Mar 29, 2010

Extreme Game Makeover - Part 2

Municipality has three stubborn problems which I had decided to finally tackle:
  1. Endgame is too mathematical
  2. Some of the roles are "boring"
  3. Growth is too complicated
Last time, I discussed the first problem, how I was going to prevent the endgame from being too mathematical.

This time, I will go after the second problem, that some of the roles are boring. I mentioned that my answer would be M.E.A., but did not explain the acronym. Well, M.E.A. stands for Make Everything Awesome.

Perhaps a bit of background is in order. At the suggestion of a friend I read an article from Game Developers Conference 2010 on GDC is primarily about video games, but I found the discussion highly relevant to board games. Specific to my dilemma were the following passage:
Pardo and I both said that you have to be careful of mathy people who want to balance the fun out of everything. Like we could bring the power level down to be boring and make things balanced, but that fails at our goal of making things FUN and also making different weapons/characters/whatever extremely DIFFERENT from each other. Griesemer's version of this same idea was the concept of making everything crazy powerful, and balancing that. Don't make everything really weak, and balance that, it's boring. If everything is overpowered, then nothing is overpowered.
And this one:
Like Griesemer, Pardo said to make everything overpowered. He cautioned against letting math people balance everything into boringness. Make big exciting effects and moves units and so on and have the confidence that you can balance them at that level. He also said "it doesn't cost anything to make something epic."
That mathy person who wants to balance the fun out of everything? That's me. While choosing the roles available in Municipality, I created a few "utility" roles.

These utility roles are meant to help a person out of a difficult situation. When you're in such a situation, they are extremely useful. However, to prevent them from being too useful, I made them (more or less) pointless when you're not in a difficult situation.

My playtesters hated these roles. They understood their necessity, but didn't like it when they were forced to "waste" a turn picking one of them. The accumulation of Political Capital on unchosen roles was supposed to take the sting out of this, but even though it was nice to get two or three PC as compensation for choosing a utility role, it was still boring.

I didn't want to add on additional powers to utility roles, because I was afraid they would be too powerful and the "core" roles would not be chosen often enough, slowing down the game.

After reading this article, and speaking to one of my testers, the solution dawned on me: Make Everything Awesome. That is my new mantra. How will I apply it? I will make the utility roles awesome. I will make the core roles awesome. Every role will be a BFG.

It will be harder to balance. I might even mess up the balance. But it is better to have a slight imbalance of awesome than to have a player suffer a perfectly balanced, boring turn.

Next up: solving the problem of population growth being too complicated.


  1. Anonymous5:24 AM

    As long as the role isn't "Win the game", your auction mechanism + the gain of PC on unselected really makes it tough to make the roles really unbalanced.

    It's not really a problem if one role is more powerful than another, as long as the people at the table can identify it and plan for it.

  2. Hmmm, "Win the game" . . . now THAT'S a great idea!
    Seriously, though, you make a good point. Now what I need are some powerful role ideas. That's what's been tripping me up the past week.