Developers’ Diary
By Yik Lin KHOO & Christopher TONG

Game Design :: Artwork

Welcome to WorldsForge's first ever developers' diary. This is also the first time that Chris & I are sharing our thoughts on our game development process, so we hope it will give you some interesting “behind-the-scenes” insights.

In fact, the idea for this came about when we were first developing Field Command: Singapore 1942 . There were many challenging design decisions that we made throughout the entire process and we wanted to share some of the thinking that went behind each of the choices we made. However, the tight development timeline made this very difficult.

Instead of doing a retrospective diary (which we may still get around to if we ever get the time), we hope to now rectify this omission by writing one up for the Cards Expansion to Field Command: Singapore 1942 instead.

Game Design

Why Cards?

Although the Cards Expansion is an add-on product, it was actually conceived right from the onset when we were designing Field Command: Singapore 1942 .

We realized that the Battle of Singapore had many interesting incidents or tactics that were largely unique to the battle. In fact, this probably holds true for any of the major battles in the Second World War.

The difficulty was that incorporating these incidents or tactics would quickly overly-complicate the rules. Some tactics, such as “Armoured Push”, would be over-powered if allowed to happen frequently as part of normal gameplay. Many events were also unlikely to happen more than once. For instance, one Japanese unit tried to deceive the defenders by disguising themselves as Punjabi soldiers. It is hard to imagine that the Commonwealth troops would fall for that more than once. (In fact, an astute Royal Malayan Regiment officer, Second Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi, subsequently a war hero, saw through the disguise right away, due to an error in the disguised Japanese's marching order.)


The solution was to use cards. Cards allow the frequency of use of some tactics to be controlled and for unique historical events to remain truly unique. It also allows for us to do a large set of additional artwork that can add further historic flavor to the game, which we believe is something our gamers will appreciate.

Beyond this, and perhaps most importantly, the cards are meant to enhance the gameplay experience. The randomness of the cards adds a measure of replayability, while at the same time improving game balance. For instance, some players have felt that the Japanese were a little under-powered and did not achieve the victory conditions as frequently as the Commonwealth. The cards will add various tactics that reward the aggressive Japanese player, like “Banzai”, “Air Supremacy”, “Japanese Ferocity” and “Night Attack”, just to name a few. Of course, the Commonwealth player will get cards that boost their capabilities as well.


Why the Small Card Hand?

One of the things that players of the Cards Expansion will immediately notice is the small card hand – 2 for the British & Australians and 3 for the Japanese, and the slow rate of card replenishment – 1 card per turn.

As the designers, we would, of course, like players to experience as many cards that we have painstakingly created as possible, so a small card hand seems counter to this aim. Nevertheless, our top priority is the gameplay experience. We wanted to ensure that each player continues to need to make hard command decisions each turn, such as which card to keep and which card to horde for future use. A larger hand would avail too many options, which may shift the centre of the game away from proper planning and towards just trying to draw the right cards or combination of cards. It would also increase the predictability of each game, which takes away some of the rationale for introducing cards in the first place.

For example, we did not want the player to be always waiting for “Yamashita's Bluff” or “Armoured Push” to finish the game. The small card hand and slow replenishment mean that there is a good chance neither card would be drawn at all, or if one of the cards is drawn too early and needs to be horded, then the Japanese player's hand is effectively down to two cards until the cards are used.

The flip side of a small hand is that poorly designed cards would be largely useless. For example, a ‘weak' card with overly specific requirements would usually be non-applicable and also quickly replaced by a stronger card. This is an especial problem for the Commonwealth player initially. To answer this challenge, we have made an effort to make each card as purposeful as possible. Of course, getting the right card at the right time is still a boon, but at least there won't be so many “wrong” cards or “wrong” time.


For the artwork, we wanted something that reflected the era to further immerse the player in the game experience. Archival photographs is one solution, but these are difficult to come by and have a whole range of resolutions and image quality. It is also not new artwork per se. Hence, we decided that black-&-white illustrations firmly based on actual archival images is the optimal solution.

Yik Lin (Game Design) & Chris Tong (Product Design)
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