A couple weeks ago, I went about describing our ‘forge’ mechanic. If you missed that one, click here and give it a skim as it sets up for this week’s discussion.
One of our basic tenets when building Sigils of Kairos was to keep it as accessible as we could while still providing a rich playing experience. Introducing a mechanic like ‘forging’ comes with more decisions which in turn adds complexity. Though complexity is not inherently bad, we had to make sure that adding these mechanics it would add enough depth to the gameplay to be worth the steeper learning curve.
How did we do this? First off, we had to reduce confusion by ensuring we had a clean UI and limited what could and couldn’t be forged. These topics will be touched on in later posts, so for now we will focus on the ‘depth’ side of this depth vs complexity.
The key to adding depth was to make sure that the decisions presented to the player were meaningful. First, we wanted the choice of forging to have different outcomes. We wanted to give a player reasons to not only forge a card, but to also choose not to depending on the situation. A great example of this can be seen with Lai’s move ‘Blitz Strike’, which disarms an opponent’s trap (ward) if one was laid. Players can choose to merge two ‘Blitz Strike’ cards to turn it into ‘Frenzy Strike’. Doing this adds high damage on top of the disarm effect, but the cost is a second disarm effect. Depending on who the player is facing and the state of the game, it might be wiser to not forge ‘Frenzy Strike’ so that more traps could be disarmed. Conversely, it might be better to forge ‘Frenzy Strike’ for a spike in damage to finish off an enemy hero. Discovering what choice is best for any given situation is vital for the gameplay of Sigils of Kairos.
Secondly, we needed the forge mechanic to make a difference in the game. This basically comes down to balancing, forged cards needed to be strong enough to be worth playing without being overpowered. Though this seems straightforward, there were some subtle factors that we didn’t anticipate at first. Originally, we looked at the power output of a card and used a standard multiplier for its forged version. This didn’t pan out when we actually ran the prototype of the game. Sigils is a game of class roles, and as such, players try to protect weaker characters from harm. This results in critical windows of opportunity where weaker characters are only brought forward for short periods of time. Players take advantage of these windows by spiking damage using forged cards. When we loaded our baseline set of damage, we didn’t factor in how impactful these damage spikes would end up being. As such, early versions of the game had squishy characters absolutely destroyed before seeing much play. This ended up being a valuable lesson to learn and is a constant consideration as we balance the game further.
With the forging mechanic adding so many meaningful decisions that involve so many quick calculations, our game became much more competitive and interesting. Forging increases the skill cap that allows good players to shine and gives room for new players to grow. With more meaningful decisions to make, players learn what the most optimal play is in any given situation. This road to mastery is not only great for Sigils of Kairos, it is the end goal that gives the game longevity and replayability.
Please keep checking in for more design discussions regarding our upcoming project!