out ways to overcome the decks and cards that they currently struggle to beat in their games, meaning that a larger portion of time disappears and the player may even forego food and drink consumption in order to keep working away at the game so that they can improve. It is a slippery slope that we need to watch out for, but it does happen and I plan on not letting that sort of thing happen to me, even if I do say so myself that the game is very addictive.