1. Introducing codenamed "Threatened"

      written by Ray Benefield
      Sup folks? Hope everyone here had a good 4th of July weekend. As a lot of you know Manda, my wife, is having her c-section tomorrow on Bungie Day and baby Lucas will be joining our happy family. We are both very excited and I won't be home for the next few days, however I think there is internet there so I will probably still be around on the forums and probably write a post with pics on Lucas tomorrow. Until then, I want to discuss another little project that I'm working on in addition to my forerunner sketchup project. Let's dive in shall we? Be prepped for a long read... oh and before we start I will be playing Halo tonight for Bungie day at midnight pacific. See you guys if you are online then. ;) NOW let's start lol...


      Overview


      So what is "Threatened" exactly? Threatened is my codename for my new design project. It is a trading card game that was inspired by the threat/aggro based system used in many MMOs to calculate how the AI should prioritize their targets. If my assumptions are correct then this is where the tank, dps, and healer trinity came from. The tank soaks up damage and keeps attention on himself by using high threat based abilities. The healer makes sure that he stays alive, while not over healing and pulling attention to himself. The dps is to ensure that a ton of damage is dished out to make sure that threats are quickly eliminated to reduce the amount of damage the tank is taking to make everyone's job easier. The dps has to make sure he doesn't deal too much damage and attract unnecessary attention. If anyone in this trinity dies, the other two will suffer and that is why they call it the holy trinity. I wanted to take this concept and apply it to a turn based system that is more controllable and more tactical... kind of like chess.


      General play


      Because this game was inspired by MMOs, I wanted to keep that flavor. Each player controls a party of five characters. These characters are unnamed and are only defined based on their class and their race. These five characters are pit up against your opponents party and the goal is to eliminate your opponent's party before they eliminate your party. Think team PvP in WoW or other MMOs. Each character is represented by a card with the class as the "name", the amount of health the character has, and up to 3 actions. Each action has a threat "cost" and tells you to do something. Each player takes turns taking actions with their characters until one of the two parties is completely eliminated. This is a game of omniscience... meaning that each player can see all possible actions and there are no hidden factors or luck-based factors. This is exactly how Chess, Checkers, Reversi/Othello, or Dots and Boxes. In these games it is all based on out thinking your opponent with no bluffing or chance like in poker(hidden hand) or monopoly(dice). Below is an example of what kind of information would be placed on a single character. The card name (class), the race, up to 3 actions with threat costs, and then a max health (shown in the bottom right of this template). Note that the image is built using a Magic: The Gathering set creator, a custom template of a magic card, and an image I found on google. I do not own any of this art. Also all those cards are just prototypes and nothing is final. I've actually already tweaked some of the abilities.







      Click any of the images to enlarge them.


      The core mechanic: Threat


      Alright so every game has resources to play with that you can use to "pay" for stuff to ensure things don't get out of hand. In this game threat is your main resource. Threat represents how dangerous you are to your opponents, and their need to prioritize you as a target. Using that concept I decide to make threat the deciding factor behind who can hit who. Sometimes a high threat can be good, and sometimes it can be bad. Characters are ordered in the play area from highest to lowest threat in three rows. The first row (highest priority) at the top is the character with the highest threat, the second row (medium priority) has two characters with the second and third highest threat, and the third back row (lowest priority) has the remaining two characters with the lowest threat. Below is an image of how a single player's side of a play area could look.

      [Click to enlarge]

      Now as I stated, threat determines what characters you can actually target. Most actions have a designated range in which you can select your target. This range state the farthest row forward and backward that you can hit. So a {1} range action (melee range) would only be able to target characters on the row above or below you... within {1} row of the active character. So based on the above diagram say a healer with a heal ability of {1} range that was in the back row could only heal the character next to him or the characters in the second row, but NOT the top most row with the character on the front line. So while having a low threat can keep you away from danger it can also put you out of range to use your actions. Below is an example diagram of how different situations with different character positions and ranges. Blue is the active character with the ability and that redish/orange color (I'm slightly color blind) designates the characters that he can target if the ability has a range of what is above. Remember to click to enlarge.

      [Click to enlarge]

      How to play... for the most part


      Alright so when a game starts out each player goes through his collection of cards and places 5 characters face down in the positioning of the play area in any order they want. That way either player is unaware of what the other player has in his party. Then at the start of the game you flip the characters and decide who goes first. For a normal turn the player selects a character that is not turned sideways (tapped aka "used"), pays the threat cost, does the action, and then taps that character to show that it was used. Then that player repeats with one other character... so two actions per turn. Then un-tap all other characters that did not participate this turn so they are ready for next turn. In essence this results in characters having an effective cooldown of 1 turn. This ensures that players use a variety of characters and it also allows for special actions that can tap an opponent's character to stop them from using it next turn or un-tap yours ensure that there is no cooldown for that character. Then you re-prioritize both player's parties based on the new threat values. Below is a diagram of the turn structure.


      So all you have to really remember is to do your first action, tap that character, do your second action, tap that character, untap everyone else, and then re-order the parties. It is that simple. A turn could last less than a minute once you get used to it. This passes back and forth until an entire party is eliminated. Also in order to balance out who goes first, the player that takes the first turn is only allowed to do one action on the first turn to ensure that he doesn't pull too far ahead.


      The Long Term


      So what keeps this game interesting? Well as stated earlier, you don't have to use the same party every time. Maybe you want to play a quick hitter strategy using several Wizards and maybe a Warrior or a Priest to back you up. Or maybe you want to play a sabotage style strategy by playing a couple Archers with crippling shot to control what your opponent can use. Or maybe you want to play full defensive and use several Warriors and Priests. You could even play a threat control focused game using provoke and pacify from the Rogue and Priest respectively to control the order of your opponent's party and take out the weak points first. And these are just the possibilities with the 5 basic cards that start your collection.

      Once I get farther along I'll be creating more cards with specialized classes. Assassins, Illusionists, Warlocks, Shamans, Barbarians, etc. each with their own set of abilities with differing power and maybe new abilities. Imagine the Barbarian having a static ability that is always on that says when he takes damage he gains 10 or 20 threat. Or a Necromancer that deals damage as well as heals. I was even thinking about the potential of future sets that introduce "companions"... they would take up the slot in place of a character. They could say have one or two abilities that are specialized. Because of this lack of variety in options their abilities are slightly more powerful than your standard character ability, but they aren't as flexible. There are a lot of ways I can go with this and maybe also start playing off of the races to create Generals that buff members of their race.

      And I've also been thinking about how I can get both bigger parties of say 10 characters vs 10 characters to work (I think I already have a good idea using a pyramid scheme for prioritization... 1, 2, 3, 4) and also how to setup a multiplayer variant where you could have 4 people and 4 parties go at it in a battle royal. For now though I've got to focus on ensuring that the base gameplay is strong and that it remains flexible enough to add new things in the future. The concept of Scalability in software design.


      How and why


      This has gotten kind of long. You've now got a pretty good grasp of how the game works. The main reason I'm doing this is to show that I understand more than just how players walk around buildings. I want to show off my game design skills as well. As for the how, I am building a prototype of the game with XNA on the computer first. The reason for a virtual version of the game is because I haven't come up with a very efficient way to keep track of threat for players. Also I can re-distribute this to you guys so you can try the game out as well. I'm not really an AI programmer so you will have to play with a friend. The cool thing about a fully omniscient game is that you can have you and your friend play on the same screen and not worry about giving away your hand or anything like that. Hopefully building the prototype goes relatively smoothly. I'm kind of rusty on my programming skills, so it will be a slow process. I will keep you guys updated. Once I have a prototype it will be easy to show it off and find artists and what not to actually create something that I could release in the future.


      Your feedback


      So while I go through this project your feedback is going to be crucial. First of all tell me if my description was clear enough. That is important for sure. You are going to help me create something awesome. First it will be to make sure there are no broken strategies right off the bat thanks to a kink in the rules. And in the future you can help design new cards based on different RPGs out there including new abilities inspired by things like MTG, WoW, and other awesome games out there. Let me know what you think because the more you communicate with me and support me the more motivation I get to finish this. I don't want this to be just another unfinished game project. There are too many of those in the world. :P Laterz for now peepz.

      9 comments:

      AgentPaperCraft said...

      I still think the no hand concept ruins it as a card game, how else wil I pull out my "trump" card?

      UnexpectedBang said...

      D:

      This hurts my tiny brain

      FeanorOnForge said...

      I kind of like it- I've played a few different card game systems and systems where cards overlap into comp games before and like them enough to say I'd deff want to give yours a go when you have the system working.

      The general explanation was clear and easy to follow (I'm pretty certain that if I sat down and saw the cards I could play a reasonably tactical game right away).

      I've played handed and no-handed games, and what I have drawn from them both is that if you do choose to go omniscient, make sure that you can plan combo- type tactics. by this I mean dont limit the charicters too much in what they can do/ change (threat level wise). if the moves are very basic then with only 5 chars there wont be much planninng or surprise possible, but with a range of chars to match up at the start, and each with adaptable abilities then more possibilities emerge which I believe you are hoping for. like abilities to shuffle threat in unexpected ways to move char types about to utilize abilities the enemy hasnt expected.

      neway, enough for my rant, atm its looking good :)

      Pistons863 said...

      Here is my feedback.
       
      "First tell me if my description was clear enough." I think your description was clear, except for a couple of things I want to point out. 
      1. The fact that I didn't know it was a card game until I saw the pictures of cards, haha.
      2. There are a few typos in your description, which makes me lose focus on what I'm reading (This is mainly an advertisement problem in my opinion).
       
      "Broken Strategies." As far as I can see right now, there aren't any strategy issues. However, I can see a pretty cheap strategy. If you put a healer in the middle row and his heal ability is at a minicule melee range, the healer can heal everyone in the party.
       
      But wait, there's hope! I also see two ways to fix this strategy issue. You can;
      1. Low threat levels on all healers, so that they're forced to be put in the back row (In addition, the heal ability would have to have no threat value so that when you re-prioritize your party the healer doesn't end up on the second row.)
      2. Put a "cap" on the heal ability. What I mean is the healer would only be able to heal himself/herself and another card, or two other cards. Consequently, the heal ability wouldn't have a range.
       
      I have 2 questions to ask, and I don't mean to discourage you in any way possible by asking and giving my opinion. I think this is a great idea for a card game :)
       
      From the business point of view:
       
      What age group are you planning/hoping to launch it with? I only ask this because if you launch this game with an age group of, say, 6-12, I think (and this is strictly my perspective of it) that the game would be too complicated for the younger people to play, and the older people would catch on to the main concept of the game which I think is what you want.
       
      If I understand this correctly, the tanks are high threat and deal a lot of damage, the healers are very low threat and deal miniscule damage, the wizards and archers and such are low to medium threat and deal decent damage. So the only real way to set up a party is tanks up front, wizards and archers in the middle, and healers in the back. This is going by threat levels, so would you make different threat levels for different archers and wizards and healers so that some healers could be in the middle and some archers can be in back? In addition, players would want certain cards with certain threat levels for a particular strategy, thus increasing sales of said "unique" cards. I'm sure that made no sense.

      Well, thats my feedback. Let me know what you think of it. You can simply reply here or email me at pistons863@gmail.com. Peece guyzz!

      Homer said...

      The post below is me, Homer.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      @bb31726814a0c916151d9207214b239d:disqus So I think you missed a key component of the threat system. As you use abilities, you build threat. So if a healer heals too much then he will push to the front row and end up being vulnerable on your opponents turn. I also plan on setting up the heals to not be able to keep up with the higher damage spells. Tanks can build threat faster than other classes to keep them in the front line, however the high damagers like the Wizards will can gain more threat than the warriors if they are not careful. Another issue with the healers being in the center row is that he can be hit by archers or wizards that are in the opposing center row with {3} range actions. And later when I have other tanks like Barbarians that have {2} range attacks in the front row, they will be able to hit the healers as well. So if the healers aren't careful they will get taken out pretty quickly.

      It isn't a matter of whether or not the class is a high or low threat class. It is based on how fast they build threat and how much benefit they get from building that threat. All threat levels start at 0 at the beginning of the game, so if you start out with a big wizard hit he is going to be pushed immediately to the front line and the warriors will have to play some catchup to push past him. And if you aren't careful, the rogues on the other team can keep provoking him and priests pacifying your warrior to ensure your wizard stays in the front line and can easily be taken out by another wizard.

      What makes this game unique is that the positions of your characters constantly shift while you play forcing you to have to modify your strategy and your decisions based on the positioning of your characters. The amount of threat that a heal generates is a good amount, so if the healer isn't careful he could easily be pulled to the front lines and get ganked. Keep in mind this works just like WoW would. If you build too much threat you become the center of attention. The more threat you have, the higher chance that you will be hit. Because of the way players move around based on threat the heal will be balanced accordingly based on amount of health healed to amount of threat. If it proves to be a little too powerful I can just lower the amount of health healed or increase the amount of threat it costs to use so it is more risky to use.

      And my target age group is about 15-16 and up... so I'm not particularly worried.

      FeanorOnForge said...

      Hey one more question, do normal attacks on enemies affect the targets threat level? (apart from provoke and pacify ofc) or bar certain abilities do only your own actions affect your chars threat levels?

      GodlyPerfection said...

      It only affects that character's threat level Feanor unless the action says so like pacify or provoke as you pointed out. I had considered situations where taking damage would increase threat level to show that a weaker player becomes a higher priority target for elimination, but I didn't want to over complicate the system. Gotta follow the KISS rule... Keep it Simple Stupid. ;)

      I've also been working on some new abilities for 5 more cards to be added to the set. As far as programming goes, I've programmed the highlighting and tapping mechanisms, I just haven't rendered those systems yet. Been a little busy with Lucas.

      Sixty3Zero said...

      This is the most original card game idea I've ever seen. I'm gonna read up on this, understand it a bit more, then help design cards. Gotta get these ideas outta my head somehow. :P