Tagged: game design

Nier Automata.


There is a lot to say about Nier Automata; it is a game which attempts to cover numerous massive themes, and is generally successful at it. I almost feel that in entering it expecting something in-depth, however, my initial experience was diminished by a subconscious hunt for things which were wrong, things which would give some clue to what I was going to experience. In doing this I think I missed a lot of the less subtle things in it, or did not give them due significance. There are subtle clues and wrongnesses throughout a first playthrough of the game, but they pale in comparison to the massive, unsubtle ones.

Note: This article discusses the mechanics and sidequests of Nier Automata.

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Tabletop Game Rules: “Don’t Be Defeated By a Friend”

It has been some time since I last attempted to design a tabletop game, but I have recently been working on a ruleset.

The intent is to create a game in the mould of Osprey’s light and thematic miniatures skirmish games such as Black Ops, Rogue Stars and Frostgrave, except with a fantastical theme not currently widely served by other products.

Don’t Be Defeated By a Friend is intended to emulate the aesthetics and fights of Japanese console RPGs and young-adult action anime. Its inspirations are chiefly the Persona and Trails video games, and series such as Busou Renkin, Full Metal Alchemist and so on, although there are aspects of Final Fantasy present as well.

Mechanically the system draws on Frostgrave, Black Ops, Mordheim, A Fistful of Kung Fu, The Walking Dead: All Out War and Infinity to varying degrees.

Currently the ruleset is at beta version 0.4; all of the basic rules for unit creation, combat, movement and magic have been written as well as initial skill and equipment tables. Limited solitaire playtesting has taken place to determine what seem to be initial appropriate values for points costs, baseline statistics etcetera.

Missing are campaign rules, character advancement, advanced and magical equipment tables and rules for adult characters. Development of these, I feel, should not take place until the core mechanics are in a more advanced state.

I am putting a playtest version of the current ruleset up on this blog for people to read and hopefully playtest. While I have, in the past, started and abandoned many projects this one I feel is more complete and playable even in its current unfinished state.

Change Log

v0.4 -> v0.4a

p4 – Regaining balance as part of a Push Back move rules, first sentence now reads “If this would take the defender over a precipice or drop, they must roll 1d12 and exceed the total distance they were pushed back to regain their balance…”

p6, “Base Statistics” – re-ordered statistics in body text in line with examples

Game Rules (Updated 31/01/17 @ 22:31 to version 0.4a):


Blank Stat Sheet:


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“Trails in the Sky Has a Dedicated Sprite for Hugs”


Note: This article deals with events from the Prologue and Chapter 1 of Trails in the Sky SC, as well as the ending of Trails in the Sky FC

Something I observed on Twitter today was that Trails in the Sky, despite working with quite limited sprite-based graphics has a strong emphasis on personal, intimate character details. This was embodied by the fact it has a set of sprite animations for characters hugging each other; as all cutscenes are done in engine, the repertoire of animations each sprite has limits what actions can be depicted in a cutscene and a good number of things such as sitting down or standing up are elided over with fade effects. Yet nevertheless there are animations for giving a character a hug, a very specific action which is used incredibly well to add a personal, emotive touch to numerous scenes – there is a storyline in First Chapter about an orphanage that is burned down, and so it is natural that there should be scenes of the matron comforting her charges.

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Themes and Stories in Board Games

The idea of thematic game design – games where the mechanics directly support the aesthetic in a way beyond telling a fixed story – has taken a much stronger hold in the design space of board and card games than in video games. A board game, with a few exceptions, is designed as a repeatable and variable experience; games which tell a fixed story such as Gears of War exist within the border between role-playing and traditional board games and tend to have certain design constraints which limit variation between iterations. For example, many dungeon-crawl type games which do focus on telling a story have a dungeon-master figure or shared “admin” role – Descent has the “Overlord” player read event text from a book and place figures according to a map (the most extreme role-playing side of the divide) while Gears of War keeps the narrative event text but has figure placement determined randomly.

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Thoughts on “Attack on Titan”, and Conflict-Focused Game Design

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Some games feel overly mechanically designed as reliant on a single strong or innovative mechanic; the emphasis is on foregrounding and promoting that mechanic and the result is an experience which feels unbalanced. One such example is the recent board game Exile Sun – its slider-based conflict resolution mechanic was uncommon among games of its type but outside of this there was little substance to it. Each other mechanic within the game was focused on drawing the players into using this conflict resolution system as much as possible, in order to draw attention to the limited pool of design strengths and discount the weaknesses in the overall. Such a game can be called a combat engine – a developed idea which ultimately lacks any kind of framework to be anything but abstract mechanics.

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