Current Production Status, GAMA, UI Design, and New Art Previews
Our manufacturing partners continue to progress with casting miniatures for the boxed games and expansions that include them. Here's a quick run-down of production status from our various partners:
Brigade Models: Complete!
Dark Realm Miniatures: Casting
Hawk Wargames: Complete!
Microworld Games: Complete!
Plasmablast Games: Casting
Rules Editing Complete
Michael Koznarsky has completed his editing process on the rules for Polyversal! This is a nice milestone to reach but we're not quite ready to get them to you for your feedback. Ken and I have to address some of Michael's comments before sending these out to you. I do expect to be complete with that this week. Then, you'll receive a draft as promised for review before we go to layout.
GAMA Trade Show
Collins Epic Wargames exhibited Polyversal at this year's GAMA Trade Show where we demonstrated the game and previewed it to many interested retailers and a few distributors. We also caught up with Andrew of Hawk Wargames who provided a much needed emergency glue repair to a Microworld Games walker (thanks, Andrew). Feedback from retailers at the show was excellent which is good for the retail future of the game. We're working hard to not only get this game out to you but to also get the various sets in retail hobby game stores worldwide. Here are a few photos from the booth:
A Note on Combatant Tile UI Design
Alongside Carl Olsen, we're taking advantage of the time waiting on minis and art to really polish the look and function of the Combatant Tile, the core component of Polyversal, in order to speed up gameplay a few seconds at a time. Carl designs User Interfaces as part of his day job. In this particular example, I wanted to share the length at which he went to hone just one element of the Combatant Tile design, the Damage Track at the bottom, which communicates for each Combatant the damage values at which various effects occur. Carl actually designed several versions of the Track and monitored eye movement and processing time from a focus group in order to optimize the Damage Track's function. If you're interested in this, please read the explanation below from Carl:
"I tried many different solutions for the damage track. After playing the game a few times I found that the workflow for damage goes like this: you figure out the damage number from say MH so now you have a single number like 7. You then go to the damage track and skim it looking for a 7. The range blocks create a couple problems with this workflow. First you are looking at a number scale but the distance between the numbers is not proportional to the value, so when you are looking for a 7 and skim seeing a 3 your brain tries to skip ahead a proportional distance to the right where a 7 should be. The other is that it is likely that there is no 7 on the track at all.
I thought this was actually a really interesting problem and dug way deeper into it that was necessary. I did some user testing with 6 other people to understand how people's brain / eye try to tackle this task (and make sure it wasn't just how my brain worked). The age group of the test users was 3 of them 20-30 and the other 3 were 40-60. I wanted to be sure to test a wide age group incase that was a factor. I mocked up 10 different tracks with a range of 5-20. I had each user go through the workflow. I setup a camera to video recorded a closeup of their eyes to see how they tracked. They were then instructed to complete the task then describe their thought / eye movement process. After completing all 10 I asked for feedback on the workflow and the design and how they would prefer it to be laid out.
What I discovered from my user testing: The first few times they tried to look up a number went through the whole track 2 or 3 times before changing how they tried to find the cell. Each user repeated this ineffective process 2, 3, 3, 5 times respectively before adapting a new strategy. 2 of them never adapted and went through this slow process all 10 times. The new strategy was the same for every user to deliberately scan and pause at each cell and process if the number being looked for was in the range or single number cell.
I did a follow up test with 4 of them with the same tracks redesigned to be scale with 1 or 2 rows of 10 excluding the chunks with no effect (thinking less cells would be less effort). I found I was immediately correct about dropping the no effect chunk, users could instantly realize their number was less than the first lowest number on the scale. They all were able to instantly without any pause or repeat scanning locate the target cell.
After looking over the creation rules and the stats of the units in the spreadsheet generally the pattern seems to be the largest range chunk for the first segment (stress) and then chunks of 1, 2, or 3. Thinking back to my testing there were 3 or 4 tracks that had one range chunk at the very start only, they did not seem to stall the process nearly as much as the others. The user would scan the first block [1 - 6] (the no effect chunks were still in place) and quickly determine if their number was equal to 1, equal to 6, or if the case was less than 6 they would pause knowing they would not find their target further along the track, and after a second determine that cell was the target. The fact that this was the first chunk seemed to stall them much less than in the middle or multiple range chunks. Even if stalled the total time/effort was still small as it was the start of the track.
I took my findings and applied them to the design, dropping the no effect chunk starting with the larger stress chunk as a range, and a consistent scale for the rest. The damage track is designed primarily to be used and secondarily to be admired. While range blocks for all chunks may appear more consistent or aesthetically pleasing my testing has shown it to be far less usable. With this design it looks like very few if any tiles will need more than one row of 10."
New Art Previews
And finally, I'll leave you with more amazing Combatant Tile Art from artist James Masino, this time from the Mercenary Battlegroup. Here are two never-before-revealed selections. Can you pick out the skyscraper from The Phalanx Consortium worked into the second image?
Special Forces Infantry Artist's Comments: "In the dead of night, the special forces infantry receive orders for their next mission after regrouping under the cover of industrial infrastructure. Neon blue lighting fills the area, originally installed years before in response to rampant crime. The blue color has been linked to reduction in violence versus yellow or white street lighting, a method most commonly practiced during our century in Japan. This lighting choice now has little effect on the mercenaries navigating through it."
Dralke Fighter Artist's Comments: "I stuck to the description here, as with most, but this one is especially interesting since it becomes an extension of the environment the Encegon tanks were placed in. The Dralkes fly in the battle active city in the distance, plasma discharges light the metropolis. Plasma based fires burn out of control as skyscrapers buckle. In this scene, the Dralkes are running support for a convoy made up of Gammarans who are escorting a heavily fortified monorail (from The Phalanx Consortium) through the city. The Dralkes have been instructed to open fire only if absolutely necessary to ensure the payload reaches its destination."