• paulbaalham

System Streamlining


Sorry for talking about enemy AI systems again, but I find writing these blog posts really helps me with design problems. My current design problem is that when I went to create the components for the enemy AI system I talked about last time, I just felt like there were too many cards. Read on for the problem and my current solution.


First Draft

My first draft of the system had the following:

  • A marker on the map showing where the enemy is

  • Somewhere to put the cubes as they are added and removed depending on what is happening throughout the game (top left in images below). The cubes are put in the 1 to 4 slots beneath individual enemy cards.

  • A dice that is rolled to determine which cube has been selected for all of the enemies.

  • A card showing you what action the enemy will take for the selected cube colour or if there is no cube present in that numbered slot, what the default action is.(top right). There would be one of these cards for each enemy the Heroes face and they would be placed in the lower half of the board in the image in the top left.

  • A card describing the attack the enemy will make - I could not fit this on to the same card as the previous card (bottom left). Therefore there is one attack card for each group of enemies, this was to keep the number of cards needed down as the same type of enemies will be making the same attacks. These would be placed in the top part of the board pictured in the top left of the image below.

  • If the enemy makes an attack, then a card is drawn from the NPC Action Resolution Deck to randomise the strength of the attack. The players would compare the appropriate number on the drawn card and compare this against their defences to determine whether the attack succeeded or not (bottom right)

I don't know about you, but that does not scream "streamlined" to me. I decided I need to condense the system.


Cards As Minis

My next thought was having a card put in a stand that would have the cube actions on one side and the attack and defences on the other. It would be even better if the cubes were put on the actual card stand as well. This would mean the only thing that was not on the card plus stand would be the dice used to select which cube slot was chosen for the enemies and the resolution of the action, which would just use the NPC Attack Resolution Deck as was previously the case.

These cards of monsters would be in the story deck and the setup card for a scene would tell you "take cards 5 to 10 and put them in stands and put them in section X".


However, as you can see from the image above, the cards just take up too much room. A quick note, the maps do not use circles as pictured above, but rather rectangles that have a number in which tells the players how many creatures are allowed in that section. Even with that caveat, the same problem applies - the cards are too big for this. I could shrink the cards to about 3/4 size and still fit the relevant information on, but then the story deck that contains the enemies would also have to shrink, which would be bad. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the solution, theoretically it is perfect, practically it is a not. :(


Current Draft

So I had a long think l about how I could streamline the system and my thoughts drifted back to @Grami_WER's suggestion when I was first coming up with a new enemy AI system. His idea was to split the enemies that the Heroes face into distinct groups and have a deck for each of them. Instead of the enemies being grouped by biological differences, for example "Klingon" and "Borg", the groups would correspond to the role that the creature serves in the game: "Brute", Controller" etc. Therefore you could have a Klingon Controller and a Borg Controller both drawing from the same deck. But a Klingon Brute and a Klingon Controller would be drawn from different decks. This allows you to tailor the attacks that each type of enemy would perform to the role they serve in the scene.

With this in mind, my current iteration of the enemy AI system is as follows:

  • A marker on the map showing where the enemy is

  • Somewhere to put the cubes as they are added and removed depending on what is happening throughout the game (top image below). The cubes are put in the 1 to 4 slots beneath individual enemy cards.

  • A dice that is rolled to determine which cube has been selected for all of the enemies.

  • One card showing the actions the enemy will take for each cube (bottom left), this will be placed in one of the seven slots on the board in the top image.

  • The NPC Action Resolution Deck and the list of attacks are now combined into one card (bottom right). Each enemy the Heroes face has a different role to play. For example:

  • Mover - moving the Heroes around the map to the Heroes disadvantage

  • Blockers - stopping the Heroes from getting to where they need to go

  • Snipers - killing NPCs, reducing the ability points of the Heroes, etc.

Each of the roles has a separate deck of cards which contains three attacks that the particular role might do. The card that shows the enemy's actions tells the players which of the three attacks from that type of enemy is being performed. The players then draw the top card of the deck to see whether the attack hits and then apply any hit or miss effects. For each attack the Attack number has a different distribution so that the weak attacks are less likely to hit the Heroes than the stronger attacks.


In the example above, if the Rosebud Cherry cube was chosen for Mutant 1's action, the top card from the Mover deck would be drawn and the Throw Attack would be used. This is the weakest of the the attacks that Movers can do and has the highest number of low scores in the attack line. The Super Mega Throw Attack would have the highest number of high scores, meaning it will hit the Heroes more often the the normal Throw Attack.

I've managed to remove one card from the first draft of the system, and I think the attack decks for each type of enemy role will be interesting to play around with, but to be honest, I would like this to be even more streamlined. Annoyingly, I can't think of a way of doing so right now. Hopefully the play tests will spur the creativity I need to streamline this system.


Conclusion

I have got a system that I am happy with in my head, but I have yet to play test it even by myself. There may be a future post about how I've had to abandon this system. I really want to get this sorted out as I want to move on to writing the character stories that will be a big part of the game, but are barely featured at the moment.

As ever, if you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know!

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