Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Waiting and Hoping

In case you haven't noticed, there's not much going on here lately. I'm waiting for Steve Jackson Games (my publisher) to finish development and start printing. I sent a lengthy email to the team Sunday night. Here is an excerpt:

The cards originally provided more Gold, so you might want to consider raising the amount of Gold available on the bid chart (maybe increase the Aristocrat to 2 Gold, etc.). This might also be a symptom of changing the rule about keeping currency upon tie bids and lost bids. Both the new players and the experienced players thought the new rule (losing chips from ties and lost bids) was harsh. Another player said he thought the rule forced him to play more deliberately; he preferred being able to take more chances with less risk under the old rule.

None of my past playtesters are very enthusiastic about this rule change. Personally, I feel it makes more sense to think of the bid in terms of an offer of payment to be dispersed only if services are rendered. If a crooked priest really took two or three people's money and then did nothing for them, he would be in serious trouble. If someone outbids you on eBay, you don't still have to pay for an item you will not receive. Concerning game play, the old rule makes it more likely that you will exceed the minimum five chip limit and then be able to keep extra Gold won. Under the new rule, winning 1 or even 3 Gold almost always becomes irrelevant and frustrating. Under the old rule, when you place a bid, you are guaranteed to either get a fair deal or your money back. Under the new rule, when you place a bid, you are guaranteed to never see that money again no matter what. This seems to infuse more luck into the equation, because the stakes are so much higher; there's no room for error. It feels much more chaotic and random, as opposed to something you can play out and control or manage to some degree.

As far as I can remember, your team likes the new rule because they see it as more cutthroat (maybe something your games are known for). I would argue that it's still pretty cutthroat with the old rule, but I believe it gives the player more control over his destiny and, ultimately, a more robust experience.

I'm told that this message has been forwarded to the whole development team. I'm hoping it will help them end up with a good, solid game that's fun to play--one that is at least as good or better than the original. We'll see what happens.

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