Donnerstag, 11. Februar 2016

Developer's note: Straight Doubles

Hello everyone! I’ve said before that I would write more articles on Krosmaster and its development from time to time. A new year has come since, I’m full of good resolutions, so let’s use the coming of Krosmaster Arena 2.0 as a good occasion to write articles (or at least… one article!).

Today, we’ll talk about a somewhat frustrating aspect of the game that I like to call a straight double: when both dice of the Tension Roll give you the same side without any way to avoid it.

The most striking effect of a straight double is when it happens on the last turn, where you could have won the game, but you only have one GG left. Wham! An entire hour of gameplay decided in a single die roll!

We’re making a gross oversimplification here, of course, but the frustration is quite real: when I talk to other players about their gaming experience, this is what they tell me about the most and what leaves the biggest (negative) impact on their memory of the game. It’s not the only situation where a straight double impacts the game, but it’s the most obvious one.

You’ll probably hear this often in these columns, but Krosmaster is played on a small amount of turns. Online, 90% of games end before turn 6. If you’re curious, here’s a graph showing the percentage of game which ends on a defined turn.

Doubles on tension rolls (and straight doubles by extension) obviously have their uses in the game mechanic, for example, making sure the game will have an end by reducing the gap required to win.

At the start of a game, a player needs to get 7 GG to win over his opponent. By getting doubles on the tension roll, this number shrinks: for instance, with two doubles out and the wild GG on your side, you only need to earn 4 more GGs to win. Doubles help players to get their victory condition quicker.

Another use that we shouldn’t forget is that tension rolls makes the game more dynamic, by injecting either kamas or temporary powers every turn.

Let’s get back to straight doubles. We have researched multiple alternatives to get rid of the frustrating aspect of this rule. Some of these alternatives demanded a complete rework of the GG system. Players would start with 10 to 12 GGs, which were taken away automatically as the game progressed. No more need for doubles to end the game! And to keep the engine working, different ways were offered to the players to get kamas and powers without the tension roll.

However, this idea was scrapped, because such a drastic change in the game’s rules would present a substantial risk of alienating the existing player base. We needed to find something less severe, which wouldn’t impact the mechanics as much.

For example, here are a few other alternatives that were considered:

  • Straight doubles won’t remove GGs anymore, but have other effects instead. While a seasoned player could transit to this paradigm easily enough, it proved to be too much of a barrier for newcomers, which had to learn what doubles could do and why, in a rather counter-intuitive way. The idea was later scrapped.
  • Doubles cannot remove any player’s last GG. While interesting, this idea had the problem to give a complete immunity to a negative effect, without any counterpart. It removed a lot of pressure for dominated players, and was scrapped as well.
  • Straight doubles cannot remove GGs if this would cause the game to end. This rule was clunky at best, and required to stop and backtrack during the turn to apply it, which wasn’t optimal as far as the flow of the game is concerned.

Many other ideas floated around, none of them interesting enough to convince us. Until we finally found the rule we use for Krosmaster Arena 2.0, and which will become official in tournaments a bit later.

Here it is:

Whenever you roll for tension, if the results doesn’t suit you, you may decide to reroll, but with only one die.

Example: My roll has given me double Locks, but I don’t want a double right now, so I decide to reroll. In this case, my first roll is ignored, and I roll only one die for the new tension.

Players won’t have to suffer the negative effects of the roll if they don’t want to, but as a result, they get only one die, which means either one power or a single kama.

When someone on the team gave that idea, something lit up in my head, and further tests confirmed my first impression.

This idea as a lot going for it:

  • It solves the original problem, which was kind of the point and we sometimes tend to forget it.
  • It’s easy to use. It’s not a boon on the active player, but a new option instead, almost a luxury, which proved to be really easy to understand. Usually, there’s no big dilemma when the situation arises.
  • It fits perfectly in the existing turn structure and doesn’t change the well-established “Roll for tension, give out inspiration, characters play” dynamic. It also doesn’t affect how GGs work, which was required at this point of development.
  • It’s not used only to get rid of straight doubles. If a player really needs a Critical or Lock power this turn, he can try to force his luck and reroll to get the desired power.
  • It’s doesn’t slow the game down. It’s not used all the time, and impacts the game’s rhythm very little.

There you have it, we just showed you a part of the process we follow to design this rule you will soon play with.

Nuuh, Game Designer for Krosmaster

PS: if you enjoy this kind of column, then I might make more in the future.

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