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 Copyright Eric Pietrocupo


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Early Prototype

Page: Guide.ModelingDesign44 - Last Modified : Tue, 21 Oct 14 - 481 Visits

I am prototyping already! The first reason is to follow my proto rushing philosophy to get feedback as soon as possible. Since it's still an itterative process, we will get back to modelling later. The second reason is because I am starting to lose focus. My motivation span can stay for a 1-2 month at most. Which is now an indication of "go do something else". Hopefully, prototyping could change my mind enought.

The goal for this playtestes it to test the core mechanics which is encountering ennemies and attacking bases. There will be no economy, so I'll be travelling around with unlimited resources trying to capture bases. I might include the japanse AI too. What will be left behind is all the stuff that was not in the PTO video game like trading goods, infiltrating bases, fulfilling quests, etc.

Since it is some sort of sandbox game, the game will offer many possible actions, but designing them all from the start can be overwhelming. In fact, if my game get's published, there might be a basic and advanced mode where not all actions are available in the basic mode.

Also by testing combat now, once it is working, I could simply skip combat in the next play tests that will focus on another aspect of the game like for example, the economy or quest system. I might in fact only test combat alone without moving on a map before testing encounter and movement.

Prototyping and Testing phase

Combat: So the firs thing to test is combat. I'll design some units and engage them in various kind of battles: Fleet vs Fleet, Fleet vs Air, Fleet vs Base, Air vs Base, etc. Once this is working, there will be little need for modifications unless I introduce new units. Once combat is solid, I need to design all units models.

Movement, Encounters and map design: I need to test movement and encounters that are going to trigger those battle. I need to design the map at the right scale for semi-historical accuracy, while beign convenient for gameplay.

Resource Management for player and AI: I could try testing preliminary resource management like fuel, fatigue and morale. I might try to introduce resource management for the AI. Which means recovering lost ships, managing fleet movement, sunk convoy, etc.

Objects to design

So we will need a relatively good amount of game objects for our early prototype since all battles needs to be functionnal. Now many information is based on historical data, for example ship models, or plane models will have stats loosely based on historical data. One thing I want to avoid is spending time desiging all my stats to finally scrap everything at the end beause the combat system does not work well, or the value ranges are bad.

So for now, I'll improvise the values, make some mini combat test, then add more tokens, tests agains. When I have working battles, now I can start designing based on real historical data. The improvised tokens for early design will simply be done by hand, not at the computer, to speed up the testing process. Here are the components that must be designed:

Fleet

This won't require much work. I basically need 1 track 3 tokens to record morale, fatigue, and fuel. I need a pawn for the position of the fleet, and a side board for placing the ship token in formation. There will not be any fleet type cards, it will only be a task force.

This is a risk free components, because even with changes to the rules, none of the components will change. The Fatigue, Morale, Fuel could be used differently, but they will still be recording a value, what ever it's purpose in the game. They could possibly evolve in other things (ex: morale could give condition cards), but that can be added later.

To do

  • Track with marker token
  • Formation Board
  • Find a fleet pawn

Ships

Ships are a big chunk. All stats will be important for combat resolution except the ship cost since there is no economy. Everything else is related to the ship behavior or combat stats which we need.

What I should do is define a limited set of ship class. Give them stats by improvising and then testing. Afterward, I could easily adjust the values to know the min max that each value should get. One I have this, I can use historical data to use the best and worst and distribute values proportionally to the data. Probably the stats will not be writted on the tokens to easily modify them.

As for the cargo token, besides fuel, no of them will be used. In fact fuel will only be used when starting to test movement. But not in the early combat tests.

Damage tokens are an essential part of combat resolution. I'll design a list of token, refurbish old tokens and write by hand what they are. I need 2 sets of token, one for the torpedo attacks and one for the shell/bomb attacks that will each have 6 various results. Which makes me think, that I am not forces to design token right from the start, I can use a die since there are only 6 type of special damage (Which is not a coincidence, I did this on purpose). But I'll have to record the damage on a piece of paper.

To do

  • Desing basic ship stats
  • Make a few tokens by hand for ships
  • Use D6 for critical damage (or encounter deck)
  • Make damage tokens for ships (or use encounter deck)
  • (later) make fuel tokens for tankers.

Planes and Troop Tokens

I'll start by designing a generic model for everybody for maybe Fleet fighter, bomber and attack. Then after the initial testing, I'll try making various models including land based models.

The most important thing to define is combat strength of the weapons and make some adjustment while playing. Everything else is relative to the type of plane, so I don't need to specify it now, only when doing specific model

As for troop tokens, they will all be the same for all nations. Only tanks and special forces will be different. Special forces won't be used in this early testing. As for tanks, I might test a generic model again to see if the combat system works and then design specific models.

To do

  • design plane tokens (generic then specific)
  • design troop tokens
  • design tank tokens (generic then specific)

Map

OK, that might seem easy, it's just a map right! But it's not. I played with the pacific map with dozens of various hex grids in order to make sure all location fit in a grid. It's not that easy.

Since I am going to use a smaller grid, the risk as much more reduced. What I need to look at is the travel distance vs the travel speed. If I want my fleet to move 2 hex in 1 day, then I need to check how much space I can move in 1 days. I'll take the measurements from the video game since I don't need something precicely accurate. Else it could get very combat to convert knots to distance and then find a way to measure distance between islands and cities.

I need to select 6 groups of 6 bases plus some extra bases for non-japanese territory. That is almost already done. Once I have this, I can do the early testing.

Then later where movement is working, I can define the location of the special resources. Define it's defensive capabilities so that combat can be initiated against those bases.

to do

  • Find the right grid for the map according to coverage and movement speed.
  • find the bases to be used in the game, and group them in 6 groups
  • (later)Determine where the special resources and repair docks will be located
  • (later)Determine the bases defenses, air capacity, troop capacity, etc.
  • (later)Leave space to place special status, AI tokens, etc.

Encounter cards

To do

  • Basic stats like threat and encounter types
  • Optional info like bases and citical damage
  • (Later)For more advanced rules, can include weather.

Prototyping issues

This is some interesting issues I faced while prototyping.

Number improvisation for unit design

I needed to determine what kind of combat value I would need for each unit. I am borrowing an old combat system I designed for anotehr game called pacific storm. In that game, you sum up the value of all your units (using the same weapon) and each slice of 5 points made you roll a die. If you rolled 4+, you made a hit. With technology improvement, you needed 3+.

Now in my game, there is no technological improvement, it will remain as it was in 1945. So I could revert back to the roll 1 die per unit and compare hits. It could be faster and more convenient to resovle. The only modification to was expecting is character skills could affect the TN. Another variation to this is to use D10 or D12 instead of D6.

Else if I use my original idea, I thought of increasing the divider up to 8 in case of a fatigued crew. But it might be very unconvenient to do the mental math with 6-8 as dividers.

There are 4 variables to juggle with

  • Nb of units: The more units there are, the more addition will be required and the more rolls will be made.
  • Target Number: Higher TN will make less unit hit their target which could require more units to compensate for example.
  • Divider: Variable divider is unconvenient. Might need a table that does the works, or find another method to get the same results mathematically.
  • Range of stats: High stats are harder to add up and they will make you roll more dice. They give more flexibility for unit model design. Lower stats are easier to add, but you will have more situation where you roll 0 dice, have little flexibility, but could roll 1D per unit vs D6.

Now one things I could try to do to get 2 combat system into 1. One system where you add up value or use a combat resolution table, and one system where you roll 1 die per unit.

For the number of units, ships are no brainers, it's 1 unit per ship. As for planes and troop, I don't think I am going to use half strength units. To keep componnents quantity small, I'll try to keep those units low. So for example instead of tokens with 12 planes, I'll make them have 20 planes. That could require more aggressive damage to shut down those planes. As for quantity, an essex carrier will be able to carry 5 units, which still gives a variety of possible planes.

Since the divider is by default 5, it is logical that units has an average strength of 5, or close to it. One idea is I want the game to be compatible with both combat system is to make valur range from 1-8, and use D10 vs a value of 1-8 as TN. So either you add them up, or either you roll 1 die per unit. Which makes the average strength around 4 or 4.5. Maybe fatigue could simply give a penalty from -1 to -3 to each ship, which will bring some units to 0 strength.

For the TN, when adding value, I'll need to compare how much inverage I can kill units with one system or the other. With the roll against, if I have 10 ships with a strength of 5, then I have 50% chances to hit with each ship, so in average I should make 5 hits. If I sum up the values, that gives me strength of 50, so I roll 10 dice. I need to use a TN of +4 to actually have the same odd. But let's try with other numbers, using the 4+.

Expectations with 10 ships

 Method AMethod B
Ship Strengthodds per shipAverage HitMax nb hitSum of strnb of diceAverage hit on 4+Max nb Hit
550%5 hit105010510
330%3 hit1030636
880%8 hit108016816

OK! that looks surprsingly the same. The main difference seems to be the max number of hits. Let's test with an off number of ship, probably the left overs wil make the number inaccurate for method B.

Expectations with 6 ships, left over should screw up the results.

 Method AMethod B
Ship Strengthodds per shipAverage HitSum of strnb of diceAverage hit on 4+
550%3 hit3063 hit
330%1.8 hit1831.5 hit
880%4.8 hit4894.5 hit

Very interesting, In theory, left overs can be carried to the next roll. So not everything is lost.

Lets put our system to the test. Let's try fatigue, on method A the divider increases by 1 up to 8, with method B we add a -1 penalty on all thips. Let's try 10 ships strength 3, 5 and 8.

Expectations with 10 ships, with fatigue penalty.

 Method AMethod B
Ship StrengthPenaltyodds per shipAverage HitSum of strnb of diceAverage hit on 4+
3-1 or 620%2 hit3052.5 hit
3-2 or 710%1 hit304.282 hit
3-3 or 80%0 hit303.751.5 hit
5-1 or 640%4 hit508.34 hit
5-2 or 730%3 hit507.13.5 hit
5-3 or 820%2 hit506.253 hit
8-1 or 670%7 hit8013.36.5 hit
8-2 or 760%6 hit8011.45.5 hit
8-3 or 850%5 hit80105 hit

It seems that method A penalize the player more for low values. A quick fix could be that the min chance to hit is always 10%.

So here are the results:

Method A: 1 die per ship

  • Maximum nb of hit is always the same
  • 1 less variable can be used.
  • No left overs to take take.
  • Fatigue penalty more aggressive for ship with low strength.
  • very weak unit could score hits if lucky.

Method B: sum of values

  • Maximum number of hit is variable
  • An additional TN variable can be used when using divider
  • Leftovers can generate lost hits on the long run
  • Low strength are not penalized, but higher strength are a bit.
  • very weak unit needs to be grouped together.

Another solution could be to use the TN in method B as fatigue. But the problem is that method B seems less convenient to use, but it can be used with regular D6. While method A requires D10 if I want value range to be high enough. Since it's going to be a gamer's game, I am sure people will have access to D10.

Else I can tweak the divider to match more accurately method A, but not sure it will be possible since some numbers already match on that table. I think method B would be good for a no dice resolution using only the law of average. Each 10 points basically scores a hit (12-14-16 with fatigue). Maybe I can stick to that.

Other issues I thought is that with method A, 5 destroyer that has 10% chance to hit can make 5 hits. While with the other system, they will have 50% chance to make 1 hit.

After a mini playtest of the combat system, since there are many dice roll, I might opt for a law of average system, where you add up the values, each slice of 10 points score a hit, then you roll a D10 against the leftover to see if you score an extra hit. Fatigue can still be applied by giving a -1 to 3 on all this stats.

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