Robo's World: The Zarnok Fortress
At the top of the week, the artist approached me with the intention of revamping the tiling (decoration) of the game's first zone. That being the case, I'm using the opportunity to redesign the physical layout of the zone as well. This is a huge change to be making this late in the development, but I wouldn't take on this extra work if I didn't believe in how important this change was.
Originally, the player was taught how to shoot on level 3, and then enemies showed up on level 6. I structured the game this way with the idea of easing the player in. The controls of Zarnok Fortress are rather intuitive, but numerous. I figured it would be best to let the player get comfortable with jumping in the first level, then solve a few simple switch "puzzles" in the second level.
I eventually restructured the levels and made a new "level 4" which brought enemies closer to the start of the game, but after some additional play testing, even that felt too long.
I cut the first 2 levels of the game and modified the 4th, moving it into the place of the 1st, then added the necessary segment to teach the player how to shoot. This means on LEVEL 1 you learn how to jump, shoot and dash. That sounds like a way better start in my book.
This week, I finally got my hands on Chesh by Damian Sommer for iOS. I've been looking forward to the iOS release ever since I played XYQ4 at TO Jam 2014, and it's very interesting to see the design revisions that have occurred since then.
For those not in the know, Damian created Chesh to counter the "first move advantage" in chess. This is accomplished by every piece being assigned a random move-set so the player who goes first has no inherent advantage in the game. This makes for a rather challenging memory game as you learn to associate each symbol with a move set for that game (of course, it will have changed by next game). This association is assisted by unique sound ques given to each piece as it is selected, both by you and your opponent.
Chesh has a bunch of other design considerations that I really appreciate as both a designer and a player. One that immediately caught my eye is the idea of "fatigue". Basically, if you move one piece too many times in a row, it dies. This prevents a single piece from dominating the game and forces you to think about how to use all your pieces to achieve victory.
Another design concept that jumps out at me is that of... "Hit Points" for lack of a more clear descriptor. Rather than having to capture a single piece in Chess, or defaulting to capturing EVERY ONE of your opponent's pieces, Chesh has you capturing a set number of pieces depending on how many are in play with certain "Royal" pieces worth extra points. It's a great way to prevent those long games that inexperienced chess players (such as myself) find themselves in when they've captured the majority of the opponent's pieces but then it takes WAY too long to properly put the King in Checkmate.
One thing I'd recommend is if you start a game of Chesh, prepare to finish what you start, human. Resuming a suspended game against an AI or human opponent can lead easily lead to forgetting how pieces move.
Chess is often cited as the ultimate game of skill, and Chesh serves to inject some much needed randomness. It's simply more fun for novice players! And besides, Damian is an amazing designer. Grab it for iPhone or iPad:
Or try XYQ4, the PC game-jam game it's based off of.
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