I am glad to see you back again :)
Today I want to talk about failing, and especially failing forward, as this is a big part of my design philosophy behind Rogue Angels, and how the campaign and experience has been constructed.
I hope you will enjoy the read :)
Failing is part of life and you have to embrace it that way. You may not like it but without failure you would not grow. If you could redo your failures, you would never have learned those hard lessons.
The same goes for failing in a game. However, as a raised-in-the-90s kind of gamer, I am acutely aware of how video games treated gamers in the early days. It was a no-mercy system of restarting a mission upon failure, and after a series of failures usually the whole game.
For better or worse these days are gone, and while you can certainly argue that the pendulum has swung way too much to the other side, I would like to focus on how I have worked with failing in Rogue Angels.
The pillars of failure in Rogue Angels
When I started creating missions for Rogue Angels, I had a few ideas on how I wanted players to feel when achieving success, and how I wanted them to experience defeated. From those ideas I sat a couple of design rules for myself.
1) Failing is an outcome - not a restart
Like mentioned above, you cannot redo failures. You have to live with them. This means that players will journey forward, but the game and/or NPCs will remember the outcomes of some missions. In some instances this means that player might be rewarded or punished down the line, if they suddenly encounter another similar situation. Some allies or factions may also look at the team's capabilities differently, depending on how the team has performed.
- In practice: I have included legacy dots in player folders to discretely keep track of this.
2) Never force players to redo decisions
If you have made a decision during a mission, and you suddenly have to redo it, because a failure sends you back to the starting square, I have missed the mark with my design. Not only can you now change the outcome, but that decision also loses a lot of gravitas. Decisions are there once, and when you have made up your mind, that is what you have to live with.
- In practice: Players are never allowed to redo a mission. Missions branches early with failure outcomes where players may have worse odds for completing the entire mission successfully, but it can be done. Some missions are there to pick up players who might have lost at specific points etc.
3) Players must feel something is at stake
When players can redo missions it is hard to convey that there is something at stake. By having the world around them acknowledge that they did not manage to save a particular person, or have an NPC die in front of them can leave a lasting effect. On top of this, each character can only fail a certain amount of times before they die.
- In practice: Characters have scars on their character sheets (circles on the right). For the rest, that is spoiler territory ;)
4) Never punish players for initial performance.
Now, as much as I want gravitas and epic moments in Rogue Angels, I also want to be accommodating on what I call initial performance. In the beginning of a mission players may underestimate the danger of a certain enemy type, or perhaps misjudge just how much speed is needed to reach the other side of a map. This can happen to anyone, and I do not want to punish players, I want them to enjoy every moment of it. And making sure they can restart the first segment leaves room for that.
- In practice: The very first mission segment of every mission must be restarted, if it is failed. Missions usually last 3-4 segments.
The exception to prove the rule: The very first mission must be restarted no matter what segment players fail. With only 1 failure after at least 150 observed play-throughs of the first mission, I have found it appropriate that players familiarize themselves enough with the mechanics to be capable of completing the introduction mission.
Thank you for reading, I hope this gave you some insights and inspiration :)
Now it is time for you to tell me what you think about failing forward in games. What do you like/dislike about it? Have other games done something great? What do you hope to see in Rogue Angels?
In advance, thank you for your kind support.
Best regards Emil
Join the community on Discord and Facebook | Get notified when the Kickstarter launches
Leave a Reply.