5 May 2016

Dubious backseat designing...

So, I've been a following the indubitable Bill Harris for a number of years now. I was put on his tail by the folks from GamersWithJobs and was hooked from the start. He has a very specific and personal writing style which I would liken to David Gemmell... who could make even the most mundane items and events seem revelatory and exciting.

Bill's a great guy. He also released a game virtually by himself and now he has a follow-up idea.

I think it's a great idea but I think I also have a modification of this idea that would make it more fun and interesting to potential players. The backseat designer in me just couldn't stay quiet. The concept is a half-minute hero version of American football...

Here's Bill's initial vision:

"The basics go something like this. The user recruits players (in a 3-4 minutes mini-game) to replace his outgoing seniors and players declaring early for the pro draft. These players are cards, and there are thousands of of them.

Each of these cards have characteristics. Some are offensive, some are defensive. The more powerful cards have both primary and secondary actions.

At the simplest level, each has a point value. Better teams have better cards.

The user has 11 cards (the number of players on either offense or defense in real football) to use in each game, and the card play needs to use a quarter format.

What I'm working with right now is a modified version of Pai Gow. The user plays either two or three cards per quarter, and there's a "high" hand and a "low" hand (the high hand must have a higher point value than the low hand). The AI does the same, and then the cards are compared.

The highest value wins in both the high hand and the low hand.

If someone wins both hands in a quarter, they get all the points on the cards they played. If the hands are split, each get the point value on winning hand.

If there's a tie on a hand, it goes to the home team (so you can visibly see the home field advantage)."

Here's my 'modified' version of Bill's initial vision:

  • Keep the recruiting minigame
  • Player cards have multiple attributes, à la top trumps style of card gaming
  • The player then chooses, from their roster of player cards, which nine players will play the league game in question (plus one substitute)
  • You have a high (offensive) and low (defensive) hand
  • During the game the player has strategy/play cards that they can play each quarter
    • These cards increase and decrease various attributes of the player cards, mimicking the way an actual coach/manager works (which is the player's position)
  • The player cannot see the 'strategy/play' of the AI opponent coach/manager until they select their own choice and the quarter is 'played'
  • The player wins or loses points based on the overall outcome of the comparison between the player's and opponent's two sets of cards (both offensive and defensive)
  • The player can make their single extra card/player substitution to either set of three cards in any quarter before playing a 'strategy/play' card as a way to improve their chances against a 'squad' they could not see before playing the match
  • Players have a chance to become 'injured' or 'unavailable' from game to game which means that the player must choose from non-favourites in their line-up

The reason I made these changes is that people value input. They also value their role in games. In this instance a player is taking on the role of the manager/coach in a football team. In sports games the coach does not switch players in an out each and every quarter/turn-over but they do make plays and strategies (especially in American football) which affect the effectiveness of the players in their line-up. I felt that this was a more interactive way to play a short and condensed game that also added higher stakes for the player than just a poker derivative style sort of game.

I also think that, with the injury mechanic that players will find a challenge in their play that would push them into using, perhaps, more unconventional 'plays' that promote unconventional line-ups.

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