Picking up from Monday, the practical fact for game designers is that there is a vast history of ideas and designs to draw upon. With Wargames, every era of warfare is amply covered and span easy to play games to games with over 600 pages of rules. These are all ideas and components that you can use when creating your games.
Panzer General, produced by SSI in 1994, can be regarded as one of, possible THE most successful computer wargame to date. It went on to spawn Allied General, Fantasy General, Star General, Panzer General II, and more. It was easy to play, intuitive, had a decent “computer opponent” – suited perfectly for the mass market. Twenty years later, it still has a loyal fan base along with a number of Open Source projects of a similar nature. Slitherine’s Panzer Corps has been touted as the spiritual successor of Panzer General, adding enhancements from later versions, better graphics, and has been made available for the iPad.
Dozens of other games deserve mention like Campaign Series with East Front, Decisive Battles, Gary Grigsby’s War in the East, etc. There are the various Real Time Simulators such as Dune II, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires with Hearts of Iron 1-3 and Europa Universalis (among others) as hybrids of a sort. Add to this the First Person Shooters like Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, Medal of Honor, World of Tanks, etc. Add tactical operations games like X-Com, Jagged Alliance, the Tom Clancy series, and others. There are games for every scale – from the individual soldier up to all of the units in an entire war.
This is a quick fast forward of almost two decades of computer wargames leading us into the era of mobile wargames. Not all of the PC-based wargames created are made to fit mobile. Screen size is a major obstacle to overcome. One day screen-size will be solved – and our definitions of Mobile vs. PC will change dramatically as a consequence.
Realism is increasing – from near real-life graphics to modeling physics, better modeling of weapons, better handling of command and control, line of sight, supply and logistical components. The difference between “war games” and “real war” is decreasing steadily in every regard except lethality.
The United States Army created its own game, America’s Army, as a recruiting and training tool. From discussions I’ve had with others in both civilian and military education programs on LinkedIn, there is an interest for apps/games/utilities that can be useful for military training, instruction, decision-making tools, etc. Military, military academies, potentially even paintball and laser tag parks represent another market beyond regular gamers.
Wargame Design Tips for Mobile:
These are all relative to your game concept. People stopped playing Space Invaders a few years ago because of the monotony. Other games offered less monotony.
If you can achieve these five things, I’d really like to see it and I imagine many other players would, too. This is not all specific to wargames, functionally the same extends equally to Monopoly or Mario Brothers, Angry Birds and many, many other games. The aim is to look at what makes all of the games that we really like, “FUN”.
On Friday, I’ll present the mammoth World War II Project that I’ve been working on for the past seven years that is now in its final stages of playtesting.
Keep it Simple. Make it Easy to Play, but Hard to Win. That’s the recipe for just about everything that successfully earns a large market. Since a large portion of mobile apps are games… We will spend some time talking about games. Games, Games and More Games!
What sets a great pinball player apart from a good one? The ability to “bump” the machine, to somehow influence the pinball’s bounce when the flipper can’t reach it. TILT! Yes, there’s the danger of bumping the machine too hard. Sometimes though, it is like getting an EXTRA PLAY! Most players focus solely on the plunger to launch the ball in the first place and then the Left and Right Flippers. Pinball is intrinsically simple. It requires skill and timing, but a player that knows how to bump the machine will typically do better than one who doesn’t. Simple, but a step above average.
Much the same goes for the mobile spin-offs of iconic arcade games like Space Invaders, Pacman, Tetris, etc. Shoot and avoid getting shot. Eat and avoid being eaten. Angry Birds is a little more complex, but still easy with a clear objective for each level. Gameplay for other mobile games as variants of Panzer General, Warlords, Might and Magic, Diablo, Wolftenstein and RTS like Settlers or Command & Conquer all have corresponding simplicity. We can add in MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft, along with classics like Monopoly, the Game of Life, Scrabble and Yatzee.
All of these games are easy to play. Most start with 2 or 3 things that you can do — or compete on one thing. New features are introduced via interlude screens or are selected when “leveling up”. Gradually, the games get more complex, more difficult. By then, players generally know what they are doing… or resort to mashing buttons. Some rely upon chance and luck of the draw, nevertheless the simple feel remains the same.
Comparing Mobile to PC to Board Games might seem like a stretch, but not really. The underlying dynamics are the same. There are lots and lots of games that have not done very well – for many different reasons, mostly owing to complexity. Some games will never achieve mass market appeal because of their sheer complexity. There are PC games like Gary Grigsby’s “War in the East” with a manual nearly 400 pages long!
Too many bugs, or even one bad bug, can kill a game straight away. All of the basics of a game tend to be reasonably well tested. Special features and abilities? These are used less, tested less and typically result in more bugs.
For mobile devices, you have a much smaller screen to work with, adding slightly more complexity to your task of making your game easy to play. This is where games like Diablo have done far better on mobile than the button intensive WOW. Taking a similar approach to game design for mobile apps requires making an active effort to simplify. That means fewer, but stronger abilities or abilities with 2 or more effects. The other factor that plays in is letting the player make some choice. Let the player decide what one or two of their core interface buttons or hot keys can do.
There are many types of games, styles of play for different genres and interests. There is a lot of competition to be the most popular game to “pass the time”. While it likely would not work for a mobile device, there are markets for games with manuals nearly 400 pages long. There’s probably a market for developers able to condense them down to say… 10 pages.