Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kongai: The Fading Embers of My Interest

As I've hinted in the past, I've been playing at designing my own Kongai cards in my own spare time. I've got reams and reams of notes both analog and digital that have built up over the summer. Since I've apparently decided to abandon the game and seek greener pastures, I've been collecting them all in one central file. A bit of housekeeping that I engage in every so often in order to keep my desktop from complete and utter anarchy. As I've been archiving them and arranging them in case I ever wanted to revisit the project, I've also been taking the opportunity for a bit of revision.

At the very least, I figure that I'll have a lengthy series of posts stashed away for a rainy day. So, I've been working through them one by one, tweaking as I go, and trying to flesh out my scattered thoughts into a more or less presentable product. It's a lengthy process since I've developed well over forty characters by this point – enough to flesh out two full sets of expansion cards – and even more items to go with them. What's amazing to me is how much of the game's current state I predicted, even anticipated, in my own scrambling. I've got, for example, cards that deal damage when intercepts are missed or attacks that proc extra raw damage in place of a critical hit and even something as simple as the cooldown that got added to reflection skills, like Chi Reflect and Hypnotic Stare. It definitely makes me eager to see the next batch of cards to see if anything else I dreamed up – like conditional effects or cumulative turn bonuses – will make it into the game.

It's also somewhat embarrassing because a lot of my old concepts have shown their age and demonstrate my lack of understanding. And I can't resist the urge to challenge myself once more to fix those mistakes and make cards that might actually work. If, you know, anyone were ever mad enough to let me put them into the game. So, as I've been repackaging and standardizing these cards, I've also been trying to rebalance them. Sometimes it's as simple as shifting around the numbers somewhat. Maybe there's a character who deals too much raw damage and needs a bit of toning down. Sometimes I'll add to the cost of their skills, sometimes I'll hack at their damage values. Maybe another skill needs to be made faster because of what I've done with an interrupt on another card. But sometimes, it's more complicated as I attempt to wrestle with the implementation of unco-operative mechanics and ideas that just aren't being expressed well enough. Sometimes it goes so far as dropping skills and completely revamping a bar. It's not the first time I've done it – although the scale has increased with each and every iteration – and, generally, the cards are better off for it.

Of course, I find the whole process fun. Which is why I do it, after all. But I also find it rewarding. Because not only have I kept around all these more or less finished cards, I've also maintained a pile for all those concepts that I've discarded. The scraps that don't work or that I haven't been able to make work or those ideas that sound good but that just haven't made the cut. That junk pile is really the most precious part of this whole project since it's where most of the ideas for the cards I've created have come from. Looking through it and realizing that I have enough raw material to fashion together another character or even another group is how my roster swelled from a few cards to a few dozen.

As I go through these revisions, I inevitably add to the pile of character concepts and innates and the like just from the ideas that stray through my mind as I'm wrestling with something else. And, today, I took a look through the pile again, saw a few good ideas, started to toy with them, and, damned if inspiration didn't hit.

I realized I had enough there to put together another group. Basically, a group of five related characters is the basic unit that I work in, trying to mix and match characters to some sort of connecting principle. And I saw that I had three or four characters, rejects from the latest set of cards, that could work nicely together. And I saw that I had a few more scraps laying around that could be fashioned into the other characters needed to round out that group. I scribbled down some thoughts, working out some new mechanics to play around with as I fleshed out the line.

And then I thought of some more new characters.

And then I thought of another group.

And then another.

And before I knew it, I was laying out a whole new expansion. A third set.

Not just another twenty cards and a further twenty-six items but more. I find it best to create a few more cards than I need and then weed out the weakest ones – which generally go on to form the genesis of the next set of cards once I've had time to figure them out or whose better mechanics find themselves grafted onto stronger concepts.

It just goes to show, I guess, that even though I haven't played the game in weeks, it's still capable of exciting me.

I just wish I had the time to give this latest set some proper attention.

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