Insider 12-12-2011

Today, I’ll be continuing the development blog series about skill, luck, and social interaction. Like many gamers, I have quite the love-hate relationship with that second pillar of game development: luck.

One definition I found for luck calls it “a combination of circumstances operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person.” Personally, I don’t like to rely on chance when it comes to my financial solvency, my safety crossing the street, or even something as simple as what I eat for lunch. I like control. I like to rely on my own senses and wits to bring about better results than I could expect from random happenstance.

Yet, when I think about some of my most memorable WARMACHINE and HORDES experiences, luck has played a huge role in these stories. From that miraculous assassination attempt on an opposing warcaster to the Choir acolyte who killed a Trollkin Champion on trip sixes, luck plays a central part.

Being forced to rely on luck in real life tends to create anxiety, but the impact of luck on a game creates excitement. Games are a safe, comfortable zone where our successes get us charged up while we don’t really stand to lose anything from our failures. We can get an emotional kick out of risk and luck without anything truly on the line.

So let’s pile on the luck, make every element of the game a random occurrence! Right? Wrong. Without some degree of skill balancing out the luck, a game becomes purely random, and rather than waiting eagerly to see what the winds of chance will bring, we become bored.

Different levels of skill and luck appeal to different players, and I think that’s one of the things that has had a real impact on the success of WARMACHINE and HORDES. You can build an army list that relies heavily on just rolling the dice and hoping for the best, and you can also build an army list that stacks the odds heavily in your favor in order to pull off a carefully orchestrated maneuver.

In new WARMACHINE and HORDES development, we constantly strive for a careful balance of luck and skill so that players maintain their interest without ever being quite certain of what’s going to come next. We also seek to maintain the player’s ability to build army lists to their own skill/luck preference. You can continue to expect new effects that work without any roll at all in stark contrast to new effects that only work on a successful roll that is also a critical.

So, whatever your personal skill/luck bias may be…

Good Luck,
-DC