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  •   Papertesting the prototype card game

    30/10/11 - 12:19

    As regular readers are aware – I am a very strong believer in play testing a game before the game actually gets to a serious code level ( papertesting heh ). The original card prototype ( see here for youtube video ) was very much a proof of concept – to see how quickly it took to work out the physical game challenges ( capturing, placement on board, blank ai loops etc; ). Now that is in place – it is time to test the gameplay mechanics themselves. And I’ve found the best way to do this was with lots of squares of cut a paper, very many brightly coloured paper clips, a supply of beer and some willing volunteers to help.

    After a few games, it became very apparent that playing on a four by four grid always favored the player who moved second. Changing the game to a five by five grid removes this advantage to a degree. It also means that the game can’t be a draw, as there are an odd number of cells to be played upon. This, I feel, would have never come to light without this papertesting until the game had reached a certain stage of complexity of code. Knowing the grid plays better as five by five, means that I can code the game with that in mind, and I’m not going to have to change anything major down the line.

    Grouping cards into levels, based upon the total sum of their attributes also helped to balance the game. It was very apparent that cards of level 1 ( who added up to 8 ) and level 3 ( who added up to 10 ) were very clearly inferior. However, by altering the cards, removing some attributes and giving it a big boost in one direction, meant that in certain situations the level 1 cards were useful under different circumstances.

    Another major factor that came into play was playing blind, compared to playing open. E.g. the difference between seeing the other players cards, and your own cards. When your opponents cards were visible, it gave the game a very different feeling to when playing blind. When playing blind, the only fair way of playing it wasn’t with random decks, but with both players using the same level cards. Both ways of playing were fun, but had very different feelings to it. So I’ve decided to add this as a selectable option in the final version of the game – two different game modes. First one I will develop will be the open game ( as I preferred that as it allowed some form of strategic planning and removed any luck element ), the second one will be the blind mode.

    For card trading, we tried a couple of methods. The first method was allowing the winning player to select one of their opponents original cards and getting it. The second was allowing both players to take whatever cards were they had captured in the game. Both had very interesting feels. The first capturing method seemed more logical, and allowed the players to strengthen their decks quite quickly. It seems to be the perfect way of playing the game vs an AI in a single player mode. The second method was brutal. A badly lost game means that your deck is very quickly reduced – but thankfully due to plenty of paper and a pair of scissors, it was possible to replenish your deck with level 1 cards again. It also lead itself to a very different play style, people grabbing sides and corners and building up strong defensive positions to avoid loosing their cards. Again, the difference between this two methods were quite enjoyable. Which suggest to me another gamemode :) Beating an opponent by a large amount, and going home with most of their cards was a pretty good feeling, albeit slightly sadistic at times.

    So now that I have a lot of the mechanics actually sorted, it is time to pick a theme for the game :)



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