Five Year Plan: A Collectivist Deck Building Game – Co-opetitive Design Conundrums

A while back I had an idea for a deck building game that’s co-opetitive in nature.  The initial idea was a shared deck for all players, with a “communist” theme of shared resources, and goals for a five year plan.  The goals would be based upon players roles as commissars (Commie-Tsars ;)) and each player would be required to produce a certain amoung of a given type of good.  If all succeeded, then the game would continue til the end.

The cooperative aspect would be based on that need for everyone to succeed.  If anyone failed, then the game was over.  I’m not sure if I like that aspect.  I definitely don’t want a player-elimination scheme..  Perhaps a player would lose points/reward for not succeeding.

Anyways, the rewards would be for players who went above and beyond their production.  There would be tiers of success so if you were able to go beyond the minimum, you would get greater glory/recognition.  The Commissar of the Five Year Award (a la Worker of the Year).

I have a lot of concepts mulling around based upon a 4 fold division of labor (Agriculture, Industrial, Military, Intellectual/Arts).  I also have a vision of leveling up “workers” from one to another kind based upon an educational process/schooling (by paying “intellectual” cards to “teach” them).

There are stacks like the kind you can purchase cards from, like in other deck builders.   You can obtain some of these stacks of cards by conquering them by paying military cost to acquire it and bring it into your commie empire.  Each stack would represent a region of the country won over by your revolution.

Another way to obtain certain stacks would be investing (via intellectual resources) in a Tech Tree which would unlock more stacks of higher level tech.

But all these things can be done via a competitive type game.  There’s no sharing of resources much in what I just mentioned, and my biggest concern is contemplating just what it means to have shared resources in a game like this.

There are two ways I can currently see to implement this:

  1.  A shared deck.  The issue here is that if everyone shares a single deck, all players choices become diluted in the larger scheme, and it makes it harder to really build what you want.
  2. A shared hand.  I like this concept in theory.  The idea here is that you have 2-5 players.  During a round, each player has a personal hand of cards, and they place a number of cards (depending on number of players) face up in front of them, and reinforces the by adding cards as necessary to make a 5-card hand.

Basically:

5 Players = 1 card per player played face up.

4 Players = 1 card per player played face up.  Draw 1 card off the top of the communal deck.

3 Players = 1 card per player played face up.  Draw 2 cards off the top of the communal deck

2 Players = 2 cards per player played face up.  Draw 1 card off the top of the communal deck.

The shared hand scheme here utilizes the concept of a shared deck to reinforce a player’s hand.  I suppose it could be reinforced from a given players hand, based upon who the “current” player is.  That gives a slight advantage to the player whose turn it is (assuming <5 players, natch) and gives a feeling of control.

In terms of resources, one of the things I’m thinking of is a personal “deck” of resources separate from the collective.  Part of that is a player being able to requisition a card from their hand to their personal deck.  It is this personal deck that a player “scores” when it comes time to determine the year’s end success or failure.

The reason I like this aspect is that it allows for a way to manage the collective deck and not be at the whims of other players, while building ones personal resources to be used (I’m not sure, how, exactly this personal deck would be used, except, perhaps as a way to “buff” your hand by adding cards to choose from if you don’t like your current hand, perhaps.)  The interesting aspect comes in the competition for taking a resource as a personal  thing, while denying other players access to this.  The idea there then is that while it benefits you in one way, it might hurt you, by denying resources other players are needing in order to purchase cards from the stacks, perhaps.  That might be good to hinder your opponents because your goal is to exceed your quota while minimizing theirs.  But you don’t want to minimize their production too much, lest you all fail.  Further, if you minimize their production, you’re also minimizing your production, because at some point you might need a resource they are creating for their goal.  A “tragedy of the commons” sort of effect if everyone goes stealing cards for their personal stash.

So I have some ideas that I think might be interesting, but I feel like they are lacking… something.  I’m worried that this balance between personal/collective is going to be hard to pull off.
I plan on having some effect cards like “purge” to allow players to consciously trim the deck or something like “famine” that would be a more random deck trimming effect.

Perhaps instead of a collective deck, or even a collective hand, there is a collective pool that players can play their cards towards to succeed.  So basically it would all be individual decks like Dominion, but to succeed at the goals of your role, you have to give up/contribute some of these resources to the Central Committee in the center of the table.  The question there, of course, is how that would play out.  Are these resources unavailable?  Would they have a reduced effect (that is, say, they’re only 50% value of their stated value when used from the center vs personal pile)…  I dunno.

So this is my biggest vexation, right now.

Finally the year of Linux on the desktop! (and Lake Quadrobegon)

Well, I’ve hit one of my slumps (if my lack of posts wasn’t obvious).  Some of that is due to my work schedule (mornings, ugh!), some of that is due to dealing with failing cat health (and eventual death ;_;), and some of that is me, recently, using my mental energy/hobby energy towards trying out Linux (again).

So first, I settled on openSUSE.  I tried Linux Mint, and just found it feeling totally 2003.  This is 2015, UI has moved on from WinXP.  No offense, guys.  But that wasn’t he main thing.  It just felt… slow.  I can’t recall what the straw was that broke the camel’s back, but after reading up on things I decided to jump to openSUSE.  I used to love Ubuntu, and probably still would, but I kinda want to explore other options.

The Unity interface intrigues me, but after narrowing things down to something seemingly stable (there are pretty options out there, but they’re either too young or, in the case of Elementary OS, a bit too… anti-Free, and also – looking a little too  much like an OSX Wannabe).

So of the remaining distros, I narrowed down to Zorin and openSUSE.  openSUSE I wanted to try for the KDE setup, but unfortunately it just seemed a bit hoggish, and worse, I had some video glitches (I’m trying on Tumbleweed, not Leap, not sure if it would matter).  After many false starts, restarts, even making my BIOS unbootable (had to take the battery out to reset it).  I finally got it working mostly well.

I’ve been using Win10 and overall LOVE Win10 in terms of speed and stability.  It doesn’t feel janky.  I still feel like Linux is often Janky, and some of that is due to the core design philosophy I think.  The new Gnome UI is certainly interesting, but had to tweak it (I like my tabs on top, thank you!).  While FF is the more free option and I prefer it in Windows, it seems that Chrome is better in Linux… The font rendering in FF on Linux is horrid, and I had to play with it to get the tabs on top like I like, and ultimately, trying to get Netflix to play nice with it ended up having me install Chrome for Netflix.  I may switch entirely in Linux for the font rendering and netflix abilities, which makes me sad, because I prefer the philosophy of FF.

After many fits and starts (and some of the problem being subsonic.org being down), I finally got my music server up and running.  My next goal is to install Unity (the game dev tool, not the Ubuntu desktop).

So speaking of, and game design, etc…

Been debating the best way forward with hexbon.  It would require a large rewrite and while I love hexagons, I’m not sure this is the best spot for it. The “bee”/”B” pun is nice, but I’ve been thinking it might be simpler to take the same mechanic and put it into squares.  Basically it’d be a cross between the visual design of my Quadrophobia game and the gameplay mechanics of Hexbgon (only with squares instead of hexagons).  I’ll jokingly call it Project: Lake Quadrobegon

I think this would be more visually appealing (and some of the assets are already made), as well as perhaps easier to program.  Now that I have some of the base code and concepts, I’m going to work from the ground up on what I need to do plan wise for features (bonuses, which I didn’t consider in the first iteration (undo move stack, move to wild position – as well as altering how I score since it won’t have honey as a currency to purchase powerups).  Perhaps a rainbow colored disc could be used to “cover” a number, and you could take the disk as an undo token, or use it as a wild.  If you take as an undo token, the real move number would be revealed underneath.  There would be no penalty for undoing moves, but it would be finite, based on number of tokens you have (which would save up between levels).

I was pondering using a different game dev system just, something “easier” with less coding, then I realized, it’s not that I’m dumb and need something “easier”.  It would just mean I’d have to learn a whole new way of doing things again, based upon whatever platform I went with, and all the knowledge I’ve learned/used of Unity would be wasted.  Nah, better to forge ahead with a system I mostly know and can get up rapidly (especially since I can reuse a lot of the code/layouts, etc…)  Too many people jump on the latest hippest trend just because they can and “SHINY”.  Better, I figure, to learn one tool and at least moderately well than only a slight understanding of  a lot.  I mean, there is definitely a good thing with jack-of-all-tradism.  It’s important, especially as an indie, to have that ability.  But sometimes it interferes with getting shit done.

Automute Evolution: Microgames

I had an epiphany today on my way to work.  As I was driving I saw a billboard with the words “Click It” printed on the sign (referring to clicking a link in a browser to the company’s webpage) .

My brain, brainwashed as it is by PSAs then responded mentally with “Click it or ticket” (i.e. your seat belt).  In my mind I then made the connection between clicking a link and clicking a seatbelt buckle.  This led to the idea of a little minigame about dragging a seatbelt over a character.  I’m not sure why or how it happened, but as I threw the idea around in my head a little bit for some variations on this theme it hit me:

Automute shouldn’t be a singular project as a full game.  For a long time I’ve had the view that Automute is supposed to fit the mobile game form.  Fast, quick, easy to pick up.  But I’ve pushed so hard on making it a “big” project, a complete game with levels and all that.

I still have to add in some of the same code to do the basics (which is what I’m working towards now), but in terms of level design, I can simplify it.  Automute should not be a monolithic game.  Instead it should be a component of a series of “Microgames” (a la WarioWare: Mega Microgame$).

I started to picture how a buckle-up game could be one mini-game amongst the driving game I have now.

When I shared this idea with a friend they laughed because they realized it’s right up my alley.  First, I have a bad habit of failing to stick to an idea if I work with it too long.  I’m a lot better than I used to be, but it’s still an issue.  Clearly, Killing Horizon was a massively large project that was more than I could chew as a first time game programmer.  And my mind wandered – to Automute, which still seems to be a bit more than I had hoped, even though, in theory, it is probably one of the simplest games possible.

So what I really need to do is realize that I need to create a framework that will enable me as a dev to implement my visions of these microgames quickly and rapidly.  Because I like to think of wacky and interesting concepts, microgames seem a perfect format.  (How can you NOT love a game that has you picking your nose in a second or two).

Now – I’m not saying I would ape the format of WarioWare (It’s been quite a few years since I played one of them – probably a decade, really), but the idea of short quick small games to pick up and play, in succession, rapid fire, ADHD gameplay which is perfect for phone gaming.  My problem, of course, is I don’t really have a cell phone (I KNOW!).  I have a cheap 50 dollar phone I rarely ever use (but it does have Android).  I could test on that and hope that being such a low end system means it should run better on newer/faster systems (but everything has its quirks, right?)  I don’t know how this format would compare on a tablet (do people really just whip out a tablet on a subway ride and play a game while standing at a pole?)

Automute will continue to be the first game in the series, but being that I’m focusing right now on making it work with scoring, I will try to start working on abstraction from an engineering/design perspective.

This means I can create games with this framework as little modular levels that players can load, and I could update them (either free or as packages players could purchase, or something of that nature).  I could theme packages, so, like – in this case, I have my seatbelt game and that could combine with automute, so there’s a “car” theme right there.  Find a set of small concepts for vehicle games that are quick, and use “Natural User Interface” (tap, drag, pinch, etc…) And that can be the first release.

Yes, I think I quite like this idea.