The Passive Battle Conundrum

Hi there! Today I’m going to spew a little consciousness stream on maybe Project Prophecy‘s most exciting feature, but also perhaps it’s most challenging from a design perspective: the battles. Oh and here’s some relevant art I knocked out over the last few days!

A bit of fun concept art. A wounded battle-mage prepares a fire spell in the hope of avoiding a fatal defeat.

I’m no artist really but had fun with this – makes a change from the more functional work!

So: battles. Bread-and-butter of everything that comes from the fantasy RPG mold: and after all, Prophecy is supposed to capture that feel while offering the player a different perspective on events. You are the head of a school: you will carefully guide these plucky students through their training, but when the time for battle comes they are on their own…

This presents an obvious challenge. People like to “play” games, right? How much fun could watching a game play itself be? I haven’t truly come to a solution on this yet, but my hope is it won’t be as much of a problem as it seems. If I can ensure the player engages with these little guys and gals as deeply as possible through guiding and customising their development and learning why they are each individual, then I hope the pleasure derived from seeing your charges flinging themselves at enemies will be worthwhile in itself. This is the gaming emotion of naches (i.e. the “Pleasure or pride at the accomplishment of a child or mentee.” – XEOdesign pdf “Why We Play Games”) and I think it can be a very powerful thing.

But I feel that this alone still leaves the risk of losing a player’s engagement. I plan this to be a mobile/tablet game (in the first instance, at least) and want it to be playable in small bursts. If the player has to sit through a 2 minute battle with nothing to do – however much naches is running through their veins – it might not be enough. I’m toying with the idea of having a timing-based critical hit micro-game accompanying student attacks. Something that isn’t essential but is there to keep you engaged in the event unfolding. I guess I’ll just have to try some stuff out and see how it feels.

Finally, on a different note, the weekend after this is Ludum Dare! Once again I intend to enter: the contents of this site probably give away my fondness for the competition. And it will be good to have a little break from thinking about my little students! Till then! x

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