Friday, April 10, 2020

Tiny bits of tweaking can make a difference

I recently picked up the second version of Paper Pinball: Laser Sisters. Paper Pinball is a guilty pleasure for me. I think that Robin Gibson made a better series of games with the Legends of Dsyx and I also think that they are very swingy. However, the Paper Pinball games are very easy to get in a play when I just have a couple minutes. So they get in a decent amount of play.

Out of the three Paper Pinball tables I first tried out (Wolf Hackers, Laser Sisters and Sherwood 2146), Laser Sisters was my least favorite by far. And for a very simple reason. I didn’t like the implementation of the slingshot mechanic.

Every Paper Pinball table I’ve seen (and I’m assuming all the ones I haven’t) have their own little twist that keeps them from being the same thing over and over again with different art. In the case of Laser Sisters, it’s slingshots, which you check off to use each dice as its own value as opposed to adding the two dice together.

The problem I had was with the value of the section called Targets. You cross them off with a specific value. On the original Laser Sisters, the values were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Filling those out meant heavily leaving on the limited uses of the slingshot and the 1 Target absolutely requiring it. So, instead of the slingshot mechanic increasing my choices, it was actually more limited.

In the second edition, the Target numbers are now 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12. The one is gone and only half of them need slingshots. So I can now use slingshots for other things, like ramps. 

It’s still super random and swingy but this change makes one of the tools the table has more flexible. I’m kind of curious to see what the second edition of Sherwood 2146 looks like.

The point of all this isn’t that I like a tiny change in a game that is super casual. Frankly, I have a literal binder full of quick little Roll and Writes that I have fun with. One more or less isn’t a big deal.

What is the real point of me writing all this is that little changes can make big changes in a game experience. (Game balance as well but that can be harder to judge.) A side effect of looking at a lot of Print and Play files is you get to see a lot of prototypes. So you get to stages of development. 

Sometimes, the difference between a good experience and a bad one is the the tiniest details.

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