[This is third and last one article that was inspired by my visit in Czech this spring and playing Robinson with Vlaada. That would be good if you read previous ones (they are here on my blog) so you know what the story is all about so far.]
The game ended badly. One of characters is dead. It is game over and it is game over in bad style. They had no chances. They weren’t even close. It wasn’t a good game.
‘You were unlucky. Too many bad events. It’s adventure game, sometimes you have luck, sometimes you don’t…’ I say. Vlaada is searching throught decks of cards. ‘There are good and bad events in all of those decks?’ he asks pointing four decks of cards.
‘You can’t have good events, here, Ignacy’ he says.
Did I just hear him saying the thing he just said?
‘Are you kidding?! You’ve just lost because of lack of good events!’
‘There can not be good events in those decks. You have to get rid of them. You don’t control the game at this moment. Ignacy, you – as an author – have to have control over your game.’
OK, I have to admit it – at that very moment I wasn’t sure what he was talkin’ about. Remove good events? Why? Have control? How?!
I have, however, courage to ask. So I asked Vlaada to explain me. And he did.
‘How many good and bad events you designed in that deck?’ he asked pointing Event deck.
‘There are 40 good events and 60 bad events.’ I answered. ‘Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed IslandStatistically you will have 3 bad and 2 good events in first part of the game and then again 3 bad and 2 good events in the second part of the game.’
‘You have to get rid of all good events. Ignacy you don’t control it. This is bad. You can’t design game that you don’t control.’
Still no idea what he is talkin’ about. And still have courage to ask and learn.
‘Vlaada I don’t get it.’
He took one of my sheets of paper and my pen. ‘Look’ he said. ‘During set up you take five cards from this deck, right? You say that statisticaly there should be 3 bad and 2 good cards and that this is an avarage difficulty level, but…’ and he starter to write.
‘There may be:
5 bad, 0 good
4 bad, 1 good
3 bad, 2 good
2 bad, 1 good
1 bad, 0…’
‘I get it.’ I said.
‘You want game to be difficult, you want game to throw at players 3 bad events and you want the game to help them twice. That is your dream configuration. But math is cruel. There will be games like ours today, with 4 bad events and only one good. There will be even games with 0 bad and 5 good events. Players will play it, will have 5 good events, finish the game without smallest effort and then they will write on BGG that game is easy like piece of cake and boring and they don’t recommend it.’
‘You are right.’
‘You need to control the game. Now it is rollercoaster. You have no idea what will happen. It may be extremely easy. It may be extremely hard. Your intended configuration of 3/2 is only one of many possibilities. What about others? You have to remove all good events. You have to make it 5 bad events, 0 good events and then set difficulty of the game.’
‘Math sucks’ I said.
If I were Vlaada, I’d say that Robinson sucks but Vlaada is a nice person. He didn’t say that.
Conclusion? I had to take some about 120 events from 5 different decks and throw them to the bin. I needed to take control over my game and to do so, I had to trash 40% of cards I was designing over last 4 months.
I did it. Without a blink of an eye.
The Lesson? Few, actually.
Vlaada knows math.
Math is a bitch.
Game designers need to have courage to throw ideas to the bin and start right from the beginnig.
That what game design is – no mercy.