029: Game Mechanics We Love

After communing with the game designer, our heroes blast through a dense asteroid field made up of simulator, voice chat, collaboration, totaling, karma, and other game mechanic rocks.

Games discussed in this episode:

  • 1:33 Stray
  • 2:21 Goat Simulator
  • 2:35 Maneater
  • 4:20 Fly Simulator
  • 7:34 Hell Let Lose
  • 9:40 Battlefield 4
  • 10:39 Friday the 13th
  • 13:14 Dead By Daylight
  • 15:48 Spy Vs. Spy
  • 16:28 Oregon Trail Card Game
  • 16:47 Munchkin
  • 17:33 ROBOT RISE!
  • 19:34 Vampire the Masquerade
  • 24:35 Ticket To Ride
  • 25:57 Settlers of Catan
  • 27:32 Lords of Waterdeep
  • 28:05 Call of Cthulu
  • 30:21 Marvel Superheroes RPG

Introductory Guy  

Welcome to Design Thinking Games, a gaming and user experience podcast. Card-carrying UXers, Tim Broadwater and Michael Schofield, examine the player experience of board games, pen-and-paper roleplaying games, live-action games, and video games. Play through the backlog on your podcatcher of choice and on the web at DesignThinkingGames.com.

Tim Broadwater  

Design thinking is a process used to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions. In this podcast, we apply design thinking to games.

Michael Schofield  

Very well. I’m going to be coughing, dude. I think I got it. I think I got I think so. I got like this nasty, dry cough.

Tim Broadwater  

My husband has it right now. He tested positive for it Saturday. And I have not had a temperature or tested positive at all. And so I’m literally just here in a blanket because I’m lazy as fuck. 

Michael Schofield  

We spend so much time kind of fanboying about just different little snippets from different games. How characters move in various video games, how how much fun it is to like jump from rooftop to rooftop in Blood Hunt, etc. (Or Stray). No spoilers. I’m only a little bit into Stray.

Tim Broadwater  

I think a lot of it is like a cat parkour game. You’re running into like jumping up pipes and across roofs.

Michael Schofield  

That’s totally up my alley. We should talk about Stray in another episode, but you already kind of like clocked it as a potential Game of the Year nominee. It is getting some fabulous press.

Tim Broadwater  

I think it’s the sim mechanic that people love. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not into like virtual farmer or like anything where I want to run a plow or anything but games that are like the Goat Simulator or Stray where you play a cat or what is the shark one that is really popular?

Michael Schofield  

I know what you’re talking about. 

Tim Broadwater  

Maneater. 

Michael Schofield  

I don’t think you start as anything other than as a baby shark. And you gradually grow up, and you become this monstrosity that is really wreaking havoc on the beach. That’s different than Stray. Because like I have to say, I think you clocked it that the appeal of Stray, at least in the trailers, was like, oh, like I get to be a cat. Looks like a real cat. It’s not like a super cartoony cat. Right? And that was 100% draw for me. 

Tim Broadwater  

You can nuzzle other cats, and you get to nuzzle against the legs of people. And then you can kind of like purr and then when you purr your, your remote control purse, and the sound comes out of it and then you just basically like being lazy, and you drink water. And it’s just like, oh, this is what playing a cat’s like, you know,

Michael Schofield

You’re right. There’s something like super attractive for that.

Tim Broadwater  

And the mechanic that I like is just like putting me as a player into forcing me into something I have no experience with. So it Maneater you’re playing a shark, Stray a cat Goat Simulator, you’re literally just running around eating and head butting stuff. So it’s I like the mechanic to where it’s, you know, I’m not, I have no basis of comparison for this. And so you’re putting me into the role of that. And I just get to experience being a cat or a shark or goat, you know,

Michael Schofield  

there are kind of like extremes of that there are games. I can’t think of the name of it, where you play a fly, and you have to like survive in the house. That’s a game. Yeah, yeah, it’s a game. So you, you kind of start as a maggot and you like, wiggle around. You flop around as a maggot as you hatch out of your little fly egg, and you’re just kind of wiggling and writhing, and then you sprout wings and oh my gosh, now you’re a little fruit fly, and you’re irritating the shit of the gigantic humans who are just kind of like wandering around this little house. I think your goal is to, you know, land on their food and consume stuff like that and avoid getting obliterated.

Tim Broadwater  

I think it’s just called Fly simulator if it’s the one I’m finding on Steam.

Michael Schofield  

Inhabiting these sort of like extreme perspective shifts, like, Oh, I’m going to be a cat, and I’m really going to roleplay being a cat. Or I’m going to do this with like a fly. I’ve never seen anyone actually take Goat Simulator seriously, like, all right, I’m like, there’s like, I’m gonna be a goat with a rocket pack. And I’m gonna, like a slide into, like, into different cars and stuff. But I love the idea that someone would play Goat Simulator to like really experience goat them, right? It’s like, Oh, I’m just gonna walk around at a normal pace and eat cans.

Tim Broadwater  

Both your and I’s definition of game mechanics. We like maybe wildly different. So like, being put into like a simulation or like that. I like and even like the farming simulator once where you are growing crops and driving tractors. I mean, there’s a simulator. I have a fondness for simulator mechanics and where it’s forcing me into something to do that. I don’t like chores, but like simulating experience, you know, but uh, for you like, what game mechanics? What are you thinking of? That you’re a fan of?

Michael Schofield  

I have a list. There are a few different things. But I think I think the idea of like the sim is that it’s role play, right? It’s like, I’m roleplaying as a farmer. I’m gonna play. I’m really, and it’s really good. Roleplay, you know, if you really feel like Commander Shepard and you really feel like, like, Jim Bob Crawdad, who has like plowing his cornfield. So I do like mechanics, I like really kind of like reinforced that, that sim that that, that roleplaying.

Michael Schofield  

The video game, I keep getting sucked back into this. Distracting me from all the other stuff that I want to play as Hell Let Loose. It’s a tactical kind of war shooter. Because you can’t win or do well unless you are playing together with a squad that is organized strategically by a commander. And one of the mechanics that I really liked that reinforced that I actually kind of love is how they handle voice chat in there. So this is like a really specific, like mechanics. But the idea, I’ve mentioned it before, is that when you are a member of a squad, you’re just a rifleman. You can chat among your squad. You can be anywhere across the battlefield. It’s not proximity-based, but it’s restricted to your squad. You can talk to your squad leader, but you can’t talk to other squads. Unless you’re like right next to them using proximity chat, you can’t communicate if you’re in the silo.

Tim Broadwater  

So it’s the like walkie-talkie mechanic that you’re kind of referring to

Michael Schofield  

a mechanic, but the squad leader can talk to their squad, they’re the people that they are leading around, and to the other squad leaders, not to the other squad leader squads, but to the other squad leaders and to the commander. So they’re the commander can only talk to squad leaders and can never talk to any like locals. And what this does is create like a, again, it just sort of like reinforces the roleplay aspect of the hierarchy of it. Like no, like they’re, you know, it’s not democracy you have officers in your game, and the only way to win is to kind of follow them, and the only way they can win is to coordinate with other officers. It’s just like a mechanic that I really like

Tim Broadwater  

so what are some games that have that walkie-talkie mechanic? Sounds like there’s more than one.

Michael Schofield  

I mean, I think there are a few, so like So let’s compare it with, like, the most popular first-person shooter ever on the planet, like Call of Duty, where I actually don’t know there. There are a lot who do that right even in like, like if we rewind the clock and go all the way back to Battlefield 4. This was a game on the Xbox is an Xbox 360 generation. So PS3, nope, ps4, Xbox 360. Battlefield 4 is like several years ago, and that had a commander mechanic. There was a commander, and then there was like everyone else.

Tim Broadwater  

So like, you have like a lot of people logged in. I guess that is what you’re saying. And then, like once a commander, then there’s like several squad leaders and then their squad members.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, so that’s how Hell Let Loose does it, so like you can only talk to people like basically at your scope. And it just requires it just reinforces that thing. So it reinforces the hierarchy, which reinforces the kind of simulation of this kind of like war shooter, the fact that it’s World War Two and it’s using like real battle maps and stuff like that. It’s just kind of, I don’t know, it just makes it feel really good. Again, real it’s this kind of like roleplay aspect. Yeah, so

Tim Broadwater  

my only experience with a walkie-talkie mechanic is like the old school Friday the 13th online game, which was a phenomenal game. Everyone loved it. And then, because of the intellectual property lawsuit, they got tangled. It got frozen in court for a while because Friday the 13th, A guy came out basically saying that, hey, I had the idea for Friday the 13th that was stolen, and now there’s a whole franchise and bla bla bla, and they’re like, well prove it in court. And he did prove it in court. And so now Yeah, so now there’s like, that just resolved here recently. And so the people loved the game, but it couldn’t do anymore because everything was frozen up in the court system. But essentially, like a synchronous for eight people go into a game, one is Jason Vorhees. The other seven are camp counselors. The camp counselors can only communicate with one another if they find a walkie-talkie in the game, like find one in a drawer. Oh, that’s hardcore. Yeah, they may have a perk installed that says I want to start with a walkie talkie you know, we’re or like an item attached. But then once you have it, then you can start talking like Hey, I found the park to this generator or like, I’m at the boat, and I’m fixing them, and so that’s really the only familiarity I have with a walkie-talkie kind of mechanic.

Michael Schofield  

Restricted communication is really interesting, right? Because I think like most like cars, like most multiplayer like allows you to chat however you want, either through literally like a chat like if you’re playing on the PC or through a literal chat like text chat, or voice over chat or something like that. But I kind of idea like restricted communication really requires you to be more deliberate than the question. So if Vorhees was an earshot, and someone talked to you over the walkie-talkie, can you hear it?

Tim Broadwater  

Yes. So that’s the thing there is a risk to use where you want it so you can communicate with people to say like, Hey, I found the propeller, I got the gas. Let’s meet at the boat, and then I’ll fix the propeller and put the gas, and we’ll get out of camp. Like you know, we’ll get out of Camp Blood or Crystal Lake or whatever it’s called. Yes, you are right. Once you’re within like so many feet as the killer, you can totally hear someone talking and the replies through the walkie-talkie. And so it’s kind of like you can definitely spoof it and definitely like hey, let’s get on Discord and like a cheat, you know what I mean? And I think that’s cheating. I still think to this day that’s cheating because especially if – in Dead by Daylight, you see that all the time where all the heroes get on like all the survivors get on like Discord, and they’re like, why am I not finding any and how are they getting the generators done so quickly as an as a killer, and then you realize like, oh, man, there’s a discord team together, and that’s

Michael Schofield  

Yeah

Tim Broadwater  

I have a mechanic that I thought of. This is totally unrelated. But this is more for tabletop games, but it’s

Michael Schofield  

— those are the only other commit mechanics I even have so great. 

Tim Broadwater  

I don’t know what you would call the mechanic. But it’s like using cards like puzzle pieces to where you lay them down and grids and formations. So if you’ve ever played Spy Versus Spy, where you’re building out tunnels, you’re actually putting the cards out. If you play Betrayal at House on the Hill, every time you draw a new room, you’re kind of building out like the map, right? Unknown is like that as well. Tapeworm – Tapeworm’s a great game that also is you’re building out kind of what it looks like on the table even to the point of like Robots Rise or even Bears Versus Babies to where this cards my head this card is my body this case my arms this you know, I love to where you’re building something like with cards.

Michael Schofield  

That’s like Munchkin, right? Oregon Trail, the card game which exists, does that where you’re building the trail from, like, one end of the table to the other end of the table as you go?

Tim Broadwater  

Oh my God, I didn’t know this game existed. I’ll have to check it out. 

Michael Schofield  

Pick it up. Yeah, I’ve never been. I played it many a time. The entire wagon dies. (Oh, wow.) It’s, it’s pretty delightful.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so Munchkin has like cards where you augment cards with other cards like here’s my card, and it’s kind of like Magic the Gathering where you’re just like, Oh, I’m gonna put a weapon on, or there’s an encampment on this land or my player, like, now is a dwarven cleric who wills and acts, you know. And so those are augmented cards. But I mean more so, like where you’re actually just building out the cards under the table. And then that is your map or you this your creature or that is the area that you’re exploring, or the tunnels you’re building or the tapeworms, you’re building or whatever, yeah, and so that’s just I love that mechanic. Robots Rise is a good one. It’s actually really rated decently well, and I played tested at origins a couple years ago. And that’s the one where you’re building robots that have heads, bodies, arms, weapons, legs, but then you can mix and match robot parts to like, kids, but I have a drill, but I also have an arm laser, but you know, just kind of, but that’s how you kind of combat.

Michael Schofield  

That’s really cool. It seems like it makes it just much more tactical or tactile. And it’s different than what I think, you know, the conventional like a board game is where it’s static, maybe you move pieces around on top of it. Oregon Trail does a thing that I just say because that’s top of mind because I feel like we play it quite a bit. 

Michael Schofield  

it really helps reinforce how daunting the trail is. Because like as you kind of like draw the cards and you discover shit. There’s like a river I have to afford and, and whatever. And gradually, you end up in these kinds of like troughs of civilization where the last outpost you ended up on 10 draws ago, like 10 rounds and go here like, oh, man, we’re running out of everything. And there’s like snakes biting me and stuff, like a die out here. I mean, you could do this with like, dice or whatever. But I love the idea of like, having to visualize the map. Because it’s just, you know, it’s just part of navigating across the wild frontier.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, it’s fun. I see it in a lot of games. A lot of games use it. What other mechanics are you thinking of?

Michael Schofield  

I’ve got a bunch. So So I’ve recently like kind of like been. So we’ve talked about how I’ve been kind of a stan for like the old Vampire the Masquerade like way back in the day. And so I’ve been kind of revisiting the new stuff since, you know, since like, all this stuff has come out at like, 20 years since I last like meaningfully played. I bought the new core book. I bought all of these things. And there are things in Vampire the Masquerade that like I really like that I feel like Dungeons and Dragons lacks. And so, as mechanics, they stand out to me because they help reinforce roleplay. And what those are, is that I mean, I’m sure you have experienced being a member of a party, in which you all happen to be at a tavern, all happenstance and the only reason y’all are together is that there’s some cool bounty that you have complementary, complementary skills. But you’re an arbitrary party that happened to be at the right place at the right time. And now you’re expected to —

Tim Broadwater  

Organized play basically starts this way every single time.

Michael Schofield  

I really liked the roleplay of like d&d, and that’s always bugged me. So like Vampire, the masquerade starts out with different convictions that must be shared among your party, which it calls your coterie, so like we’re going to keep the Bronx safe, is something where like we’re all into that’s like a deep conviction we all have, and then we all have our own individual convictions. But as a mechanic, what these are is that like, as you take actions that violate those convictions, you’re penalized for it. Either you like lose your humanity or something bad happens, or there’s like a cost, but it’s the kind of mechanic that forces a group to work toward the problem together. And this way, the problem is, you know, staying like a cohesive roleplaying party, one person can’t go off and be a murder hobo or something like that.

Tim Broadwater  

Oh, no, that’s my favorite.

Michael Schofield  

This kind of mechanic I just like it just really like, and I’m like, wow, that seems like it’s very much lacking in like the d&d that I play. And it just stood out to me. It’s new to me. I don’t remember this being a thing. And OWoD, the Old World of Darkness, so the fact that they make that part of character creation is pretty cool.

Tim Broadwater  

So is it like So there are things that Dungeons and Dragons, which are you can get more points if you take vices or like an affliction or something like that. But I mean, it sounds like what you’re describing is there’s something that forces party cohesion, or else we all lose our goal, right?

Michael Schofield  

Yes. Yeah, exactly.

Tim Broadwater  

Kind of like that makes me think of a little bit of like Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Island where it’s like, dude, we are or pandemic, I mean, you kind of have to work together, or we’re all screwed, we’re gonna lose. But it’s not really the negative that you’re taking on. Do you know what I mean? It’s, it’s, as opposed to the agreed upon thing that you’re kind of talking or referencing,

Michael Schofield  

You know, we talked about this on our collaborative Games episode, but there are different ways to kind of like reinforce collaboration. And it’s just one of those things that felt like it was missing from like, the, you know, the handful of like, tabletop RPGs. I play like dungeon dragons and Call of Cthulhu that Vampire the Masquerade does, like, pretty, pretty well, man. And so it’s just something that I’m like, Oh, I like this, I’m going to incorporate it. My next thing. I just want everyone. I don’t like arbitrary storylines, and I want people to like, stay on task, you know. And in a big old sandbox RPG, that’s a big ask unless it’s part of the mechanic.

Tim Broadwater  

I was actually looking through my board games as well, kind of identifying like, let me just objectively see the things that I got, like gravitate to. And something that I found that I like that I know, we’ve talked about putting it making an episode about it at some point, but that I don’t think we have is totaling games. Like, I really love games that are like Ticket to Ride, where you’re building railroads. But everyone has secret goals and initiatives and things they’re trying to do. Or Lords of Waterdeep, right to where you are vying for control of the city, and you’re sending adventures out. But then, like each, you have your own secret. Every time you complete a quest, you have this thing, and then bam, at the end of the game, you may think you know who’s won. But then when everyone starts to total up, like, oh, no, I completed at least five quests. And that puts you over 100 points. But then someone else is like, Oh, I built the railway from New York all the way to San Francisco. So that gives me 20 points. And so then it’s just like, it’s interesting because you there’s that big reveal, aha math moment, I guess, at the end of the game, and I have a bunch of games that actually are like that. Because I think there’s a fun way of like, okay, this is a quick, fun game that we’re all playing. But then we don’t really know until the end. I mean, we’re all playing the game. And yes, we know we’re competing against one another, but it’s not important until the very end, where it’s like, oh, yeah, okay, you, you were awesome. You completed this three-part quest or this railway to Florida, like Oregon, and then bam, that puts you in the lead to some degree, like, I think Settlers of Catan has that to a little degree, because you’re at the end, like, Oh, this is how many roads This is how many cities I get the longest road. And then the math adds up it’s a little different, like in Catan, of course, but that kind of totaling or secret, like totaling at the end from secret objectives or quests, that’s I kind of I like to have a kid.

Michael Schofield  

I find that I find it interesting because I waver on that kind of thing. So my core example of like, of this where I hate it is like in the game of life, right? Where where you see who is going to win by the most money way in advance? Right? Like it depends. They take or whatever,

Tim Broadwater  

you know, by who owns all the property, and he’s got the cashback.

Michael Schofield  

And so I wonder what it is about “good totaling.” Like, what are the components there? Maybe that’s that there truly are secret objectives, or? 

Tim Broadwater  

think you’re right. 

Michael Schofield  

But if it’s like all Yeah, if you can forecast it, as soon as you can forecast it, like the joy of that moment, like takes,

Tim Broadwater  

you’re right. I mean, there’s some strategy that’s secret that you are just sharing with yourself, which is essential that you know, you are unveiling cards yourself each round that it’s like a train route to build or you are or what quest to go on and Lords of Waterdeep, let’s say, for example, but essentially what you’re trying to do is like, I will get lots of points if I complete this railway, like across the country, but if I don’t complete it, I’ve just spent like a huge part of the game wasting that you know what I mean, working towards that goal. And you’re right, like, there’s some strategy with kicking yourself. But there’s also something that no one else sees except you. You see it.

Michael Schofield  

I think that’s, I think that’s the secret component there where it’s good. There’s a mechanic of luck in Call of Cthulhu that I don’t think comes up a lot. In that, every character has a luck stat. It’s like zero out of 100, just like maybe 60/67 or something like this. And the chief reason for this existing is actually kind of boring. It’s like if you fail a role, and you will fail most of your roles and Call of Cthulhu, you can spend luck to achieve success. That’s kind of that’s that sort of math mechanic is fine. But that’s not what I love about it. What I love about luck, of course, like roleplay nature is how to like, like a tabletop RPG, you’ll have somebody say like, they’ll realize, as they descend to the stairwell that oh, man, they should have said that cool thing or Oh, man, they should have picked up the wallet. In a recent, recent episode of like New York by night, one of the characters says, oh, shoot, like I, I drink this dude’s blood in the alley, and I walked away. And then a few scenes later, he’s like, Oh, I wanted to remember or say an event like, gosh, when I did that, I took his wallet, stuff like that. Call of Cthulhu lets you roll luck for that. And it’s just like, Oh if you failed to prepare, luck lets you maybe stumble across like the right thing luck allows you to remember. Oh, in hindsight, yes, I did bring my pistol right or something like that. And each time you roll and rely on luck, it diminishes. Anyway, it’s just like a little mechanic that doesn’t have like a huge impact on the game, but it creates a tiny system around not thinking ahead. And taking advantage of those moments when you realize he should have done something. So again, I just don’t see that it’s kind of like anywhere else. There are all sorts of different groups where you can push, like, push the stats a little bit like, Oh, I’m going to invest superpower into this stat, and you know, spend it, but yeah, so

Tim Broadwater  

the Marvel superhero game, like the old school game, has something that’s like this, except it’s called karma. It’s not called luck. And so it’s the Marvel superhero playing game. It lets you create your own characters. Your characters can be mutants or aliens, or altered humans or robots are magical, or, or just tech, like people, you know, no powers. But it has stats, that’s phaser rip, that’s what I always remember from it, because it’s fighting agility, strength, endurance, reason, intuition and psyche, right. And so, you have the first one phase F A S II, kind of equals out whatever you have, those abilities, that kind of dictates your health. But then what you have and reason, intuition and psyche dictate your karma. And so what karma means is that anytime you try to do anything in the game, you have a Karma Pool per character. Now, if you make a supergroup, let’s say you, and I are a dynamic duo, and we’re playing, we share our, our Karma Pool, we pull our pool essentially. And so, if you’re the Fantastic Four, you have an even bigger pool because you’re for people who have a Karma Pool. And then when you’re trying to do like a badass event, like I’m gonna throw this trashcan lid through a window and hit this like robber, and you miss it by like five points, then you can take a little bit from your Karma Pool to make sure it happens. Or if you want to make a critical success, and you’re like, dude, to make this a critical success, I need 15 More points to meet the mountain but then 10 more to put in the next one. You can take 15 points from that Karma Pool and then make it a critical success is like not only do you do that, but then he falls out the window and then lands in a dumpster and or you know, whatever. However, you want to play that. So you can shift you can use your individual Karma Pool or your combined Karma Pool for superheroes or villains to pull off call actions, but it is a limited resource that you only get what’s a pool, and That’s it goes down the pool regenerates like every day or like next adventure like so you don’t have an unlimited pool, you know?

Michael Schofield  

That awkward death of the conversation is brought to you by our advertiser. Thank you so much for listening to Design Thinking Games, a podcast about design, thinking and games. If you don’t know what design thinking is, rewind back to the beginning of the episode where we describe it. If you can, help us support help support the podcast by liking starting favoriting on your podcatcher of choice that tells the algorithm in the sky that we are deserving of its good graces. You can always visit our many Patreons on patreon.com/designthinkinggames, where we post things for ad-free, and that’s pretty dope. Or you can just follow us on any of the social media Twitter Twitch Tik Tok. The three T’s t cubed the cool kids call them were Design Thinking Games on all of them. Stay tuned for cool shit that we’re doing in the coming year, as well as additional podcasts and like sooner. This – uh, we both have COVID.

Tim Broadwater  

Unconfirmed! You highly suspect, right?

Michael Schofield  

This is what we can do. Stay safe. Get jabbed.

Introductory Guy  

Thank you for listening to the Design Thinking games podcast. You only have so much time, and it means a lot you shared it with us to connect with your hosts, Michael or Tim. Visit Design Thinking Games on TikTok, twitch and Twitter. DMs are open. You can also check out designthinkinggames.com, where you can request topics, ask questions or see what else is going on. Until next time, game on.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.