Sunday, November 10, 2013

Session 2

The previous class session was the first time that our group was really able to sketch out some more fundamental details for our board game. Nick re-familiarized us with the basic principles of his game concept and we got underway.

The premise of our game is that each player assumes the identity of a thief of art pieces, specifically paintings. Consequently, players travel around the world, represented by the board, stealing valuable paintings from different museums and locations. Each continent or landmass (the distinction of which will be made later on in our development) is divided into regions and partitions. One of the first problems that we encountered was how to incorporate player movement in the game. I suggested that we stray away from randomized movement, e.g. tossing dice, and the others agreed as well. If players did not have enough decision in how they could move about in the world, then our game would not be nearly as fun. At the time, and until now, we did not have any sort of mechanic for how paintings could be stolen. Instead, players can steal paintings simply if they are currently located at a museum. Therefore, if movement on the board was not the direct result of player choice, then paintings would essentially be stolen based on what a player rolled from a pair of die.

Nick originally had an idea that included the rolling of die while decreasing the role and importance of randomized chance. He suggested that players would roll a die and, based on the resulting value, travel to a set of available locations. Lower die values meant the player would only be able to travel to closer locations while higher value meant they could travel further away. While this was a good idea, the issue of "rolling die" still bothered the group as whole. We wanted to go in a direction where player decision was the primary influence in the game.

In the end, we developed a unique system of in-game travel. Movement on the board was divided into two types: domestic and international. Players may travel freely to any region or partition within the current continent that they are on. For instance, if a player is in North America, he or she may travel from New York to San Francisco without consequence or penalty. However, the same is not true for international travel. To travel abroad, players must purchase "tickets". Each ticket allows the player to travel along a predetermined route on the board. Each route costs one ticket. Therefore, if a player desires to travel a particularly long distance that is covered by two routes, they must purchase two tickets. This idea of "hopping" to one's destination was first suggested by Cindy. She believed that incorporating layovers in our game, similar to what airline passengers experience at airports, would make our game more interesting.

Although the primary mechanic of our game is to steal and acquire high-value art paintings, the player with the most cash holdings ultimately wins the game. Therefore, it is important to be able to sell paintings off since they are only worth half their monetary value at the conclusion of the game. After paintings are sold, they are not re-circulated back into the game and are permanently taken out. Nick's idea, which was part of his original concept design, was that players who needed to sell their paintings for cash would enter an auction. There are several important rules to the auction. First, players who wish to join the auction must purchase a disguise which masks their identity. Each disguise has a value to it. The player with the lowest disguise value is unfortunately turned away from the auction while all other players who had higher-valued disguises can join. In the event of a tie, the current implementation is to allow the player with the lowest cash holdings to join. We decided upon this feature believing that it will work to balance the game and allow players who may be behind to catch up.

Much of our game requires a lot of testing to understand what kind of economy should be implemented. Our tentative decision at the moment is to have six major continents in the world that players can travel to. We will also have a total of 21 locations worldwide; each location holds a museum that will contain the same number of paintings as players. Therefore, the New York Met would hold four paintings if there were four players.

Finally, we found that Tickets to Ride was very enjoyable and fun partially because it fostered great player-to-player interaction. The fact that all players had to share the United States in such a claustrophobic way was one reason for its success. To engineer the same experience in our game, we decided that some kind of law enforcement system should be added. While the exact details have not yet been finalized, the general direction suggests that we will have a randomized system which places a "police officer" on a continent or region. This bans players from visiting that region. Again though, this idea needs refinement so that it players will actually experience the danger of getting caught in the game.

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