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The Design Philosophy of Hero Generations
by Scott Brodie on 04/03/14 09:57:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

When I started designing Hero Generations, my goal was to build a game that, through gameplay, would allow players to feel a complex set of emotions I had experienced myself. The lessons I pulled from that experience felt like universal human truths that others might benefit from experiencing too. During the early design process, I wrote the below summary of how I planned to achieve the aesthetic experience I wanted in the game.

Hero Generations Design Philosophy

Hero Generations aims to be both a personal expression and experiment in distilling deep strategy gameplay into a shorter form experience. The intent is to build a game system around familiar personal life experiences everyone can relate to, and over time reveal insights about the following core themes:

  • What is worth our limited life time?
  • What do we sacrifice to pursue the things we love?
  • The value of thinking long term vs short term; planning for a better future vs immediate personal achievement.
  • The value of putting down roots vs staying free to explore passions.
  • The impact of nature vs nurture. 

Mechanically, I will reveal these themes via the following systems:

  • A hero with a limited lifespan, and permanent death. Each turn choice should matter because the stakes are high.
  • An expanding, variety of valid goals to pursue (it should be an interesting puzzle for you to chart your life path amid static, dynamic, and hidden objectives).
  • Quick-play sessions leading to rapid generational iteration. I want to expose the long-term effects of player actions as soon as possible, so enabling players to play many generations is key.
  • World permanence and persistence leads to a connection between generations, and allows players to leave a lasting (positive or negative) impact on the game world.
  • Generational variety through mating, to expose different choices with each new child hero. It’s not one story; it’s an exploration of a concept.

Other Goals

  • Making classic strategy game mechanics accessible in quick play sessions. Give people a replayable short form version of 4X Strategy that they can chain into longer epic legacies on their schedule.
  • Keep everything beloved about Rogue-likes, but fix the pain of permadeath by allowing players to continue on as an heir with similar characteristics.
  • Play with procedural generation to make each game varied and personalized.

Influences

The influence list for the game is quite varied. A number of games will be useful references for solving hard design problems:

Major 

  • Oasis (single screen exploration structure, elegant, quick-play strategy)
  • Civilization Revolution (4x made casual, on console)
  • Passage (limited lifespan, rapid character growth/aging)
  • The Legend of Zelda (adventure unlocking structure, non-linear exploration, item system)
  • Super Mario World (aesthetic, surprise, “little world”)
  • Spelunky (random generation, accessible rogue-like) 

Minor

  • Risk (combat simplicity, design)
  • Minesweeper (uncertain/dangerous grid-based exploration with “tells”)
  • Super Mario 3 (mini-game integration)
  • Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne (Varied Quests types – victory pts/fame design unify varied goals)
  • LOVE (Procedural generation, graphical evolution)
  • Braid (careful match of visual tone and mechanical communication)
Approaching these non-traditional concepts in a game was challenging at times, but it has resulted in a design that I think has slowly taken the shape I wanted, and will hopefully get closer to the ideal as we work to flesh out the game more.
 
For more background on my general approach to this kind of design, you can check out another article I wrote long ago on the subject for Gamasutra.com: Truth in Game Design
 

Thanks for reading,

-Scott

(You can help me realize this vision by backing the project, now live on Kickstarter - http://kck.st/1fXPM7J)


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Comments


Kylan Coats
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Love the concepts you're exploring here (why I backed the game).

These deeper ideas are what I keep hoping to see as our industry continues to mature.

Romain Aymard
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Thanks for the share. I really like the approach and mechanics you designed. I'll keep an eye on your project. good luck with the kickstarter !


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