The VR/AR roundtable, which I wrote an entire separate post on (chronologically right before this one).
Testing Your Game
If you don’t thoroughly test your game, players will break it and there will be significant consequences – Negative press and prestige, someone will clone your game without the bugs, lost revenue, future expansions scrapped.
Common mechanics that can end up breaking your game:
Winning and stomping the game, snowballing. Comeback mechanics are a good idea to combat this.
Accessibility in general.
Alternate win-conditions. Make sure there’s no one dominant condition.
Boundaries and Limits. Accumulating too many resources (somehow).
Dominant strategies. Make sure any one single strategy is not the best one, it will force everyone’s decisions.
Farming. Mechanics for unlimited resource generation will be abused and are anti-fun.
Insufficient or complex rules.
Randomness such that the player’s input doesn’t even matter.
Strategic sandbagging. Purposely losing by just a bit because wining is such a disadvantage.
Unintended mechanics combos. Two sub-mechanics can collide to create something unexpected.
And how to mitigate these problems?
More, diverse, groups of testers.
Get honest feedback.
Playtest your game on a stupidly hard setting.
Playtest the game in segmented parts. Test one mechanic at a time.
Playtest the entire game from a fresh install to end.
Watch (record) others playing your game.
Designing Co-Op Games
This roundtable discussion focused mostly on board games and tabletop games. Co-op video games have their own separate issues like match making.
Armchair gaming, or having the loudest person in the group dictate the entire game is a common problem in co-op games. Here are some ideas to fix this problem:
Provide limited information. Players only know a bit about their own situation and know nothing about other players’. The problem is this discourages communication which is one of the best parts of getting together.
Limited information, but only for only a bit of time.
A hidden betrayer. One player is secretly playing to sabotage the game for everyone else. The big problem with this is that a betrayer is no longer co-op.
Secret Agendas. Everyone is playing for the same win condition, but each player has their own specific mission or goal. Again there are problems with this because is the game still co-op? Does everyone win if they fail their goal?
An information economy. Put a price on communicating information between players. Prevents one player from ruling the game, but this is a tough mechanic to make engaging and fun instead of preventing communication altogether.
How do you create a challenging co-op game? A challenge means everyone loses. There literally is no winner. That’s anti-fun (for non-hardcore players). You can ramp up the difficulty so that it provides an easy introduction and then avenues to let hardcore players play how they want.
General design considerations:
Level the playing field. Remove memorization components because some are better at that than others. Personal abilities should not be present in a co-op game.
Create a companion app for your game. It can run on a smartphone or any web-browser and does the stuff that people are bad at like math. Can also function as a Game Master/Director.