I closed the book on the Studio Arete project yesterday for my part. We had a development team meeting for Karta Machiton at Tampere with Jarkko and a dozen programming students from the Tampere University of Technology, where I got an opportunity to unload the game will all its yet unsolved design issues on unsuspecting minds.
The meeting was split in roughly two parts: first I discussed the design and development of Karta Machiton as a game, then Jarkko assigned tasks for the team. I can’t frankly say that I’d have understood a lot about the latter part; Jarkko was using something called Microsoft Solution Framework as his guide to assigning areas of responsibility, so it was not very concretely rooted to the actual project at hand. The programmers seemed content, though, so I guess they understood what was going on and who would be doing what.
My own task was to give the programmers a complete view of the Karta Machiton design, as far as I got it during the concept design phase. This means that I handed over a specification for how cards are drawn and played, and how game rounds shape up. The actual cards are still not designed, so there’s a huge design effort still involved: I told Jarkko several times during the day that he really needs a designer in the project still. I also told him that if Karta Machiton seems to get difficult to work on they should consider doing Tetris instead, as that doesn’t require original design effort. He thought I was joking, I think.
The meeting was very hierarchical in structure compared to what I’m used to; mostly it was me or Jarkko speaking, with others listening quietly. If they folks didn’t actually ask questions about the design and some things I left unclear, I wouldn’t even know whether they listened or not.
At the end of the meeting I also drew a funny graph on the whiteboard:
This is the structural relationship map of the complete Theomachia game as envisioned by myself, separated into modular subgames with explicit design relationships towards each other. Take note of the two-way relationship of the player’s god-identity and his stable of heroes: that is the central part of the game. Another important point is the cycle of play modes heroes engage with, down near the bottom.
The reason for this drawing was that I needed to show Jarkko where he could put a tournament subgame in the structure. Jarkko has mentioned several times that he’d like to have the Karta Machiton system used for “gladiator combat” in the game, so I figured out an useful spot for that as something you do with deceased heroes. That way it’s not in the way of other endeavours, and it does something useful by feeding the god wars in heaven. It’s pretty easy to muddle a complex game design like this by adding things that detract from the main intent, which is why you need to have a handle on the whole thing before adding random subgames.