Hedron Designer Diary 9

Hedron is launching on Kickstarter today, and I’m happy to say there’s been no changes since the last designer diary. Hedron’s stable and ready for some public scrutiny. This is going to be the first in a series of diaries that I’ll post throughout the campaign, looking back at Hedron’s development and focusing on my 5 design goals, but first…

More Data

Last diary, I said I was stuck in the final 5% and now I’m almost through, with maybe 1 percent left. The maybe is based on the data that comes back to me during the campaign. I’ve started up a Google spreadsheet for backers and playtesters to add in their play data for the Kickstarter release version. I’m trying to evaluate if player order has any effect on score, and how often the end game bonus determines the winner, so If you give the Kickstarter release version a roll, please add in your game results.

Design Goals

  • Hedron’s key concept is the chain, creating the right chain to meet a specific outcome feels like puzzle-solving and solving puzzles is rewarding
  • Hedron is a brain-burner, you need to think about what you’re going to do
  • Hedron has entropy, the game inevitably heads towards an end game state
  • Hedron rewards skill and offers enough depth for repeat players but is still accessible for new players
  • Hedron is print and play

The Chain

Starting from the top of the list, the concept of the chain has remained pretty constant throughout the development of Hedron. It was one of the little light bulb moments that led to Hedron’s creations, and its stayed in the game because its a unique mechanic that engages players in a slightly unusual way. Each turn, players are not only asked to decide what they’re going to do on their turn, but how they’re going to do it. Players give themselves a small puzzle and set about solving it in the most efficient manner. It comes easy to some players, and causes mild brain freezes in others.

I’m not a psychologist and I can’t tell you what’s happening in the brains of players as they play Hedron. However, my time as a teacher taught me that positive feedback is much better at encouraging behaviour than negative feedback. Each turn, players are given a little reward for completing the puzzle. Sometimes it’s just the satisfaction of a good move, and other times it’s precious points. I went into this in more detail in Designer Diary 5, but I believe that part of providing a rich gaming experience is giving the players the feeling that they’re able to something cool and impressive with their turn.

Of course, puzzles also have a flip side to the satisfaction of completion, the frustration of incompletion. We’ve been moving dice around hexes for quite some time now, and in our last playtest session, my playtest partner started grumbling and berating himself as he went through possible moves in his head. He wasn’t frustrated that he couldn’t do what he wanted, just that he couldn’t do it as efficiently as he wanted. As an experienced player, he was able to give himself more difficult (probably impossible) puzzles. It’s good to know that problem-solving not only continues to be engaging after so many plays, but also scales well with player skill and experience.

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