Rocket Rumble is based on an idea Ben (our Chief Creative Officer) had been thinking about for a while, so when it came time to begin prototyping we started with some pretty solid ideas about what sort of game we wanted to make. It would be a multiplayer collectible card game (CCG), focusing on 2-player battles involving the strategic positioning of cards on ships, with a higher-level map-based component.
Even with those guiding ideas in mind, there’s an infinite number of possible permutations of the collectible card game, so the first thing to do was to start nailing down some of the core mechanics and concepts. So while Vicky (our Chief Technical Officer) and George (our Client-Side Lead) got started building the architecture which would support the game, Ben and I got stuck into some paper prototyping.
CCGs are especially well-suited to this approach, essentially being digital versions of physical card games. We drafted a number of basic cards with attack, damage and health in a spreadsheet and then wrote them by hand onto blank cards. We drew a grid onto a sheet of paper to stand in for the ships. Tokens stood in for health, power and, in some iterations, ammo.
Iterating quickly is key at this stage, trying out new ideas, incorporating, combining and re-working good ones, ditching bad ones, figuring out the possibility space, and teasing out a sketch of a game that feels fun. Paper prototyping gave us the ability to do this rapidly, without having to invest time in building systems only to decide the idea was no good after all. For instance, when trialling an early ‘ammo’ mechanic, we could quickly switch between playing with or without it, to compare and examine the results.
Paper Prototyping Essentials
- Pens and Pencils
- Blank cards
- Coloured tokens
- A variety of dice
- Post-it notes
Paper prototyping also let us respond immediately to unpredictable developments on the fly, even mid-match. It’s exceedingly unlikely you’ll sit down and figure out a solid, balanced, fun set of complex, interacting systems on your first try. It’s true that ideas don’t develop in a vacuum, and smashing two mechanics together and seeing what falls out is a great way to discover mechanics you might not otherwise have thought of.
Having a game shift, mutate, evolve and come into focus so quickly is both inspiring and motivating, and after a couple of weeks we felt like we had a good grasp of what Rocket Rumble would become.