So, my partner Brad has been working on other endeavors whilst we wait for art to trickle in. One of these endeavors is Goblins: Alternate Realities. If you're a fan of the Goblins webcomic, you should be ecstatic to see a Goblins CCG hitting the shelves. But the important thing to Siege is that Brad made that card game. Made it for those dudes, and if you visit the Kickstarter link, you'll take note that the Kickstarter hit its goal in just over 24 hours. It has now more than tripled - and almost quadrupled - its goal, and I've gotta say - That's damned impressive. So, what's in this for us? Well, when Siege goes to Kickstarter, I'm hoping that we can have a fraction of the support that Goblins has. But I'm absolutely ecstatic to see Brad's compatriots at Evertide Games doing well with their Kickstarter. Just wanted to update you guys there.
On to me! Apologies for being absent for a bit, but I am a married man now! And that is going rather swimmingly. Working many more hours at "Pay-the-bills" job, but I'm rather looking forward to not having to do that anymore, or rather, at least not have to worry about that anymore. Currently working on re-developing HoI, and I'm hoping that HoI's launch will coincide with the Siege Kickstarter. In this way, we can have quite a bit more support the day we launch the kickstarter. Beyond that, Brad and I are mostly just waiting for the first rounds of art, as mechanically, Siege is pretty well ready to go. We may have a bit more testing to do, and then some setup for sets 2, 3, and 4, but beyond that, I believe that Siege is in the best place it's ever been. Which is good, because it's ready to roll, and I'm ready to roll with it.
After Matt spoiled the rules update (Matt edit: Sorry! I was excited!) with his epic game run down, I feel like I can get away with being a little heavy handed on the title...probably not. There are some good things to talk about on the rules front though. And the aforementioned game wasn't the origin of these changes, but it was the final nudge that made us spend some time to address some things that could have become issues.
Potential Issue 1: The never ending stalemate
I'll be honest that this issue has been lingering in my mind for awhile. The reason this issue hasn't been addressed more head on in the past is that these sort of stalemates all manifest the same way, and it's fairly rare for those scenarios to come up. In brief, they start when two players reach a sort of Nash Equilibrium - where if either player attempts to improve their position they actually help the other player (or hurt themselves). This results in periods of passivity where neither player can do much if anything to change their position in the game.
I'll be frank that I don't want to remove this from the game unilaterally. It's amazingly interesting when two players trade blows only to end in a standoff of two armies that can't advance into either other without the blowback crushing them. That's part of warfare, that's part of history, and it should be part of the game. What I don't want though is for this to ever become a dominant strategy, or something a player could try to create because it has the potential to be extremely non interactive.
Something I tried to address in designing the win condition in Siege is the issue of "winning by not playing" that you see in some other games. The idea being that you can win the game without ever really interacting with the other player. These sort of stalemates tend to work out that way since both players just draw their entire decks out waiting for the other player to move.
And that's the issue I wanted to prevent. The reason these sort of stalemates don't ever resolve is because both players are in a position where the strongest thing they can do is draw a card and hold their position. I think the reason for this is that there is always benefit in any card game to have extra cards in hand, and Siege is very relaxed in a sense that you don't have a maximum hand size, and there isn't any penalty for drawing out your deck. So if you have the option between "Advance into certain defeat" or "Draw a card that may help later" you'll always choose the latter because there is no downside.
So addressing this issue was tricky because like I said I really wanted defensive play to be possible in siege still. And hunkering down with an army and trying to weather the storm is healthy for the metagame and prevents powerful cards from just steamrolling a smart player. The solution, in my opinion, had to have a delayed onset and it had to be crippling enough that neither player would want it to go that far. That solution is Squander.
Squander: If you attempt to draw a card and cannot, discard a card and -1 friendly Morale.
Squander is a very simple rule that changes what I said above. Before squander was a thing, Siege had no penalty to drawing out your deck. I think this was a perfect opportunity to introduce a mechanic that heavily discourages stalling all game (and like most rules in Siege it has some surprising side effects that I think help the game balance as well). It also respects the Siege values by being a gradual change and not an instant one. You don't instantly go to 0 Morale, you don't discard your whole hand. You just start to squander your hand, and your Morale suffers for it.
What's the impact of this? For starters, waiting to draw your deck out now comes with a huge risk associated. If you try to play passively too long you'll find yourself in a position where the other player could potentially boss you around. If you don't have the Morale edge, it would really behoove you to start moving your forces and trying to change the tables. Otherwise, you'll have a hand of cards you can't play and our opponent will still be breathing down your neck. Secondly, it puts a gas pedal to the late game. This morale loss combines with effects from laying siege, and all other sources. It's like overtime where players know that if they can't act soon, they will lose the opportunity.
The impact to the game is actually very nominal. I think in the testing since we introduced the rule we've seen in come up once, maybe twice. And I think that's proof it's working. The point of the rule is not to see play. It's to discourage players from waiting, and to make sure that playing to win is the dominant strategy. Playing to not lose in Siege will get you beat, and that's good for the game. Squandering ensures this by making passivity synonymous with weakness.
Potential Issue 2: Structures are really good chump blockers
This issue is much more cut and dry. Structures used to serve as some of the best chump blockers in the game. You played them mostly for free, and if the enemy was in your support they had to spend 2-3 turns typically destroying them all before the army could advance on your home territory. This presented a huge issue where a player could be stuck trying to kill what are essentially resource cards and not get to finish the game off. The real issue wasn't balance though, it was just not fun to have a huge army stuck in a territory because a single Lumberyard prevented their advance on he main city.
It didn't make sense thematically, and it was really frustrating as the attacking player who for whatever reason has to divert their entire empire's attention to go burn down a basic structure. There is also the weird issue that a structure with high enough armor could be invincible to certain armies, even if that structure wasn't defended. This comes up sometimes when a tiny army is trying to burn down an opposing City and can't. The solution is pretty simple I think. Make structures vulnerable to armies at a rules level. The end result is pretty fun.
Raze:For each friendly battlefield structure that does not have a friendly local army, deal one wound to that structure each season.
What does this look like in practice? It means if there is any enemy army in your support or home territory, and you don't have any armies to defend your structures, they all take one wound each season. It means that any army, any size, can kill any structure if that structure doesn't have anybody to protect it. And this is has already proved to be an amazing upgrade to the game.
Now defending your support territory isn't just important, it's almost vital. Razing feels so viscerally satisfying as an attacking player. Getting to your opponent's support territory is a huge feat. Getting it clear of armies is another. And the reward now is you get to set fire to the territory and just go on a spree of destruction. It's incredibly cool and it helps games resolve faster and in a more enjoyable way (for both players honestly). As nifty as it was to use my Mines to prevent an enemy advance, I knew in the back of my mind that it was a silly tactic, and i'm glad that it's not a possibility anymore.
All that said, these two rules together do something really important: make the game more fun. They encourage active play and push players to be aggressive and take risks. The smart players will find ways to use tactics and effects to convert these rules changes into crippling leverage over their opponent. And both rules work within the existing structure of Siege and don't add burden or cumbersome overhead to the play.
That's all I have today, I'll be back shortly to update on some of the changes I've been making to the Siege Demo App.
I wanted to update you folks on some progress things and go into a bit more detail about the game. Today, I'll be talking about progress - Where we're at currently, what we're doing to move forward, and how close we are to getting there (I'll answer that one right away - We're freakin' close)For those of you who have been with us for a bit, you know how much Siege has changed during the development phases. From just Attack / Armor to the addition of a Strength stat, the addition and subsequent subtraction of the Siege deck, and the addition of the Siege mechanic. The addition of Morale, the redaction of Markets as a non-basic structure (And Gold as a non-basic resource)... The addition of Logistics and Command, the removal of Ranged, the reintroduction of Ranged, the implementation of Cities (And trade), the concept of card draw being less vital and food being our dump resource... All of these things have led us to this point. And what point is that? Well, as of a couple weeks ago, we began finalizing set 1. And I'm proud to be able to say that we are currently at 100% development for set 1 - entitled "Rome vs. Greece". And yes, those are the first two factions that we'll be introducing into the Siege engine - Roman Legions, strong and loyal, ready to march at the Caesar's orders... And Greece, stalwart and smart... Prepared to defend their homeland against all invaders. And while I won't say anything about future sets, necessarily... If any of you ask the question, "Will ______ be a faction you explore soon?" The answer is 'Yes'. Yes we will. Except for Canada.
We initially had plans to release a particular subsequent set after this (Brad and I have been wanting to get our hands into these factions since day one), but changed gears shortly after set 2's initial development, and ended up with an even better concept - to be announced quite soon. And we've been working feverishly to get set 1 to a place where we're both comfortable with it - and we've done it! But not only that, but we've also been working quite hard at getting Kickstarter things ready, getting distribution models updated, working on our business plan, finalizing artwork, contacting distributors, and so on. And while the vast majority of our past has been development on the game itself, we're now to the point where we're no longer interested in making changes to the system.
Through all of these changes to the game, we've finally landed in a place of balance and a place where it feels right. New elements don't disrupt the game, and old elements don't stagnate the way they do elsewhere. Power Creep isn't nearly as much of an issue with Siege as it is in most other games (I'm looking at you, PoxNora [I beta-tested PoxNora, and tested it in the clusterf- that followed])... And of course I say these things, Siege is my baby. But mt point lies in the system - It is so easy to mold the way we want it to be. It's such an open platform, there are literally limitless possibilities with the game engine. Listen to me, speaking like Siege is a computer simulation. But it kind of feels like one. I can't say too much about it, but at the end of the day, I've dreamed many, many more things that are possible with Siege than we're putting into it currently. I guess my point is this - the platform that Siege creates by existing is far more important than what we do with it now. Siege as a platform and as an engine has so many ramifications, so many possibilities, so much impact to the concept of gaming in general, that I don't even think that Brad and I quite grasp it yet. But this is good. This is longevity. this is where the game needs to be, and where it's been heading for the past... What, four years? These things don't happen overnight, and we've poured limitless hours away from loved ones trying to get this project off the ground. And I'd be pandering if I said that it was all for you guys (But in most cases, it is - I want you guys to be happy with the efforts we've made), it's for us too. Honestly, a good portion of our time has been spent playing the game that we love instead of making the game that we love, but that also speaks vehemently to how much fun Siege is (No one's disliked it yet, which gives me unbelievable amounts of confidence at the game's success). I've had a blast playing the game and analyzing the cool aspects of the system, and just envisioning all the things that Siege can make possible. Knowing how close are to launching just makes me giddy.
And now we're almost there. We need artists, and art. We need talent who can invoke emotions that no one else can invoke. And this will take a while. We are using our savings for this project at the moment, but we'll be opening funding projects in the not-too-distant-future to help with costs. And if we can get the project funded by fans of gaming and games and history, then we can keep making these things for you. Because Siege certainly isn't the only thing that's on our list to do. Siege is the starting point. It's the point at which all of my decades of thought and creativity (And Brad's too) can be channeled and shared with the world. It's the concepts and ideas that make people happy - this is why we do this. I want to see people happy. And I know that sounds trite, but it's the most honest truth that I can provide. Those of you who have known me for years know that I'm not exactly a run-of-the-mill, everyday guy. In good ways and in bad. But I try my best to make a change for the positive. And I think that if I can better someone's life, whether it be through making them smile when they crack open a pack of cards, or whether it be through a briefcase of money I leave on their doorstep on Christmas Eve, I want to be able to make that difference. And that's where Siege comes in. I've never had a concept quite like Siege just plopped down on my lap like this. I've been blessed enough to be able to work on this project with Brad for a number of years now, and my faith in it is just through the roof. Everyone that plays the game loves it - we know it's a hit. It's just getting word-of-mouth out there about the project, who we are, and what we're out there to do. And I hope that I can make a living at it while I'm doing it, because this is what I love and this is what I live for. It's quite literally my childhood dream.
But enough of that. On to actual game stuff! First, I'll be talking about simultaneous turns. This is perhaps the most difficult and most overlooked part of the game. Most people fall into two camps - Those who notice the simultaneous turns right away and flip out about it, and those who have no idea until the game's over and I mention it to them. It's strange, because those who don't notice the simultaneous turns are sort of shellshocked by the concept afterwards, but are overall happy with them. The execution is so smooth, and fits so well with the concepts of Siege and what we're trying to do with the game. I can't imagine doing something like Siege - Or any type of Strategic Game, really - in anything except simultaneous or real-time now. And I'm the type of guy who loathed real-time strategy. I played the original Command & Conquer for all of seven minutes before throwing the controller down in anger, frustration, and hatred. I loved Warcraft (Specifically Warcraft II), but I could never get past half of the missions - I loathed the concepts of RTS. Games from my childhood like Utopia and Sim City - All real-time, but I abused the Hell out of the pause functions of these games, because I just couldn't handle it any other way. As a result, I quickly adopted turn-based strategy games as my own, but Siege kind of changed all of that for me. I now understand why games like Vandal Hearts worked as well as they did - simultaneous turns rock socks. It's as simple as that. It's completely even, perfectly level playing ground. There are no inherent advantages or disadvantages in it - Nothing depends upon, "Oh, if I had won the coin flip..." There's none of that nonsense. It's all flat ground, so to speak. But simultaneous turns make Siege possible - You don't have to sit and wait for your opponent to do something, you can look across the table and see what he's doing and how his stuff is interacting with yours - When your armies move, his move also. It's as simple as that. Your troop movements are key, your build orders are key, if your general were to notice the shield wall that your army is facing, he would - in actual, real-time, decide what his best course of action is. And that's freakin' cool. But it's less impressive to explain and more impressive to show. So any of you who want to hit me up for a game in the next few weeks, feel more than free! And I'll show you why simultaneous turns kick ass.
But this isn't the only thing that sets Siege apart from every other game - Not by a long shot. Along with simultaneous turns, we have the Stockpile. The Stockpile is another really unique, amazing concept - One that I don't even have a full grasp on yet. In other games (Like Magic), there's less resource-management. You count your lands and then you count the numbers on your card. In Siege, you go a bit deeper than that. But that is a topic for next week. Next time, we'll talk about the Stockpile, resources, and the concept of cost. As always, feel more than free to contact either of us with questions or if you'd like to playtest!
I've been woefully absent from this place since Brad set it up, so I'm here to help rectify that. I wanted to introduce myself and let you guys know what my role is here and what I'll be doing for the game, a bit about my history, and some about my personal life.
First and foremost, I'm Matt, better known to pretty much everyone as Kablizzy. I was born and raised in Denver, but I now call Columbus my home. I am a game developer at heart, and it's something that I have been doing quite literally my entire life. Akin to those folk who were born with a putter in-hand, I was born to develop games. From my very first games, my focus was never on how or why the game was fun, but rather what was wrong with the game and what could be bettered and how. It did not matter what the game - Double Dragon, Hero Quest, Monopoly, Final Fantasy, Spades, Dino Park Tycoon... Every last game I've ever played has lacked something, and I was always tinkering with the how and why to fix what was wrong.
Brad and I met over a little-known indie game we used to play together: N: Way of the Ninja, by Metanet Software. Brad and I both started playing N in early 2004, and both of us joined the community shortly thereafter. We were both mapmakers, and both became moderators for the community's forums (Which are now, sadly, dead), and led the charge for most of the community's doings, along with a number of other community leaders. We both were sporadic around the community, and Brad left entirely for a time. Upon his return, we decided to make a "comeback" map pack for the game, and with the help of some other community leaders, we spearhead the biggest project the community had ever seen - we wanted to leave our mark on the community. We began mapmaking immediately, and over the course of four years, released our Legacy mappack in four increments, which all went over wonderfully. We had a team of thirteen people working on the pack before it was complete, and to date it was still the single biggest project that I've led. Along with Brad's guidance and work ethic, we kept the team motivated, well-informed, and enthusiastic through the whole of the project (Which we all did pro bono, by the way). The final draft had some holes that I still wish to go back and correct, but the core of the community has since died out to the point where it's moot to attempt to salvage it. Even so, I had a wonderful time working with Brad on that, and that - in part- is why I'm so enthusiastic about Siege.
So, Brad and I collaborated on this, and we both worked on Heroes of Chaos: China. I have worked on SimRTK, Heroes of Chaos: Japan, Gunbound Classic, and my pride and joy, Heroes of Ivalice. As for my CCG cred, I have played Magic: the Gathering competitively for nearly twenty years now, but one of my greatest joys wasn't in playing - I was never really that magnificent of a player. I went to a few Grand Prixs and didn't do horrendously, showed up at a Pro Tour Qualifier and placed next-to-last, but was an okay drafter and phenomenal at sealed. Limited was where my bread-and-butter was at, but it was Magic that got me into the concept of CCGs being as viable as any other gaming medium. I've also dabbled in L5R and Lunch Money and the Star Wars CCG and a number of others like PoxNora, but none found me as intrigued as Magic: The Gathering did. I played board games like Settlers of Catan, Risk and Hero Quest and Battlemasters, and then Warhammer. I played Dungeons and Dragons and Shadowrun and Vampire: the Masquerade. The remainder of my gamer cred comes from my love of video gaming. I started out with an old Tandy 4000, where my dad and I played stuff like Frogger and King's Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. From there, I graduated to the NES, SNES, Playstation, and then I did a massive crapton of PC gaming. I have a distinct love for RPGs, I've played Space Pimp Online and WoW and Ultima Online, Final Fantasy, Skyrim, and pretty much every platformer known to man, but the games that really drew me in were Titan Quest, Civilization, Utopia, and the like. Whenever a game has customization or a level editor, that's where I get my jollies. I think that's why I love CCGs so much, the possibilities are nigh-endless. The most fun that I have are times when I get to build or create or shape a game as I see fit, and I want to impart that upon the games that I make as well. My favorite part of Skyrim is the Hearthfire add-on, because I got to build my own house. I never got to really play Warhammer, I was always busy creating my army and fine-tuning them for optimum carnage; But more than that, I always wanted them to have an intriguing backstory. I didn't want just 20 Dwarf Warriors, they had to be named and have their own banner and colors and fighting tactics, and my general was always of a certain clan and had his own likes and dislikes and his weapons were named and had their own powers and concepts. A bit obsessive? Yep. But I was never content just playing. I have to create. I take joy in making things that other folk enjoy. I live to create - I get my greatest happiness from seeing someone else take joy in things that I make. The games based upon history and empires and world-building have always been my bread-and-butter. I think I've used that phrase twice in this article alone. I must be hungry. I've of course now moved on to some of the newer XBox 360 and Wii and Wii U titles, and I enjoy seeing the gaming community develop and grow and bring happiness into people's lives. It is a joy of mine to be in a position in life where I get the chance to bring the same joy to others that I have gotten out of gaming.
So when Brad approached me in 2009 to help him with a project of his, I jumped at the opportunity. It's an honor to be working with what I consider to be one of the greatest minds in game development history. We worked on an ill-fated computer simulation entitled TLO, which eventually fell to the wayside for Siege. I am a bit of a history buff, and I randomly tend to browse Wikipedia just to find articles on obscure historical figures. I am not sure I could be a historian by trade, but when I look up to Neil deGrasse Tyson, I feel like it's a viable profession. I have an exhaustive knowledge of Sengoku-era Japan, Genghis Khan's Mongolia, Pre-Colonial and Colonial America, and Three Kingdoms China. I may just pursue a history degree if Siege gets big. Speaking of which, I may just want to tell you guys why I'm here.
So, Siege. Siege has been my baby (And Brad's) for a number of years now. We have put exhaustive effort into this project. Siege combines every single element of every single game that I've ever loved - it has elements of Magic: the Gathering, Settlers of Catan, Warhammer, Civilization, Titan Quest, PoxNora, and a plethora of other magnificent games of our time. I was partly sad when Deadliest Warrior came out, because it was right after we began Siege Development, and it mimicked what we were doing so well that I knew we would always have to refer to it as a source. Which, of course, it is. Siege has this perfect blend of elements that speak wonderfully to me, and hopefully to you guys too. What really got me into Siege, though, were the mechanics. Siege has elements of gaming that I've never seen before, and the innovation that Brad put forth for this game is just fantastic. Our simultaneous turns are revolutionary. The theme has never been done in the history of CCGs. I was amazed at how easy it was to build a deck and how quickly I picked up playing, but how intricate and sturdy the system was. What Brad presented to me when I first took on the project was so new and intriguing and fresh to me that I couldn't help but sign up.
So what is it that I do here at Siege SCG? Well, I am currently Co-Creative Director in charge of Development, which sounds like a big title, but considering that we are a small, upstart company... Doesn't mean a whole lot. I'm also Community Contact Manager and Manager in charge of Logistics, Co-Founder, Co-Financier, and Office Masseuse as well, but these will be more important in the distant future. Right now, I am in the process of contacting and solidifying artists for the game, testing the mechanics and the system for our upcoming open Beta, and contacting distributors who will be carrying the game. But primarily, I am here to oversee the game's direction and mechanics and consistency and make sure you guys love the game as much as we do! During this time, I am also here to teach you guys the game and get feedback and listen to concerns and - of course - ideas!
Now here I am, years into development, and ready to launch a game that I can say with confidence is my best work to-date. As I grow and learn and develop myself further, I can only hope that I can give you guys the best of me. This is my calling - I want to do this for the rest of my days, and for this to be a career for me would be the most magnificent thing imaginable. Thank you for tuning in, and I will have more content shortly with details on where the project is headed, plans for the future, and all kinds of cool stuff!