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Designing "The Mating Game" in Hero Generations
by Scott Brodie on 04/22/14 09:24:00 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.

 

The most unique aspect of Hero Generations is the concept of finding a mate, settling down, and having a child you can then take control of. This article details how the system works in the game, some of the design challenges I ran into when developing the IndieCade version, and how I expect the system to change as we develop the new version.

How It Works 

Concept Art for the Town Screen Layout of a Fortress Town Type

Along with the goal of becoming as famous as possible in a single lifetime, you must keep an eye out for a suitable mate before your hero dies. Potential mates can be found in the towns around the world. When you visit a town on the main map, you are taken to a zoomed in town scene, where up to 3 mates will be waiting. Mates have the following:

  • Requirement: Each mate has a requirement that your hero must meet. Examples: 15 Strength, 2000 Fame, 1500 Gold. 
  • Traits: You’ll be able to see what traits the mate has, that the mate may pass on to their children. Traits are permanent special abilities for your hero. Example traits are
    • Warrior - has 25% more strength in combat
    • Swimmer - can travel over water tiles
    • Builder - repairs buildings in the grid space this hero occupies. 
  • Mating Bonus: some mates are so desirable, that attracting them will give your hero a final boost to fame before their journey ends.

If your hero meets a mate’s requirement, you can choose them to be your partner. Doing so will lock in your fame score, end your journey, and transition you to the “mating game.”

Having Children

prototype of mating game board

The mating game lets you make choices on the “parenting board.” You are presented with a simple selection board with 20 cards. 10 of the cards are populated with traits and bonuses from the first parent, and 10 come from the 2nd parent. You then typically choose 8 cards that get passed on to your child. The board is a representation of genetic traits and nurturing that happened through childhood.

Physical traits are also passed on. Your child picks randomly between body parts and colors from each parent to procedurally generate a new unique looking character.  

Once your choices are locked in, the game then finalizes your new character, and simulates changes in the world over 16 years. Your new hero emerges from the town all grown up, says goodbye to their parents, and begins their new adventure.

Design Challenges

Quite a bit of iteration has already occurred to develop the child generation system. Here were some of the challenges we ran into in earlier versions:

  • Lack of Player Influence in Next Hero: in an early version, the mating game did not exist. The full new hero was simply randomly generated, and as a player you had to make the most of the child you got. This ended up being extremely frustrating for players, and the issue was the lack of any player agency or control. So even though the result of the mating game is almost exactly the same result, just giving the player the ability to select the trait cards themselves gave them a sense of control and ownership over the child. It was their fault the hero wasn't what they wanted, not the game’s.
  • Town Complexity: early on we tried to put more complexity in the town. All of the buildings you created would be shown on the town sideview screen, and you would also make the building decisions here. What we realized was that we were muddying the purpose of this screen, and we were missing an opportunity to give more interest to the game map itself. So we moved building actions into the spaces adjacent to towns on the map, and focused the town screen just on mates. This made the game easier to understand, and made exploring in the world itself immensely more interesting.

Future Changes

The system we have now is fun, but there are a few minor issues that we want to address:

  • Chance of mating instead of hard requirements: Late in the game, you can quickly get into a situation where there isn’t a mate available for your hero. To give some hope, I want to experiment with giving you the option of trying to woo a mate, even when you haven’t met their full requirement. For example, if a mate requires 1000 gold, and you only have 500, you would have a 50% chance of successfully attracting them. If you fail though, you would be shamed by losing some fame. I think this would add a fun risk/reward dynamic to the mating game.
  • More variety in mate requirements: I’d like to try some less straight forward requirements. Some ideas I want to try include things like “< age 50”, “has slain a monster”, and “has a gift.” This might just add too much complexity, but I think the variety will be interesting.
  • More choice in mating game board: I’d like to further the control you have over your next hero by adding some “tells” to the board. There are a lot of ways to do this, but the general concept is to reveal the location of certain types of rewards on the board depending on the cards you have already flipped. I’ll be curious to get everyone’s feedback here when we start the beta later this year.

Thanks for reading,

-Scott


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Comments


Josh Foreman
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The genetic engineering aspect seems strange to me. Unless you have some magic element. Or do like Rogue Legacy does and provide several offspring to choose from.

Romain Aymard
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I agree, some can find weird that you can manipulate the outcome of your child. Even if I understand what the mechanic aims to do, there is an "eticale" part that can't be left appart.

Even if, personnaly, I think I would like your system.

Jonathan MacAlpine
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I don't know if opposite-sex mates are enforced, but it would be a nice touch if non-hetero mates were allowed to marry and have children. :)

Ian D'Aprix
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Agreed. As I said below I think the Orphanage Stretch Goal, which they met, would make it easy to integrate mechanically as well.

Scott Brodie
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Hi! Yes, we will be supporting same-sex couples, and the orphanage/adoption system will play into that :)

Ian D'Aprix
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Scott,

First of all, congratulations to the team on the successful fundraising; 140% is a very respectable take so far! Secondly, I have some questions about the implications the orphanage has for traits and mating.

You say, "the board is a representation of genetic traits and nurturing that happened through childhood." How will adopting from the Orphanage reflect the "nurturing" aspect? Since your wording with the board implies a nature/nurture duality, my guess is that one would use the parenting board but with less cards to distribute. Please clarify if you're able.

Will there be same-sex couples in Hero Generations? The Orphanage, in my mind, opens up the possibility of having such relationships that still pass on their legacy in a very uncomplicated manner. Without the Orphanage, the parenting board for same-sex couples would be complicated, as it would represent the couple PLUS surrogate (or whatever) to fully represent genetics and parenting. That's doable but inconsistent mechanically. With the Orphanage, that inconsistency goes out the window.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my burning questions, and again congratulations to the three of you on your successes so far.

Scott Brodie
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Thank you for the kind words on the game; we are very happy with the outcome of the Kickstarter! Yes, there will be same-sex couples, and the orphanage/adoption system will facilitate that. You will also be able to adopt for hetero relationships.

We still need to work out all of the particulars around how adoption fits into the game system, but from a game perspective the goal is for it to offer an option that radically shifts the direction of your family line. For now I'll just say stay tuned for the rest of the details. I'll be sure to talk more about how adoption will work in the game in future backer updates/blog posts.


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