Siege SCG Blog The developers of Siege official musings

28Jul/130

On the Metagame, Re-Costing, and Replan; a Precursor

Hey Siegers,

So, updates have been more sparse over the past few months, and that's with good reason. Brad and I both have our noses down trying to get the finishing touches put on set 1 so that we can go live to the Kickstarter. I cannot tell you guys how extremely excited I am about opening Siege to the public market of opinion to see what everyone thinks of the project. Thusfar, we've got about 60% of the Kickstarter materials down - All we have left are the promotional videos, art, and some other small loose ends that are easily tidied.

Also, Summer is slow. I tend to work more and do more outdoors-y stuff during the summers, but Brad and I have actually been analyzing the Metagame a bit more, and we've figured out that we've just gotten costing *all* wrong. The bottom line is this - I've played Magic: the Gathering for the better part of twenty years. Costing things, keywords, the way I word abilities - It all comes out in Magic lingo. All of my keywords are Magic-based. Everything I know, everything I've created over the past twenty years has been so heavily Magic-influenced, that it's really hard to break out of that mold. And Brad is very much the same way, in terms of viewpoint.

When we costed Siege armies and structures, in our brain, the most logical place for us to start was with the cheapest army, costing one resource. And then the next step up from that costed 2 resources, and the one after that costed 3. And in my mind, a one-resource army should be a 1/1/1. And a two-resource army should be around 2/1/2 or 2/2/1. And a three-resource army should be around 2/2/2 or 3/2/2 or something like that. Maybe throw some abilities in there as well, and recost them accordingly. The problem came when we hit stuff like Equites and Legionnaires.

By the way, we have a card database up. It's almost functional. We'll get there.

Anyway, Legionnaires initially cost something like MM1. For a 3/2/3 that got +1 Attack while Morale was 7 or higher. So, when we went through about seven months ago and re-costed everything, we saw an issue there. Because you could potentially drop a Legionnaires on second turn. This was far too fast. And then you could also drop one every single turn thereafter. This was also a problem. So we upped the cost to MMMMM. Which seemed okay at the time, but we were still thinking in Magic terms. To us, that was "5 Resource," and therefore, 5th turn, and in turn, midgame. A midgame drop. Little did we realize that you could still technically drop that on second or third turn. So, we've made yet another pass, and we've made costing exponential, which it should be. Legionnaires now costs MMMMMMMM. This is a much more accurate depiction of their ability and their impact on the game.

When we think of costs in terms of turns, it throws the entire process of. Siege isn't a turn-based game; We don't print land-search cards for acceleration. And part of the reason why is because we've 'fixed' Mulliganing. In every single CCG, there's a chance to get 'resource-screwed', and I think we've just done away with that - With something called 'Replan.' And it's something that only works with the Siege engine. Something like this wouldn't work in a system like Magic, because we have Morale, and we have a much different set of win conditions and concepts working with Siege. You can't just lay a card down and win the game, you still have to fight and scratch. And I want to keep it that way. There's a certain amount of strategy involved in making the concept of cards necessarily less mobile and less versatile. Think of Chess. There's no spot removal in Chess. There's no combo in Chess. Each piece plays a role, and has a specific set of things that it can and cannot do. I liken Siege a bit to Chess, in this regard. There's a lot of restriction on what a piece can and cannot do in terms of gameplay. There's no army that can immediately and irreparably nuke another army on the field. That army has to get in the trenches and fight it out.

In either case, though, I think that Replan and Re-costing our cards has given a huge positive impact on the game, and will give us a lot more room for designing new cards and also help players have a more decent early game, a better mid-game, and a much higher-level late game. Prior to Replan and the Re-costing, small armies had no room to compete in the environment we were working in, and large armies were almost impossible to play due to a lack of resources. This meant that all of the mid-sized armies were the only ones that could compete, due to their efficiency vs. their cost. 2- and 3- armor armies with 2 or 3 wounds were kings of the hill, and those days are finally over. And with good reason, and for the betterment of the game as a whole.

Brad will be writing on the actual re-costing process here shortly, as well as on Replan; It was actually a really intense process in re-costing the entire set. And what it all comes down to is that we've got to step outside of the concept of costing things as one would cost Magic cards. It's been such a long road, and we've had a lot of fantastic steps in the process, but I think this is the greatest and last. Siege finally feels like its own game - to me, at least. It's one of those things that we've finally gotten into the mindset of Siege being its own entity, and that feels fantastic.

I will also be writing more frequently over the next couple weeks on this topic as well as others - and start to get into deckbuilding, development for the player, and Resource Identities. Until then, Siege on!

oMatt

6Mar/130

Rules Changes 3.0, or the Endgame Syndrome

Hey everyone! Apologies for the lateness of my replies (Simpson's reference, for anyone who gets it), but this month has been hectic. Been in training for the past week, and between that, moving, working, and wedding preparations, there hasn't been a whole lot of time for Siege development. So, we have a big update this week - Namely, three new concept words; Raze, Truce, and Squander. Brad will be writing about these shortly, and going into more detail about each of them (Except for Truce, that one's all me), but I'll be providing some background to how we reached the place that we did. We had a game that stalemated for close to 50 turns all-around, and ended without a winner. Intriguied? Read on.

So, we've been doing some more playtesting recently (Which any of you can hop in on if you'd like), and one game gave me a big, happy trout-slap in the face. I was playing Morale Legion, and my opponent was playing a weird Psiloi/Scavenger Weenie hybrid. A couple of the early skirmishes went pretty evenly, him trading some cheap, inefficient dudes for some of my Heavy-hitters (Which was really disheartening). His deck was really fast and forced me to stabilize early, which I did. After stabilizing, I had him backed up into his own first expanse, and he entrenched everyone there. The glory of Scavenger, as it stands, is that you can sit and entrench and just keep pumping dudes out at an alarming rate.

I had a decision to make. I had a Lomars in-hand, and promptly played it, but very quickly found myself outnumbered by his Scavengers. I could have laid Siege, as I was entrenched in center, but he was +2 on Morale due to an early Rome trigger. I had built the deck wrong, and couldn't recover from losses as quickly as he could. This was my first mistake. My second mistake, I didn't push early enough. He was weakest early, and as time went on, his board position just got stronger. So, we both sat, entrenched, for thirty-three turns, until we drew our decks.

Now, from a development standpoint, this was problematic. To each of us, we had the better position, entrenched, and sitting was probably the better option. For me, I could have made the argument that pushing early would have been a better move, but I would have suffered heavy losses in the process. But this is the great equalizer to Siege's combat system - Big, bad armies don't always equal a win. You could have the biggest, baddest dude on the field, and your opponent could have 16 little ones and rip your face off, Gangnam-Style (I still haven't figured out what exactly Gangnam-Style is, so I'm just using the term randomly until I get it right).

So, there we were, me with the territory and food advantage, with larger, deadlier armies, but him with the numbers break (Numbers Break: When your opponent has 7 damage up and it takes 8 to kill an army) advantage, and I didn't push, and didn't lay Siege. Both mistakes on my part, to an extent. So, we sat there, for thirty-three turns, and drew our decks. And I wanted him to move first. But this was the first roadblock in the development discussion Brad and I had - Who moves first? We had just spent 33 turns stalemated because the other player had the 'better' position. Whose responsibility is it to take the loss and move first? From our standpoint, this is bad for the game. I don't want players doing the "Draw-Go" thing turn after turn until the end. Does the game end in a stalemate? I say yes. If both players are unwilling or unable to move, the game ends in a Truce, and the teams go home. But this isn't official, just something I thought up as I was writing this.

So, I made the first move for the sake of curiosity. And he massacred my dudes. And I didn't drop any reinforcements the turn I moved in, either. Big, big mistake on my part. This one was my third. He had the numbers break advantage, more dudes, and was entrenched. So, after he killed all of my dudes, he moved up and laid Siege - In most cases, the appropriate thing to do. In this case, it cost him. Morale Legion punishes decks laying Siege, and five of my six Dire Evocati started equalizing the morale gap. But I walked directly into a well-timed Fight For Honor, dropping me to 0 Morale. I had 17 armies in-hand, four of which were Evocati, and more than enough resources to punish him and pull out the win.

So, he continued pushing, falling back, and entrenching as needed to keep up with my heavy hitters, and I made a few play mistakes in not ridding myself of his Praetorians to keep my Morale going (I had forgotten that you can play Dire Evocati while at 0 Morale to gain into itself), which were mistakes four and five. I had also forgotten to put in my single Theban Entertainers (Mistake six), and he finally got down to pushing into my expanse and killing structures. So, I started dropping Evocati in home, he got all of my structures in my Support, and we were prepared to play out the last two or three turns, when... Lackey exploded, crashed, and we lost the game.

Infuriated, Brad and I let our other playtester head home to his family, while we recreated the scenario. After all of the bloodletting and massacring, there were two cards left on the field - My Rome, and his Psiloi. Now, if that doesn't seem hilarious to you, that's okay. Because Rome has 2 armor, while Psiloi only has 1 attack. I couldn't play any more armies, despite having three left in-hand, and he didn't have any way to damage my City or win the game. Quandry, no? So, we started discussing what exactly happens in this scenario. Is it a tie? Do the Psiloi go home? Does Rome get slowly beaten down? They're behind their walls, untouched. Psiloi aren't going anywhere. No player can play anything.

So, this is bad. I don't want a game that just spent 50 turns stalemated to end in a stalemate (Or Truce). None of us wants that, really. So, we began pondering ways to fix stuff like this. And there were three problems to fix - First, players need an incentive to not sit for 50 turns entrenched. Sure, there are going to be decks that thrive on this concept (LMC is a deck that I will write about exploiting the Castle strategy), but for two aggressive decks to stall out like that, something certainly needed to be done about that. Secondly, the concept of an army unable to take any undefended structure seemed a bit silly to us. Of course, something like the city of Troy - or any heavily fortified city for that matter - would give armies trouble. And finally, there needs to be a way for players to end a game after all of the cards in a deck are gone. And these have given birth to Raze and Squander, which Brad will be talking about in the next article.

I will also be writing more frequently over the next couple weeks on this topic as well as others - and start to get into deckbuilding, development for the player, and Resource Identities. Until then, Siege on!

oMatt

21Jan/130

Forward Progress and Simultaneous Turns

Hey all,

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!

-Matt