"Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration." -- Thomas Alva Edison
This past week has seen significant progress, but it's the "great behind the scenes not interesting for users type." A friend reminded me of the scrum approach to projects. While I didn't adapt it 100% for this project, I did spend some time defining the game pieces, organizing my timeline, and committed myself to working on small piece-by-piece in line with my timeline, instead of jumping all around.
So as of this point I have finished all design work on v3.0. What does that mean exactly? I've separated game concepts into two general bins: necessary for v3.0 launch, and can be added as supplemental sections later.
Every part of the rules I decided is required for the initial release of v3.0 is now defined. There will be no more experimenting or tweaking until after I get this out and get playtesting feedback.
What remains? I have written the text for ~64% of the v3.0 rulebook. Those sections need layout and copyediting. The remaining 36% is all planned out in diagrams and text scraps, but needs to be translated into chapters, then laid out and copy edited.
What made it into version 3.0?
Overview of the game
Characters, Teams, and Faction edits
Everything needed to run missions and downtime, including a crafting system to help make individual characters more unique
Player's best practices
GM best practices
What will be added as later supplements?
(No August week 4 update planned, since I will be traveling for work).
I spent most of the past week with the most frustrating cold. Because I had a fever, my work literally ordered me home for half the week which could sound awesome, but I was in a weird state of not-sick-enough to sleep all day, but also too fuzzy headed and fatigued to do much. As a result, I spent chunks of time sketching out ideas for the game, but every time I tried to compose sentences it was so excruciating I gave up. I can compensate for my dyslexia on a good day, but when I'm tried/sick, my language skills are the first thing to vanish.
With all of my sick days, I picked up video games I had given up on years ago: Hearthstone, Path of Exile, and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. I found out (by having an excess amount of hours with nothing else I could do) that Hearthstone and PoE both get amazing once you stick with them through the initial learning curve.
Not so with ME: Catalyst. Despite my disappointment with the game, it helped me crystallize some design ideas for Karma.
I kept playing ME: Catalyst because moments reminded me of my love for the original, with its unique combo of endless runner + jump puzzles + cyberpunk aesthetic. But the more I played, the more the flaws became clear. The game was trying to do too many things at once. They had the same core parkour mechanics as the first, but rather than pushing those to the fullest, they threw in collection questions, timed runs, forced combat with multiple enemy types, a skill tree, user generated content, etc. I hated the new runner's vision, but since this game overburdened the landscape with colors and details (in stark contrast to the elegant simplicity of the original) I found that I required the full runner's vision at certain parts. In making everything flashier, they seemed to lose sight of the fact the original design brilliantly hinted you through the levels without making it as simple-minded as "follow the red line" like the runner vision in this game.
I walked away from ME: Catalyst thinking, "The designers didn't know what made their game fun. All of the new additions distracted from the core mechanics of the game, rather than enhancing them."
And THAT is the wall I have been beating my head against for the past five months with the next version of Karma. I know there is a core, fun element to the game. I also know I want to create a different experience than Blades, which means changing the core mechanics and making sure all of the peripheral mechanics enhance that new core, rather than act like disjointed noise.
I have spiraled around this question countless times: What is the premise of the game? What is the core experience? What is most fun?
With that comes the question: What is the reward cycle?
Walking my dog today, I finally realized the missing piece: there needs to be an endgame. The reward cycle needs to be moving you towards something in order to feel meaningful, and that means having a set end goal. In Blades, the goal is to become the biggest, baddest criminal empire. In Karma your team can never grow bigger than a corporation . . . you can never fundamentally change the world . . . but what if you could?
I need to plan out the details before I reveal more, but I think this is the end goal: to become a faction. In Blades you start as a low tier faction and work your way up; in the cyberpunk world, once you become a part of the system, the game is over.
Core Mechanics: layout stage
World Creation: editing stage
Character Creation: layout stage
Team Creation: drafted
Factions: layout stage
Missions & Downtime: drafted
Players Best Practices: drafted
GM Toolkit: in progress
Appendix - Random Generators/Sandbox Tools: drafted
The entire design process feels a lot like wandering around a maze; it feels impossible to know far everything really is, and how much progress has been made.
This week I: