We’ve been working on a game with a working title of Soul Hunters and we have run into an interesting problem. Calling for the villagers is too easy. The game has been tested two times and in both occasions it felt like the villagers were an easy way to bail our characters out of trouble. The villagers game function is pretty simple, to draw attention away from the heros inside the mansion.
What I like about using villagers in this manner is the thematic connection to the town below that is referenced in the story of the game. What I don’t like is each player’s ability to call on them knowing the moment they are in trouble, they will be covered. So the idea of the villagers gets to stay, their mechanics need to change.
The other question I had for myself was, would a playtester even catch this issue? Is it an issue for players or is it an issue just for me? This line of questioning gets me to the more general question, are there types of issues that only I would notice, because the player experience isn’t what I want it to be? That is a bigger topic for a different post.
The question before us is, how do we fix something that is, in our designer view, “too easy”. I think the best way to fix this, is to incrementally boost the difficulty of calling the villagers. I like this method more than making a big change because I like the idea of calling the villagers and in game play, they perform their task very well and it fits the theme very well. Outside of the game they add to the theme. Lets say the way players call for the villagers is to discard two movement cards in order to ring a bell in the spire. If we make a change to discard 4 cards and you must be in a specific room, how do we know what the balance point is between two cards and 4 cards plus being in a location?
It is possible the 4 cards and the location requirment will work, but what if discard 3 cards works better. What if you make more than one chance in the game and 4 cards plus a location works well with a change you made to a player ability but had you not made that player ability change the 4 cards and location would not work.
More simply put, making a big change over here can alter too many variables for you to know exactly what is working and not working with your game.
There are times when a big change is good. When you are early in the process and everything about the game can still change, making drastic changes can work. But in this case, I need a specific mechanic to stay in the game. I need to make changes to the mechanic and I can’t ruin the game while I am at it.
If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.