Or heal rather. Today I will be taking you through the creation of a set of the Skill cards. Namely, the ones dedicated to making sure your character remains alive long enough to escape from the horror of your enemies.
Adding together all of the votes from facebook and the website, it appears the majority has spoken, and they wish to see a character!
I thought I would preview the best survivor of them all. The one who gets every job done, regardless of the cost…
Just like his namesake, Mr. Death makes sure that he stays alive long enough to get the job done, as long as the job involves crushing your opponents and bringing first place to you!
So now you have brand new Ammo and a brand new gun to use it, but what about the knives?
In a design sense, we still have 1 more thing we need to reward: Exploring. While the gun satisfies this necessity to some degree, we don’t have a direct push for players to want to hunt down Infected. This last step was put onto the knife, and “reliably” so!
The damage remained the same due to the original intent to keep the average damage of the starting deck at 15 damage, just enough to beat a small percentage of the Mansion. With the change to the starter pistol, the average has gone up slightly, but not enough to push for consistent damage due to the trashing nature of the pistol and the new knife.
This knife serves two purposes: It shows newer players what you should be doing with the knife (like every other card), and it also progresses the game much faster than the original basic 6 resources.
Why haven’t I shown the new healing item? Because it was the only basic resource that was pulling its weight: Keeping players alive from mistakes or unlucky flips from the Mansion. Now that all the other basic resources are up to date, your Resident Evil games will now be faster, and it will be easier to show new players the subtle nuances of the DBG play style, which means more opponents for you to test your mettle against!
It seems I mispoke last week when I said to “stay tuned as I preview another card”. What I meant to say was “cards”. Yes, that would be plural, meaning more than one. Yes, they are below. Feel free to scroll and stare, but if you’re here for a psychology lesson and how the card’s came to be, read on, it may make for interesting conversation at work, school, or wherever you prefer mingling.
What is Intuitive Learning?
It’s been called a great many things, this just happens to be what I refer to “it” as. Some call it conveyance, others call it clever design, but intuitive learning is the most accurate description I could come up with. The actual psychological term would be operant conditioning, originally researched heavily by B.F. Skinner in the 1930s. Most people consider operant conditioning a bit cold of a term, but it is an accurate description to intuitive learning as well.
Intuitive learning is a psychological practice that teaches somebody an action or a set of actions without them realizing they are being taught. You are being pushed into a direction by receiving rewards afterwards. In Skinner’s case, he was rewarding the animals with food, a simple, yet powerful form of reward. In modern video games, such as the Call of Duty style first person shooter, you have pop ups declaring how many points you earned for a kill, achievements, rankings at the end of a match, or even something as simple as a game ending. For all of my examples of modern gaming hereafter, I will be frequently referring to FPS style games.
Something that modern games have completely lost sight of is the original intention of intuitive learning. Instead of allowing a player to figure a problem out for themselves, the game flashes a message in front of your face, declaring “this is how you move”, “this is how you shoot”, or “duck by pressing (blank)”. This ensures a fool-proof formula that every player can follow. It shores up a possibly steep learning curve, making it easier to learn, putting the brunt of experience in the map memorization category, which plays even more into psychology.
The games of yesteryear, referred to as “old school games”, didn’t have the luxury of these pop up messages. I remembered playing a few games and being completely stumped on a part, only to thumb through the manual, and find out there was an attack or move I had no clue about. This is evidence that the game was doing poorly at teaching me the subtle nuances of play within.
The best example of intuitive learning in old school games is the Mega Man series. Kudos to any who have watched Egoraptor’s Sequelitis series regarding this. It isn’t for young children, but I suggest watching it to get a firm grasp on exactly what I’m about to delve into. More specifically, Mega Man X showcases intuitive learning at its best.
Instead of flashing words directly in your face, the game initially drops you into an intro stage, who’s goal is to teach you the basics of the game, but even before you get there, the game has already shown you, via the title screen, that Mega Man is a game of shooting, visually shown by X shooting his buster at your menu selection. Once the intro stage starts, you quickly realize that the game doesn’t want you to run to the left, because the screen doesn’t move. Immediately, you learn that running right lets the game proceed, rewarding you with the obvious “more gameplay” tactic. The first enemy? A giant spiked wheel. If you’re completely lost, you’ll run all the way back, and get hit by the wheel, showing you taking 2 bars of damage. This shows that you can take a great deal of hits before you die, since you have around 16 to start. I won’t steal all of the video’s thunder, but this is a subtle use of intuitive learning in a game, one that many board games can learn from.
How does this apply to Resident Evil?
There is a huge gulf between a video game and a board game. As a board game, we can get away with a larger degree of text, because eventually your brain becomes accustomed to the cards, memorizing it and storing the information for later use. What does this mean for RE? It means we can be more liberal with putting text on cards, but not go overboard.
Throughout all of the demo games I have done, I noticed new players have issues with performing the most basic of actions required to win the game: Trashing cards, most notably, the basic 10 that you start with. Kudos to you if you manage to win a game while holding on to these 10 cards, but the intent of the game was not to do so. Out of the individual 6, the only card whose intention remains the same is the healing item, but what about the Ammunition?
Seeing as how players begin the game with the 10 ammo cards, we want players to get rid of them. We had 3 goals in mind with the 10 ammo card: allow newer players to grasp the intent and necessity to trash the card, speed up the game, and to reward the player who follows the intent. This is the simplest way to represent all 3 goals, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the original ammo x10 card design intentions.
Step 2 is the ammo x20 card. Ammo x20 is viewed by the majority of players as a stepping stone to the end game, the ammo x30. Unless you’re going for a pistol or knife rush with the bonus damage actions, turning the ammo x20 into an ammo x30 is your ultimate goal. So, the obvious is this:
Although I find it lazy to put the text “can only be applied once per turn”, this was the simplest expression of intuitive design for this card. This tells newer players “hey, I’m good, but you want me to be ammo x30, because that’s even better”, it tells veterans “hurry up and explore the mansion so you can make me better!”, and it gets the point across to everyone as to what this card’s design intent is, allowing newer players to intuitively grasp the concept.
Have you ever hated being just 10 money or 10 ammo short of getting exactly what you want? I have seen this type of frustration, time and time again on everyone’s faces, old players and new. That’s an easily solved issue during the late game.
Now player’s can vastly accelerate their late game by getting the ammo and money they need to finish their perfect deck. This also teaches new players that you don’t need to buy all of the ammo cards to win, as having more than 5 is a severe detriment to you, and you won’t be able to explore otherwise. Veterans will recognize this card’s ability to get them what they need at an even quicker pace.
Stay tuned next week as we continue our RE5 previews with a fresh, clean blade….
The time is upon us where once again gamers from all over the world smash through the petty human defenses around Indianapolis, Indiana and swarm the convention center for news, goodies, tournaments, and more. I, however, am in the same shoes as you, not at the convention itself, but there in spirit, reading the many blogs and tweets, viewing the pictures and videos, and living through everyone else present at what promises to be another grand event for board games and card games alike.
I know you have all been supremely patient with the release of RE5, and I’m happy to have some of the most endearing and hardcore fans of the game. I was happy with the original finished product, but I was allowed to redo RE5 as a base set, giving me the opportunity to complete redo the basic 6 resources, as well as keep my original design goals when RE5 was just an expansion. To go through that, I’m going to have to start from the beginning…
Mercenaries 3D was about to be released, and I was really digging the skills system. A primary complaint amongst people was that some characters are completely and utterly useless in certain modes. I didn’t want to sacrifice the specificity I gained by doing this, as that made the character unique in their own way, and thats why you get two characters to choose from, but as these types of characters are released, the player will, inexhorably, be stuck with 2 choices: terrible character not fit for this mode, or the exact same, maybe with more health, and nobody enjoys that.
The skills system in Mercs 3D represented an opportunity to completely eradicate that issue. What if you could build your character, from scratch, complete with their own effects? Sounds neat doesn’t it? Obviously some skills are tailored to match others, but finding those unique combinations is what sowed the seeds for the future of interpreting those skills into the game itself. The only downside to this is the number of effects running around, so we dropped each character to a single effect, but boosted their maximum health to not only compensate for the single effect, but to also give character’s more survivability in Mercenaries Mode itself.
But how do you activate skills? Same way you do in the video game, by playing! Not exactly the same, but we wanted your character to learn from their experiences as they explore the mansion. As such, every time your character explores the Mansion, whether they succeed or fail, they receive 1 XP. You can use this XP to activate your skills, to power up a few guns, or to make a few actions a little better than normal.
So now we have the concept for the skills, but what about the Boss in the Mansion? Another primary complaint amongst newer players is that 90 damage is difficult for hit for on a consistent basis, while the more seasoned players were saying that this was too easy. This tells me that the game has a VERY steep learning curve, which definitely showed when I played a few friends over the weekend. Due to this, I dropped the health on the boss from 90 to 80 on this set, giving the newer players a slightly better chance to defeat the boss. This also means that consistency in your deck is much easier to achieve. Taking into mind the skills, and that consistency drastically increases.
The next point of contention was the mansion itself. The whole draw of Mercenaries in the video game was its replayability. You could play over and over again, seeing if you can match your own score in the various levels presented, with a varying number of opponent’s vying for a taste of blood. We already have a scoring system in our own Mercenaries, and I definitely encourage everyone to share their best scores in the forum, but what we didn’t have is the multiple levels. So, we came up with 3 different concepts for 3 radically different Mansions, all packaged in 1 set. Each Mansion is tailored to attack the players in a different way, so no challenge is the exact same.
The above was only the initial offering, back when RE5 was designed as an expansion. Then I was told to make it into a base set, which offered even more design possibilities, the most important of which being the basic 6 resources. Many players have been saying that the game is too slow, and that the basic 6 only hinder you, not benefit. I agree wholeheartedly, and that’s why the new basic 6 were created. The new pistol and knife create new strategies of their own, and are designed to maximize your damage and buying both in the early game, and for the rush strategy if that’s your cup of tea.
Speaking of the pistol, here it is:
This type of effect is what we have been calling an “Overload” effect. This means that you can activate it to push the gun to its limits, but doing so destroys it in the process, forcing you to rebuy if you want to do it again. Not only does this effect facilitate the necessity for trashing of sub standard cards in the beginning of the game, it also gives players a small damage boost early, which may (or may not) help you to get your initial decorations for your level 1 ability.
Stay tuned as I go through another card as well as the development of RE5 next week!