November 14th, 2010
In my past article Puzzle Quest – Variation, Lastability and Repair, I diagnosed the problem with Puzzle Quest‘s lack of variation as:
“The main problem is that progress in Puzzle Quest is tied to the underlying system of abstraction (player statistics, equipment, companions) and not the core rules of the game (a modification of Bejewelled). Therefore, while the numbers change, the core gameplay remains largely the same throughout the entire experience. This is all compounded by the fact that every quest is invariably a battle; the same battle played over and over again with only mild statistical variation.”
And suggested that this issue can be overcome if Puzzle Quest were to use a model of variation similar to puzzle games where the conditions governing play are altered as to change the way the player uses the primary mechanics. In puzzle games, these are often referred to as play modes (standard, survival, etc). If Puzzle Quest‘s quests comprised of a series of modes instead of the one mode that it has (matching skull gems to deplete opponent’s HP which I will dub “battle mode”), then the game would be significantly more interesting to players.
Alternative modes can be created by adding or altering the key elements of play. The screenshot below presents the “competitive Bejewelled” elements nicely:
Below are my propositions for alternative quest formats that could be added alongside typical battles to diversify the “competitive Bejewelled” gameplay.
This could be set under the pretense that your kingdom is being attacked by rival armies. This mode follows the rule of “battle mode”, but introduces a time limit which runs down as the participants are taking their turns. When the time is up, the player with the least HP retreats from the battle (so as to save what’s left of their weakened army). In order to stop players from drawing the first attack and then waiting for the timer to expire, both participants will gradually take damage from crossfire. Namely the player will take the grunt of the crossfire in respects to an AI opposition as to fully prevent the player from exploiting the “wait and wither” tactic once they’ve taken a sizable chunk of HP out of their opponent.
The limitation set by the timer creates gives more value to advanced spells which take longer to build up and therefore creates a stronger risk/reward dynamic strategies which have short term and long term benefit.
Hand-to-hand battles is “battle mode” stripped of all abstraction. Both opponents take a fixed amount of damage based on their 3-gem matches, spells cannot be cast and the number of skulls that generate randomly increase with every turn (as to build to a climax). This mode simulates a real hand-to-hand battle in “competitive Bejewelled” and concentrates the players focus on matching skulls and nothing else.
Players are stripping an area of mana dry and need to fill a majority quota of mana before their opponent. Matching skulls will take mana away from the other player. This mode is an inversion of the “battle mode”, but in effect allows healing (the inverse of damaging the opponent).
When battling an opponent with very thick armour, the player must first break the armour by making matches of 4 or more. Any matches less than 4 gems do not take any damage off. Once the player breaks the armour, then the battle resumes as normal. These matches would be a little tougher as the opposition can take pot shots at the player while they’re chipping away at their opponent’s armour. There’s a precedence then to quickly make matches of 4. When the armour is in play, experience and money gems could be disabled as to speed up the game.
Bomb gems are added to the board, each bomb is given a number which indicates the number of turns until the bomb explodes. When a bomb explodes, it damages the combatant who is in relative proximity. The closer the bomb is to a combatant, the greater damage sustained from the explosion. Since the board is 8 gems wide, there is no safe area for a bomb to go off. The player must therefore try to make combinations that will move the bombs away from themselves and to the opposite side of the board.