Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Anatomy of a Game: CRYPTS

Greetings friends!

I had a few minutes to myself at work today and I had myself a bit of a think.

I still didn't feel that the death mechanics in CRYPTS were right, do you know what I mean? When you know that even on paper, before it's even played out, something just doesn't feel right!

So currently the rules state that if you die in an encounter you can be combat rezed or the posse can try and complete the encounter and then non-combat rez you afterwards.

But what happened if the posse dies? If no one is around to do any reviving?

This was something that I never liked as it was game over!

So allow me to introduce you to the 'Corpse Run' mechanic.

This is a mechanic used in MMOs as you the player dies, comes back as a spirit and has to return to your body to resume playing.

The corpse run is a lengthy drawn out mechanic that a lot of people hate, mainly because the only thing they are loosing by running to their corpse is 'time', possibly the most predacious commodity in today's world.

So, with all this in mind; why would I decide that this is the mechanic to introduce in one form or another?

It's simple and quite frankly the real topic I want to talk to you about today (yup, all of that for what was essentially an introduction).


So I don't think anyone would argue that there isn't a strong tie between table top games and digital RPGs (be it solo number crunchers like Balder's Gate, group aimed dungeon crawlers like Diablo or MMOs like World of Warcraft).

So many digital RPGs are trying to recreate the feeling if a board game from the character development and item acquisition of Dungeons & Dragons to board games like Blood Bowl; the latter having quite a game faithful version on the computer.

But when was the last time you saw the tables turned?

When did you see a board game that is trying to actually capture the feel of a digital RPG?

Sure there are WoW/GoW/StarCraft/DooM boardgames out there (most made by FantasyFlight Games) but how many of them are really just uses of a licence rather than a 'feel'?

Of course right now I'm dealing with abstract terms that are almost impossible to actually quantify; how do you really say that one game retains more of a 'feel' for it's licence than another game?

Is it references? In jokes? The same mechanics used throughout? If so then this would imply the best use of the Warcraft licence outside of the RTS games and the MMO is probably Hearthstone, which while being an excellent game doesn't feel like you're playing either Warcraft or World of Warcraft.

This is something I have tried to do with CRYPTS.

I'm not happy with how tabletop games and video games are separated at the moment:

Tabletop Games are renown for their complexity, how you need to put a large amount of effort before the game to play well (army choice, combo building, allocations of character stat points etc).

Video Games on the other hand are renown and celebrated for their simplicity, how you don't have to have played the game before to play well.

If course there are caveats to all of this. Tabletop games often talk about the learning curve for their rules and how some are easy to learn and likewise there are games where you can plan different builds and combos which in some cases are required to compete.

The one thing that doesn't require a caveat however is knowing (or not knowing) the behind the scenes:

To play a tabletop game you virtually always need to do maths to work out if your interaction succeeds and does it's intended action (like shooting someone in the head).

To play a videogame this knowledge isn't required, you point your crosshair at the target and fire, the maths is all done behind the scenes, all you see is if you hit or missed.

So how have I tried to get this feeling into CRYPTS?

I guess it's with my approach to making the rules as simple as possible. You want to shoot someone in the face? You roll, add your shooting modifier and if that is higher than the target's toughness you hit!

Yes this still involves some very basic maths that I would love to remove, but I don't think such a thing would be possible.

Let's compare this however to some other games, say GW's Warhammer systems.

Combat is resolved by first rolling to hit the target, if you score over a certain number determined by your Weapon Skill you have hit the target. Then once you have hit you need to try and wound the target, this is done by comparing the weapons strength versus the target's toughness. If you roll equal to or higher the magic number you have wounded the target. Once this is done the target then gets to try and make an armour save by rolling equal to or higher a number dictated by their equipped armour. If they make the save, then that damage is avoided.

One thing I've always thought; does the armour save not make the wounding roll a little pointless? Should that not be made after hitting but before wounding?

The point is, compared to this the maths involved with CRYPTS is like a grown man putting on trousers; sure there will be some incapable of doing it, and everyone will fall over from time to time, but more often than not it will be a really simple task completed with little to no thought.


This brings us back to the Corpse Run mechanic.

So what do videogames do?

Now I can't speak for all, but WoW does it excellently! By allowing you to corpse run and respawn at full health you and your party are ready to try the encounter again, the drawback? The encounter has also returned to full health and re spawned anyone you killed without completing it.

What does mean that death is not the end of the game. It allows you to check out the mechanics of your enemy and if you need to adjust your tactics you can do so!

It also means that you can't win by attrition. If you don't have the health, damage output or skills to defeat the encounter then you need to leave and come back with better loot.

You see where I'm going with this?

The difference is there will be no literal 'running' to your corpse, instead when the posse wipes the encounter resets and all posse members respawn at the encounter entrance.


So here you see a simple mechanic that provides (in theory) a wide reaching possibility.

Death does not always mean the end if the game/fun and allows for changing of equipment and combos!

Of course there is another thing that this opens up as well; CRYPTS: Hardcore where death means death!

Until next time; stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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