Process of design for ‘Gangs’ and ‘Pipes and Rats’

Post Mortem and Process for the prototypes ‘Gangs’ and ‘Rats and Pipes’. Designed by Kyle Baartman and Matthew Murchison.

 

Intro

‘Gangs’ and ‘Rats and Pipes’ are two prototype games developed as part of the Sheridan College BA Game Design Program. The assignment was to create two prototypes around a core mechanic with each having a different secondary mechanic. The were developed to a physical prototype, play tested, and finally presented to our classmates. Some goals for the project were to have two different play experiences and to feature emergent gameplay.

 

Design

The design process for us was pretty smooth. We decided on the main mechanic that we hadn’t worked with before: building.

From there we extrapolated, taking inspiration from as many non-obvious sources as we could think of. This led to the gangs idea and the mechanic of building your defences. From there we build in the matching game and used the cards/odds to add risk and meaning to the player’s actions and choices.

Once we developed the first game to a solid concept, we began work on Pipes and Rats. Working out for the building mechanic, we added racing. To us we needed to have that competitive in the moment feel to the gameplay, which we achieved by having very short, simple turns. Strategies could emerge from the player’s cards and the strategies that could take.

From there we each took a game to develop on our own between meetings. I took ‘Rats and Pipes’ here are some of the decisions that went into the design.

  • The ratio of straight to bent to cross cards. Each type would allow the players to achieve the goal at a different rate. By having the right ratio we could effect the gameplay to encourage the players to be aggressive in slowing each other down.
  • The size of the board. We started with 10×10, but quickly realized the numbers had to be un-even. Going into play testing we had 11×11. This changed a few more times to prevent some issues with players navigating the play space.
  • Starting/end point. We went back and forth between 2 and 4 start points/players a few times. We still intend on a 4 player version, but the balancing is beyond the scope of our project. For now, we have two working toward one drain(end goal) this worked really well in our playtests, though we had as many as 4 ends at one point. It contributed strongly to the race mechanic and making the competition fun.
Cards for Rats and pipes
The pre-playtest power-ups for ‘Rats and Pipes’.

Kyle took over most of ‘Gangs’ but here are some decisions we made together:

  • Bases vs soldiers. Kyle’s development was fantastic and only ran into one major issue. There was a distance been the language and the gameplay used. We went trough a few options including individual soldiers instead of single bases, and eventually recalled a gem of knowledge from Blizzard, mentioned on Extra Credits. Essentially renaming a mechanic/part of the game to completely change the perception (the rest mechanic in WoW) of its effect. By renaming bases we were able to unify the same language and the game mechanics.
  • The number of rounds. This feels like a small issue, but it had a large gameplay impact.

 

Playtesting

Play-testing was interesting, we had limited time, so we each took a game to test. I took ‘Rats and Pipes’ and tried two playlets sessions.

Session 1

After waiting for 4 hours my testers cancelled. I got some other work done, so it’s all good.

Session 2

Session two went well, a late night round of playtesting with some other game designers. In return, I had the privilege of testing their games.

Through our testers and their valuable feedback, we found several areas to modify.

  • nerf the powerups
  • changed power placement
  • added 3 rows to the board to prevent ‘closed pipes’ where players pipes intersected
  • removed a power-up
  • changed the board shop slightly
A 10x10 game board
The pre-playtest board for ‘Rats and Pipes’.

Presentation

Presentations got off to a rough start. I set my alarm for PM instead of AM. As a result, I was late for presentation. (My apologies to those who’s presentations I missed, and to Kyle) Once I arrived with the game we were pretty well set. We presented well, though I wouldn’t say they were our best presentations. In the future, I hope to bring more enthusiasm to the table.

 

Post-Mortem

What went well?

A lot went well, we quickly found a balance between working together and individually. This allowed us to create our prototypes really fast and made sure that they were diverse from each other. It also gave us the benefit of our shared design knowledge to develop and tune the games. Several times we would go into a meeting with some problems, minor and major, and the other partner would have a solution in minutes. I don’t think this is a good workflow for all games, but it defiantly amplified our productivity.

What can we improve?

Scheduling our meetings, and especially remembering our meetings. This reflects more on me than Kyle but there were a few minor meet ups that kept getting pushed back because of stuff that came up. I think our games also were a bit off for physical games. I can pin down what it is, but I think that the professor was on the right track when she mentioned that these would be better geared for digital.

Cards with pipe illustrations
The tiles for ‘Rats and Pipes’.

Conclusion

I would work with Kyle again, I hope he feels the same way. This project really helped kick start the design mindset and was a great way to start the school year!

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