My name is Kenny Davidson and I’m a Content Designer at Xaviant. Last week Jim touched on how we have used different documentation methods to help refine combat design. This post will talk about how Ben Collier, Systems Designer and Engineer at Xaviant, and I take that documentation and use paper prototyping to give rapid iteration on their ideas.
When it comes to designing combat and gameplay it can sometimes take time to get into a working state so you can test it and see if it works like you want it to. Design has to work with engineering to discuss what they want out of it and then engineering has to put this into place in the engine. By the time the code has been placed and put through a playtest a week has gone by, sometimes longer. Having a paper prototype (Board Game) in place also helps us to iterate on things much faster.
A paper prototype is basically our own pen and paper game. By taking the elements of our combat styles and core gameplay mechanics and translating them to a pen and paper game we can rapidly iterate on what works and what doesn’t.
We recognize that not every player is the same and we strive to support different play styles. Signups for play testing and commenting on the table top experience is open to everyone at the Studio. I have on occasion given not so helpful feedback but many have jumped in and helped us discover new and better ways to handle our designs. Examples of features we’ve tweaked based on player feedback are things like spell dynamics, enemy movements and actions, and intensity of encounters.
In a ninety minute gameplay session we were able to test a new spell that quickly became an issue. By issue I mean that the spell didn’t have the desired effect that we wanted. It wasn’t as balanced as we would like and it wasn’t as useful as intended. Ben and I made a change in the middle of this game that drastically increased the effectiveness of the spell. This not only made the player much happier, but provided immediate feedback for engineer planning for these features.
By paper prototyping we can get rapid feedback and it has been an incredible asset to our team. Sometimes I have had to eat my own words but I was happier for it because it led to a much better product.