We’ve been hard at work here at Robot Viking HQ deveoping the first Robot Viking original game. We were hoping to have the alpha rules for Project: Death Race posted this week. So why is it taking so long? ‘Cause this game design stuff is harder than it looks.
Project: Death Race (a working title we’ll almost certainly have to discard) is a game of automotive combat using 1/64 scale die-cast cars. There are more details here, and an example of one of the cars here. First, the good news: in preliminary play-testing, the game is fun, even in a fairly stripped down form. If it wasn’t fun, the whole thing would be pretty pointless – it’s not like we’re going to win awards for historical accuracy here.
There’s something else I’m even more excited about. RPG and comic book illustrator (among many other talents) Juan Navarro has jumped on board the Death Race Express, and has already contributed some seriously cool sketches. You can see part of one above. We’ve had a bunch of people offer support, playtesting help and design ideas, including Brian and Andy of the Game On! podcast. Of course, we invite all Robot Viking readers to participate in playtesting when we post the open alpha rules, but it’s awesome to have some hardcore gamers willing to contribute.
The bad news is, we’re at least another two weeks from alpha. The rules are mostly done, though some sections need to be modified and added. We’ve had some incredibly productive playtest sessions, including one in which we basically wrote the rulebook as we played through the game. A more recent session revealed a lack of rules for driving in reverse and a gross miscalculation of ramming damage. An SUV doing 40 mph does a lot of damage, but it isn’t a tactical nuke.
The other big hold-up is the formula for calculating the point cost of special equipment. We took a big step in the right direction this week when we nailed down the formula for weapons, but for other special equipment, there really is no formula. It’s going to take some time to figure out. After that, it’s just details. Cleaning up the rules, laying out the rulebook and creating the template for the maneuver tool.
I’ll leave you future Death Racers with a design question that we can discuss in the comments. Currently, the to-hit number for a weapon attack is based on the speed and the difficulty of the most recently completed maneuver for both the attacker and the target. In other words, if you’ve got the pedal to the floorboard and are making insane hairpin turns, you’re going to be hard to hit, but it’s also hard to get off a clean shot at anyone else. This makes sense – your attention is spread a little to thin to take careful aim. But if the to-hit number were based only on the target’s speed and maneuver, then there would be more incentive to drive fast and insane. You’d be harder to hit, but you wouldn’t penalize yourself. One design choice offers an interesting tactical decision, the other encourages crazy, chaotic gameplay. Thoughts?