Friday, December 14, 2007

Idea for Hot & Fresh - traffic light operation

First thoughts on Hot & Fresh in quite some time!

In H&F players are driving around town to deliver pizzas, and they are in a hurry because as time goes on their tip (score for delivering) goes down as well. The idea is to (a) be efficient in your path when making deliveries, and (b) press your luck by breaking traffic laws.

One of the main aspects of the game - the original thought that started it in fact - was a system of traffic lights which serve to create a dynamic board. As lights change over time, routes also change. Originally I was going to disallow running a red light, so the available routes on the board would literally change, but when traffic laws entered the game it made sense to allow breaking that rule - at a high price.

I had some grandiose ideas for a gimmicky way to represent the status of the traffic lights at different intersections around the board, as well as making them change at different rates. It was a really neat idea which would take care of everything very simply for the players. It involved a "color wheel" beneath the board with circular strips of color alternating Green/Yellow/Red. Holes in the board at the traffic light locations would reveal the color beneath, and rotating the wheel 1 notch would change some of the lights as the strip of color would either continue, or change color, at that location.

While novel, that particular idea has posed a problem in prototyping. I had come up with a proxy solution using 6 sided dice, 1 per intersection, labeled with color (G/Y/R) and an arrow. At the appropriate time the dice would be flipped in the direction of the arrow and the new face would indicate the state of the light. I didn't love the solution, because (a) you could see whether a yellow light would stay yellow or turn red next time, and (b) I realized each light has 2 states, really - depending on direction of travel (a potential downfall to the color wheel as well).

I came up with another, better proxy - which may well be the best solution for the game. Square tiles that look something like this:

These tiles indicate the state of the light (G/Y/R) in each direction. when it's time to change the lights, you either flip (maintaining orientation) or flip and rotate the tile as indicated, so green changes to yellow, yellow to red, and red to green.

I think it's relatively important that the traffic lights aren't on a strict schedule. I want players to wonder just how long that green light down the street will hold out, or whether the yellow will still be there next turn or if they need to stop at the light. Today I had a further thought as to how to make the lights progress properly but not calculably:

Let's say there are 12 intersections in the game, each labeled 1-6 (2 of each number). When it's time for lights to change (maybe at the end of a round), roll 4d6 (maybe 6). Each intersection who's number comes up advances (flip or flip/rotate as appropriate). The Flip/Rotate side could have a "+/-1" on it, meaning intersection 5 if green/red would advance if at least 1 5 was rolled, whereas that same intersection if yellow/red would advance if a 4, 5, or 6 was rolled.

Thus yellow lights are more likely to change than green lights. Lights have a pretty good chance of changing each time, but there's no guarantee. It might well be that the numbers are off - maybe yellow's too likely to change that way, or maybe there should be more dice rolled, or maybe there should be 9 intersections and d10s should be rolled... but the theory I think is sound.

I've resolved (or will resolve in a couple weeks) to finish this prototype and play it, so I'm sure I'll be posting more about it in the near future!

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