New Game, Who Dies?
When we first started the planning phase of Betrayal at Calth, a central tenet was to not recreate the board game, but make something unique to a digital environment. Once we headed down that road, it quickly became clear that the translation of a board game into a videogame requires adjustments. When you lose the conversational nature of playing with someone across the table, some streamlining is in order. This streamlining allows for a different kind of experience that allows players to focus on why our game is a videogame: animation, immersion within an environment, complex systems without bookkeeping, the good stuff.
Some of the earliest conversations in development were about the board game's system of which Legionaries die during an attack. In that, the defending player chooses which Legionary gets killed for each casualty the attacker inflicts. While this presents a wide range of tactical options for the defender, it creates a pacing problem when you're in a multiplayer videogame match. Handing play priority back and forth across networked play requires a lot of player signaling that can feel a little nagging.
So we want to automate the process of how individual Legionaries die. The big question becomes, how do we automate this while staying true to the essence of the board game? To answer this, the place to look is the decision making process of a defending player.
Say the defending unit has a Boltgun, Flamer, and Missile Launcher, and one of them is going to die. How does a player choose? Typically the first thing to do is weigh the Shoot value of these weapons, as raw firepower is fairly important. The Boltgun clearly loses out here, but the Shoot value alone doesn't tell the whole story. We need to look at Critical Effects with the following questions in mind: Which one of these is the most important to my current situation? To future situations? Versus my opponent's playstyle?
There are a great number of factors here, but if we distill the process over many games, players come up with a heuristic for what is the most valuable. While the nature of heuristics mean that they vary from player to player, we can roughly divide weapons into tiers of strength using factors of ability, firepower, and flexibility.
This means the lower tier a weapon falls into, the more likely a player is to lose that model. As a happy coincidence, we already rank weapons by a point value (Deployment Points and Rank, a future post!), so we can easily take this value as an indicator of what tier a weapon falls into to come up with a kill priority. Any weapons that are tied in value have their order randomized, to give things a little variance.
There are other considerations here, having to do with the rank of Legionaries that are defending, but this is the core of simplifying a system to suit the medium.