Term Break – Research & Ideas
One of my initial goals for this project was to improve my programming skills. I moved more towards physical artefacts and board games as they are easier to create in a short amount of time with my current skill set. I decided to look at both areas in my research for this round.
I looked at games that use chess pieces and moves in different ways. For the digital aspect, I focused on roguelike-style games specifically.
Really Bad Chess – a fun remix of normal chess, players use random sets of chess pieces which leads to lot’s of new strategies. Queens become a lot less valuable when you have ten of them.
Vuel – a turn-based game where you navigate a procedurally generated world and “stomp” enemies before they stomp on you or your energy runs out. In particular, I liked the way this game uses aspects of both chess and roguelike games. Chess: specific movesets for each type of ‘piece’, capturing/stomping other pieces. Roguelike: procedurally generated level, permadeath (except for money), hunger/battery meter.
Chesslike – more of a puzzle game, players use one or more chess pieces to fulfill each level’s goal, which ranges from “reach the exit” to “capture every enemy piece”. This is like a more complex version of how I was imagining the chess mechanics for my previous prototype would work.
Combat Chess – you pick three characters and weapons to fight with, and use them to fight several enemy characters. I found the movement mechanics in this one very interesting once I understood them. Each turn – consisting of one player movement and attack, and one enemy move and attack – the way you can move changes in a cycle. Turn one, you have a queen’s movements, turn 2 a king’s and so on until you get to pawn and the cycle resets. Any piece/character can be chosen to move on any turn, which means any piece can move in any way. However, the weapons for each character have set ranges, which are also described with chess piece terms – a sword might have a ‘King’ range, where a bow has a ‘Queen’ one, and a mace has the range of a pawn.
I began considering things about chess pieces like what makes them unique, what their core concepts are and how those ideas could be translated to other games. I have also started looking at a new permaculture principle, to go alongside diversity – the Edge Effect. With diversity, I am looking at how different piece mechanics can be used together to achieve the game’s goal, and with the edge effect, I am exploring how two different games can be combined to create something new and unique.
Edge Effect – On the border (or edge) of two environments there exists species from both, as well as species unique to that edge area. Vuel is a good example of this in game form.
Some ideas I considered were:
- Pawns being an item-using class with no innate skills
- Other pieces being special classes accessed via items (for example, equipping a “Knight’s sword” gives knight movement abilities)
- King either being a goal – “search for the King’s treasure” – or a hard mode – “play through the game with only king moves” or something similar.
- Class progression system, where you level up and change class? Possibly something along the lines of start as a pawn -> level up -> choose either bishop, rook or knight -> level up -> queen.
- Have a team of characters that you can switch between, which have different classes. The party leader/controlled character determines movement ability.
Week 8 – Clue Board Chess/Roguelike chess
I decided to use a Cluedo board as the base for my physical game. I designed a set of rules for a game where players must explore the board to try and find the joker card in the card piles in each room, then move to the center ‘room’ to win the game.
For the battles, rook beats knight, knight beats bishop, bishop beats rook and queen beats everything. If two players have cards with the same suit/class then highest number wins.
One of the biggest problems I had with this was that the joker/king could be near or at the top of a room’s card pile, which would mean a player could find it within the first few turns, and end the game too soon. Also, the way the Cluedo board is set out is very limiting – a player who finds the king card in the hall would have to move only one step to get to the basement, where someone in the corner rooms would take longer. If the player finds a card with no other people near them, they would also have an easy time of getting to the center.
I wasn’t sure how much focus I wanted to put on the ‘chase’ aspect, and from the feedback I got I decided to change it to a battle royale/last-man-standing style game.
Week 9 – Clue board chess V2
The new rule set I decided on was very similar to the original, in terms of how the battle and movement system worked. The main changes were the lack of joker/king cards and the goal changing to “defeat all other players”. The players’ hands also serve as their ‘health points’ – when you have no cards in your hand, you lose. I also added a limit to the hands, as otherwise players may run around collecting cards and avoiding battle, which would be boring and extend the game for too long.
I did a solo playtest with the revised rules, which was interesting, if lengthy. I decided that a smaller deck would probably be necessary to shorten the game time, as no one really ran out of cards in their hand until the room piles emptied out. There was also no incentive not to use pawns, as class cards are losable and the board is small enough that there is no real advantage gained by changing class. For this reason, I changed the pawn’s movement to one square per turn instead of via dice rolls.
Another issue was that players would only use Queens in battle until they ran out, making it more luck of the draw than strategy. Later in the game it became more interesting, but it inspired me to try changing the rules for class matchups a bit.
Week 10 – MESH Open
During this week I constructed materials for my game.
I initially planned to create sets of pieces for each colour using modelling clay, but after my first two sets came out too wobbly to stand, I decided it was too time consuming to continue with.
I found small wooden cubes at a craft store, and decided to paint them with the six colours and draw symbols for each piece on the sides. In addition to being easier and quicker to make, this made it so instead of switching pieces each turn, players would just rotate the dice so the correct side faces up, making it simpler to keep track of.
I made a small set of cards, with different images for each class, and different colours for each number. I also added “King’s” cards for the rook, bishop and knight classes, which could beat the Queen when used as I hadn’t finalised the revised combat rules yet.
While I would have liked to completely redesign the board, I only had time to block out the rooms. I would probably make the rooms smaller, and do something with the dead-end hallways.
While no one actually played my game at the MESH open, I did get some interest. I also did a two person playtest later, which went fairly quickly. It did seem to be a bit difficult for a player who is being hunted by another player to escape in a one-on-one situation, and some of the rules I had weren’t very clear.
Reflections and Permaculture
I think this could have worked better in many ways. The board definitely needed to be redesigned, and the rules need work – both in being written and playtested.
While I tried to incorporate diversity in the game, playtesting revealed a tendency for players to stick with one class until they were beaten. A possible solution for this may be in the board design – make areas that are only accessible through a narrow hallway (queens or rooks), a diagonal stretch (queens or bishops) or by navigating around or over walls (knights).
The edge effect is definitely there to some degree: from chess there are the pieces/classes and their respective movements; from Cluedo, the board, use of cards and concept of moving from room to room; and unique to this game are the cards and how they’re gained/used, the battle royale goal and the battle system.
If I were going to continue this project, I would probably look at other games and how they can be combined with chess, rather than staying with Cluedo.