Tag Archives : Gamedev


Introducing a new feature in Prismata: the Grandmaster Set 5

If there’s one feature that sets Prismata apart from other games, it’s the diversity of units available. Most games of Prismata use a “base set” of units, plus some advanced units that are randomly generated. But unlike in deckbuilding games where you might need to spend $3,000 or more to get all the good cards, players in Prismata are evenly matched because:

  • All units are available to EVERYONE from the beginning
  • Both players in a 1v1 match have the same units available in each game

 

Vel'kar

Until now, static unit sets have only been available when playing Vel’kar. Players have never been able to refine strategies on a static set for competitive play.

When players begin the automatching process (or choose to fight against an AI), they choose a subset of the hundreds of unit combinations to play with. The current options are:

  • Beginner Set: This set doesn’t use any of the green resource in its 10 units. Instead, it focuses on introducing the Prompt, Stamina and Lifespan unit abilities.
  • Base + 5: A set that includes the base set and 5 additional, randomly generated, units.
  • Base + 8: A set that includes the base set and 8 additional, randomly generated, units.

These options provide virtually endless unit and strategy combinations, as well as opportunities for new players to learn basic game mechanics. The only thing lacking is an opportunity to sink your teeth into a static and intricate set of units that can be played again and again as you refine a specific strategy. Until now.

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What’s in a name? The 5 steps that led to “Prismata” 20

Prismata is the gaming love of my life. My obsession with Prismata is so great that I literally dropped out of school to work on it. In this article, at long last, I’m going to address a question that I’ve received countless times, but have never spoken publicly about:

Why is the game called “Prismata?”

Honestly, there is no short answer. Naming Prismata was probably the hardest decision we ever had to make. I imagine that it might feel similar to naming a first child, except there are lawyers involved.

I’m pretty embarassed to post this; it was a doodle I made in MS Paint (mostly for comic relief purposes) during one of many stressful “name the game” meetings with other devs. I was really hoping something would just “feel right”. Nothing did. That red one in the middle was close, though.

It took us almost 4 years to name our game. The process had me adding the US Patent and Trademark Search to my browser bar, and murmuring awful name ideas like “Savant Horizon” in my sleep. I don’t know the optimal way to name a video game, or how to decide which of the million options suck the least, but these are the steps that led us to choose the name “Prismata”:

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The Role of Luck: why competitive games like Hearthstone NEED luck, but RNG isn’t the only answer 197

The topic of luck in competitive gaming always ruffles a lot of feathers, leading to never-ending complaints and hostility from many different types of gamers: players whining about losses caused entirely by randomness, fans whining about their favourite pros being knocked out of tournaments due to bad luck, and everyone else whining about all the whiners. The subject arises frequently in discussions surrounding card games like Hearthstone, where the issue has become a hotly debated topic in the wake of serious complaints from professional players concerning the role of randomness in the game.

In developing Prismata—a competitive turn-based strategy game sharing many features with card games—we’ve questioned whether the presence of luck was really worth all the fuss, raging, and drama. Could a game like Hearthstone still be as popular and fun if the element of luck was removed?

Over the years, we’ve talked to many professional gamers and expert game designers, including folks from Hearthstone’s design team, about the role of luck in card games. When asked whether it would be possible to design a card game without luck, they all told us the same thing:

“Bad players will never think they can win, and they will stop playing.”

“Your game can’t thrive if it doesn’t have luck.”

“You’d be fucking crazy to try and make it a commercial success.”

Challenge accepted. I guess we’re fucking crazy.

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Setting the Bar: featuring comments from Prismata writer Mike Fong 2

As the guy at Lunarch Studios who does most of the work that a producer would do at a larger studio, I get to interact with a lot of very talented people—artists, musicians, and of course our very own writer Mike Fong. Mike lives 1000 kilometers away in Boston, so I often consult with him over video calls or instant messenger to ensure that the art we commission agrees with the intended story details.

Elyot: What changes to the bar do we want the artist to make?

Mike: Make it less purple.

Elyot: I like purple.

Mike: Swade’s only friends are the demons inside his head. I just don’t think his regular hangout for drinking alone is a purple bar.

Elyot: At least it doesn’t look like a place where one goes to pick up chicks.

Mike: No, it looks like a place where one goes to pick up dudes.

Elyot: Yeah, yeah, whatever, we can mess with the hues later.

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Origins, Part 1: Why I quit my PhD at MIT to start a gaming studio 1436

[This article contains actual instant message conversations from the founders’ Google chat histories]

It was 6:52 pm on Tuesday, September 28, 2010. I had just sent my good friend Will Ma the following message over Google Talk:

me: current temperature in waterloo according to weathernetwork.com. if it’s odd, I’m black.

For the next several hours, Will and I exchanged a series of cryptic alphanumeric messages resembling this:

Will: W9: hhebcy ns 13plg 3f2aw

These incomprehensible strings of characters were punctuated only by occasional, marginally less cryptic messages like the following:

me: B11: gg wp
me: re?

It was the beginning of a 4-year-long obsession with the game that would eventually be known as Prismata, though at the time, we referred to it only by the codename MCDS (in honour of 4 other strategy games that inspired its creation that we stopped playing in favour of it). Prismata was, and still is, the most addictive strategy game I have ever played. But my choice to throw away my promising academic career in favour of full-time game development wasn’t an impulsive gamble fueled by obsession. Rather, it was a calculated, market-driven decision born from a series of remarkable coincidences.

In the Origins series, we’ll share some anecdotes from the early days of Prismata: the fierce arguments we had over the game’s design, the insane development choices we made when building the game, and the highly unconventional ways we went about building our studio from scratch and funding the game’s development. This article shall give a brief overview of the game’s history, with a focus on the factors that convinced us to withdraw from our PhD studies at MIT to found a full commercial game development studio. ]

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The Solution To Frustrating Time Controls 34

Many turn-based games have different systems for allocating time to players.  Sometimes, these systems result in very negative experiences.  Looking at Hearthstone, Magic Online, Poker, Chess, and Prismata, we analyze the effectiveness of these games at producing positive experiences through their time control systems.

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In Hearthstone, there is a 90 second increment, with no timebank.  (A timebank is time you can choose to spend on any turn.) This overly simple system is easy to understand, but has consequences for players.  There is no future penalty for spending time now, and there is no reward for playing faster as you cannot save any time into your timebank.  This is detrimental to the game for a few reasons.

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