Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Time is money!

A couple posts ago I had begun thinking about the value of time. The balance between what things are worth and what your time is worth. I've expanded on those ideas as they relate to a game, and here's what I've got so far. You may notice a conspicuous lack of theme, or even title, but the important bits are the mechanics and the ideas behind them at the moment...

The basic structure of the game would be that each player has a set number of Action Points each turn - a constant Action income, if you will. They will also have some $ income, which will start out as a small number, but will grow over the course of the game as players build their income up. So in the beginning of the game, all players are cash-poor, and they all have the same number of actions (let's say 5 of them).

There would be at least 4 different things you could do with your action points:
Step 1) Shop for resources
Step 2) Upgrade your operation
Step 3) Process resources
Step 4) Profit!
The basic premise of the game is that in each step there is a trade-off of what amounts to money vs action points. In general you can spend money (or VPs) in order to conserve action points, or vice versa.

In greater detail:
Step 1) Shop for resources: As described 2 posts ago, the basic idea is that you can "spend time hunting for a bargain" by spending more action points to draw cards to choose from, and then only paying $1 per card you want to buy. These cards would have raw materials or resources that would be turned into something worth VPs later in the turn (step 3).

The current mechanic is that you can spend 1 action point to draw 1 card then decide if you want to buy it for $1. Or, you can spend 1 action point to draw 2 cards, then decide if you want to by either or both of them for $2 apiece. Finally, you could spend 1 action point to draw 3 cards, then decide if you want to by any or all of them for $3 each.

Thematically, when you can afford it you might be willing to pay more money for your resources, because you've got better things to do with your time than bargain hunting.

Step 2) Upgrade your operation: The game needs to have ways to change the resources from step 1 into something worth points in step 4 (via the processing in step 3). In Step 2 you'd spend some action points and some money (if you want) to purchase some form of upgrade - hire craftsmen, buy machines, build buildings, whatever. The net effect is that what you buy in step 2 will give you some abilities, income, or make step 3 more efficient in some cases (like if you hire a better carpenter, then you could do a better job of turning wood into furniture). I imagine the things you'd get in this part of the game would be on par with buildings in Puerto Rico, or Craftsmen in Pillars of the Earth.

Like step 1, the more action points you put into this action, then less money you'll need to spend.

Step 3) Process resources: Through this action you convert the resources from step 1 into something you can sell for money or victory points, using the upgrades from step 2. In this step, spending more action points (putting more time/effort into the conversion process) will yield a greater return per unit input. So if you take 1 Wood resource input, and rush through or do a bad job, you get 1 unit of Furniture. However, if you hired a better carpenter, maybe it takes him longer, but you end up with 2 units of furniture without any additional Wood resource input (like he makes a table, and a chair, instead of a table and a bunch of scrap).

I'm pretty sure the upgrades would have to indicate outputs per input, like the Carpenter could say:
1 ap: 1 Wood -> 1 Furniture
2 ap: 2 Wood -> 3 Furniture

Step 4) Profit!: Finally, you want to profit off of the work you've done so far. In this game there are 2 ways to profit: Money, and Victory Points. Depending on what you have done with your resources, you'd sell the products for money, or VPs, or some combination thereof. It seems logical to keep the same kind of game mechanic wherein you could spend extra time/effort (action points) in order to get a better deal (more money/vp per unit sold).

In the end, the player with the most victory points would win, and I think it would be much better to separate VPs from Money in this case. If it were just all about making money I think it would lose a dimension and be less interesting. I like games where you need to build money income, but eventually have to start generating VPs to win - if you just keep pumping up your income, you'll be rich, but you won't have won the game. I think it's far more interesting that way.

1 comment:

The Psychic Guy said...

Time is money and we as humans need to learn how to run ahead of technology to get the money.