Core gameplay development

Core gameplay development

The main game underwent about 12 major revisions over the course of several months of print-and-play playtesting. I live in Santa Barbara and here there is actually a great little community of avid gamers and fellow game designers. 3 people helped playtest the game in this early phase. These people ranged from sci-fi board game lovers of Twilight Emperium, Eclipse, and Android: Netrunner to digital players of Masters of Orion II, StarCraft II and Sins of a Solar Empire.

At the time I was also reading several design methodology books. Game Mechanics, Advanced Game Design by Ernest Adams and Joris Dormans provided really great processes for building up a functional and emergent economic system and goes in great depth into Machinations as a form of system design.

Early Design Challenges

One of the initial challenges I faced was the natural tendency to want to stack ships together in the same sector to have an overwhelming force. This I resolved by imposing command limits on the size of your fleet that you are able to have in one sector.

Another challenge was getting the rate of expansion right. The early game rapid growth and mid to late game phases have to happen at the right speed with the right amount of friction. Machinations proved to be a valuable mental model to work through and apply various accelerators and friction coefficients.

Machination example from Starcraft II.
Machination example from Starcraft II

Tweaks to your home system’s start economy, map size and colonization rate provided the necessary early rate of expansion required to produce the desired game length. A friction coefficient was then added to the colonization cost to impose difficult mid to late game decisions regarding the desire to continue your expansion vs. paying for other costs ranging from combat attack-defense and alternative economic, political and strategic avenues.

If you are seriously into game designing I definitely recommend the three books found in the above image. They took a lot of what I might have known intuitively and transferred it into a conscious domain with a wider array of tools.

The three books cited above are: