What Do Prototypes Prototype – Questions (Ember Fu)

How many rounds should the game be, and for how many players?

The number of rounds is important to determine game length and pacing. Players should be able to
play the game for a substantial, quality amount of time that feels complete. However, the game should
also not start to drag on and thus lose interest. This question also indirectly asks if we want the game
to be the kind that can be immediately played again or multiple times in one session, versus a game that is
meant to be played as one long, satisfying run-through. The expected number of players is another factor
that might change the recommended number of rounds to hit whatever appropriate pacing is decided.
We can test this by trying a few different numbers for rounds and timing them, as well as asking for player
feedback on their experience with the pacing. This would be done with some set number of players. After
figuring out the appropriate number for this number, we can test and adjust the number for more or less players.
I would guess that around 7 rounds would feel like a balanced pace, where individual turns don’t take too long.

Should players be able to positively interact with other competing players?

By nature of having players compete for one objective and our current design placing importance on interactions such as
sabotaging other players, it is also important to consider whether there is a place for “alliances” or helping other players. Since in
this game there can only be one winner, positive interactions between players might end up useless or counterintuitive. Or, there is
also the possibility it introduces more fun and complex strategies. For example: helping another player that also helps oneself;
helping another player as a form to counter a different player; or making trades between players that walk the social line of “frenemy”.
We could test this by prototyping versions of the game without and with such interactions and observing how they end up affecting gameplay. I would predict that these actions could add interesting dynamics and gameplay and therefore find a place in the game, but would not oversaturate it – in fact, I’d say there would only be a small number of such cards, and that it would not be an official action a player could take on their turn.

Should players be able to be eliminated, and if so, assume an audience role?

As rounds progress, in a bachelor-style game, it seems natural that some love interests would get eliminated. Furthermore, from
a gameplay perspective, perhaps too many individual competing players spreads interactions too thin/shallow rather than deep
if we are intending a run-through to not last too long. That would also diminish the narrative appeal of the game, where there is no
identifiable direction forming (i.e. no players getting particularly closer to the bachelor than others – not very dramatic or interesting).
Possibility of elimination would also increase players’ drive to do well in the game as a matter of not just winning, but surviving as
long as possible, retaining focus. On the other hand, we want to retain the interest of eliminated players, who should not feel like they
are just completely shut out of the game’s boundaries. In that case, they should be able to have an interesting enough audience role
where they can impact the game as a neutral third party, but without too much power. Or, we maintain that elimination is not a
possibility. We can test this by prototyping versions of the game with and without elimination rules and an audience role, and ask for
player feedback on how engaged they felt throughout the game in each version. I would guess that players would still be more engaged
without elimination, and perhaps the “time” pressure of having a set number of rounds to prepare for the final round would be enough
to keep players focused on a strategy (which would then give rise to a direction).

How much influence should the bachelor character have versus the bachelor player on determining winners?

This was a big question that continues to require consideration for the design of our game. Having one player assume the unique bachelor role means they will need different ways of engaging in the game, and these ways should have them feel equally involved as the other players. As a judge for the other players, this means they should have agency on what other players they want to engage with or what answers they want to choose; they should not be barely more than a pre-set bot that the game could have without a player in the role. At the same time, giving the bachelor player all the deciding power renders the idea of them playing a character somewhat pointless, and diminishes the importance of more concrete game factors (i.e. the bachelor could be biased and just pick their friend, instead of performance depending on players playing cards or taking actions strategically). We could prototype versions of the game with varying push and pull on either side of this power balance; that is, test versions where winners are determined solely by the bachelor, solely by concrete game units/decisions, or a mix such as where the bachelor can decide but is only partially weighted for determining a winning choice. I would guess that a mix might be the best way to go about it, perhaps introducing the partial weight idea for just the final round/winner and allowing the bachelor to decide the previous, smaller rounds.

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