Monday, January 4, 2010

Concrete versus Abstract

Philosophically, I find that there are many parallels between games and literature.  Some games are very explicit in their narrative (such as most role-playing games) while others are a bit more esoteric.  Chess, for example, has an implicit narrative, though it is not much explored in the scope of the game.  It is simply a given that kings war with one another, and the motivation therein is largely irrelevant.

The more abstract a game is, the more obscure the narrative... or the more non-fictional it becomes.  For example, poker seems to have no narrative at all, yet watching people play can be very engaging because the players themselves are the narrative.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nalpha 2.1, the Learning Curve

This past week I had the privilege to test Nalpha in its current state with two folks who had not yet played it.  One (let's call him Terry) was familiar with DnD as well as MtG.  The other (let's call him Carl) had no experience with RPGs broadly, though he told me he had played MtG years back.

As I have intimated before, I believe Nalpha falls in the gap between traditional pen-and-dice tabletops and TCGs, which was borne out in comments from Terry.  So, it seems that both would have a general sense of game mechanics rather quickly.

What I observed was almost exactly what you'd expect, but I found it fascinating to witness it first hand in such a marked fashion...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nalpha 2.1, and the State of the Game

This shouldn't be a long post, but I thought I should let you know how the gimmick vs. playability debate went.

Generally speaking, Playability won out in the end.  To be fair, the physical hook I mentioned earlier has returned to the game, but it has been toned back a bit.  The long and short of it is this: less upkeep, but similar flavor.

The gaming surfaces are completely gone, which addresses the portability issues I wrestled with previously.  The game feels great to play, but it still keeps some of the kinesthetic and visual appeal I had aimed for initially.

As I say, in the end, the victory went to playability.  The game just wasn't that fun when it was all about tedious card-handling.  But I was happy to have preserved the spirit of the gimmick, and ultimately I think that made it a likeable hook, rather than a burden to endure.

Nalpha: Emergence of a Subgenre

So, Nalpha is clipping along nicely.  I'm on the cusp of rolling out the next edition of beta.  Not nearly the huge core changes in this edition that we experienced in the last, but it's still pretty comprehensive.  Or to put it differently, I'm not quite to the point of fretting over the balance of each individual card yet, but those days are not so distant.

I was a bit dumbfounded to discover that, not counting the special "Character" cards, I had tasked myself with the creation of no less than 84 cards for the "Starter" version of the game.  Now, mind you, that is 84 discrete cards - no duplicates at all.

Which brings me to the topic I will be exploring: What do you do with a game that does not fit quite into an existing genre?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nalpha 2.0: First Look

A buddy and I gave the reworked Nalpha a shot and let me tell you: it was better.  Much better.

Now, the game was far from "all that I could have hoped for."  It still certainly has a way to go.  Moreover, what we did was a simple duel.  Dueling is an okay activity in the game, but I think it will never compare to any gamestyle with more than one member per team.

One one level, the metagame is about selecting the appropriate cards, but I think the larger metagame is about assembling a team.

On the whole, variation in gameplay is not as high as I would like.  Down the road I may increase the number of cards a player can use at once but, as I say, that is down the road.  For now, I'm simply pleased that the game is working at the most basic level.