I’ve been tweaking the design for Brimstone lately in between chasing down some obscure non crash AE bugs for the next update and continuing the trudge through interface hell for Brimstone. Actually, I’ve been thinking about tweaking the design. Like I’ve said before designing is the best part of being an indie game developer. If some giant of the games industry wants to hire me to work at home and design games for implementation by their vast teams of programmers, artists and producers, I’d seriously consider the idea. Of course having an idea is also the easy part so becoming the Reiner Knizia of computer strategy games isn’t likely to happen. I’m going to have to build all my game ideas one brick at a time.
The thing that has been bugging me is the “turtle/builder” strategy option for the game. I think I have plenty of mechanisms for brute force and deception but I’d like to offer some more options for the navel gazer who wants to have some fun doing things besides making war and stabbing people in the back. I’d like to even offer a path to victory but realistically it’s got to involve some porcupine war stance and some “I’m not a threat to winning” deception…. so a hybrid of brute force and deception with some building thrown in. But what to build? I have implemented public objectives and secret objectives to enable this. Many of the objectives are “accomplish this feat” in nature. They are objectives of action much like you would get in a game of Nexus Ops. But “building” something like a wonder equivalent is a possible objective.
So I’ve been thinking about this aspect of strategy games. Here are some design patterns for building that I have haphazardly (and incompletely) catalogued.
1. The Wonder on the tech tree
The player advances up some type of tech tree unlocking structures/secret projects/accomplishments that usually become instantiated on the game board and provide some type of game play bonus. Picking which “wonders” to shoot for and connecting that to your overall strategy is part of the fun and intellectual challenge offered by the game. Of course, I can’t be alone in that notching these wonders can become compulsively addictive….. to the point of being a end of a means rather than a means to an end. Who among has has not reloaded when some AI built the Sistine Chapel a turn before you were scheduled to. I especially remember doing such things in Alpha Centauri where you had means to instantly convert resources into secret project progress. Letting Zakharov get that gem secret project just was not going to happen.
2. Improving the terrain/map
Alpha Centauri (SMAC) immediately comes to mind. I often played the game just to remove all the pink fungus and terraform the map to my liking.
3. Constructing the Uber Object
Again Civilization comes to mind. The Spaceship to AC is basically the uber object. The basic mechanic of this though is that you divert game resources to pile up in some account/vault that you might have otherwise used to build an army with which you would have used to bludgeon your opponents.
4 The Alchemist
Not sure of a good example for this. I think Dominions comes closest with its forge item strategy component. Basically you combine magical gems to create items that attach to agents you move on the game board. There is an entire sub game that exists in figuring out what magic items you want to craft and what you need to do to go about it.
5. Connecting Things
Given some type of game board you can have a bunch of fun “connecting” things on it. Ticket to Ride comes mind as does any game like Civ where you build roads to facilitate agent movement or increase income from some type of resource system. This could be a subset of improving the map probably.
That’s what immediately springs to mind. What is interesting is that these building activities often have some type of strategy sub game involved that tasks the mind while at the same time they fit into a strategy archetype for satisfying the overall game victory conditions. And as much as I like blowing things up, building things is rewarding in its own right…even if it is just to blow it up. Hegelian thesis and antithesis doomed to sythesize along an infinite loop. Whoa! Time to cut back on the coffee.