Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Scoring Tracks

Here's an interesting post by a fellow game designer (and one-time fellow improv comedian) Nick Bentley on scoring tracks in games.  I think he makes some great points about the pros and cons of scoring tracks.  As a designer, I've used them a lot in my more complex games. I think they can be useful and fun, especially if scoring is constant and in small intervals, or episodic (e.g. scoring rounds) and needs to be shown to let players know where they stand.

I have to say, though, when I open a game that has a scoring track, it always gives me a little twinge of dismay.  This comes from several places.  One is, a game with a scoring track is often a game that gets bumped into the "too complicated" category, where I'll have trouble convincing people (at least the people around me) to play it.  There are exceptions, of course, one of which is Ticket To Ride, which my non-gamer friends and family enjoy (as do I).

Another source of dismay is that the track always takes up a lot of the gameboard, often with fiddly little stuff that doesn't deserve that much table space and is easily knocked out of place.

A final source of dismay is that it's much cooler to have the game objectives be more obvious, more visceral, than mere points scored.  Think of a Risk board covered with your little armies, or a mass of cards on display in Seven Wonders - cool, obvious indications of success.  Of course, Seven Wonders uses points at the end - the only small clumsiness in a very elegant game, but a necessary one.  In Diggity, I have cards (gold nuggets) that represent their score, so there's no need to mark it separately, and in Horde, I have a limited number of scoring tokens that people collect as the game progresses, both of which methods I like better than a scoring track.

That said, I played Tikal with my son and my dad last week, and had a great time (even as I lost in pathetic fashion).  It's a complicated game, and it has scoring rounds, so the good parts of the scoring track are there - you can see who's ahead, and by how much.  There are only two ways to score, though, so I think it avoids Nick's critique of the track, which is really more of a warning to designers than anything players should worry about.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ludum Dare 26 Results

Here are my results from the Ludum Dare competition this time around.  Not as good as the last time, but better than my first entry.  My audio didn't work on Firefox for the first period of the judging, so that may have hurt me a little bit (probably not much, since Chrome is more common for LD users and only about half the ratings came in while it was broken).

Some of the games in this competition were really great, and it seemed like fewer of them were terrible than in earlier sessions.  The theme was a challenge; obviously, if you're going for minimalism, it's hard to shine in some areas (particularly sound and graphics, but also depth and complexity of gameplay).  Art's not what I'm good at anyway (see above), so Minimalism should maybe have helped me out :-).

Ludum Dare 26 entry

Here's my entry from Ludum Dare 26.  The theme was Minimalism.  I went with a game set in a Piet Mondrian painting that only has one control.  The Ludum Dare page is here.  A direct link is here.  I was pretty happy with it; I spent a little too much time on the dialogue opening (also minimalist, I thought).  I got some really nice comments, too.  Let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

CraftyJS examples

I've been pretty excited about learning more about JavaScript and HTML5 programming.  I've been working with CraftyJS, a cool game-design library for browser games.  I've mentioned a few of my projects before (e.g. Cairo, Evo, Teeming), but I've also been doing an independent study course this January with a student.  She's made great strides in working on this kind of thing.  As part of helping her learn this stuff, I made a couple basic demos, heavily commented, for CraftyJS; if you're looking for an easy way to do some pretty neat things in JavaScript, have a look at Invader and Platform - they're bare-bones and hardly games at all, but you can see even from these tiny examples that the library runs well.  View source to see the code.  Plenty of other information at the CraftyJS site.

Great post on publishing process

I found this post by James Mathe from someone in the boardgame design community on Google+.  It's a really great summary of steps to publication (and a cautionary tale for prospective publishing enthusiasts).  It includes a lot of costs and steps you probably haven't thought of before.