The first game I’m making is going to be called Koiba. I have been working on this for the last 5 months, and it is nearing release! This is very exciting, and equally scary. I want to describe some of the design decisions I made in this game, and what I was trying to achieve.

Scratch your own itch

They say, the best way to approach a business, is to make something you would want to use. This sounds reasonable to me, as it means the developer can more accurately set the initial specs of the product, and stay more motivated during development. My itch, is that I love board games, but they have their down sides:

  1. Getting people together is difficult.
  2. Explaining the rules takes forever.
  3. Each turn can take 10-20 minutes (there’s always someone that gets up to make a cup of tea when it’s their turn).

These are all issues that playing online solves.

  1. Computer games can gather people from any point on the globe, reducing the game start from days or hours, to seconds.
  2. Learning the rules are asynchronous. Noone has to wait for you while you are going through a tutorial or reading the manual.
  3. Having a set 15 second timer to make an in-game decision doesn’t allow anyone to slack off. Games that last 15-20 minutes can keep a player’s attention for the whole span.

Of course, some social interaction is lost, which for some is the most important aspect of a board game. This can be somewhat reduced though chat rooms and the like, but never be fully equal to playing face to face.

Game Style

There are thousands of board games out there. These can be loosly classified into a couple dozen different categories. For great, replayable multiplayer games, German style games are the way to go.

A German-style board game, also referred to as a German game, Euro game or Euro-style game, is any of a class of tabletop games that generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, indirect player interaction, and abstract physical components.

I tried to stick to these key principles. The game rules have been kept simple. There are 3 phases: action, move and bid. Each can be understood within minutes of playing your first game. Playing time is about 15-20 minutes. Players interact by using actions to get the upper hand on each other, moving to pick up a limited amount of resources on the map, and bidding for points against each other.

Wikipedia lists the characteristics of German-style games as:

  1. The theme of a German game is often merely mnemonic.
  2. Games should not be just for enthusiasts, but be well suited for social play.
  3. No player elimination.
  4. Should be accessible for an international audience. So no word play…

In Koiba, I wanted to make another characteristic to have a minimum of waiting time for players. To achieve this, players submit action, move and bid orders simultaneously. When the phase timer runs out, orders are executed together. Players rarely have to wait more than 5-15 seconds to take the next action.

Platform

Casual games can be very popular on different platforms - web, iOS, android, Facebook app center, Mac, Windows and to a lesser extent a couple others. It would be great to tap into all of these, but I definitely don’t want to be developing for each platform individually. The way around this is to develop cross platform applications using canvas/HTML5/javascript. This is the approach that Koiba will be taking. The first platform will be the web, followed by iOS. Some HTML5 games struggle with graphics performance on mobile, but Koiba will likely not be so graphically intensive. Early tests show that the iPad renders everything without lag. More to come on this later.



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