Dinoverse Design Diary - Mechanics Design
How did game designer, Steve Ng design the unique game mechanics of Dinoverse with each dinosaur having its own scoring system? We find out from him!
Q1: Why did you design a central herd of dinosaur with players managing 2 dinosaurs. What player experience do you hope to achieve?
The initial idea for a shared pool of cards and players holding 2 cards came from the intention of redesigning Texas Hold’em Poker. The dinosaur theme came as the game as a whole reminded me of a childhood animate movie: Dinosaur (2000). The movie was about a large group of herbivores travelling and searching for a new home, whilst carnivores attacked them, and they dealt with "dino-politics" amongst themselves. In such, I hope players are able to create such an experience as they wrestle to introduce their preferred dinosaurs to the herd and direct the herd’s destination based on their own little group of dinosaurs.
Q2: Why is there a point system for each dinosaur? How does this help to direct the central strategy for each player while playing the game?
Initially, I wanted to follow the Texas Hold’em model, allowing players to place bets according to the cards in their hand and manipulate the central pool such that it swung in their favor. This turned out to be difficult to manage as I also wanted different types of cards that could perform different tricks and scored in different ways. Also, the gambling portion of the game was deemed family unfriendly. That was when I decided to scrap the betting and implement the point system on the cards themselves. When I finally decided to go with a dinosaur theme, I wanted each dinosaur to feel different and interesting. This was where I did a ton of research into the crowd favorite dinosaurs and thought about how I could implement their behavior into the game. I believe that I managed to do so fairly well, and players can be immersed in the unique personality of each dinosaur species in the game.
Q3: How do you balance the luck and strategy of this game?
There has always been a struggle to keep games from feeling too lucky as well as allowing new players to stand a decent chance against veterans. This was especially difficult as Dinoverse required players to have a decent understanding of how each dinosaur in the game worked. As such, I tried to keep scoring in the game as flexible as possible, allowing players to switch their win conditions mid game by swapping out their own dinosaurs with the herd’s. Having a face up and face down dinosaur for each player allowed everyone to have some information about how each person would be attempting to score but as the information was not complete, it allowed veterans to keep some tricks up their sleeves. Especially with the addition of the Egg token, which allowed players to take an additional turn, the tactics players could exact each turn greatly expanded.
Q4: Why do you have different ending events for the game. How does this help to balance the power balance between various faction at end game?
In the initial concept of the game, each round ended after all players had decided to place their bet, freezing in place their personal set of cards. However, with the removal of the gambling system, I had to implement a new method of ending the game. Referencing the ‘Dinosaur’ movie, I added ‘destinations’ in the deck to signal the end of the game. Each ‘destination’ would have different consequences and benefits for the 2 factions of dinosaurs, herbivores and carnivores. These cards would be shuffled into the bottom few cards of the deck and could be manipulated by players to be triggered or discarded as they wished, should they be so lucky to draw them. I also added in a card named ‘Extinction’ as a hard stop to the game should the deck run out. ‘Extinction’ did not have any benefit or consequence but allow each player to have a fair number of turns before the game ended.
This allowed the game to have variable endings that could mildly swing the game in one faction’s favor while still giving the other faction some reaction time to catch up as the game drew to an end.
Steve is the designer of Cryptocurrency, Check Out!, Hotpot Havoc and Combo Cone Paradise! Find out more about the games he designed at www.capitalgainsgroup.com