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  • Pratik Das

Analog Game Design Prototype: Saloon Standoff

When we talk about game design in general most of the time it refers to creating a GDD (Game Design Documentation). This takes into consideration how the rules apply to a game, what are the game mechanics involved, how the different players or systems in the game interact with each other, game economy, win condition, rewards and much more.


But before a GDD is even made, how do we test an idea to know if it can actually be fun?


There is no one way to answer that. There are multiple forms of medium to test a game idea but two of the common ones include:

  • Paper prototypes or analog prototypes which can be worked out with pen and paper or using materials like cardboards, pins, coins, dice etc for playtesting

  • Softwares such as unity or unreal engine where you can test ideas with basic building blocks or shapes and add physics to check how the game flows


In this blog, I would like to focus on the analog prototype that was carried out in a group activity to test our ideas for formative assessment.



Project Brief


To make an analog prototype inclusive of clear rules, ideas, relationship and strategies that can be played by 2-4 players



Brainstorming & Ideation


The major influence for our group was action RPGs with the wild west shootout as a reference point. We had discussions about various strategy and skill based games that are present in this genre. There are games like streetfighter, call of suarez: gunslinger, red dead redemption series and figured each of them has characters with unique skills and abilities with a standoff between two or more parties involved which created an exciting gameplay.

We started exploring ideas that we can present in a board game format and decided to have a 2 player standoff initially.



Initial Game Idea & Playtesting


A tactical battle game for 2 players on a 10x10 grid. Each player controls 5 units, one of each class. On their turn, each player can move and attack with each of their units.


The objective of the game was to win by killing all of the opponents units.


We had different classes within the game that had their own unique set of skills and movement. These were defined as follows:

Character Types

Movement Type (any direction)

Shooting Range

Shooting Direction

Bandit

2 squares

2 squares

Straight line

Sharpshooter

1 square

3 squares

Straight line

Rider

3 squares

1 square

Straight line

Gunslinger

1 square

Double Kill - 2 squares

Straight line

Hunter

1 square

2 squares

Straight line - through terrain


The initial game board design was set as follows:



Game rules were noted down:

  • Players can play 1v1 or a 3-way or 4-way battle royal

  • For 1v1 players begin with a coin toss and the player winning the toss gets to move first

  • For 3-way and 4-way battle royal, dice will be thrown and the player getting the highest number gets to move their units first

  • At this stage, players need to place terrains sequentially until 10 tiles are placed. These terrains are places to hide where enemy units cannot shoot except the hunters class

  • After turn order is decided, players can place their units in unoccupied tiles in the row closest to the edge of their side of the board

  • Players need to move all their units at once

  • Once the player reaches within enemies shooting range, they have to flip a coin and call heads or tails to decide on shooting at the enemy unit

  • Objective is to finish off all enemy units to be declared a winner


Feedback


Pros:

  • Objectives were clear and simple

  • Different classes with their own unique skills and movement were well-defined

  • Pacing of the game was reasonable

Cons:

  • 1v1 worked okay but for a 3-way or 4-way battle royal, pacing of the game was more faster and game ended quickly

  • A lot of different classes could be reduced to 4 to create an engaging gameplay

  • Except for the win condition which is to kill all enemies, there are no other objectives or incentives for the player to keep them hooked

  • Terrain tiles were unequally distributed in 3 or 4-way battle royal



Finalized Game Idea


As a group, we worked on the feedback received and over the next sessions brainstormed further to arrive at the finalized game idea.


During this time I discovered games like tower quest which had an objective of occupying a territory while keeping your opponents at bay. This created for an exciting gameplay and upon more discussions with the team we decided to have a saloon standoff.


Final rules of the game were set as follows:


Objective of the game:

  • Objective of the game is to be the only player with units left alive

  • If a player is the only one with units left alive, they are the winner


Beginning of the game:

  • A tactical game between 2-4 players

  • If playing 1v1, to determine which player goes first, one player must flip a coin and call out heads or tails. The player that calls correctly, go first

  • If playing with more than two players, all players roll a die and the player with the highest roll goes first, the person with the next highest roll goes second and so on

  • If players get the same roll, then those players roll again until they get different results to one another

  • After turn order is decided players place their units, one in each tile of their deployment zone

  • Note: If there are only two players they must use deployment zones on opposite sides of the board


Gameplay:

  • Each player controls for 4 units, one of each class

  • On their turn, player can move all of their units and attack the enemy unit if they are in range

  • Player must finish movements of all units before attacking

  • When shooting at an enemy, flip a coin and call heads or tails. If you call it correctly then you hit your target

  • If a unit is hit, they are killed and removed from play


Saloon:

  • The four centre tiles of the board are the saloon

  • If all units in the saloon belong to the same player, they control the saloon

  • If a player controls the saloon at the START of their turn, they can bring back one of their dead units to their deployment zone


Classes:

Character Types

Movement Type (any direction)

Shooting Range

Shooting Direction

Bandit

1 square

2 squares

Straight line/ Diagonal

Sharpshooter

1 square

3 squares

Straight line/ Diagonal

Gunslinger

2 squares

2 squares

Straight line/ Diagonal

Rider

1 square

Double Kill - 2 squares

Straight line/ Diagonal



Paper Prototype


The final model of the paper prototype was created considering all of the above rules and the look and feel of the board was something like this:

Green = spawn zone

Red= saloon


Unit Tokens

Different colours show which unit belongs to each player.

G = Gunslinger

R = Rider

S = Sharpshooter

B 2 = Bandit with 2 health points

B 1= Bandit with 1 health point
















Playtesting


Game was tested with a small group of people within our class and it was definitely fun!



  • Players initially had a bit of difficulty to understand all of the character types and their skills but as they played more they grasped the concept

  • Players started with going for the attack as the board size enabled them to take more attacking and risky choices

  • Players learnt to strategize to protect their long range shooters for an all-out attack and relied on riders to take the enemy upfront

  • If any player had one of their own units killed, they looked for ways through which they can enter the saloon either in straight line or diagonally


Feedback and Further Scope


There were some feedback from the audience regarding the prototype as follows:

  • "Instead of paper using any other material like cardboards could create a good gameplay experience."

  • "The classes can be represented by diagrams instead of initials. For example, gunslinger can be depicted with a picture of the gun instead of the letter 'G'."

  • "In a battle royal scenario, it is very difficult to reach the saloon as the grid is smaller and gives everyone the opportunity to be within the enemy shooting range".

  • "Liked setup of the game with a concept of Wild West which can have its own backstory for the units or classes".


Conclusion


The entire prototyping experience was really rich in terms of going through the entire design process of ideation, brainstorming, prototyping, testing and feedback. This enabled critical and logical thinking along with the creative aspect of designing the board and characters.


To be honest, I had underestimated analog prototyping initially but as we worked more on it, I discovered that it has huge potential to test out ideas real quick with the team and get the blockers out of the way in terms of rules, mechanics, gameplay, timing, pace of the game etc. I would like to thank my comrades Arun, Dan & Richard for collaborating in this awesome prototyping assignment and also to my supervisors Jarek, Hope and the entire class of game designers for their constructive feedback and participating with us in this activity.

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