Dec 16, 2014

The Wongamania Design Story: Trimming the Fats and Game Balancing (Part 3)

Here is the story of how Wongamania came to be:
Part 1: The Genesis of Wongamania 
Part 2: Concept to Prototype

In Part 2 of Wongamania Design Story, I was elaborating how I realized that I had stuffed too much contents into the game and I had to trim the number of card designs from 100 to around 50.

Game mechanics testing using pieces of paper.

The first thing that I needed to do is to cut down the number of card categories in the game. The current card categories at that point of time were: Health, career, law, incident, global, professional and assets.

After reviewing all the categories, I decided to consolidate most of health, career and incident into one single incident category. This category of cards will be classified as the single player target category whereby these set of cards have the flexibility to affect only selected players.

Parts of the health cards like flu pandemic, pollution and career cards like traffic jam were merged into the global cards, which was suppose to only affect the economic cycle.

I did away with the entire law category, which purpose was to act as counter cards. I felt that having too many counter cards would slow down the gameplay and lower the energy and excitement of the game. I merged some of the counter cards with the professional cards and rename them into professionals.

The professional cards, which were suppose to placed permanently in the game, became too overpowered as a resulting in near invincibility for players who managed to obtain certain cards. As a result, the design of the professional cards was redesign from a permanent card which you can activate again and again, to a per use card.

All these cards removed from the game...
Game play became much faster as the number of variety of cards was reduced and players now spend more time playing and planning rather than examining and reading the cards.

The new gameplay rules were as follow:

1) Collect 2 Wonga (credits) as salary
2) Collect your income from your assets. Feed the baby, pay the money lender.
3) Convert any number of Wonga into opportunity (playable cards)
4) Perform your actions
5) End game

A new problems cropped up with the new mechanics. Incident cards became too deadly.

The reason for that was due to the price of activating incident cards. The cost was 0 wonga (credits) for incident cards and 1 wonga for global cards. There was also no limitations how many actions a player could take.

The rationale at that point of time is that global cards were much more powerful than incident cards as they had the ability to affect everybody in the game and should cost more to activate them.

A chart to keep track of the various category percentage in the game

Therefore, a player who is rich in Wonga (credits), could simply convert a huge amount of credits into playable cards and spam beneficial cards to himself, while target harmful cards to other players. The rich player was able to get richer, while everybody else became poorer, resulting in the poor players unable to muster enough resource even to turn the tide against the lead player. A game that does not allow a player who is losing to turn the tide against the lead player will result in many bored gamers halfway through the game.

What's the point of playing the game if you cannot turn the tides regardless of what you do?

Incident cards too overpowered. Removed many of the cards along the way.
I realized that I had to impose an limitation on the number of incident cards that could be played.

I imposed a new rule, requiring players to only perform 3 actions per turn. Incident cards still too powerful even with that rule implemented. It did speed up the game though with a limited number of actions per turn, so I decided to keep that rule in the game permanently

At that point of time, I was reluctant to impose a activation cost to incident as I will need to bump the activation cost of global cards from 1 wonga to 2. The number of combo cards that a player can chain falls tremendously once I double the cost of activating the global cards, resulting in less volatility in the economic cycle, and thus less fun and backstabbing.

In order to bump up the activation cost of incident cards, I will have to enhance the power of each incident cards and lower the power of the global cards. A major card re-balancing exercise begane and a huge number of game testing place which we spent another few more months before we settle on the final prototype. 

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