In my most recent article, I mentioned that we had a great breakthrough in the form of Gear Grids! We expanded upon that idea in the next few versions of the game, as well as refined the way that castles are laid out, how events are triggered, and how characters' monstrous forms come into play.
v21 - Tower of Ascension
For version 21, I created a simple scenario, the Tower of Ascension. The story centered around a sorceress who built a machine that would allow her to become a god. Now, centuries later, the machine has come to life once again... We enjoyed the tower, and I hope that some version of it will show up in the final game.
I decided to try and make the gear grids a little more modular in v21, by giving players more modular options and a Level Up system, where grids were built outwards, sort of like Yokohama, where the grid grows as you play hexominoes (6-part dominoes).
As you may have seen in this blog so far, a great deal of building Seventh Cross has been as much about deciding what goes into an encounter as it has been about resolving one. In v21, I decided not to go to the book for every single encounter, and instead give each wing its own deck of encounter cards, which had a short paragraph and a check for the player to perform. This expanded upon the ideas we had for a card-based castle in v16 and combined it with the castle tiles we added in v18.
The checks are made with verbs that are thematically tied to stats, so the Spike Pit Trap below could be cleared by Climbing–activating Strength and Dexterity symbols.
In addition to activating boards, players could use Skill Cards to approach challenges. The challenges were tagged (such as the "Fall Hazard") challenge on the left. These tags related back to the skills. For example using, the "Bug Zapper" skill could allow Luciya to clear a Machine or Electric Hazard challenge using its 3 relevant stats, rather than the ordinary ones on her grid.
A Path Card (shown here) added a random factor to the difficulty of a challenge, and also provided you with various rewards. You could choose to take a more difficult path card, which had higher risk, but also higher rewards. Path cards also had a chance to activate 'Luck', which could provide extra successes on any encounter.
How did it work out?
If reading about the interaction of the grid, skills, challenges, and path cards seemed a little bit obtuse, you'd be right. The system worked, but the chain of thought that was required to make it work was a bit too long for sustained play. Here's a typical player turn in v21:
- I move into a space.
- I draw an encounter card and read it.
- I can use "Climb (Strength/Endurance)" to clear it by default. How much of that can I generate with various ordinary grid placements?
- How much of that can I generate with these cool skills I have?
- Oh, it's a Fall Hazard. Do I have any skills that deal with those?
- It seems I do. This one uses Dexterity, Endurance, and Faith. How much of that can I generate with various grid placements?
- Ok, I'm finally going to make my placement and total my proficiency.
- Knowing that I have a certain amount of proficiency, how difficult of a path should I draw? Can I guarantee success on certain path card difficulties?
- Now I draw the path and sum it the difficulty of the check, plus a Path Card. Did my 'Luck' activate? Time to recalculate my final proficiency then.
- Finally, was my proficiency greater than or equal to the difficulty of the check? If so, then I succeed! If not, then I fail.
The amount of calculations and thought required to make each decision in this chain created a lot of downtime. Our first castle would have taken about 6 hours to complete, without a few hotfixes to reduce the size of the place and allow us to move faster.
Another big part of the problem of this game was that because you couldn't see what encounters were coming up in advance, you couldn't really prepare yourself for them during the other players' turns.
Even if you're willing for a game to be 6 hours long, the amount of downtime and trivial math required to play a turn of v21 was't acceptable. However, a lot of good data was created. We learned what parts of this system players liked, what they didn't like, and continued to think about how we could pack all those elements into a simpler system.
What players liked & Disliked:
- The idea of having a special skill that you could activate on your grid was great, as was a unique weapon that created a unique way of fighting for your character. You just didn't need a whole hand of them, as having five didn't add a much more to your play experience than one or two.
- Players really enjoyed placing the oddly-shaped pieces from earlier versions of the game onto their boards. The free form boards were not actively disliked, but they were universally less popular than the more restrictive boards.
- The ability to place anywhere on your character's board offered a lot of control, but also a lot of AP. We experimented further with this in later versions, but ultimately moved towards a more restrictive method of placement.
- Bosses in this version were fewer and further in between than in previous versions. Since this version was mainly about testing encounters, we didn't think too much about it. However, comments were made that the bosses needed to play a larger and more integral role in the game than the mechanics of v21 allowed them to play.
With these ideas in mind, we moved on to version 22, which I'll share more about in my next post!