Tag Archives: play

Making a puzzle game: ORDER

ORDER_for_itch

Play ORDER here.

Playing with Polygons

ORDER was born from a little experiment in manipulating polygons in Unity. I wanted to see how I could create coded animations which would allow a polygon to change its number of sides.

polyChangeEarly

Initially, I created a polygon with multiple triangle meshes that created a spoke effect. I could manipulate the length of each polygon to change the polygons shape. I then created a little piece of code which checked if each of these spokes was the same length as the boundary of the desired shape. This worked ok, the animation between shapes didn’t look very nice (especially between triangle and square), there was some edge detection problems, and when a number of shapes were manipulated at the same time, the frame rate severely dropped.

So in order to reduce the stress on the frame rate, I had to simplify the system.

polyChangeLater

The best thing I could do was reduce the number of triangles to that equal to the number of sides. Although there are possibly even more efficient ways of doing this, this would likely work for my process.

All ‘unused’ triangles, were bunched together to create a ‘line’, therefore creating the appearance of different sized polygons. The initial limitations of this system is that it could only be used to create regular polygons.

For the animation of the points I used half a sin wave, the rate of change is roughly slow-fast-slow.

Making the Game

I knew I had two things that I could do with the polygons, I could change their number of sides and I could rotate them relatively easy.

Initially the first version of the game, used three sets of controls.

  1. Select the polygon that you wanted.
  2. Change the number of sides of the selected polygon.
  3. Change the rotation of the selected polygon.

Each action would also affect the neighbouring polygons in some manner. Either also rotating them or changing their number of sides.

The issue was very clear, this was horrible to do. It did not feel good in anyway.

So…

I changed the control method so that changing the polygon that is selected, also manipulated that polygon and it’s neighbours. The newly selected polygon has it’s number of sides increased and the neighbours are rotated. This felt better, but was a lot to visually take in. This reduced the controls to one of movement only.

I added a colour change to show which polygon is selected, a small pulse animation to the newly selected polygon, and a delayed rotation animation to give a sense of cause and effect. This definitely helped.

Beating the Game

Finally I needed a winning condition. Ideally I wanted the player to win whenever all the shapes were matching both in rotation and the number of sides. However, I was not able to prove that this was possible for all the different permutations of this. This issue, meant that I could not fairly set it as a goal.

I settled on a fixed goal of having all shapes return to triangles and all pointing down after being randomised.

The next issue, is how do you show that this is what the player needs to do.

I kept adding a range of information in different forms until I think I got it right:

  1. The starting condition of the polygons is the required position.
  2. Text tells the player that “this is ORDER.” and once randomised “return to ORDER”.
  3. Polygons in the correct position pulse, those that are not are static.
  4. A counter indicates the level of order.

Conclusion

ORDER_for_itch

I am happy how the game turned out, it was a fun experiment in Unity and did not take too long to complete. It is perhaps not the most novel of ideas, but I think it at least adds an additional level of complexity to a common grid puzzle structure (changing something changes the neighbours – return to an ordered pattern), by having two methods of manipulation and fixed selection movement between neighbouring polygons.

If you want to play ORDER you can do so here. it may require a Unity plug in to run as well as permission to run.

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Apocalypse World at London Indie RPG Meetup Group

apocalypseworld

So today was one of the London Indie RPG Meetup Group‘s extra long sessions, and I joined the group playing a hacked version of Apocalypse World (D. Vincent Baker).

Something’s wrong with the world and I don’t know what it is.

It used to be better, of course it did. In the golden age of legend, when there was enough to eat and enough hope, when there was one nation under god and people could lift their eyes and see beyond the horizon, beyond the day. Children were born happy and grew up rich.

Now that’s not what we’ve got. Now we’ve got this. Hardholders stand against the screaming elements and all comers, keeping safe as many as they can. Angels and savvyheads run constant battle against there’s not enough and bullets fly and everything breaks. Hocuses gather people around them, and are they protectors, saviors, visionaries, or just wishful thinkers? Choppers, gunluggers and battlebabes carve out what they can and defend it with blood and bullets. Drivers and operators search and scavenge, looking for that opportunity, that one perfect chance. Skinners remember beauty, or invent beauty anew, cup it in their hands and whisper come and see, and don’t worry now about what it will cost you. And brainers, oh, brainers see what none of the rest of us will: the world’s psychic maelstrom, the terrible desperation and hate pressing in at the edge of all perception, it is the world now.

And you, who are you? This is what we’ve got, yes. What are you going to make of it?

The MC had hacked the game by adding dragons and a few dragon related ‘moves’ which worked nicely. These included:

  • Do something whilst on fire.
  • Sally forth.
  • Charm a dragon.
  • See through a dragons eyes.
  • Plus possibly one more which I currently forget.

I picked The Savvy Head for my character, Lee who had a small electronics workshop.

We also had Charmer (The Brainer), Found “The King of Glass” (The Hocus) and Besh (Angel). For more info on the character types a full set of character sheets are available here.

AW1

The dragons rose 50 years ago and left the world desolate except for a few pockets of survivors. We were set up in a castle and there had not been a dragon sighting for a couple of years. After the Prince of Scales had returned from the wastelands with a prize of a dragon skeleton he took it upon himself to beat the Count of Earth, to display his power. This lead to a fraction in the people of the strong hold after a Council meeting lead by the King of Glass, who questioned his behaviour. The Prince of Scales intended to leave (after some persuasion from Charmer) and start up his own strong hold with as many of the people he could persuade. Besh took this opportunity to make a move on the Count of Earth’s daughter.

Before the Prince could leave, dragons attacked the castle leaving rack and ruin. A couple of the dragons were killed, one in an impressive shotgun attack by Besh, the rest were persuaded to leave when Found started a prayer with his followers using the psychic maelstrom. However this was only possible due to the help of the Prince (who it had become quite apparent non of us liked) who now sort even more power for himself.

Through the Maelstrom, Charmer and Lee saw the threat of an ancient evil slumbering dragon. The Prince of Scale wanted to go out and fight, the King of Glass wanted us to pray to but the dragon back to sleep. The Prince ended up persuading about half the people to go with him and they took all the weapons, but said the rest could pray if they wanted to.

As they set out. Lee started work on a sonic repulsion device, and became a lot closer to Charmer who had had to move to the dungeon after her tower was destroyed in the recent battle. Besh helped the sick and wounded and Found took council from his people.

Lee and Charmer, attempted to run away to live on their own but were stopped by Besh with an ancient sword he was given by the Countess of Copper. They gave in a said they would help.

Found connected with the dragon and bargained with the life of the Count of Earth’s daughter (which fortunately for him, Besh did not find out about) as well as the lives of the people who had gone out to fight the dragon with the Prince of Scales. A single dragon still attacked the castle, Lee left a message in the psychic maelstrom declaring his love for charmer before running to attempt to repel the dragon with his device. In the end the dragon was savagely wounded by Besh. Lee using the sonic device on the dragon only annoyed it more, and it started to attack the vehicle were the device was mounted using its fire breath. Trying to draw the dragon away from the castle, he drove off leaving Charmer behind. Charmer, thinking Lee had left her sought her revenge on Besh (for keeping them there), who was on fire from the fight with the dragon. Charmer watched Besh burn to death and stopped Found from saving him.

Lee returned to find what had happened and after finding what she had done decided that she would be better away from other people and they left together. Besh was left dead in the arms of Found. Found was happy to have survived, and continued his plans to rule what remained.

AW1

This was another fun game. I really like the system, which I have wanted to try after reading about Dungeon World (Sage LaTorra, Adam Koebel) which also uses the same system. My favourite aspects of the system are that:

  • All the information is there on the character sheets, and by making a few relatively simple choices you can make a range of different characters.
  • Other players choose the attribute that you need to use in order to improve your character, forcing you to do consider doing things differently.
  • There are partial successes, where you succeed at what you do but something bad happens. It seems relatively rare that you will fail completely.

I cannot think of anything negative to say about the game we had.

Protocol at London Indie RPG Meetup Group

protocol-interior

This week I got to play Protocol (Jim Pinto) with three other members of the London Indie RPG Meetup Group.

Protocol is a general system which has a number of different playsets which change the theme and setting of the game you are playing. It’s designed to be played in a single sitting, and is GM-less. I’ve previously played the 5 Broken Swords setting, but this time we played Calendar Man.

Calendar Man is a story roleplaying game about a serial killer who cannot be caught. Mimicking films like Zodiac, Seven, Suspect Zero, and Silence of the Lambs, the murders are dark and ghastly, challenging everyone, police and journalists alike. Some of the investigators have seen too much and others have questionable methods to begin with. Can anyone solve the murders or does the Calendar Man walk away?

I’ve heard Protocol likened to Fiasco (Jason Morningstar) but with more structure. Whether that structure is a good thing or not really depends on who you are playing the game with. I certainly found it helpful to have a little push of guidance at times, however that same guidance can be restrictive if you feel the story is going one way and then twists another.

This happened in the 5 Broken Swords game I played in. Our characters had made a way through an underground complex, and it felt like we were just about the have our big end encounter and we were suddenly back outside in a calm space. Things like this can be dealt with by flexing time, or having the characters recap what happened to them earlier. I think this is something I could get use to, it is just a different way of handling narrative.

In the game to play a scene the current player (director) usually draws two cards, one of them determines the type of scene and the theme.

  • Vignettes: A description of what is happening without direct character participation.
  • Interrogation: One character must answer 5 questions posed in or out of character.
  • Interlude: A scene with two characters
  • Ensemble: A scene with everyone.

The second card is used to describe the location that the scene occurs.

Character creation was handled in a similar way with card draws determining, role, background, motivation and relationships with the other characters.

Sometimes it would seem that the combinations of items didn’t quite make sense. However, most of the time this was solved with some sideways thinking, just like the narrative arc ‘issue’.

For example, my character was Novice and a Retired Cop. At first this could seem contradictory, that is until we decided that he was a recently retired cop, which makes perfect sense. Then his character is naturally fleshed out more by answering the questions this raises: why can’t he leave this case, why did he have to retire?

In the end I was really please with how my recently retired cop Jim Dagensmith story came together. Through play we found that his first real case had gone unsolved and left a strong impression on him (a young girl was found dead). However, his second case was a big success which quickly got him moving up the ranks. What really upsets him is that everyone, due to the way the papers reported it, thinks that this successful case was his first and he’s never seemed to be able to let go of that. He thinks this first case is related to the recent spate of five murders but was retired before he could finish the case. He has since been hanging around the crime scenes trying to find the evidence he needed. It was only once he had let go of the old case that he could help solve this later case and move on with the rest of his life.

Emergent Card Game by Daniel Palmer

Whilst attending a conference on Swarm Robotics in Brussels I got a chance to play Daniel Palmer’s work in progress, Emergent.

EmergentTheGame

This is a cooperative game, where each player’s hidden objective must be met in order for the players to win the game. The only way the players have a communicating if their objective is met or not is with a two sided card; one side of the card is green representing ‘clear’ and the other red representing ‘blocked’. The player keeps this card placed in front of them and changes which side is facing up based on the current state of the game.

Additionally, the players must also have placed 12 cards down on the 4×4 grid in order to win.

The cards that are required to be placed have 16 types,  a combination of 4 colours (red, blue, green, yellow) and 4 symbols (star, square, diamonds, circle).

At the beginning of the game 4 of these cards are randomly selected and randomly placed on the grid.

Each player is also given an objective, there were around 10 categories of objective and no more than one from any single category is played in a single game (this removes the possibility that two objective cards will be in conflict with each other). Examples include:

DSCN0566

On a players turn, they suggest two options which can be a combination of:

  • Placing card(s) taken from stock piles.
  • Removing card(s) from the grid to the discard pile.

or alternatively they can suggest

  • moving a card to a new position on the grid.

The rest of the players then vote on which of the two options the prefer, majority wins with tied votes decided by the player suggesting the options. This process is helped by handy double sided cards which have ‘place’ and ‘remove’ written on them.

What ever the outcome, two cards per turn are removed from the stock of coloured cards to the discard pile, which act as a timer for the game as well as resources.

The next player is the next person clockwise who is blocked. In the case that no one is blocked the next player clockwise takes a turn.

During the game you are allowed to discuss and speculate upon other player’s objectives, but not to confirm/deny/hint at your own. Your voting preferences may give some indirect hints to the objective you may have.

EmergentAtANTSImage1-m

I managed to have two games in which we beat the game the first time and lost the second time. I do not know how much our game was helped by the fact I was playing with a group of computer scientists.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing the game and it brought to my mind Hanabi by Antoine Bauza. I thought the individual hidden objectives was a really great concept, and the player turn order was well worked out. I suppose one issue could be that you never take a turn, but that does not mean that you are not taking part and speculating on other people’s objectives.

One thing that seemed to confuse a number of players, was when it came to dealing with the outcomes of specific votes. This happened especially when the player’s two suggestions were to remove one existing card and to place one new card. The players often voted to remove the card and were shocked to see the card that has ‘place’ on it also removed (as this was the option that was NOT taken). There just seemed to be some sort of mental block on this issue.

Daniel is still testing options on what to do with this. My suggestion was that when ever an option is voted upon, the alternate option’s ‘remove/place’ card is flipped. Then the players carry out the instructions on both the ‘remove/place’ cards (i.e. their voted option, and NOT the other option). Whether this would actually help or not would not be clear without testing. I think if the rule book comes with a really clear way of explaining the steps in this part of the game, after a couple of goes the players will get the hang of it.

My second suggestion was that the cards that are currently numbered 1-16, that make up the grid, could contain more useful information on them. They could show which directions are considered ‘above’, ‘below’, ‘left’ and ‘right’. Additionally they could also include which are the four random starting positions at the beginning of the game.

When I last spoke to Daniel he was looking to create a Kickstarter for this project sometime in the next year and when he does I’ll be sure to back it. Just like any game I’m not sure this is for everyone but it really pipped my interest, and I wish him all the luck for the future.

EmergentAtANTSImage2-m

Humanity: Playtest No. 2

photo (2)

A couple of weeks ago I got to playtest the updated version of Humanity with a couple of friends in Leicester.

For our scenario we selected:

  • Cybernetics in a post nuclear apocalypse

The setting events, locations, threats and opposition were:

  • There is a rumour that there is a crashed space satellite in the Nevada Desert.
  • The nuclear fuel cells have all gone.
  • The preacher will stop at nothing in order to find the satellite.
  • Wild cybernetic monkeys live in the desert.

As a group we are trying to find the fuel cells, if we fail to do this the force shields protecting the city will drop.

Our characters were:

  • Chuck Ellis, whose goal was to understand the world. His power was the ability to hyper analyse, through being connected directly to the net. The power wanted to disconnect completely from the physical world.
  • Rho, whose goal was freedom from financial responsibility. His power was the ability to fly. The power desired to hunt living prey.
  • The Bull, whose goal was to get some money. His power was smashy metal fists. The power desired to destroy everything turning it into its simplest form.

Our story in brief:

  • Meeting with management who had decided to send us out of the safety of the city to relocate the fallen satellite, more specifically the fuel cells with in.
  • A brief encounter with suspicious security guards on the way out.
  • A trip to abandoned  outpost where we were ambushed by a sniper.
  • Capturing the sniper and interrogating him, finding out about another base.
  • A daring escape from the snipers team.
  • A trek through a wooded area filled with cybernetic monkeys that continued to throw things at us.
  • The creation of a device that would imitate certain monkey pheromones to control the monkeys.
  • Scouting a base, and finding three guards that seemed more preoccupied with racing their segways than patrolling the base. The base had a massive gun (probably shot down the satellite).
  • Storming the base, finding out about the ceremony in the dessert, and leaving the remaining guards to fight with a bunch of cybernetic monkeys.
  • Infiltrate the ceremony set-up where a giant cybernetic messiah is being built. Trick the people into believing we follow their cause and get control of the giant cybernetic messiah.
  • Destroy the Preacher, and head home with the fuel cells, in the giant cybernetic messiah.
  • Surprise the security guard that was giving us lip in the beginning of the game.

The game took around 3-4 hours to play.

Thoughts from the game:

The method for choosing the setting of the game seemed to work well. We managed to tie all the different events, locations, threats and oppositions up neatly. There is not much that needs doing to this section.

In character creation there was a little confusion about the difference between the goal of the character and the goal of the power. Also I think the character creation could be stripped back even further. Instead of having two items in most sentences that need to be completed only one is really necessary. So instead of “Most people would describe me as blank, but I consider myself to be blank.” it could just be one or the other aspects of that.

Additionally I do not think having the background of the power to be necessary on the character sheet. This is tied to the setting, perhaps this should be moved there instead, this helps link the characters together further.

In terms of play. I think the game went on a little too long. We were trying to play a one shot session, but without a structure in place or one persons guidance there was too much stuff in the middle. A solution might be to put a structure into the way the scenes work in order to make them form an arc, this however risks taking control from the players.

Being able to pass on the GM slot to someone who had an idea was really useful. This happened when I had run dry on ideas, but one of the other players had some ideas on how to continue.

However, playing a character with two opposing goals as well as being a GM and a character got kind of confusing. There is too much to consider. Something really needs to change here, either it needs to be a GM lead game or the way the scenes work need reconsidering.

At times the difficulty for doing certain tasks just seemed to easy, I don’t think we really played with the multiple checks for difficult challenges properly. Another option might be a vito to stop players doing things which are just plane silly.

Not enough humanity was lost. Our humanity scores were barely scratched, this seriously needs re-addressing especially for a one-shot scenario. Ideally the characters should change relatively drastically.

Towards the end of the session the game got very silly, still fun to play. I think I was tired after what was a relatively long roleplay session for me.

There’s lots to consider and I definitely need to go back to the drawing board and make some further improvements. I still feel like there is something there, but it is going to take more digging than I first thought.

Previous posts about humanity.

Humanity: Playtest No.1

playtest1

Yesterday I had the opportunity to playtest Humanity with some of the people at the London Indie RPG Meetup Group.

The Setting: The American Old West (cowboys etc), and our powers were demonic related.

Key locations: a saloon; a remote valley with tarpit; a cursed abandoned gold mine; stables, a sherifs office; and a railway.

Current Events: A new sherif in town; a remote frontier town; women have just started arriving; cattle had been found mutilated; and their have been rumours about the mine going round.

Obstacles: A native american tribe; outlaws; a zealous preacher; and wild animals.

Our Group Goal: To make the town bloom.

Our characters:

The Preacher Jack, whose power was flames/fire (the power wanted to see things burn).

Bob the engineer, whose power was the understanding of physical objects (the power wanted complete power over everything).

Esrah Harris the Doctor, whose power was mind control (… I can’t quite remember the powers want for Esrah).

Bill Reynold the Saloon owner, whose could sprout wings and fly (the power wanted to be free from all responsibility).

Henry Reynold the store owner, who was a lycanthrope (the power wanted to feed).

Our Story

The story revolved mainly around the local tribe who it turned out had been attacked by the outlaws and that is the reason they were threatening the town. The Preacher wanted to convert them to God, whilst Bill, Henry and Bob wanted to try to collect the bounty on their head.

There was a brief trip down the abandoned mine, where a massive bear was found, plus some gold.

In the end, Henry briefly became a spirit god to the tribe before succuming to his desire to feed on Bob who used one of his contraptions to kill him.

The Preacher and Bill ended fighting over a large nugget of gold, Bill managing to grab it and fly away at the end. The Preacher and Esrah were left with a group of outlaws who had just had their mind blanked by Esrah.

The Response

I got the general feeling that the game went well, there was some confusion over bits of the rules and it seemed like the current set up would suit multiple play sessions rather than a one-shot. I think people had fun, but there was some great feedback which I need to look at more closely.

Things to Consider

High is Good, Low is Good: It completely slipped past me that when rolling Challenges high numbers are good and when rolling Humanity Checks low numbers are good.

This is a relatively simple fix, I just need to change the order of the Humanity tracker. However, this has a knock on effect that as “Humanity” decreases the number representing it decreases. Perhaps the name for this stat needs to be changed to the “Powers Influence” on the character.

Single Session, Multi-Session: When writing the game I had in mind that it would be played over a number of sessions, however the reality is that I’m most likely to test the game in single one-shots. The rules need to be adaptable to reflect the playtime available. The main problem is that in a single session, the humanity level does not drop quick enough.

There are a number of possible fixes:

  • Instead of a chance to lose humanity when using a power,  you always lose humanity when using a power.
  • Increasing the amount of humanity lost in line with how much over 20 is rolled, i,e, roll 21 lose 1 humanity, roll 22 lose 2 humanity and so on.
  • Starting with less humanity when playing a one-shot.

Loss of Control to the Power: It might be that it was a single session or that the humanity did not drop quick enough, but it seemed unlikely that the characters would lose the grip on themselves and act with the powers wants.

A slight shift in the numbers might than the probability of this happening, I think it should be definitely be happening more.

Scene Control: At the moment the scenes are very loose, there is very little control on what sort of things should be happening in each of the scenes and how they should be played.

I’m thinking it might be interesting to consider each play session an episode, and follow a guided structure for each of the scenes, where certain elements are added and twists occur. This should help with the rhythm of the story.

Who is in charge?: Not having a specific GM made some situations a little confusing, no one really had the voice of authority and it lead to people both describing what their character was doing and what was happening in the world at the same time, which is something that should be avoided.

I think the solution to this is to rotate the GM for each scene, and their character is left in the background for that moment. I still want the other players to be able to add challenges but these should be simple and quick suggestions which the GM for that scene embellishes.

Interrupting: Giving someone a challenge or humanity check was difficult, it felt rude interrupting someone whilst they are describing things. There needs to be some signal or protocol for giving someone a challenge.

The best solution is likely silently passing someone a power dice and waiting for them to come to a natural stop in their little talk. Then introducing the challenge.

Voluntary Failure?: It was suggested that it might be nice to have voluntary failure on certain checks. Which I think could work.

I think the best way for this to work would be that you can lower the result of any roll but not increase it. This allows players to sometimes choose for their powers to gain influence over their character, or to allow more negative things to happen. This needs careful consideration.

Character Background: I think there were too many things in the characters background to fill out about their humane side but perhaps not enough about the background of their power.

I’m likely to remove the status of the character I think this is implicit by the nature of the character, I’m also considering reducing the immediate goal and long-term goal into just a single goal. I think there might need to be something about where I got my power added in.

Attributes: At the moments the characters have different attributes which change how good they are at certain tasks, this change felt marginal at best.

I’m tempted to reduce this to no specific stats/attributes, but just have a results table based on the dice roll. Another thing which might be interesting is linking the current capability of the character to their humanity level in some way.

Mishaps: It is sometimes really difficult to come up with a way that a character can both succeed but at the same time have something also go wrong.

I think further guidance is required in the rules for dealing with this, some sort of guide about the types of things that could happen, hints or prompts.

Clarity: Somethings just were not clear, although this might be my explanation of the rules. The main issue that needs to be made clear is the conflict between the characters goals and the goals of the power that they are trying to control.

This can maybe be dealt with with some character sheet design, giving a really strong emphasis on this matter.

Not enough dice: Being limited to 1 power dice is not enough, they get passed around too quickly.

I need to play with these limits and see what the effects are whilst considering the relationship with other stats..

Conclusions

There is certainly a lot to consider and implement before I draw up the next version of the game, but it certainly feels like it is going in the right direction.