12 January, 2012

Hell On Eight Wheels: Four – A Closer Look at Movement

Once we start nailing down the procedures used to move skaters around the track, we define one of the core aspects of the game.

Moving on wheels is different to walking, a good procedure should reflect this. Without skill, this form of movement is difficult because traction between the mover and the ground works differently. But all skaters have a degree of inherent skill, they must possess a range of mastered skills before they may be recognised as skaters by the WFTDA.

With this in mind, even the most inexperienced skaters in a bout are not complete novices. The worst skaters simply aren’t allowed on the track because they are a danger to themselves and to others. Not a deliberate danger, they would be prone to mistakes under pressure.

But the key to a high stakes game is that there is pressure…and even experienced veterans have the chance of cracking under pressure.

This brings up issues of skater statistics and the various aspects that might differentiate one skater from another…but I’ll leave that for a later development post. For the moment I’ll stick to movement.

Now that I’ve looked further into the game Formula D, I’ve found some fun mechanisms. In this game you choose a gear at the start of your turn, then this allows you to roll a specific die to determine the distance moved. 1st gear provides low movement (but more control), high gear provides high movement (but less control). This is the kind of thing I want for Ho8W.

Instead of the six gars in Formula D, it is probably better to strip the movement down to three levels. We’ll temporarily call them walk, run and sprint; but these names are neither bad-ass nor roller oriented, so they will be subject to change later on.

With 36 movement segments around the track, we can work out some basic rates of movement. These rates of movement are loosely based on reality, but are more defined by the competitive balance of the game. There is no way that a game like this will manage to be completely accurate according to real world physics; and the closer we try to get, the more boring the game play will be. We looking for the spirit of roller derby in a board game, if you want reality, get out and buy a pair of skates….but enough rant.

A game needs to remain fairly competitive throughout the course of play (or at the very least, this needs to be the appearance). Players needs to get the feeling that they are actually progressing toward a victory, closing the gap on their opponent, or being involved in something dramatic with every move they make.  

The slowest movement speed is not moving at all; this isn’t exciting, but it is the aftermath of a crash or a fall (especially when multiple skaters pile on top of one another in a pack collision). We don’t want skaters stationary for long, at most it will take a single turn to get up (unless a serious injury has occurred).

The slowest speed while actually moving is the “walk”; this could basically be considered the default speed for the blockers of the pack. It will take 4 to 5 complete turns of movement to get around the track at this pace, and working backward with this in mind a typical “walk” action should allow for movement of 6 to 10 segments.

The fast speed is the “run”; this could basically be considered the default speed for the pivots. It should take about three complete turns of movement to get around the track at this pace. Again, working backward, this means that a “run”  should allow for around 12 segments (let’s say 10 to 15) of movement.

The fastest speed is the sprint; the default speed for the jammers. We never want the jammer to lap the activation marker, otherwise they would miss out on a complete activation turn after sprinting and would suffer as a result. But since the scoring is all about the jammers, they need to move fast. I’m figuring that an unimpeded jammer can make it around the track in under two turns. This means a pace of about 15 to 20 segments with each movement activation.

It would be easy to fit this into a triangular number sequence…

1 = 1
3 = 1+2
6 = 1+2+3 (Minimum Walk)
10 = 1+2+3+4 (Maximum Walk or Minimum Run)
15 = 1+2+3+4+5 (Maximum Run or Minimum Sprint)
21 = 1+2+3+4+5+6 (Maximum Sprint)

But that seems a bit contrived at the moment…maybe something to fall back on if other ideas don’t pan out.
I like the Formula D concept of acceleration and braking; it fits the ideas I have for movement in this game. Skaters start stationary, and if they want to build up speed they have to progress through stages of walking and running before they reach the sprint. If they want to slow down, they have to either gradually reduce their speed or fall to the ground (and start again from scratch). I don’t know how accurate this is from an actually derby skater’s perspective, but it seems like a reasonable approximation.

There’s plenty more work to do on this, but I’ll leave it here for this post.

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