The Dissenters - Creating the Solo mode
2020. May 27.
Co-designer of Perseverance
You're vying for control of the path you and the other survivors will follow to secure your future on the island. A group of various former crew members and passengers, known as the Dissenters, have their own ideas for what’s best for the survivors and plot to have their agenda be implemented ...
After our journey with the Chronobot and Chronossus on Anachrony, the Heir on Trickerion, and the Ego on Cerebria, we never had any doubts that Perseverance deserved a first class solo mode as well.
In today's blog post, I'd like to talk about the thought process behind designing the solo mode for Perseverance Episode 1 and give you a taste of what you can expect from "The Dissenters".
If you follow the solo modes I have worked on - both with Mindclash and with other publishers - you know my basic tenets of solo design:
- Relatively simple to run - no flow charts
- Adaptive opponent to beat - no “beat your own score”, variable difficulties
- Autonomous opponent - never need to make a decision “against yourself”
- Modelled interactions - anything you would care about in the multiplayer game, you must care about in the solo game as well
- Predictable opponent - You must be able to predict its moves, and have a chance to thwart them without “mapping out all options”.
- Thematically makes sense - who are you fighting against?
Perseverance was a huge challenge because essentially everything is interactive in the game. Area majorities everywhere, secondary concerns at every point: why would you draft a particular die, where would you put it, where do you defend against dinosaurs, where do you put your leader…. These choices all have a bunch of concerns involved, and most of them start with “it depends on what my opponent does”. They are especially intensified in 2 player - where you don’t even have to be “good”, just “better than the other one”.
I knew designing a bot with this aim is near impossible, so I had to take a page from my past self… I recently worked on a solo mode for a particular Portuguese designer many of you possibly love, and the solo mode there involved running 2 opponents against you in a 3 player game, and instead of teaching them to be competitive in the optimization puzzles, they just lower your score, and you need to reach a certain point to win. This trick was the fundamental brick for Perseverance’s solo mode too, since this way the majorities of Defence Contribution, Presence, and Assembly aren’t so clear cut.
I know this sounds like a cheat - since I say “no beat your own score”, but this is not a BYOS, since your progress is still measured against an opposing force, merely the variance is moved from the target level, to the opposing force applied to you. And if you outsmart it, you lessen that force of The Dissenters.
The theme came easy: a bunch of naysayers don’t want to follow your lead, and they do what they want, without clear leadership. They aren’t beating you at the Assembly, but they are costing you precious votes, or blocking heroic moves that would earn you Followers! And lastly, they occasionally help defend against Dino attacks, but if you let their settlements be destroyed, they’ll still name you the bad guy!
From this theme came the victory conditions: get a certain number of followers (for which you have to have more influence, better actions than the Dissenters), gather votes (for which you have to have more Presence than the Dissenters, and this is often a goal counter to the first one), and let no more than a certain number of Settlements (yours or theirs!) be destroyed by Dinos.
Solo board prototype
Combine this with a card system to draft dice from the pool and block spaces, and I had a working structure! Once this was done, I called upon my trusted right-hand man John Albertson - “the man who tested Anachrony solo a 100 times” - and he has been leading a group of valiant testers on our Discord channel refining, balancing and fine tuning this concept, and then extending it to Episode 2…
The Dissenters on Tabletopia
I hope you enjoyed my reminiscence about the design process of Perseverance's episode 1 solo mode and hope to see you in the Kickstarter comment section once the campaign launches!