Game Design Rules #4: Too Much Work Breaks a Good Feature

There is a feature I was really happy to add to “Industrial Revolution!”, and that is the conveyor belt. I probably added them inspired by the great videogame “Factorio” (which I really recommend), as they are the main feature of that game.

The way I adapted them is simple and works really well (in my absolutely non-biased opinion). Anything on top of a conveyor belt square by the end of the turn, will move a certain amount of squares in the direction of the arrows.

The system was working really well in the tests, players used them to travel around the board, and I also had some cards and other effects that could trigger when being on the conveyors, so they were a really interesting element of the game.

Seeing that, I had a great idea (it wasn’t), to add even more ways to use to conveyors.

We Came Here to Play, Not to Work

Some squares of the board are the pickup points. Each turn players roll a dice, and depending on that roll, resources will appear on some of those squares if they are empty. Those resources will remain on that square unless a worker takes them.

The idea I had was to put some of those pickup points on top of the conveyor belts. This way, resources would appear there and travel around the board, creating a new interesting mechanic: resources not gathered quick enough would move away towards your enemies, and that would cause huge fights over them (very similar to what I think must happen on those conveyor belt Sushi restaurants).

At first it seemed to work really well, exactly as I expected it. But then, randomness happened. If you remember, the dice roll decides where resources appear. Well, we rolled the dice, and added 4 resources on the conveyor belts. And the next turn, 4 more. And the next turn, 4 more…
We soon had around 15 resources on the conveyor belt, more than anybody could gather, and that removed any need to fight for them, as some were going to reach your zone anyway.

But the worst part was that we had to move all of them, every single turn. That’s something you can do on a videogame, as the computer will be handling that. But when players have to do it manually, so many times with so many items, it soon becomes tedious.

For some reason, players don’t want to do tedious tasks when playing a game, even if they might do it on their daily job. That’s a bit of a double standard there, but anyway, I had to remove that idea from the game to avoid it.

An Interesting Solution

I’ve recently backed a game, “Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time”, which has an interesting solution for a similar problem. As it has to handle many enemies moving, instead of using individual tokens for each enemy, they’ve created 5x5 small boards with enemies drawn in some of their squares. Instead of moving 20-30 single enemies each turn, you only have to move 4-5 of those boards.

This wouldn’t have worked in my situation, as all the other systems of my game require having individual elements, but it’s an interesting idea for any future conveyor belt system I try to do.

Next post will cover how Small Changes can Make a Huge Difference.

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