So much has changed! Quick overview.
Right okay, it's been a hot minute since the last post. That is because I, along with my playtesters, have been so busy working on this game. We are really happy with the theme, and we love the core mechanic of the game, so it's just been about making it as good as possible. However, if you don't know, sometimes making games the best they can be, means changing some major mechanics, so this post is going to be going over that.
So like I said, there has been quite a few changes, so to save you from all the details, I am only going to go over the couple of major ones that has made big differences to how the game has played, including a few which didn't work out.
Carlo Fabricatore, my game design tutor at the University of Huddersfield has told myself many times that if you can control the design and the way the player's play, then do it. In the last blog post I showed off the customer cards layout that every player could attempt to complete. This was fun because it meant that everyone was competing for the same customers, which of course made it really competitive. However, I disliked two things about this. One, with the set up that we had with the customers, it was impossible to control how difficult the game was going to be. However unlikely, it was possible that there could be a draw of nothing lower than a level 8 card, which meant that the game would be dead in the water to begin with. The second issue was that there was almost no room for synergies with the abilities. Because there was four different core mechanics that I wanted to focus on with regards to synergistic gameplay: handsize, playing cards, discarding cards and drawing cards, and the fact that you only needed a few cards completed to win the game, meant that it was very unlikely that you would get more than two of the same type of ability that could make those cards greater than the sum of their parts.
So, how did I fix this? Well I decided to make the costly decision (financial wise, and not the first time in the project, which I will get onto in a moment) of giving every restaurant (every player) their own unique customers. This meant almost 4x the amount of cards in the game (still 120 so its not too big a deal). With every player having their own unique customers, and therefore their own unique abilities, it allows for me to control the synergies that they can perform if they play correctly, and let me tell you, it has lead to some really fun and wacky gameplay which has allowed players to complete a really difficult order (exactly what I wanted!)
This is the second costly addition I had to make to the game for the sake of gameplay. The reintroduction of star components. To understand this decision, I am going to quickly mention the flip flopping I had to go through to get to this point. Initially, if you completed an order, you would receive the amount of stars that it states on the card, and if you fail an order, you would lose half a star. This meant that there was an actual decision to be made for whether you were to attempt an order or not, and of course, if you choose to never attempt an order, you are never going to win, so that makes the decision even harder. However, I wanted to make this game as cheap and as light as possible because of the current costs of postage from the UK to the USA (over £20 a game for my current game Blockers: The Stacking Game). So I changed the penalty to be that the player would lose the entire customer card, including the ability. This allowed the players to keep track of the stars they had via the customers they had. However, because failure meant that it was harder to succeed, and because the more cards your completed, the harder the options got due to the level 1, 2 and 3 system (at a certain point, you run out of easy cards to complete), almost every game ended in players unable to win... which isn't fun. So, the stars had to be reintroduced. I am going to attempt to get them made using a punch board so they will just slip on top of the cards in the small box. It shouldn't increase the weight too much, but time will tell once we get the game finalised and a quote request sent off.
Finally, I decided to add the "Chef" card. Currently, each player has the same "Chef", but I plan to make it so one of the abilities relates to the customer card abilities they have. Anyway, the Chef card was introduced because I had trouble determining how many uses the abilities should have. I really wanted the abilities that you got from completing customer cards to feel super powerful, but of course that meant that you couldn't use them constantly, otherwise the game will start having issues to do with players that are in the lead just snowballing to victory. The alternative was to have a one and done system, but much like the penalty change from the example I gave earlier, in which if you failed an order, you would lose an ability, if you were unlucky and you used abilities and still lost, you would get to the point where you would have spent all your abilities, and it was nearly impossible to complete the harder cards, and would result in yet another outcome of no one can win. So, this is where the Chef comes in. The Chef currently gives you three options, you can either: refresh an item (2 items if you have 3 or more stars to combat the amount of cards you are likely to have at that point, draw 1 card, or "butterbean" which is a reference to The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls ability where you can cancel the affect of any card). So, this means that the player has three options to choose from, all of which have their own merits. Of course the refresh ability solves the problem I was having with the abilities. If you had some good combos, once you used them you would have to take your time to refresh them which could cost you, but at the same time you could choose not to do that with the ability "draw 1", which was designed to help players out at the beginning of the game to get the ball rolling. And finally, butterbean is an option a more cautious player could use. If another player has a really strong offensive ability, you may want to save your Chef to protect yourself if they decide to screw you over. I also like how the Chef card is the only ability that refreshes at the start of every turn, meaning that the player, no matter how unlikely or how unskilled, always has at least one meaningful decision to make.
What didn't work?
Other than what I have mentioned previously when discussing my road to where the game's mechanics are at now, there was one major mechanic which just didn't work out, mainly because it was too complicated and just didn't fit the theme whatsoever. So if you take a look back at the screenshots, you will see that the Level 2 and 3 cards have shields with numbers on them. This was because I had forgot to take them off the cards during the most recent playtest, but they were originally there because I wanted to try out an attack defence system for the customers. So for example, the more difficult card to complete, the higher the attack/defence number, which could be used to... yes both attack and defend. So there could be a situation where a player uses an offensive ability on you, maybe one that says you discard a card. That card could have a 4 shield. That means that if you would want to stop a player from performing that ability, you would have to use a card with a shield number of 4 or higher, which would also mean that you couldn't use that card for it's intended ability. This just got too complicated and no one really even wanted to use this mechanic when playing because it worked so much against the pace of the game.
The future of FTBS.
I thought I mentioned this in the previous post, but it turns out I didn't. Because of what I mentioned in this post previously (the fact that postage has almost doubled for UK to US), I really want to make the next game that Crab Studios publishes a really affordable product for as many players as possible. Therefore I have made the decision to swap the Kickstarter campaigns of Into the Mine and FTBS, so now FTBS will be coming to Kickstarter in February, and Into the Mine in June. This is also the other reason why I have been focusing more on playtesting FTBS than Into the Mine (also the fact that Into the Mine is very, very solid in terms of gameplay). There is still a ways to go for FTBS, but the soft deadline for finalised art and gameplay is October 1st. This will allow me to get prototypes made and out to reviewers with 2 months before the campaign is set to go live. So wish me look on that front!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this lengthy blog post. I am thinking about starting to do video blog posts to accompany these posts starting with the next one, so hopefully that is something you can look forward too. So that's it, thanks for reading and I shall see you in the next one, thanks!
Hello, my name is Niall Crabtree, and this is my comprehensive blog showcasing all of my game development endeavors and successes, as well as essays on game design.
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