Sunday, August 15, 2010

Do It Yourself - Chapter 1: Planning

So HERE'S something of a departure from what I normally do. "Do It Yourself" is going to be a weekly blog entry detailing my attempt at making a game for the XBLIG Marketplace. Will I complete this? Will I give up halfway through? Will I even put the thing on the Marketplace once I'm done or will I die of shame? We'll find out eventually, but first let's start our tale with Do It Yourself, Chapter 1: Planning.

Something I like to do in my little bit of spare time is develop card games. It's probably the 15 years of playing Magic: The Gathering and about that long dabbling in other card games talking when I say that, if I could, I would decide everything in every game I play with some sort of card-based system. Many of my ideas never make it past a few scribbles in my notebook, but a couple of them have fully developed and playable prototypes sitting in my computer room. And by "fully developed" I, of course, mean "pieces of paper on top of crappy Magic cards in card sleeves." (The picture up top is a box of cards for a card game I developed based around a one-on-one street fight.)

It's probably no surprise that my enjoyment of card (and board) games spreads over to my passion for video games. Or that I bought both MTG Online for the PC and MTG Duels of the Planeswalkers on XBLA. Or that I spent a couple hundred hours playing Culdcept on the PS2 and a few dozen hours with the XBox 360 version. Or...well, you get the point. I heart myself some card games and equally heart myself some video games, and definitely throw myself into card-based video games when I get the chance. And so, with the introduction of XBLIG along with the sheer lack of nearly any card games on the service outside of freecell and hold 'em, I feel a certain duty to put my own personal brand of nerdiness out there.

The hurdles of going from no programming experience, outside of messing around on my old TI-83 back in high school and a semester of C++, to making a game for XBLIG are two-fold. One, and the most obvious, is that I need to learn C#. Two, and possibly more difficult than learning and typing pages upon pages of code, is that I need to invent a card game that is both playable on one console AND fun to play. As I said, I have two card games completely done and a couple others with mechanics finished but in need of more substance, but these are all multiplayer card games that don't work well when the opponent knows what's in your hand. I'd prefer my first entry into the fray to not depend on networked play for its main method of fun.

This left two options. One, making a game that is still fun and playable for multiple people while knowing what everyone else has in hand. The other option, and the one I decided to go with, was creating a single-player card game. And in this there are a ton of inherent problems. Single-player card games tend to, well, play themselves. Games like Freecell and Klondike have only a few times over the course of many games to make actual decisions other than "should I move the 2 of Hearts onto the Ace of Hearts?" Without at least two viable options at a time a game isn't really a game. It's more of a mindless time suck, and I'm pretty sure we can all agree that there are enough of those out there that I don't need to add to it.

So, for my first game, I want to create a sort of card-based RPG. I don't mean where you run around and your combat involves cards. I mean a game you could actually sit down at a table and play if you had the cards from the game and a couple six-sided dice. In fact, that's how I'll do some of my initial balance testing. Your heroes will be cards, as will their equipment, their abilities/spells, the monsters they face, and the random events that happen. I want a series of quests that take 15-20 minutes a piece and a game that's over in roughly two hours. And once it's over I want people to play it again with a different set of heroes. With different strategies. Or on a different difficulty level.

To sum it up, I want to make a short RPG with a fixed amount of battles so it doesn't have the grind that you'll see in most RPGs, forcing a focus on strategy and resource management instead of on leveling up and becoming too powerful for anything to stop you.

So for the rest of this week I'll be going through some tutorials for C# while also thinking about what will go into this card game. Hopefully, by next weekend, I'll have a few rough drafts for the cards.

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