Smaller game prototypes constructed early during our game’s development cycle could help guide the characteristics of its mechanics by answering the following questions:
What is the most engaging way to incorporate randomness?
For our game, this question is critical, given that the random selection of a challenge or question occurs at the beginning of each player’s turn. How can we best make this component raise the stakes and set a tone of risk and anticipation?
We can create a prototype “game wheel,” a board with different choices or options to which the player must throw a dart or object, selecting the option where the dart lands, a deck of cards, or a bowl or “black box” from which to pick a card from a set of cards at random.
The deck of cards or card bowl options will be the most flexible and smooth ways to incorporate randomness, as they can accommodate a large number of options and do not take the players’ skill into account, which could slow down the game in specific scenarios.
What kind of rewards should the players receive for correct guesses?
Our game relies on making assumptions or guesses about the players; how will correctly guessing to whom a specific secret or fact belongs be rewarded?
We can incorporate prototypes of “value cards” such as challenges or rules the winner can devise or make them a deck the winner can draw from, add to the black box and receive immunity from. We can also incorporate a scoring system to determine a specific winner at the end of the game.
I believe a hybrid approach of incorporating a deck with pre-made cards and “empty value cards” on where the winner can write their rules can help set the tone of the game and alleviate any mental blocks the players may be facing by providing “a way out” while at the same time giving room for players to set the tone they want.
What kind of punishments should the players face for incorrect guesses?
At every turn, a player stands to win or lose something; how can we raise the stakes but not make consequent losses too exhausting?
If a player guesses incorrectly, we can allow the person who was chosen to become a “winner” and draw from the value card stack and place it on the “black box” or bowl; thus, our previous prototype could help us with this feature. Alternatively, to add some variety to the game, we could design a different deck with “losing cards” from which the loser must draw, or they must perform some activity agreed upon by all players before the start of the game case in many social games.
In this scenario, I believe that simplicity could help the flow of the game. As the number of wins throughout the game increases, so does the challenge pool in the black box and the likelihood that players begin to draw challenges instead of secrets. Thus, having a default action that’s easy to remember and agreed to be performed by all players of the game could set up a more straightforward tone, add some variety, and add a new, if somewhat static, dynamic to every play session.