Following valuable feedback on the 'Circles' game I went back to the drawing board, seeking to take the things that were working but build something with more depth, fun and replay value.
One of the biggest flaws with the first game was that once people had grasped the way the conditions and logic worked, and could see what they wanted to do on the board, getting there felt like work. Also, the unpredictable nature of exploding circles made it less compelling to delicately target specific pieces on the board.
Amongst some wilder ideas, I put this rough mockup together:
This attempted to build on the first game by introducing some further vectors. Instead of targeting circles by position or size, players would target by position, shape or opacity. Instead of growing or shrinking circles, players would transform shapes or change their opacity. The goal would be to capture shapes by increasing their opacity to 100, but the catch was that you could play defensively and decrease the opacity of your opponent's pieces. Furthermore, you would build sequences of four steps for each turn allowing more sophisticated strategy.
It had the kernel of a new direction, but was a little convoluted.
This morphed into a next mockup:
This lost the opacity vector, and simplified the shape vector to being about transforming between circles and squares in in two-parts.
Next came four-part shapes:
This was starting to get interesting. Players would seek to "capture" shapes by completing circles or squares in their respective colors. The sequencing opened up interesting possibilities, where the state of shapes would change between steps allowing players to do smart things.
I liked this because it felt like it aligned with the kind of programmatic thinking I want to encourage and introduce people to. Much of programming involves holding a piece of a system in your mind, then thinking a few steps ahead about how it's going to change – and what consequences that may have. For example, a programmer made need to anticipate the value of variable X at the end of 10 iterations of a 'for loop'.
I then decided that a goal to create shapes of either type (i.e circle of square) for each player was a little confusing, perhaps one player could chase complete circles, and one squares?
Going back to black and white basics, I mocked this up:
Now player one would try to capture white circles, player two black squares. The sequence element was in place. Actions would also include rotation (which wasn't possible with the two-part shapes). It began to feel like a good level of complexity to be challenging and strategically interesting, and I was hopefully it continued to express by goal of conveying programmatic thinking.
But would it be fun?
It was time to test. The next post will cover this.