Game Design - Improving Tension


#1

So I’ve got about 6 games of blight in now (mostly 6 player games) and I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on how games roll out.
Early Game - is all about taking as much territory as possible, while capturing strategic locations and making interesting choices about Valor and Mana.
Mid Game - is all about using your armies, kiting the zombie hordes and trying to get behind their lines to stop them generating. Making sure to get rid of any zombie lords is paramount.
Late game - is primarily an exercise in patience and planning, the zombies are pretty much under control between your special units and regular military units. It’s merely a matter of time before the win happens.

So far the best part of the game for me is the beginning, the struggle and trying to make it all work, and while the mid game is fun, the end game is to tedious but still requires too much vigilance to skip through. Large maps are especially bad because units can take days to reach the other side to help out.

I think what the problem really boils down to is that the game becomes very static in the late mid game (specifically on large maps). There are a few ways to alleviate that, let the game get over with faster, or add in some random elements to the game.

Speeding up the Mid - Late game
For large maps a couple of simple solutions;

  • More teleport-y units
  • Warp gates that speed up travel times
  • Expensive Portals between towns.

Randomizing Mid - Late game
This is where I think Blight would change from a good game to a great game.
Adding Randomized events after the Early game would keep players on their toes and not lock them into an “optimal strategy” approach where all units fly to the nearest front as fast as possible.
Adding in randomized elements, such as;

  • Zombie incursions on the borders of the maps
  • Random towns falling to the blight
  • Random Hero Zombies
  • Extra zombies rise
  • New player objectives (for coins)
    –Capture and hold X
    –Recruit X of Y
    –Recruit all heros from Deck
    Possible Solution
    However one of the biggest strengths of Blight is that you have near perfect information of the battle field. So in order to preserve that some sort of messaging system or deck random system could work to keep players informed about what will happen just not exactly when or where.
    For example, at the start of a game the computer generates a deck of events. One event is pulled every 24 hours. Events scale based on the number of days played and the current map score. Players can access what is in the deck and how many events are left before the deck gets reshuffled. Much like pandemic this can add a ton of tension by forcing sub-optimal decisions in order to cope with the known unknowns (wow seems a little philosophical there…).

Anyhow I’m still really enjoying the game, I just want it to be the best damn game possible!
Cheers!


#2

Thanks Farfell,

Sorry for the slow reply, I’ve had a reply open on my laptop for a few days but haven’t had a chance to send it.

Great feedback! The request for random events is a popular one. I’ve seen it at least 3 or 4 times in the last month from people’s opinions I value so I’ll have to take the idea seriously.

I want to be carefully not just throw a “F*** You” at the players once a day so I might have to have a look at how other games do it. I’ve heard good things about Pandemic so I might try and pick up a copy and check it out.

I’m also really concerned about the late game. I’ve been thinking about how we might be able to determine when the players have won, just have some mopping up to do, and let them push a button to claim victory. Unfortunately, it’s not super simple.

I also have a idea I think I would like to test where, as an alternate victory, players can call down the gods, or perhaps the reaper, to come and collect every walking dead left in the map in one fell sweep.

I’m thinking perhaps there is a valour price, that slowly ticks down as the game progresses, or is perhaps related to how many zombies are left in the map, and players must balance spending valour on Gold and Mana to stay alive, with calling the Reaper down to shepherd the walking dead into the afterlife and ending the game.


#3

One Solution could be a similar way its handled in DEFCON: Everybody Dies. (Which is a take on the 1983 movie, WarGames’ “Global Thermonuclear War”)

All the players could at any time vote on the speed of the game. Since it can take quite a while for naval fleets, jets and nukes to get to their destination, this was a feature that helped speed games along once players were confident in their movement orders.

It would have 4 play speeds, 1x (Real Time), 5x speed, 10x speed and 20x speed. (look at the top of the next picture) And the game would play at the slowest requested speed.

This image shows a 6 player game. If you look at the top at the four buttons with white arrows pointing right, each button represents a different speed. (1x on the left, all the way to 20x on the right.) In the image 2 players are requesting 5x speed, 3 players are requesting 10x speed, and one player is requesting 20x speed.

Perhaps a feature like this speed setting could be turned on from the admin player who starts the game. Maybe it’s only available to premium users? Or maybe hardcore still… it only becomes active for players to vote, when all battlefields / funeral pyres have been cleared. which means if a new graveyard appears, the game slips back to 1x time and you have to take care of the problem and can’t request a faster speed?

So many options. :smile:

(This will also allow those who want to play quicker real times games with each other possible. Where a 6 hours / League by road can be about 5 minutes.) (Of course that would be ludicrous speed at x72 speed. :wink: ) But it’s a fun thought.


#4

For sure there are tons of considerations when slapping a new system in. I’ve got a few thoughts in-line.

I want to be carefully not just throw a "F You" at the players once a day so I might have to have a look at how other games do it. I’ve heard good things about Pandemic so I might try and pick up a copy and check it out.***
Great point, I think that if players know what will happen they can prepare themselves for it. If you end up snagging Pandemic you’ll see what I mean. Each turn becomes about determining what you do know and don’t know and extrapolating strategies from there, and sometimes you just lose, and that’s okay :smile: . Although while I think a deck random system would be great, maybe it’s not within the vision you have for the game.

I’m also really concerned about the late game. I’ve been thinking about how we might be able to determine when the players have won, just have some mopping up to do, and let them push a button to claim victory. Unfortunately, it’s not super simple.
It’s true, I think the challenge is to give the players something to do, assuming they are doing well, with all of their resources and units, I think that’s where extra objectives might fit VERY well. Even something as simple as “you get extra coins if you claim this mystic tower” could be really interesting if it was very expensive. Players might race to conquer things that aren’t the optimal choice for winning the mission.
Or again just speeding up play with late game speed enhancers or like SpySat mentioned, a game speed knob (Although I suppose you do have the skip ahead 6 hours, it just doesn’t feel the same).

I also have a idea I think I would like to test where, as an alternate victory, players can call down the gods, or perhaps the reaper, to come and collect every walking dead left in the map in one fell sweep.

I’m thinking perhaps there is a valour price, that slowly ticks down as the game progresses, or is perhaps related to how many zombies are left in the map, and players must balance spending valour on Gold and Mana to stay alive, with calling the Reaper down to shepherd the walking dead into the afterlife and ending the game.
I think that would mitigate a lot of the late game issues, it’s definitely worth a try. Then players may have an interesting choice at mid game as to where to spend those extra resource points.

Cheers!


#5

I wanted to add a couple ideas that might help out here. An easy way to determine when the end game has been reached would be to look at the ratio of the strength of player armies to the zombie armies including graveyards. Once a 2 to 1 ratio has been achieved I think ts safe to say the players will eventually win. It may take a little re-tuning of the start game conditions to prevent too early a victory, but it should also help cut back some on “clean up” time.

Right now, I personally feel that hard and nightmare difficulties don’t add much that is compelling. Basically it seems as though it is initially the same starting conditions except the zombies are given more time to roam freely. In game design I’ve found there are typically two main ways to make things tougher. First, boost numbers and stats; which is the way it seems now. Secondly, add more mechanics or objectives that need to be met; which I feal is more compelling of the two.

My thought for hard mode would be to add dimensional “Hell” gates at each of the initial spawn points that would need to be closed. Every 6 hours the gates would randomly spawn another group of zombies and grow slightly more powerful. The gates would need to have a high amount of hit points forcing players to draft and commit enough units to them to eventually defeat them. I think this could be achieved without changing much of the core game mechanics and eventually lead to a grand climatic battle at the end. I like the idea because it adds the “they just keep coming” effect that is common to the zombie/survival horror theme.

For nightmare mode, when a zombie army destroyed a town they would open up a mini rift which could be sealed by committing mana to close them. They wouldn’t really do anything except add as another potential point for the gates to use to spawn their new armies. Allowing for more random start points for summoned zombies makes it tougher to just clean an area and then move away from it.


Not sure about player loss conditions
#6

Hey, I agree with this and I like the idea.

I think the “Blight” way of doing this would be to have a set of zombie bosses that introduce the new mechanics that are only in the Harder version of the game and perhaps the harder games start with a boss already spawned.

I also like the hell gates idea.