This week, I’ll be trying out version 10 of Seventh Cross! Some things worked out in version 9, and some didn’t. Here’s a quick update on the game’s development.
How did Version 9 go?
In version 9, we tried out battles against bosses using a deckbuilder-styled system for the players, and a boss that would randomly target different positions on the board with its attacks. The overall reception was good, but there were a few points that didn’t work for me with this version:
- The deckbuilding aspects felt clunky. With only 3-4 battles during a game, deckbuilding would have to be very heavy (getting 5-10 cards per build phase) or else it would hardly matter at all. A deckbuilding phase like that would require significant downtime, and I don’t just want to re-design Millennium Blades.
- The boss wasn’t threatening enough. Striking at random on the board left too much leeway for the boss to simply miss the players and give them free turns. Threats need to be more consistent. Our favorite boss in this test was one that constantly slammed the entire board for 2 damage, causing the players to refresh their guard regularly. This kind of “play around it” aspect made for more interesting battles.
- The combo-driven gameplay felt somewhat same-y for each character. The deckbuilding aspect means that each player would have a lot of cards that were low-tier or generic, and that didn’t really fit with the theme well. I want the heroes of Seventh Cross to all be highly competent and unique in their fighting styles.
- The boss’s large HP Pool required a lot of work from the players to take down. The only boss scaling in this version was an HP Multiplier, so it took 4 times as long for four players to beat it. I need to multiply the boss’s threat in a multiplayer game, not the grind.
Version 10 - A Possible Key Mechanic
In version 10, I’ve implemented some changes that I think will address the issues we faced in v9, while improving the gameplay. Most importantly, I have a very neat idea that I think will help the game to stand out from others in its genre.
One of my greatest concerns in building Seventh Cross has been that the game be unique. The genre of “party vs. dungeon/monsters” is certainly a big one, and I knew what I was getting into when I resolved to make my own entry into it.
While searching for a replacement for the deckbuilding mechanic in the present game, I starting thinking a lot about other action adventure video games and how they present combat. There were many options, but most seemed to make sense for only one or two of the characters of the cast. As I was considering about 5 different systems at once, it me that I could just use them all! It wouldn’t be so hard to make each character not just a different fighting style, but a different genre of game altogether!
Our traditional Devil-May-Cry hack-n-slash combo fighter could use a press-your-luck mechanism to fight, while our Caster character could be playing something more akin to Magic the Gathering against the boss. The Leader would utilize chess-like moves, guiding the other characters around the board and setting up combo attacks, while the Alchemist uses reagents from his deck to craft bombs and potions mid-combat, their effects changing based on what ingredients go into his flasks. Each player will manage their own mini-game, which will require different skills and mastery to excel at.
Advancement will happen the same way–players have their own quests that they try to complete. The paranormal investigator is constantly trying to decipher coded messages from a secret agency scattered throughout the game, while the Assassin is working to find and cross off NPCs from his hit list, and the Treasure Hunter plots an elaborate heist at the behest of a mysterious backer. These tasks take place between the battles, and force each character to look at the game in a different way, driving home the disparate motives that brought them to Seventh Cross. Each time they are able to complete a portion of their quests, the players individually gain new weapons, skills, or benefits to help them in future games. Though, perhaps some secrets are best left hidden… hm…
Aside from this big change, there were a few other changes to the way the boss will play out:
- The boss lays down threats directly on top of the characters, so they’re always pressured right from the start. Furthermore, the players have threat cards in their decks, and if they press their luck too hard or overdo it on their turns, they are likely to hit these cards and spawn new threats onto the board that they didn’t expect. This should help to address the boss scaling problem.
- With characters dealing 7+ damage in a turn, a boss’s HP pool had to be rather massive to survive 10 rounds against the players. To remedy this, I’ve put together a Wound-pool system, where the boss has Light, Medium, Serious, and Critical Wounds, and these each have damage thresholds. The individual bosses have these thresholds set. Thus, when players deal 8 damage, they may cause just one Medium Wound. When they deal 16, they cause just one Critical Wound. This greatly reduces the number of damage tokens that are required to play the game, while giving players something to accomplish each turn. Since all wounds have to be depleted to defeat the boss, even light hits have their usefulness.
We will be trying out the first four characters in version 10 tomorrow, along with a simple scenario. I’ll be sure to share the report once we get a few plays in! :)
PS: If you’re reading these and following along with the game’s development, please leave me some comments! Questions about process, or the specifics of building and testing the prototypes and gathering feedback are great too! :D