What makes my game fun? PT 2.
I am currently on holiday, so there won't be a new entry next week. To compensate a bit, this one will be a bit longer, see you in two weeks!
"Strategy" aspect (planning with your friends)
That's it, basically. But since you are still reading, here is it a bit more detailed.
While deciding what to do, I always thought of the old round based Jagged Alliance series. They were incredible fun and had some cool game mechanics. The main flaw of the game to me was always the missing LAN support.
In the idea stage of the game I first wanted to go for a round based fight system. But I wanted to go some steps closer to realism than JA did and round based system allows for some weird tactics, like running out of cover, shooting and running back.
On the other hand, realtime fight today encourages the player to just walk in, hopes for the best and when shit hits the fans, screams at the checkpoint system.
Since attacks in the real world military require good planning, it suddenly struck me that I can combine the two gameplays a bit.
Unlike the RPG aspect, I don't know any game that has a similar gameplay, so I can't reflect over their choices and then make my own.
To punish and enslave
Like I wrote in the Gameplay Overview entry, I don't want to force the player to plan his attacks. I want to 'encourage' it. I want the fight to punish player mistakes. The player risks his life, having him restart at the basecamp or even worse, compromising the basecamp and losing his stashed equipment. The fight planner should help him reduce the numbers of mistakes significantly.
This seems brainkillingly trivial, but all this fails when the Planner doesn't help the players.
To be helpful, the Planner needs the right level of abstraction, meaning it will not make sense for him to plan every move and every bullet he fires. What matters is if his escape route is free of enemies, or how many enemies he attracts by firing, what his hit-chances are etc.
The other part is it has to be user friendly. Fuck-a-do-de-ly tastic. I love the user-friendly requirement, it is always somewhere in a software requirement specification and it says close to nothing. The only thing it says is that I should do user testing.
Well duh, of course it has to be fun, nevertheless important to think about. This is a mechanic that gives the game a special touch and this being a game, it must be fun. 'Encouraging' the player to use a mechanic he doesn't like... do I have to spell it out?
The main factor I can control is the ratio between fight/plan.
Since the planning should help the fighting, and also give the fighting a special touch, the player/s should not have to spend too much time planning. My target is about 3 minutes planning time for an attack. Ideally during the plan, you notice that your chosen strategy doesn't work and you have to start over. This makes the planning interesting, if it doesn't take more than 2-4 tries to get a working strategy.
Divide and conquer
This is kinda belongs to "Being fun" and "Being helpful" but i redeemed it important enough to give it a separate heading. Like in most militaries, the task is divided up into subtasks, as it goes down the chain of command. I want to incorporate something similar, so all players in a team have something to do/plan.
I wasn't sure if it belongs here, but what the heck: Important part of planning is haing a good recon of the area. I first thought of making an "automated recon", sending your character to observe a certain area for a certain amount of time. The longer you observe the more accurate your recon is.
This is a bit boring, what should the player do while waiting, play robot unicorn assault? A workaround would be to increase time speed, but then waiting has no real penalty, you set the observe time to 2 weeks, go get a drink while your character is evolving in a plant. In short: a useless mechanic for me.
It is dawning me that a part to make planning interesting, is to make recon interesting and rewarding. Rewarding is easier, I can randomly generate lost supply stashes and so on.
Making it interesting is a hard one.
I should post an entry about the recon on a later date.
Doing all this recon, planning and setting up, It can break the fight mechanic, you know where the enemies are, how to sneak by them... So no matter how good the recon was or how detailed the planning has been, I want to put random deviations from the situation.
The downside, it potentially breaks the strategy mechanic. When it is random, why would you plan anyways?
So my solution is: make small changes often (suddenly, there are 5 enemies instead of 4) and make big changes rare but important. The big changes essentially breaks the planning, forcing the player to either retreat or improvise. As long as these changes have the right rarity, the player never really feels too save, the small changes remind him there might be a big fat surprise around the next corner.