Weavlings in the Wilds Dev Blog #1
AN EXCURSION INTO THE TENDER WILDS
Hello, and welcome to the first dev blog for Weavlings in the Wilds! I'm excited that this little surprise of a game will be the first release for Atomic Automaton. After some debate during the production of the Kickstarter for Fate Weaver Zadarra and Her Unfortunate Misfortune, it was decided it would do Weavlings in the Wilds a disservice to bundle two very different games together. And with that, here we are!
I've approached game development in a backwards sort of way. I developed my most component-heavy game first then worked my way backwards to less resource intensive games. When I was working on Zadarra, which is my third game, I thought I had the components down to a point where it would make for easy production.
Once I inched towards the finish line with development for Zadarra, I came up with an idea for a small and solo grid-based card game. As I played the game, I felt I could tie it in with the release of Zadarra. I planned on releasing both games simultaneously and keep the theming the same. I finished up most of the project until I realized Kickstarter had a rule against this. I moved on from this idea and now Weavlings is going out into the Tender Wilds as a headliner.
The story behind the game is Zadarra's Fate Weavlings have been gorging themselves and putting on the weight. To avoid them bursting at the seams, Zadarra has put the Weavlings on a diet. The Weavlings are not happy about this at all, and in an act of rebellion, they have snuck off into the Tender Wilds in search of delicious meats (obtained through the butchering of the local fauna). Zadarra sends out her trusty Weavling Trapper to coerce her precious Weavlings back.
The world of Zadarra and her Weavlings is supposed to be charming and a little tongue and cheek. I felt this theming captures all of that. The images portray cute smiley poppets prancing around with bloody meat, and the concept of coercing creatures through food after being put on a diet was funny to me.
As you play the Weavling Trapper, you'll collect humorous traps, hunt imaginative Beasties, and collect Weavlings with the spoils of your trapping labor. I think the game is fun, a little thinky, and offers enough strategy and difficulty for numerous playthroughs.
There are a few different types of cards that make up the game.
Weavlings - These are the little guys you need to collect to win they game.
Beasties - These bad boys will eat your Weavlings, provide meat, or cause wounds.
Wilds Spirits - The Wilds Spirits offer boons to be used during the game.
Events - These cards have a milling effect on the deck, pushing the deck to exhaustion.
Traps - You'll use traps to collect meat from Beasties.
Trapper Card - This card is the player's character.
PLAYING THE GAME
The game is a 54 card grid-based game with an emphasis on deck milling and card rotation. The goal of the game is to collect 10 Weavlings before you receive 15 wounds or lose 10 Weavlings (this goal adjusts slightly based off the difficulty). Once the deck has been completely milled, all collected Weavlings and wounds rotate 90° counter-clock wise. This will increase the damage of the wounds or require more meat (a collected resource) to be given to the Weavlings to keep them from leaving you.
Once you collect 10 Weavlings by offering them meat collected by trapping Beasties (the monsters of the game), you win the game. Not too bad right? The fun part was trying to load some strategy and decision making into the cards themselves.
The Beasties are considered mult-use cards. They are a hazard while on the Tender Wilds (the game space), a meat resource in your hand, and a wound when they travel out of the Tender Wilds. The Weavlings are similar in the sense they are a Weavling while on the Tender Wilds, a gain in population when collected, and a loss of population when banished from the game.
The mult-use aspect allows for the cards to not only have multiple functions, but to add strategic layers that otherwise wouldn't be there without more components. On the back-end, it also makes the game state more/less dangerous depending on what iteration of the card is at any given time.
Deck milling isn't new, but its place in Weavlings in the Wilds was a serendipitous accident. The milling aspect of the game comes from the game's event cards. The deck will get milled until a Beastie is drawn for example. I never expected the deck to get milled as much as it did, but once I saw that, I came up with the idea of there being a mechanic that pushes the game to its conclusion.
When the deck becomes exhausted, the collected Weavlings and wounds rotate to deal more damage to the player or causes them to lose Weavlings. The more the deck is milled, the quicker doom approaches. Since there is no way to undo this mechanic, the game will always push itself to conclusion. The biggest challenge to this was how to fine tune the cards to mill at just the right speed, but more on this in a future post.
I love rotating cards. It's kinetic and just plain fun. Rotation mechanics are in 3 out of 4 of my games now. The card rotation mechanic spawned from the realization the deck milling was a big aspect of the game. I asked myself, how can I capitalize on the player having to reshuffle the game state and physically mark progress in the game?
As mentioned above, with every reshuffle of the deck, the wounds and Weavlings collected will rotate 90°. This marks how many times the deck has been shuffled as well as push the game to its end. If there is one thing I do not like in the board games I have played, it is the lack of mechanics that finish the game. Most games do this, but there have been a few that can go on forever because there is no firm mechanical conclusion. The card rotations cover this. If the wounds don't kill you, losing Weavlings will.
When I first started making the game, I wanted to make the grid a little more interactive from the player's input. I figured the trap cards were a good opportunity for this. Since the player takes the traps off the grid, I figured wouldn't it be fun if the player tried to get more traps. More dopamine! The traps are now "chained" to one another. the player can grab a trap for 1 action. If one trap is next to another with matching chain icons, then the player can grab multiple traps from the grid for 1 action. The matching is super simple mainly because the game grid can be unforgiving, so simple is better when the randomized grid can work against you in a lot of ways.
When I'm making a game (especially these solo ones), I'm designing with the idea of gaming value per dollar in mind. I've played several puzzle games, and one thing I have noticed, is once you beat it, the only real way to have replayability is to add expansions. I don't like this. Weavlings in the Wilds is a game that would allow for expansions, but I wanted players to get the most bang for their buck.
Zadarra and Weavlings in the Wilds achieve this by scaling difficulty. The way this typically works on the back end is I make the game God-awful hard and then implement mechanics or cards that tone this down. The scaling difficulty will eventually lead the player to the game's final and most brutal iteration with minimal percentages to victory. From my experience, games with lower victory margins allow for more gameplay with limitations. The final difficulty of Zadarra for example requires a really good starting read to survive the onslaught of death cards. There's a lot of luck in the final difficulty, but once you get your relics set up, success is really on your choices.
The Weavlings in the Wilds difficulties eventually end with Hard+ mode, which was the initial difficulty in the game that had to be scaled back because it was too difficulty for new players. For players who want the crazy challenge right away, that option is available to you. For those who want a relaxing time, the easy mode is there as well. Video games do this with higher difficulties offering either no rewards or minimal bragging rights achievements. The video games I play with scaling difficulties are fun as long as they have a rewarding gameplay cycle.
I'm a little late to the dev blog as most of the game's mechanics have been hammered out. Nevertheless, the future blog posts will discuss the changes the game has seen over the course of its development and why those decisions were made. I'm excited to get into this deep dive of Weavlings in the Wilds with you all, and I hope you enjoy your journey in the Tender Wilds.