Design Log 2: The Compellingness of Battle

Hey rollers!

This is Sara writing another post about design. There’s a lot going on in development. We recently had a major meeting to figure out how we would close the game loop, and also discuss the compellingness of the game.

We’ll skip over the game loop stuff for now and focus on the problem of being compelling.

The problem of Monster Roller is that it isn’t compelling enough. When people test the game, they give it back after a few minutes. Initially we were thinking that it was because we hadn’t closed the loop and that there was no sense of a larger progression beyond battle. But that’s because we keep thinking of MR as an RPG-like game. It looks like one, so there is that expectation.

But it’s not like an RPG at all. There are plenty of games that survive on the core mechanic of doing something well, where progression is simply measured in high scores. While MR will have eggs to collect and leaderboards for PVP, the case for games which are purely played for the core proves that compellingness isn’t really about ADDING a feature (like a Quest System). Tetris doesn’t need to unlock additional blocks after winning each stage to be interesting. It’s interesting in its core puzzle mechanic. Same thing with Flappy Bird.

Tetris-VeryFirstVersionSimple and addicting because its core mechanic shines. Image © Aleksej Patinov, as Fair Use.

The same case can be applied to Monster Roller. The point is to make battle fun. The way it was a few weeks ago was… not that fun. (It wasn’t the author that pointed this out, incidentally. Credit goes to the Creative Director.) If the core mechanic is not that great, people won’t bother to get as far as collecting eggs, anyway.

The fascinating part here is that this is the designer writing this post — and I’m more concerned about keeping balanced stats, making the UI clear — but even I have to put my head out of the sand and realize that different games have different killer features. And battle is this game’s killer feature.

Currently we’re working on making battle feel faster and snappier.

This involves playing with several variables: effects, rigs, timing, and the information that has to be displayed. For now, instead of going in depth on all those variables, I’ll leave you guys with two gifs showing different ways we’re thinking of approaching the problem. When battle is sorted out, I’ll go over these same variables and explain how they work.

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PS: A disclaimer — what I’m writing here reflect my thoughts as a designer. Actually the team itself has different opinions on what makes the game compelling. We’ll be seeing how those hunches develop too as the game is developed.