Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Rule for Street Illegal

This week, time for some game design. I'm going to try to create a new rule for Street Illegal.

As you can see from my game impressions, my only complaint is that there is no penalty for travelling extremely slowly when in last place, whereas cars in the other positions actually have to keep their speed up to avoid being passed - in other words, they actually have to race. So I wanted to make a rule to discourage slow speeds in last place, so that everyone wants to race. Since the game basically works pretty well as is, I'd like to be conservative and give my new rule a fairly subtle effect.

The initial thought is to penalize players who are travelling slowly in last place. There are really only three things you can "lose" during the game - position, chips, and hand size. Losing hand size is rather drastic, and you can't go farther back than last place. So penalizing with chips seems logical. This leads to rule idea:

Rule v1: If you end the round in last place, you lose a chip if you have any.

Note: When the rule says "lose a chip if you have any", this is a potential red flag - can a player unfairly avoid the rule simply by arranging to not have any chips? In the present case, this isn't an issue. The behavior we are trying to discourage is driving slowly at the back to build up chips. There is no need to penalize players who have no chips, as they clearly aren't performing the behavior we want to discourage.

The idea with Rule v1 is to make players want to compete hard to stay out of last place, because last place is bad. The negative is that the rule is too broad. It penalizes players who are racing as fiercely as possible, but are unsuccessful. Basically, it kicks the player who is down, something I usually try to avoid. So:

Rule v2: If you are in last place, you must pay at least one chip during the round, either to exceed the speed limit or to pass the car ahead of you.

This is much better. It doesn't really penalize you much at all if you are really trying to race, but if you aren't racing at all, it is practically the same as losing a chip straight out.

Now, what is the game rationale for not travelling really slowly when in last place? The obvious is that you would be left behind. But an idea I had that is more consistent with a penalty in chips, rather than position, is that the police are chasing you on your illegal street race, and if you drive too slowly you have to spend a chip trying to outmaneuver the cops. This leads me to another idea:

Rule: If you are in last place, you must pay a chip if you travel less than the speed limit.

Hmm, this is missing something - what if there is no speed limit?

Rule v3: If you are in last place, you must pay a chip if you travel less than 90 mph.

This was my first solution, but I think the following may be more elegant:

Rule v4: If you are in last place, you must pay a chip if you travel less than the speed limit (100 mph if no limit).

This is the same as Rule v2, but if you can exactly match the speed limit, you don't have to pay. I think I like that it is slightly more subtle, and it means that you can still try to save up chips, but you need driving skill to do so - to drive at exactly the speed limit, rather than just driving really slowly. And setting the minimum speed based on the speed limit matches the fact that when you aren't in last place, you need to driver faster on roads with higher speed limits to avoid being passed.

I will try Rule v4.

New Rules:

Police: After performing your drive action, if you are in last place and you are travelling less than the speed limit (less than 100 mph if no speed limit), you are harassed by the police and you lose one chip. If you don't have any chips, you don't lose anything.

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