Thursday, December 5, 2013

Some Testing Success

This week we did play testing with a close to final product. We expected to make some minor tweaks to improve player experience. The two groups who play tested gave great advice and seemed to have fun in the process.

The first group had Professor Parks in it. He gave the most advice by volume. His most helpful advice came when he ran into a situation that we never encountered, where a player was stuck in a corner and had no chance of winning. We had never had this happen, perhaps because we all played with some similar strategies. His input allowed us to get a new rule in that is really quite important. He also suggested for all that we get a reference card. I did not think we needed one, but it seems to be a recurring theme that people like reference cards and it helps the learning process. Part of my bias may be because developing what a player does each turn has been a primary task of mine.

The second group added some player experience tips. We were able to even play a second time and integrate the suggestions. One of those suggestions was changing the position of the starting player each round. While it did not seem to make a difference in giving players an even chance, it did make them feel like it was more even. Another suggestion that I think both groups had was altering the hazard cards. Making them equally bad for all players seemed to be a theme, as well as less severe cards. A few hazards were so severe that they made an instant negative player experience. The second round we played with the altered cards people were on edge right before a hazard and there was a relief or an enjoyable set back. The set backs were seen as a challenge by the players, not as a beating down.

There were a few other minor tweaks that we made but the ones that I have written about are the tweaks of importance. I had a great time play testing and the play testers all said they had a great time playing. I think (and hope) that their experiences are a good sign.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Week 4

The development of Empires of Trade has been going smoothly. After deeming our game simple and easy to play after play testing, our group decided to add another layer of complexity and give the game more flavor. We planned on accomplishing this by adding event cards. This new addition would not only add another dimension to our game, but also give our game more of a narrative feel. Before the establishment of trade routes and the Spice Trade and Silk Road, the world was young and unexplored. As more and more trade routes were being made, traveling to different markets became a more dangerous task. The hazards of trading not only included natural disasters but also bandits that would raid caravans and stop merchants from being able to move goods to other markets.

To accomplish this narrative feel, the implementation of event cards would have to parallel the increasing hazards of a growing world. The event cards we planned on utilizing would either have no effect or a detrimental one. When playing the game, the number of event cards drawn would increase as the board game progresses. This way the chances of damaging events would increase bringing more excitement and an added pressure on players to make wiser decisions.

We have been using Facebook to check in and share our progress. Using this social network, also allowed for better communication within our group especially when to finding a time to meet up. Since last class, Mahvish and I met up to work on the event cards. The event cards that we made can be put into three categories: global events, local events, and personal events. Global events when drawn can affect all players on a large scale, such as the destruction of routes. Local events are more specific, which could be the destruction of all markets in a specific area. Personal events would affect the player that drew the card, such as losing goods. We still need to play test the game with these added event cards to see how the flow of the game may change, and I am excited to see where these changes take us.

-Scott Lazaro

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Week 3 - Visible Progress!

At this point in the game (pun intended), Empires of Trade has been making some serious progress.  In class, I designed some cards that we will be using (more or less) for the game and solidified some game rules. Outside of class we had two meetings thus far.  In the first meeting, Scott and I created a prototype for the board and doing so required collaborative effort.  Together we found a way to expand the map and were able to blow up an image of some selected continents to 4 pages, which we printed and taped together so it could be used as one cohesive board.  We had to figure out starting points, the particular symbols that we wanted to incorporate, and try to judge the distances between countries so that it was workable in creating “tracks”.    
         In the second meeting, Scott and Peter play tested the game using the rules we established in class. Though the meeting went well, the game's mechanics are not entirely completed.  After going home, Scott decided to playtest the game again with some friends and discovered that teaching the game was pretty simple.  The players caught on quickly manifesting that Empires of Trade is indeed understandable and workable. The first play test went pretty quick but he realized that the game needed to be more balanced out for each player.  Hence, the cities are now 5 "Spaces" away from each other and establishing a route now costs 8 gold which equates to 4 resource cards
.  Once these changes were applied, the play testing went even smoother. 

Finally, we are thinking of adding “event cards” to add more flavor, dimension, and time to the game.  And I am excited to see how this adds to the complexity, interaction and fun! 

Mahvish Irfan

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Week 2

My group members and I are creating a board game called Empires of Trade. I am unfamiliar with the other three members of my group Peter, Mahvish and Scott, which is making the transition a little tough.  Peter set up a Facebook group in which we can communicate with each other, without having meetings outside of the classroom. In the group Peter created a poll that allows each group member to show the times they are available to meet outside of class. I thought this would be very beneficial, however it seems as though all of our schedules are pretty out of sync with each other. For now the Facebook is working for us, yet I think we will definitely need to meet outside of class a few times.
The theme of Empires of Trade is based on the Silk Road .The game allows players to establish markets, produce goods, trade with other players/ markets and establish routes. The game allows players to interact with each other by trading which is an element of the game I really like; especially since I feel as though my card game lacked interaction between players. I also like that the players are in control of their own moves, rather than being told what to do by picking up cards or rolling a dice.

I am a visual learner therefore it was hard for me to understand the mechanics of the game during our first week’s discussion. Fortunately Scott brought a map of Asia to class last week. This made it easier for me to visualize how it would feel to be a player of the game. Having the map in hand we were able to figure out the routes that composed the Silk Road. In addition we set up ten markets that are placed along each route/routes ready for players to establish them and start producing goods. As a group we decided that it would be fair that each player starts the game with an established market at one of the four corners of the route. During last weeks class we were able to figure out the core mechanics of the game and certain features we felt were necessary for a positive playing experience.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Start of an Empire

Week 1 is no easier this time than the last. Although I do know Scott from a previous class, I do not know Mahvish or Ashley. I thought that the Facebook group would be a good start to our communication, and the others agreed. From looking at the group, I can tell not everyone is checking it often. I think that the group is a vital connection to delegate tasks and to collaborate while not having to meet. With the short time span to make the game and all our lives' other tasks also taking our time I really do not see a way for us to meet often, so it is important to check it often and to voice one's opinion. I will emphasize this at the next group meeting.

 I can only speak for myself, but I did feel like we are a little overwhelmed with the task at hand. While we are no longer complete novices at making games, we have not worked with each other and also have not made a board game before. The initial task will be to get a workable system of rules out to get the mechanics down. A map of Asia and some resource cards are all that will be needed to get the play testing going, but the rules will be important and probably will need to be revised several times as issues come up. The board game is a more complex game with much more player freedom so more play testing will be needed than the card game to find the situations that do not run smoothly.

One part I liked about the core concept of this board game is that it has a sense of freedom to it. Like Settlers of Catan our game is about setting up a location using resources, then using it to gain more resources. Scott's proposal was not very specific on mechanics, which I think will allow us to create a set of rules that has players interact and trade as much as possible. The game has trade in it's title, and trade is a great way to get players to interact. Trade can have both players walking away elated,  frustrated or indifferent and it is really what they want to make out of it. I feel that although a board game might be more labor intensive, the freedom of play can have a much higher payoff in the end. I suppose it can be compared to the Sawyer metaphor of a Jazz band. A piece may be difficult to learn and play, but if executed right it has the potential to sound amazing.