Restless Progress, New Wozzle

This post is a continuation of my Windmills post. At the end, you'll find a quick high level run down of the new features. But, regarding Windmills. It turns out I have more to say and discuss on the topic and it's really important to me.

I have learned so much making Wozzle. It's been an absolute avalanche of learning and I'm so glad the weird idea came to me in the first place. Most importantly is that I've found a fantastic designer partner in Joshua Buergel. The constant back and forth of ideas, counters, inspirations, and polish is just so useful. I'm having a hard time thinking about solo-design now. More on our future adventures, oh...later this year.

One thing I realized in developing Wozzle is that game design is somewhat like trauma, in that you must isolate the biggest problems, fix them, and move to the next. But unlike trauma, which is usually resolved in hours, game design is a total marathon. The mind is unable to fully process everything at once. Something that seems fine one day may turn out to be completely unacceptable in the new light of another day. Opportunities may not emerge for weeks, months, or years. You really need to know everything about the game to truly take it where it needs to go.

Perhaps the better comparison is not to the trauma surgeon, but to the general practice doctor you see your entire life? Yes, he'll help you with your heart problem and your knees after the accident. But, he's also there to help you get your blood pressure down, reduce stress, and shave a few pounds.

Yes, I like that more.

Game development is months or years of care and more than ever I've learned that you can't truly know your game until you've played it, pounded it, and loved it for a really long time. There are just aspects of the story that can be unraveled until you truly know the guts.

Now, since my initial release of Farmageddon on The Game Crafter I've known games need more time to bake. I took that lesson devoutly to heart. Battle for York turned 3 years old last month. Sol Rising is over a year old. And Livestocked and Loaded, a "mere" expansion, had about a year of development (or more?) before it hit the factory.

I always felt that Wozzle would be a quicker game. Not an easier one, but a quicker one. I thought this for a few reasons:

  • The game plays quickly. Shorter games are easier to test.
  • The game plays well with gamers and non-gamers alike. My first 15 tests were with people who rarely play games. Typically, I can only test a game like York for example with a very specific audience.
  • The game is built upon the core of Texas Hold 'Em. This meant we had a really strong foundation. A winning, beloved foundation.
  • We knew, generally, what we wanted to do with the game. There was a very clear goal at the outset.

The thing is, every few weeks we would hit a solid spot. We'd feel good. Then we'd get restless, or ambitious. Really, it alternated. We're constantly throwing away cards that just aren't good enough. Cards that are too verbose. Cards that are too complex for the amount of fun they provide. Cards that lead to less interesting or frustrating play. Inevitably, we come up with something new. Something clever. Why? Because we've played the game so much we know what it needs.

We had lingering concerns about poker comparisons. Lingering issues of just expecting people to know such things. Then, we examined how other publishers handled the problem. We looked to Gamewright, Z-Man, Iello. We asked how other designers resolved the issues we had. The result is a presentation breakthrough that immediately opened our eyes to an incredibly cool new mechanic that fits so naturally with the game, adds depth without undue complexity, and preserves the heart of the game. We knew how we could experiment and we were able to do so fruitfully. Early in a design you'll make wide, swinging changes that miss the mark or worsen things. But here? We knew how to isolate it and tackle it.

I can blab forever, but here's the important thing: we have a new release of Wozzle and we'd love you to test it. This is the one to test. We're closing in. If you have an existing Spell set, in most cases, we've just optimized the wording. You may find a small number of new Spells and some old friends out the door.

Let me walk you through the changes.

  • We cut a page of rules. Going from 5 pages to 4 pages is HUGE. It means we cut a page of unnecessary and over complicated junk.
  • There are now 4 unique suits of Froggles, Goblins, Ghosts, and Arcana. They each number from 1-12, for 48 cards total. We did this to eliminate the confusion of Jack/Queen/King/Ace, step away from a direct poker vibe, and make it more of a card game. Also, 1-12 is just more intuitive..
  • The Arcana suit is special, in that the cards are both a rank and suit, but they also have a power. As an new action option, you may use the Arcana card as indicated by its text. This action does not cost mana and keeps you in the round. This mechanic is inspired by Tarot and adds a new devilish mix of private and public possibilities. It adds a new layer to the game. If you don't like it, or find it too complex for your first time, simply ignore the text!
  • The Arcana suit is a preview of things to come. We are now designing 2 additional Arcana suits, also 1-12, that will each have a new mechanical twist. Players can swap out Arcana suits for different experiences, or swap them with non-Arcana suits for ridiculous game. Not recommended for new players!
  • We've polished the list of hands to create a more intuitive and natural set. We also feel this gives us the right flow of probability. We feel comfortable with this based on our own tests, gut checks, but also a fairly cool simulator that Joshua coded. However, we need your help here.
  • Since our last PNP push, there have been at least 5 new editing passes on the cards and Rules text.
  • We've modified the amount of Mana players begin the game with to improve the economy.
  • We've continued to balance the base cost of Spells.
  • We've added a Wozzle Junior variant that plays with 2-6 and is intended for novices and a younger audience.
  • We've continued to revise and improve our terminology. If you've played a previous version, pay attention! We're sorry that construction is happening.

We would really appreciate your help in testing and promoting this version so that we can figure out where to take it. Basically, help us chart the future of Wozzle so that we can all see a real, professional version one day.

Thanks, and don't hesitate to ask any questions in the comments!

Comments

Interesting that you ditched a Full House. Before I saw that, I was thinking that removing cards from the game would seriously mess with probabilities. In fact, without removing the Full House, you would have had a Straight and Full house that had almost identical probabilities.

It looks like the change does a little bit to change probabilities, but not as significantly as it originally seemed. Of course, when you throw in cards with abilities that can alter hands and values and whatnot, it becomes much less of an issue, since base probabilities become less important when you have probability altering abilities.

We actually tried some truly nutty things. Added a fifth suit, modified strengths, added new hands. Ultimately we settled here. The Full House isn't very intuitive. Everything else is a much more natural, intuitive set.

Josh's probability software checks against a variety of community and additional cards in hand and the sets presented give us a fairly smooth ramp. Experienced poker players won't be lost, but people who haven't played poker will hopefully have a smoother introduction.

Essentially, the relative status of things remains.

The other problem with a Full House is that it's a relatively easy thing to shoot for with additional targeted card drawing. We've had intermittent trouble with Full House popping up too often in showdown hands, and we've decided to just finally put it to rest.

I'll be posting more information on the simulator and posting the code for others to look at later. It's a little rough, but it's come in handy.