-- Gameplay – The History – Part 1
Gameplay – The History – Part 1AUTHOR: Espen Thomassen Sæverud // CATEGORY: Gameplay Comments Off
We’ve published some info about the World of Uhr now and the website is filled with info in the Lore section. I thought it was time to talk a little about the gameplay. We think that UHR-Warlords brings something completely new in these terms, while its inspirations are quite evident. This has been very much an iterative process of constant improvement.
When designing a game you want to start with a premise of fun. Games are supposed to be fun! When you find the fun-factor one can try to add layers to increase complexity (although this is not always better). We looked at games such as Chess. Chess has been around since the 6th century and the rules evolved until the last change in the 1800’s (don’t arrest me on the fact checking). UHR-Warlords evolved similarly (though it did not take 1500 years). We started of with a vision and some inspiration and the game just kind of unfolded piece by piece (mind the pun).
The designers (me and Fredrik) agreed to always try to stick to the “could this be done on a real board-game” principle. We also agreed that this principle would never get in the way of the fun-factor, nor anything else we thought would be an improvement for the digital touch-based platforms. And I believe that UHR-Warlords could be made into a physical board game without any compromises to the core game.
The very first prototype was pretty basic and the pieces were freer in their movement. They could move to whichever tile they wanted as long as their speed allowed it. It was very much inspired by the combat in the HOMM series (especially 3). The grid was hexagonal so the creatures were limited to six axis of movement. Changing to a square grid layout would give us the possibility of giving the creature nine(9) axis, and soon thereafter the grid was squared.
The size of the grid has also seen a lot of change. We started of with a 11×11 grid which amounts to 121 tiles total. While this meant a lot of space to move around, it also meant that one spent more time moving instead of attacking. And we wanted action! So the grid shrunk into it present size of 9×7 with the two vertical lines in each end saved for Strongholds (more about them in part 2), making the actual play area 7×7.
We established early on that we would follow the turn-based style. This would allow each player to think each turn and execute their tactics less frantically than in a real time setting. The thing that was never even considered was “one-move-per-turn”. We wanted to enable players to create composite moves that could turn the tide or further manifest ones dominance in a game. There’s nothing like the feeling of winning the game when the enemy thought that the battle was won.
With the turn-based style gameplay decided, we dug into defining the creatures and their starting roles. We tried different variations where one was that you decided in advance which creatures to bring into battle, one being like chess with predetermined creatures and one with the rallying of creatures at will. The latter one was chosen as the best and is in UHR-Warlords today.
Also the interaction with creatures has been through a lot of iterations. The first pass gave the player the ability to spend a creature’s action points within a round. That meant movement to one destination and then to another was valid as long as the creature had the AP. Although giving the player a lot of options, the gameplay suffered as it often does when the possibilities are endless. Also predicting an enemy move was nearly impossible, thus making the battles somewhat frustrating.
It was always our intent to create a game with complexity, but where mastering tactics and the creatures would make it possible to foresee enemy moves and then counteract them. Therefore we transitioned into a system very much alike the one we have today, where an action is an action and it spends the creature for that round. It is possible to let the creature remain unused that round (similarly to “Fortify” in Civ or “Defend” in HOMM) by ending the turn.
For a long time moving and attacking was pretty similar for each creature. They could move as long as they were unhindered and the board featured a lot more obstacles than in the present game. Creatures had no restrictions in direction of attacking. And then one day, my co-designer birthed a brilliant idea: let’s elevate the gameplay by simplifying the movement and attack, and make the Creatures move and attack in patterns such as in Chess!
At first just an idea, but the minute we tested it we saw that this was the way to go. And this is really where the magic of UHR-Warlords lie. This constraint is where the Creatures really get their unique traits. When we started redesigning each Creature from within these bounds, the special abilities of creatures started to change as well. Retraction (formerly known as Hit & Run) was an ability I first designed for the Assassin (long known as Hashashin). Now, Retraction is an ability of the Skirmisher, while the Assassin has the lethal Backstab.
That’s it for part 1. I hope you liked it. Look out for part 2 coming next week. I’ll be talking a bit about special abilities, the Uhrkraft and Runes.
May the Uhrgods be with you always!