We are working on a new mobile title as we currently call, Nomad. We observed that the number of mobile strategy games on the mobile markets are too few. After hundereds hours of playing Civilization, Total War and Settlers of Catan, we decided to design a good strategy game on mobile.
Before talking about our prototype in Google Sheets, I would like to speak of the game briefly.
Nomad, as its name tells, is a game about nomadic tribes. It is a hexagon tile based, resource management, turn-based mobile strategy game. Instead of settlement games such as Civilization or lets say Catan, players are mobile. They can move their settlements according to their needs. This mobile settlements gathers the resources from the occupied hexagon tiles. Resources, food, wood, stone, iron and gold, can be used to carve totem heads which give certain or unique advantages to the player.
Basically, players place or move totems on tiles, gather resources from occupied tiles, extend their tribe, enhance totems with totem heads and overcome the enemies.
However we had no experience about adjusting the game balance in such games. So we started to conceptualize the game by mixing a few board games. It really helped out to see how the game works, where are the main problems and how can we solve them.
When things get complicated on board we decided to move the idea into digital. But we still tried to avoid work on Unity. Because using Unity before the game design takes its final shape might lead us into trouble later. At least it might cost us weeks of work if we start to create actual game before overcoming the design problems. Unity is a very efficient tool for prototyping the gameplay, but for balancing the resources, using Google Sheets became the most efficient way for us.
So we divided the design into parts. For the MVP, we decided to have a small game map for at least 2 players. Players should be able to gather resources, move the totems, place new totems and carve the basic totem heads to enhance.
While there are no random map generator algorythm yet, we manually adjust the resources that will be seen on tiles. Tile resources sheet can be seen below. Each number in tiles column represents a tile in game map. Others are resources that will be seen on tiles.
The sheet above generates a game map as can be seen below. The resources are represented by the icons. It is nice to watch how the map is built.
We can simulate placing totems or moving them in Totem sheet. In that sheet we are able to place totem heads as well. As you can see below, the numbers in totem column represents each totem. The numbers in player column tells which player owns which totem. 4 head columns is for which totem heads applied to which totem. Check boxes in active column are for placing a totem into the game. Occupy column tells which totem occupies which tile. This is used for moving totems as well.
The variables above are written to the game map when the place totems button is pressed. As you can see below, the colors represents a totem and texts on tiles are for totem heads.
In the constant sheet, we adjust the game constants such as resources, map size, totem heads requests and their effects. As it can be seen below map ganerator takes the constants from this sheet. Even though most of the unique totem head effects are ready, their resource requirements are empty, since they will not appear in the MVP.
The game is actually played in the game sheet. It is where players can see their resources. According to their resources they can place a new totem or they can create new totem head to enhance their totems. Player also can end the game turn by pressing end turn button in this sheet. Game sheet can be seen in the picture below.
Game design and game balance is actually going very well with this small prototype. We will update this tool until the game can be played seamlessly. We will make changes on design according to the test that we will make. We will start to create the actual game if the design works and it give us fun.
There is another prototype we did a couple moths ago. However in this case the design did not work well and it did not satisfy us, so we stopped to work on it. We have clearly seen the efficiency of a detailed prototype in this project. This prototype was created in python.
I created this post to introduce our approach for adjusting game balance with google sheets. I am sure google sheets or microsoft excel are already used in game development to calculate economics. However we have a working prototype with all working core mechanics that we can play remote places on google drive.