Halo ActionClix: A Different Game Design
Posted by lukems at 6/28/2007 11:48 AM PDT
Several Weekly Updates ago, we talked about a partnership with Wizkids that would bear fruit in the form of Halo ActionClix, a table top game in the vein of Wizkids previous Clix games like Mage Knight and HeroClix. Halo ActionClix will be a CMG (Collectible Mini-Game), a property that players and hobbyists alike will gravitate toward. “Even if you aren’t a Clix gamer,” says Mark Tuttle, “You may end up checking out Halo ActionClix because they can adorn your workspace.”
I’ve never played a Clix game in my entire life – so I headed over to the Wizkids outpost near Seattle to learn about this different kind of game design.
In Halo ActionClix, as opposed to previous games, a bunch of core changes have been made to the way the actual game is played. In a typical match, players will place two spawn points and then their five Clix figures onto the playing field. Players are playing on a gridded map, each package of Clix figures contains a map and either four or five-figure booster packs.
Each of the figures fits into a class, these classes are divided by points. Without drilling too deep into things, a marine is worth less than the Master Chief carrying a Needler, who is worth less than the Master Chief carrying a Rocket Launcher and so on. At the beginning of a round, players are capped with how many points they can have among their five units, so everyone won’t be pulling out their Tartarus figure right away.
Instead over the course of a match – a match’s goal is to record five kills (when your units are killed they respawn on your next turn, at which point you can swap them for another unit of the same point level [units have different abilities based on their weapons, unit type, et cetera]) – your units will earn upgrade tokens from a number of things. Landing on an enemies spawn token results in the roll of the dice that may award players an upgrade token, logging a kill earns units an upgrade token – these tokens can be redeemed so that your force can evolve from greenshirts into more seasoned roles (Spartans, Sgt. Johnson, Invisible Elites with Plasma swords).
Movement, damage and defense are all dictated by the “Clix” portion of the game. Each figurine is on a clickable stand that boasts a given character’s statistics. As players take damage (done by rolling a dice and adding it to the attack rating of a character and then subtracting the defense value from the total, if the result is greater than zero damage is done per the damage rating on the click). As characters take more damage, their movement ranges, offensive capabilities and defensive skills begin to suffer.
While this all sounds fairly complicated, within a few minutes of watching a game being played it started to make sense. The Halo ActionClix does an incredible job of translating elements like respawns, dual-wielding and a wide cast of characters from the Haloverse into a table top game. To find a little bit more about how, we talked to Senior Game Designer (and comedian) Mike Elliott from Wizkids.
Q: When developing a game for an existing IP, what are some of the biggest challenges, and how do you overcome said challenges?
A: The biggest challenges are figuring out the important elements of the property that the players really love, and represent that on a flat board with miniatures with no moving graphics or sound. You have to convey the story through the game play.
And it has to be fun. And by fun, I mean it has to be really fun. You have to make it so players want to come back and play your game over and over, and they want to tell their friends about it and teach their friends to play it also. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of games I have played where I finished saying, “Hmmm. That was sort of interesting.” and throw it in the basement to never be played again.
Q: When starting to design a game, are you beginning with pencil and paper?
A: I never start out with pen and paper. I usually start out seeing how I would represent the game in Interpretive Dance. I don't usually get a great deal of usable design out of this, but I consider it an important first step. I've been told that some other designers bypass this step, but I like to be thorough. My next step is usually to pick out what the key elements of the game are going to be. Game design is one part brilliant creativity, three parts thievery, and four parts mixing the "borrowed" material into your game in a way that makes it look like the one part brilliant creativity was 8 parts brilliant creativity. There are tens of thousands of games out, and even if you are some sort of fantastic Rock Star cutting edge game designer with women hounding you everywhere you go, you are probably still covering someone else's songs.
So I sit, and stare, and think, and read message boards, and of course, play games. And finally I hit on some game mechanic that seems innovative enough to play around with that fits the property. Then it starts to go really fast. What's the random element of the game going to be? Where is the strategy? Does it capture the property well? Is there enough depth in the game system to keep players coming back?
Once I have reasonable options for most of these questions, only then do I start writing stuff down. The failed concepts, like the Halo farming game which used the Warthogs to plow the fields and the Banshees as crop dusters; or the economic game where you try to get the most money you can selling different kinds of weapons to Marines and Brutes, those game concepts stay safely locked up in my mind where they can't harm anyone.
And the part about women hounding game designers? I made that up. It's a common game designer fantasy. Someday maybe I will get to make that into a game.
Q: What’s the process of getting one of these games made?
A: The first step is always to figure out who is going to be buying and playing the game. Your marketing and brand people will usually start with "The entire population of the planet." and work down from there. For Halo ActionClix, we finally narrowed them down to "everyone who doesn't faint when they get a paper cut." and eventually got them down to the primary audience of fans of the Halo 3 game, with casual gamers and especially casual miniatures players as a very important target group as well.
Next is to figure out what elements of the IP you can capture and which ones you should ignore. Take ammunition. It's an important concept in the Halo game, but if you had to keep track of your ammo every turn it would slog the game down and annoy everyone. So ammo is out as a mechanic. When I talked to people about what they thought about when they thought about Halo, after the number one answer of Master Chief (who we did in fact incorporate into the game), a very common answer was weapon swapping. So we came up with a cool and interesting system where you could swap out a figure with one weapon for another figure with a different weapon, and the side effect of this was that now instead of just the figures you started the game with, your ENTIRE collection you brought to the table was available for the game.
For Halo ActionClix, we also were able to represent one of the other key elements, which is respawning. When one of your figures is eliminated from play, you are not out of luck like you are in many miniatures games. Your figure gets to pop right back onto the board and start shooting again. In fact, if your figure started with a grenade and you used it up, you get a new grenade when you respawn. Because your figures are never permanently destroyed, the game is played until one player gets to a certain number of kills.
The last step once you have all the mechanics pieces together is to put it all together and playtest. In playtesting the goals are, it feels like Halo, it is easy to learn but has a good amount of play depth, and mostly importantly, it is fun to play and you finish the game up with both players saying, “Let’s play again.”
At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Wizkids will be unveiling something pretty incredible for Halo fans and ActionClix players alike. We’re not telling you what it is, though; you’ll just have to wait until the Comic Con which runs from July 26-29 this summer.
Hay guys, wut's goin' on in this boxen?
also over at wizkids website there is finally a proper section for there halo line on the new website they have a description of what the game is you can either read it below or go to the site yourself
The innovative Halo™ ActionClix® Clix dial tracks a unit's health and vital combat stats like attack, damage, speed, and defense. For each 1 damage dealt to your Halo unit during battle, you click its dial once clockwise. As the dial clicks down, the unit's combat abilities evolve. When the dial goes black, the unit is eliminated and must respawn at one of the spawn points on the map.
Halo is a game about firepower, and the over 80 figures, vehicles, and 3-D objects in Halo ActionClix allow incredible combinations of weaponry from the Halo universe. The unique "weapon swap" game mechanic allows you to give a unit on the play map a stronger weapon. Halo ActionClix also features character cards for each unit, which describe the special abilities that units possess.
You can also upgrade your units by eliminating your opponent's units or controlling vital areas on the map.
Build your force.
Finish the fight!