Knights & Ruffians

On August 6, 2010, in Knights & Ruffians, projects, by bateleur

OK, let's talk about gameplay!

Knights and Ruffians – my new game – is about trying to bring to video gaming the kinds of experiences I used to enjoy from the skirmish scale adventure games I used to play as a kid. Possibly you're scratching your head at this point. Surely "skirmish scale" should be followed by "wargames" not "adventure games"? Well, therein lies an interesting quirk of the history of adventures…

I'm not quite old enough to have been around for the birth of pen and paper roleplaying games, but I found the hobby soon enough afterwards to experience old school roleplaying first hand. We taught ourselves roleplaying with those games as a framework, but really they were wargames. The interesting part was, they were cooperative wargames. In recent years cooperative gaming has really become a hot area, but back in the early 80s we spent all day doing exactly that without really being conscious of it. Later roleplaying systems dramatically reduced the wargaming aspects, although they never fully disappeared, as a consequence of which this style of gaming was almost lost.

I also played a great many Games Workshop games, from Warhammer and 40K to the excellent Space Hulk. However, Games Workshop were always more interested in selling miniatures than making great games. When they got rid of Richard Halliwell – who was full of incredible ideas that he was never allowed to develop – I started to lose interest. Still, games like Space Hulk and Advanced Heroquest remain important landmarks in my gaming history and are sources of inspiration for Knights and Ruffians.

Not all of the ideas behind Knights and Ruffians come from the tabletop world, though. The old C64 game Laser Squad was a pure wargame, but its mechanics set the standard for turn based play in video games. Also, whilst I don't really play RTS games, ever since Warcraft I've had my eye on the genre for its attempts to give players a high level of control without resorting to turn based play.

So what's wrong with turn based play?

The primary problem is that it encourages a glacially slow pace of play. Players will always find more things to think about. There's a reason why Chess needs clocks! Real time play also isn't right for the style of play I want. The trouble with real time is that either each player must be limited to controlling a single character or the behaviour and interactions of their characters must be simplified. Not that simplification is inherently a bad thing. But the kind of game I'm aiming for wants rich, interactive, moment-by-moment tactics. If a player is controlling multiple characters it must feel more like the way a good sports team interact than like a herd of sheep.

Knights and Ruffians is going to use a compromise between the two approaches. It will have turn-based play, but with a very short turn timer. Players will have enough time to do things with several characters each turn, but only if they issue orders fairly quickly. I'll write a whole entry sometime about my plans for the UI. It needs to be very good, because otherwise the fast turn cycle will be irritating rather than being a source of good gameplay.

In theme terms the game is going to be about looting rare and valuable treasures, many of which will also be useful items. It's going to be about fighting off enemies and rivals and monsters. It's going to be about characters and stories and mysteries and… Actually, I don't even know all the things it's going to be about because I'm going to have some assistance on the writing side. More about that another time.

Also, since this is a development blog I really ought to get around to talking about the technical side of things. Soon. Very soon.

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