So continuing from the previous note, I carried on exploring the idea of porting in digital ideas into the board game. I left the Final Fantasy Tactics idea quite quickly as I wanted to create a new type of chess game rather than a themed role-playing game. However I focused in on the function within that game that marveled me and tried to think of other functions my piece (Unit in the game) can do.
While Chess is a game of action; Zero Order is a game of function.
I began with a “Push”. It’s something I’ve not seen in a board game before. Instead of touching your piece. You make a move and then the function of the Push allows you to move your opponents piece. That idea captivated my mind because the entire game, you’re just moving your opponent’s pieces around. Like some kind of anti-chess.
The next obvious function that came immediately to mind was “Pull”. The opposite function of a push that allows you to draw an opponent closer to yourself. I’ve since renamed it “Toss” to better fit what actually physically happens on the board. The third was “Turn”, the function of shifting your opponent sideways instead of in a straight line. I’ve renamed it to “Twist” which bare the same meaning so as not to confuse with a game “turn”. Then there was “Freeze” which is quite self explanatory which was pretty godlike until I balanced it out by making it useless when adjacent to the opponent’s Freeze. The next interesting one was “Switch”, which only came to me because I was re-watching Naruto Shippuden around the same time. The show’s “Body Replacement No Jutsu”, inspired me to introduce a piece whose sole purpose is to get other allies out of a tight corner.
The entry of the Switch changed the dynamics of the game completely, along with the traditional “Kill” piece. By focusing on function rather than action, the game inherently plays up strategy and teamwork between pieces. All of a sudden, you feel like you’re managing a team rather than an army. Being able to push or pull units in and out of battle like you’re in command of a single entity. I enjoyed this aspect because the battle was so fast paced and the battlefield so much more intimate than Chess or Shogi (in the anime).
These play with functions quickly lent itself the idea of combos. Which I’ve also never experienced in any other game. Because so much teamwork is emphasized, I felt it was quite limiting to stick to the traditional sense of the word “turn-based”. Each player still take turns to play, but it was more realistic to have team strategies played out within a turn instead of played out over multiple back-and-forth.
I played with these 6 pieces for a while. With a different set of tiles to create random maps. In earlier versions there were even trees, mountains, grass, land and water tiles to play up the randomness of the game. However as I continued to improve on the design, I decided to strip all of the theme away to distill out the most important aspect of the game.
The architect designer in me wanted me to reduce all the components into the bare necessities. I wanted a tray to house all the smaller bits when not in use, but also be used as the battlefield where the game is played. I also didn’t want players to have to keep all the units or tiles in a separate container or bag. This quest for simplicity eventually led me to ask myself,
“Why not make the Units also the Tiles?”. And vice-versa, “Why not make the Tiles also the Units?”
This made my hair stand! This opened the game up to the possibility of introducing more interesting functions while ridding the game of unnecessary parts! I already had a fixed design for the tray and how many tiles I wanted. I knew I wanted each game to have only 6 pieces per player, so the pieces that were not in use can be used as tiles as the map! It was that simple! I did a “quick-math” and realized I could potentially introduce 12 more exciting functions into the game (which I did) and I knew exactly where to find these functions!
Google Sketchup! While sipping on hot Lotus Root with Pork Rib soup on a rainy day much like today, I recalled program functions from the 3D modeling program I’d been using all this time and tried to imagine if those functions could apply to the game. The list is as it currently is with interesting ones like, Mirror, File, Copy, Import and Export.
It felt quite meta when I realized how all these functions working together is what made Zero Order possible. Like, the world makes sense now, lol. By the time I had finished my soup, I had already completed my list. The last two being the most interesting. Joker or Spoiler pieces that immediately ends the game, in a good or bad way. The first being the “Glitch” which is inspired by glitch-art which makes digital things more wonderful by glitching the code. In this game, Glitch is good because you automatically win. The last piece, the black sheep of the lot is the “Error”. The bane of any gamer or just anybody who works with the computer (which should be everyone). Let your Error piece touch the opponent’s Kill. You lose. The end. GG.