Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Changing Media

Translating a tabletop miniatures roleplaying game into a card game ultimate creates a number of interesting design issues. How do you capture narrative structure in a random shuffle of cards? How do you transform physical proximity into an abstract sense of adjacency? What do you do with movement in the original system? How do the adversaries strike back?

Card games ultimately come down to questions of combinations and timing. Cards in hand can be effortlessly recombined but the availability of any given combination is always uncertain. The difference between the skill of one player and the skill of another comes down to the synergies they can find between cards in play and their capacity to manage cards to wait to exploit opportunities with the best cards.

To do anything well with a card game means figuring out how to translate elements of the original design into those dynamics. It isn’t really about representative fidelity, as if cards could suddenly be turned into miniature mechanics. It is about finding a suitable mechanic to capture the fundamental experience of the original design in a dynamic that rests upon combinations and good timing.

Modeling D&D is an interesting dilemma. Roleplaying games like D&D give each individual character a specific set of actions which are always available. It is the anti-thesis of a card game. The challenge rests upon how to combine those actions with allies simultaneously within a constrained space. Distance, not time, serves the role of limiting what you can do and when you can do it. A party in 4ed is always trying to figure out the exact combination of effects which work the best in each individual’s spatial relation to the others.

1 comment:

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