About Me

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My goal is to make a difference in the world, and I think the way to do that is through games. My education is in programming and 3D animating, and I have worked in e-Learning and game development. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Match 3 Card Game Update

After giving some thought to this card game and the feedback I've been receiving for it, I've decided to make some changes.  I've decided that having cards that can only move one direction makes the game progress a bit too slowly, so I think all cards should have 2, 3, or 4 options for direction.  Also my playtesters seemed overwhelmed by "remembering" what was on the card, and rather than having a game about memory my intention was to make it more about surprises.  I used a couple of wild cards in my playtests, but the 'wild' part was clearly displayed on the front, and the back just had direction arrows.  Now I think the wild part should be on the back, and no arrows (wild cards can either move anywhere or not move at all).

Here are examples of what some of the cards look like now:


I also want to change the functions of the wild cards.  The lightening bolt cannot move, but if it is put into a set of 3 the player can collect every card that is touching the lightening bolt.  The heart can be moved anywhere on the board.  And the 'anti-wild' cannot move but can be a part of any set (it represents any color). 

I have also had some random ideas about having cards that have a different color on the back, and once you turn them over they don't turn back.  I'm not sure yet how to use this in the game, but it seems interesting. 

Here is a picture from playing my game:




Waking Mars

So far this blog has been devoted to my ideas, my playtest documentation, and general ramblings about design.  Today I feel like trying something new - analyzing a game I am playing.  Yes, I've had to do this in the past for classes or for research, but this time I am doing it out of genuine interest in the design behind a game I am currently enjoying.

Waking Mars, a game created by Tiger Style Games, I believe exhibits some truly unique features.  The core mechanics are nothing new, but cleanly execute - a 2D scroller that lets you walk on the ground or float up and down with a jet pack, and clicking to throw objects.  The movement control and physics simulation are comfortable and fluid, and not frustrating or cumbersome as I am accustom to in 2D games.  The story is interesting and not entirely over-used - an explorer discovering life on Mars.

The unique thing is the lack of violence...or perhaps the approach they take to removing violence.  There is violence towards me, the player, because the world is fairly hostile, however there is essentially nothing I can do to fight back against the world, I can only endure.  The world itself is fraught with danger - jagged rocks, crumpling caves, and steep drops if I forget to use my jet pack - but there is another danger: ferocious Martian lifeforms.  My defenses against these creatures is to distract them while I try to get past, quite a fascinating mechanic.  There is nothing I can do to harm the creatures or the world, however I can witness the creatures harming and killing each other, as I am a helpless observer of nature.

I have not beat this game yet, so I will likely post an update once I complete it, but I can already say that I highly recommend this game.  It is unique and innovative, and the art and sounds are compelling and the world is very immersive.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Texas Hold'em Word Game

New card game idea!

Essentially follows the structure of Texas Hold'em - each player is dealt 2 cards, then a round of betting, then 3 community cards turned face up in the middle, another round of betting, another community card, another round of betting, one final community card (for a total of 5) and a final round of betting before players show their hands.  The difference from Texas Hold'em is instead of trying to get the best poker hand the players are trying to get the highest scoring words.  Each letter would have a different score value (initially based on the score value of letters in Scrabble) and words of different length would be worth different points.

Ideally, after playtesting and iterations this game would diverge from Texas Hold'em in play style, and would digress from the Scramble scoring system, to eventually become its own unique game.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Match 3 Card Game Second Playtest

For this playtest I watched 2 of my classmates play the game while I took notes.  Here are my notes and their feedback and some potential changes:


  •  Having the board wrap around for movement may be confusing since collecting a set does not wrap around the board
  •  Players seemed interested/engaged when a card they could move caused a different set (that did not include the card they flipped)
  •  Allowing players to choose not to move a card they flip can lead to stalemate situations, it may work better if a player MUST move the card they flip
  •  Based on other match 3 games some players may want to make multiple moves to clear several sets at once (ex. Puzzles and Dragons)
  •  The game feels like a digital game (as most match 3 games are)
  • Players sometimes moved the same card back and forth to hinder their opponent
  • Players would like to keep cards direction-side up once flipped so they don't need to remember
  • Anti-wild card moves to easily

Match 3 Card Game Playtest

Solitaire (played by myself)

I printed out 8 of each of the 4 colored gems and 4 wild card (can be any color).  Each wild card has one direction it can move (right, left, up, down).  4 of each colored card can move one direction (left, right, up, down), and 4 of each color can move 2 direction (up/left, down/left, up/right, down/right).  I dealt the cards out into a 4x4 grid and began making moves following the rules explained in a previous post.

During this test I realized 2 issues - first, the order the cards are dealt makes a huge difference and since both sides of the card have the colored gem there is no way for it to be random.  Second, sometimes a set of 3 is dealt onto the board.

Solutions:
1. The deal order (for starting game and also for replacing cards) starts at the top left corner of the board and proceeds to the right, then down (like reading).  For example, when the board is dealt the first time the dealer should deal the top row first (left to right) then the second row (left to right) and so on.  This deal order should also be used for replacing cards that have been removed.
2. If a card is dealt that causes a set of 3 it should be shuffled back into the deck and a different card layed instead.  Near the end of the deck, if there is no way to avoid this situation then the entire board should be redealt.  The game ends when there are not enough cards left to deal a full board.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why Designers Need To Communicate

So you want to be a designer?  Me too.  When I ask designers what skills they need to do their jobs, overwhelmingly the thing they say is most important is being able to communicate with the team.  This is fairly straightforward, since designers need to be able to share their ideas with both programmers and artists.

What they don't say is the secret deep down reason designers need to be able to communicate.  I have heard it said that when a game fails it is the designer's fault.  Or at least, everyone blames the designer.  Why?  Because the primary determining factor of a game's success is if people want to play it, which usually translates to if the game is fun.

Fun is the designer's job.  But the designer can't make the game fun, not alone.  As the designer, you may have fantastic ideas for the most fun game ever, but you need an artist to create the world and you need a programmer to make it function.  So if you tell them the idea and they don't get it, then all that "fun" in your head isn't going to be in the game.  What's more - during development as the designer you will probably be playing the game as it progresses, and you may notice problems with the functionality or the art, things that are stopping the fun, or you may have ideas for how the experience could be better.  And if you don't say these things well, or worse if you don't say them at all, then the game progress will stagnate, it will not improve.

Communication doesn't just mean talking.  Communicating with your team means getting ideas out of YOUR head and into other people's heads.  You can do this by talking.  You can do this with spreadsheets.  You can do this with pictures.  You can do this with paper prototypes.  Communicating also means listening, because you won't always be the one with the good ideas.  Always listen for the good ideas, because they come from every member on the team, and as the designer you have the power to take those good ideas and make them a reality.  If the game ends up fun and you didn't communicate with the team, then you weren't really the designer.

Progress for this week?

This week does not have a lot to update for my card game designs - I'm ordering some plastic sleeves so I can print and play my match three card game, and I've started brainstorming ideas for a third game.  What did I do this week?  I attended the Captivate Conference in Texas, and I realized how desperately my website needed updating.  So here it is, finally updated!  http://meganlaurajohns.com/  Still needs some more work, but it is so much better than it was last week!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Playtesting "Perfect Lunch"

In order to expedite the playtesting and balancing process, I have taken the advice of a colleague and built my game using part of a regular deck of playing cards (it translates well since there are 4 suits).

Testing Details
Date: 10/1 10:30PM
Players: Megan and Rod
Rounds Played: 4

Results

  • Each round lasted no more than 2 minutes
  • The results felt "too random"
  • Strategy was not evident
  • Very little interaction between players


Changes Made and Improvements Needed

  • Each player starts with 2 cards and draws 1 card, then may discard or lay one card face up (only one of each suit)
  • Players can pick up cards discarded by other players
  • Need to try with multiple people, might be fun with more than 2
  • Need to change the deck contents so not all 'suits' are equal
  • Need to add wild cards and ways to hurt opponents


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Card Game Idea 2

Match 3 Card Game Design

Inspirations:

  • Set
  • Memory
  • Bejeweled


Cards have 2 sides, one side has a gem (blue, green, orange, or purple), and the other side has the same colored gem with an arrow of the direction(s) it can move.  This game is for 1 or more players, and is turn-based.  Cards are layed out in a 3x3 grid with the arrows facing down.  Players take turns turning over one card, if desired the player may move the card following one of the direction arrows.  If the move creates a set of 3 matching cards in a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) that player may collect those cards.  The board wraps, so cards at the edge may move to the opposite side of the arrow points off the board.  At the end of the game the player with the most sets wins.