I’ve been having a few days of angst (ok a few weeks) regarding game design and ‘fun’ in Gratuitous Tank Battles. I guess I was panicking at the intangibility of ‘fun’ and thinking I might be constructing a huge and very elaborate ‘system’ and ‘simulation’ rather than a game. Essentially, it became clear to me that the game was a bit too much like company of heroes and not enough like chess.
Now COH is a great game, but I think it suffers a bit from unit-balance hell. This is something GSB really struggles with, especially for new players. Chess, on the other hand, is awesome in this regard.
Chess only has a handful of unit types, and their capabilities are simply explained. Chess is all about the complex interactions between simple units. This is a good game. COH and GSB are about the super-complex interactions between complex units, and a huge number of them. This is a deep, but also hard to learn, and possibly frustrating game.
I’m pretty sure I’ve sorted it all now :D. Essentially, GTB needed the starting game stripping back to very few unit types. Maybe 9 units to attack with, 9 to defend. That already makes it a fairly complex tower-defense style game. The joy of GTB is that there are so many more layers for the player to explore beyond that basic game. For example:
- After the player has got the hang of the basic UI and mechanics, we can flip things and make them the attacker instead of the defender. yay!
- After that, the player can unlock extra units on top of the starting nine. Yay!
- After that, the player can start to customise his units, choose different modules for them, and also edit their colors to look distinctive. Mega yay!
- After that, the player can try different game modes (Rush, or possibly waves rather than continous attack). And also try online challenges (eventually).
- After that, the player can fiddle with the built-in level editor and design their own maps either to upload and share, or to play against the AI. Woohoo!
So, if I can get that basic 9 types vs 9 types defence game working just great, then I am pretty convinced everything else will fall into place quite nicely. It just needs a ton of work, but that doesnt bother me at all. I’m just keen to get the initial mechanics of the early game to be perfect, and I made decent progress on that today :D.