We have so much to talk about today. Let’s start with some Dungeon Quest musings, specifically the concept of a framework. I’m a big fan of frameworks. They allow a creative type to know the bounds that they are working within, which lets us focus on doing work that will not be wasted. In a certain context, a design document is a framework since I only have to design and\or code things that are on the document itself.
For Dungeon Quest the framework that I’m dealing with is one of card design in the specific, and card set design is the abstract. I was pondering the question – how many different types of cards do I need? How big are each of the Red, Green and Blue decks? Let’s go through that thought process together shall we? Let’s imagine that there are 50 different cards and each has (on average) 3 copies. That would mean that each shop deck would have 150 cards in it. Sounds good right? Well, the odds of drawing any one of those cards in a standard Draft Phase is roughly 6 out of 50 or about 12%. That might be fine, but the odds that you have any duplication in your deck starts to fall off pretty quick. Without duplication it’s exceedingly hard to build an archetype so any deck that you play would just be a mix of colors, which isn’t very interesting.
One of the key conceits in Dungeon Quest is that players should be able to tailor their decks when they play and be able to discover archetypes. Put another way, it should be possible to build three different mono-red decks that don’t play the same. In fact, one of coolest aspects of the design is the replayability and the emergent combinations of cards due to the random nature of the decks themselves. Using our above example of giant 150 card shop decks, if it’s impossible to build or find and archetype, then there is only one archetype – the whatever color deck. Those, unfortunately can be fun, but after a few games they will no longer be interesting. Dungeon Quest needs the discovery. It’s part of its DNA.
That means, that the other extreme also doesn’t work. If we only had say, 15 total cards per color to design (I’d be done already) that would mean that there aren’t enough cards to be able to explore the set. You’d be able to lock into a drafting deck type every game with very little variance. Worse, with only 15 cards there wouldn’t be a lot of space design wise to create cards for fringe strategies (like a Red deck that uses damage as a resource). Right now that works for me, since I’m still in the act of designing and playtesting mechanics and I don’t need or want to discover random interactions that may be covering up some gameplay deficiency. But in the long term, that’s not good gameplay.
So after thinking about this, I came at it from another angle. How many cards could you burn through in a single 5 Level game? By my estimation (and since I’m the designer – I can make it true) there should be around 75 cards of each color revealed from the shop. Assuming 3 of each card (on average) that would mean that there are about 25 total cards of each color.
Now, I keep saying “on average” like it’s a nervous tic. But what I mean in that case has to do with efficiency. I talked about it halfway down here. Another way that I’ve been thinking about it is in the term common, uncommon and rare. Going back to our previous example, of 75 card deck with 25 unique cards, that would be 9 commons with 4 copies each, 9 uncommons with 3 copies each and 7 rares with 2 copies each. That original breakdown lasted all of 2 seconds before the asymmetry made my eye twitch. The true framework actually has 9 of each which which gets us to an 81 card shop deck for each color. Now that, I can design around, and I’ll add a copy of the card file so that we can all keep track at home.
– In news! There is now a full copy of the Current Rules included on the main Dungeon Quest page. “Current” of course means the last time I created a card sheet. Which is as of this writing 3 weeks old.
– Finally, let’s talk about the title. You may notice that the diary entries have tags now, and you can peruse them by type. To categories them for you (dear reader) I’ve had to go back and read a lot of old entries. I also fixed the occasional typo. You’re welcome.
I guess what I mean to say, is that reading these development diary entries has, for lack of a better word – inspired me. I came to realize somewhere along the way that maybe what I was after all those years ago wasn’t a thing that exists as I wanted it to in 2020. But reading those entries, remembering the true why of it, is something special.
There’s an entry in particular that stood out, where I wrote that 8 year old me would be proud of 26 year old me because I make video games. Well, I can say without sugarcoating it that I am not the same person I was at 26. But knowing what that guy did and knowing where he got through the very act of chasing that dream, I can say without hesitation that 37 year old me is proud of 26 year old me.
That also means that I was in the code that makes Paper Zeppelin possible. Now, Dungeon Quest is the main focus of Star Frog Games, but since that needs playtesting to develop, I cannot do that alone which means that DQ development is 90% theorycrafting and 10% live playing. That also means that I have free time to develop and code something else.
That something else, is Paper Zeppelin. I’m porting it from XNA (which is dead) to Monogame (which is very much alive). I’ll release it when it’s done for no other reason than because I want to. Because somebody started it, and I owe him.