This is another development post following up with the one last week. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can check it out here to get a bit more context. Just as a brief reminder, the issues presented in this post were some of the worries that I had going into Sigils of Kairos, even before I reached out to Jacob. Though I had a good idea of the core loop of the game, I was thinking through some of the design problems that came with an innovative genre bender like Sigils. So without laboring the intro…
Lack of Options
It may seem strange that I originally saw Sigils of Kairos as a fighting game at the beginning of development, but the genre has a lot of strategy in high level play. From a design point of view, well crafted fighting games become like a game of chess. Though I am personally not that great at fighting games, I’ve played enough of them (and watched some breakdown videos) to catch some of the nuances in a match. Watching veteran matches in games like Street Fighter or Dragonball Fighter Z shows a fascinating dance of attack/counter-attack. Each player has a ton of options for attacking like dashing, jumping, projectiles, fake-outs, poking, or even just standing still and swinging. If an attack lands, great! but if it misses, the player is left helpless to a barrage of counter-attacks from the other player.
I wanted this feeling for my game from the very beginning. I knew that Sigils was going to be a competitive game so every choice had to build up that combative tension. Unfortunately with cards, the broad range of actions and attacks gets reduced significantly. I saw this lack of complexity as a potential game-killer for a competitive game and was worried that the game wouldn’t offer enough strong and interesting options to players.
Over-Complexity of Play
The other extreme to the design challenge above is the over-complexity of the cards. Sigils of Kairos was a strong concept because it marries a few strong game genres together, which opens up a huge well of potential directions to go. With so much to work with, it is very tempting to take up as many game elements as we can, but this would be disastrous. Not only would the scope be out of hand for a two-person team, but every mechanic we add creates a barrier for casual gamers. These barriers make it harder for newer players to compete and become veterans over time.
Card games have justifiably been correlated with complexity from the beginning. With a turn-based game, players have a chance to familiarize themselves with the rules and cards so they can plan out optimal plays. In a real-time setting, however, every moment spent reading a card or figuring out a mechanic is a big handicap. Because of this, we tried to avoid adding any overly-complicated mechanics and wanted things to stay pretty straight forward. This is a very delicate design challenge as we have to find the perfect balance between an easy-to-understand accessible game and deep satisfying experience.
As with any project, we hit a slew of other unforeseen challenges in the making of Sigils of Kairos. Still, I hope these posts show some of the hesitations going into Sigils of Kairos and sheds some light on some of our design choices that mitigate these problems. Also, keeping these potential problems in mind still allows us to avoid pitfalls as we tighten up our gameplay.
Naturally, you’re probably wondering how we went about addressing these problems. The answer is: a lot of things. A big reason why I am posting these initial worries now is to help set up future posts on design elements that we’ve put in or taken out of our game over time. I hope that by doing this, it shows how thinking things through early on helped shape our design philosophy going forward. This might not be a very satisfying way to end the post, but please bear with us as we go forward and post more about our development.