Design Diary – March 2022

Posted by billk on March 27, 2022 3:55 pm

Well, it looks like the weather’s finally warming up for us in the Northeast US. You know what that means. That’s right, more sitting behind a monitor designing and coding, yeah! Thought this would be a good time to document some recent progress as I’m in the weeds now and the changes aren’t as big as they were when the game was just starting to take shape.

Interesting (Read “Annoying”) Bugs

  1. Line of Sight has lived up to the complexity I feared, but this was the toughest to figure out: A strange crash that happened maybe 1 in 50 ranged “shots.” I finally discovered that it was when a Ranged Unit is along the edge of the map firing at an enemy unit on the same edge, the program was crashing. The check for firing along a hex spine looks for blocking hex pairs but along the map edge that isn’t the case. This was a case where the fix was a simple line of code, but finding the needle in the haystack proved time-consuming.
  2. Another bug that was hard to replicate because it was so rare was where sometimes stacking limits were violated. It happened so rarely and quickly that I had to make the A.I. play itself and wait 3 or 4 full games to catch it. Turned out to be a weird quirk in my Retreat code where my check of surrounding stacks didn’t update after a unit retreated, so the following units would happily pile on top. Fun.

Simplified Stats

After much deliberation, I finally decided to simplify the stat blocks of all non-leader units. Previously, I had the three major stats along the bottom of a counter: Strength, Defense, Movement. In the few units I’ve added so far though, I found that I was using the same value for Defense that I was using for Strength. Since this change, however, I’ve added Formations (see below) so there’s a chance I bring back the independent Defense value. For now I think it’s cleaner and easier on the cognitive load for a player to just worry about two values instead of three. TBD on the future of this one.

The People Have Spoken

I’m not a fan of clipping counters. Sure, I’ll trim extreme offenders just enough to get the nibs off, but I refuse to sit there with an Oregon Laminations Trimmer, going through sheet after sheet, counter after counter. But hey that’s just me!

Not the most durable looking device.

Knowing however, that many of my fellow gamers do enjoy this pastime, I thought it would be fun to post a comparison of digital counters, both regular-cut and trimmed.

straight corners
rounded corners

The response to the rounded corners could not be ignored. People seem to love them and I can’t lie, I do too. So for now I’m keeping the rounded corners. I might add a setting to let the player decide which they prefer. Some have even suggested letting players digitally clip their digital counters…

I can't even

Map Art

I took some time to upgrade the city of Chaeronea on the first battle map. There aren’t many such features in these battles so I wanted it to have an impact. I think it still looks a little too chaotic for my taste so I’ll re-visit this again to move stuff around, but I’m pretty happy with its progress.

Chaeronea

Rules Manual

I added the framework for an in-game rules manual. This was like making a little website within the app with some good ol’ HTML, CSS, and a touch of JavaScript. I added some text for the first section, but I’ll come back to writing the rules later. This framework is flexible enough that I can add sections and content easily in the future and not worry about functionality. I’m still thinking about how to display the rules if the player accesses them from the Home Screen. I could use this same overlay, but I’m thinking maybe it should be its own section of the app in that context. TBD.

Help Menu

Special Abilities – Formations

Because this is a digital game (and I’m really thinking about tablet users), I’m purposely trying to keep the rules simple and streamlined. I want beginners to be able to pick it up and learn while still offering the feel of a hex-and-counter game to experienced players. For that reason I’m keeping the special abilities and exceptions to a minimum.

One such special ability that I absolutely knew I’d include from the beginning was the importance of hoplites and phalanxes being in formation. I’m still playing with the rules, like whether they get a bonus for being in formation or a penalty for not being so, but I’ve added it. Currently, the formation rules are that at least three formation-able units of the same type must be adjacent or stacked and at least one of them must be within the command range of a leader. I’m also considering whether they should have to also be at full strength, but for now I’m thinking no.

Additionally, while I’ve been trying to really give this a feel of a tabletop hex-and-counter game, I didn’t want to ignore the benefits of it being a digital game. For example, not being limited by the two sides of a physical counter (or four sides of a standing block) to show a loss of health. Here was another opportunity to use digital to enhance gameplay. Units that have the ability to join a formation have an icon on their counter. When they meet the requirements, their icon “lights up” to let the player know this. Additionally, I may have their stats show a temporary change to reflect this.

Counters in Formation
Shields up and spears forward!

Adding formations has made me think about bringing back Defense stat that I mentioned above as having been removed. I’m considering the possibility that formation only enhances that stat, but I’m not convinced it’s enough on its own to bring it back.

Conclusion

Well, that’s all for now. As I close in on one year of work, I have to thank the wargame and wargame design community for their support through this process. I’ve participated in many hobbies throughout my life, but the encouragement I’ve seen from this community is easily the best. From indie folks like me trying to scrape together their first game to well-known designers, artists, and developers, it’s truly inspiring that people take time to comment and help. A heartfelt thank you to you all and I hope I can give back some of that support to my fellow wargamers. Happy gaming!


2 responses to “Design Diary – March 2022”

  1. Great progress on your game…looks like you’re getting close to being able to put out an Alpha Release. Definitely lots of hard work on your behalf. Well done!

    I also have been working over the past year on digitizing a wargame….originally had been working with Defold and GameMaker Studio 2 — but found them not able to support some of the mechanics I wanted to implement. I found Defold to be great for mobile development (both for android as well as ios)….but, not really supportive of a desktop application (my target platform). What I liked about developing for iPad is the consistent aspect ratio…..not so easy in the android environment.

    I switched over to Unity around six months ago — although it definitely has a learning curve associated with it — I am glad I made that design decision.

    Best of luck on your development —

  2. Christophe Roth says:

    ‘Arete’ should be a destination for any wargame designer. Great summoning! Take heart, your game looks really good.

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