History of Zane in Puzzle Strike

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by skeller, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. skeller

    skeller Well-Known Member

    By Vivafringe

    Curious how some of your favorite Puzzle Strike chips came to be? In Hidden Gems, we explore the development history of various chips. This time we take a look at Zane.

    In the Fantasy Strike universe, Zane is a fearsome anarchist, bent on reducing the Flagstone establishment to ashes and rubble. Among Puzzle Strike testers, however, Zane has a different reputation.

    Intended as a wacky, chaotic character, Zane has ruined countless games with terrible, random gameplay. At times, he’s seemed to almost defy conventional design, openly challenging would-be designers to balance his absurd, game-warping chips. He’s spawned numerous threads about how terrible he was for the game. In short, in the Puzzle Strike world, Zane is a massive troll. This was his ignominious starting point:

    Traveler’s Tax (red)
    Opponents reveal their hands and discard their largest :psgem:. Steal one of those gems to your discard pile.

    Crash Bomb (purple)
    Trash a Crash Gem from your hand or discard pile. If you do, gain a Double Crash Gem and your opponent gains a Crash Gem.

    Maximum Anarchy (brown)
    All players discard their hands, draw 5 chips, and pass their Gem Piles to the next player. Trash this chip.

    The problems here are almost innumerable.

    Traveler’s Tax made buying money against Zane basically impossible. However, if the opponent chose not to get money, the chip was unplayable. Taking an almost worthless :ps1gem: from their deck and putting it in yours was doing them a favor! As a result, Traveler’s Tax was seldom actually played. The opponent would never get big gems, and that made Traveler’s Tax never worth using.

    Crash Bomb was a strange chip for a supposedly aggressive character. Giving your opponent a single Crash Gem improved their deck, but giving them 4 clogged it. So Zane had incentives to draw out the game endlessly, clogging his opponent’s deck while bolstering his own with an endless supply of Double Crash Gems.

    And Maximum Anarchy was perhaps the biggest culprit of all. It flew in the face of the idea that Zane was supposed to be an aggressive character. Rather than try to keep your gem pile low and his high, Zane had a strong incentivize to do the opposite. The higher Zane’s gem pile was in relation to his opponent’s, the more devastating MA would be when he eventually played it. It almost felt like the more incompetently you played, the more you were rewarded. Worse, testers argued that the opponent didn’t have many options to fight the chip. Unless you could force him to use it quickly, you had little chance of winning. As a result, players felt compelled to ignore slower economy plans and instead go for rushdown with mass Combines.

    For a long time, testers tried iterating. For instance, Traveler’s Tax was changed to this:

    Traveler’s Tax: Each opponent reveals their hand and discards their largest :psgem:. Gain $ equal to the largest :psgem: discarded.

    This at least fixed the problem of endless games of Traveler’s Tax never actually being played. Unfortunately, iterative development doesn’t work well when your starting point is so far off the mark. Even after countless versions, Zane still didn’t play well.

    While the chips had individual issues, a far worse problem was his design as a whole. None of his chips make sense together. While other characters had resonant themes and interesting gameplans, Zane was just an uneven, soupy mess. The time had come to start trying something completely different. After months of Zane being unplayable, Sirlin saved the day with this rework:

    Maximum Anarchy (Brown)
    All players discard their hands, then draw that many chips. Then in turn order, each player draws a chip, and plays it if it’s a :pspuzzle: .

    Crash Bomb (Purple)
    Trash a Crash Gem from your hand or discard pile. If you do, crash two gems in your gem pile. (You don’t get $)

    Crash Potato (Purple orb / Red fist)
    Choose one: Crash a :ps1gem: in your gem pile -OR- Exchange this with a Crash Gem in any player’s discard pile.

    A crucial difference was that unlike the random soup of Zane’s last chipset, this one meshed well as a whole. Notice how any 2 of those chips have interesting synergy with each other. Moreover, they all form a chaotic and aggressive gameplan. Now, iteration could do its job.

    Unfortunately, iteration was still difficult, because these wacky chips weren’t easy to balance. The first problem was that Zane didn’t have any arrows, making him slow and clunky. As powerful as Maximum Anarchy was, Zane needed to spend his first few rounds filling his deck with forks before he could even start executing a coherent gameplan. Oftentimes this wasn’t a practical option, and players instead felt compelled to just buy Combines and Crashes. Again, the dreaded boogie words “mono purple” reared their ugly head.

    On the other hand, Maximum Anarchy was such a powerful effect that adding arrows to Zane’s chips threatened to push him over the top. There wasn’t a clear solution. Here is what we tried next:

    Maximum Anarchy: All players discard their hands, then draw that many chips. Each player may play a :pspuzzle: on his turn.

    Unfortunately, Zane still felt clunky. The next step was realizing that Crash Bomb wasn’t worth using except near the very end of the game. If your opponent survived the Crash Bomb, the massive loss of money from sacrificing a Crash Gem usually lost you the game. Because of that, we let Crash Bomb give money. And somehow Zane still felt slow and weak.

    Earlier, I mentioned the interchip synergy between Zane’s three chips. Another piece of the design puzzle fell into place when people realized that Maximum Anarchy and Crash Potato didn’t mesh well together in practice. While in theory you could fork Maximum Anarchy and then Crash Potato them, this didn’t ever really happen. By the time you were setting up big plays like that, you were well into the midgame, and Crash Potato is, somewhat obviously, something you want to get rid of as soon as possible! We decided that future versions of Maximum Anarchy should let you potato off of it from turn 1. The most obvious version was simply adding a clause to the above MA that said, “You may play Crash Potato.” People even joked about making a special “+potato” icon.

    This was still clunky, though, and so we threw our collective hands in the air and tried a version that we knew was probably too good: we added the nuclear option, a +:psblack: to Maximum Anarchy.

    Maximum Anarchy: +:psblack:. All players discard their hands, then draw that many chips. Each player may play a puzzle chip on his turn.

    As expected, this version was overpowered. However, for the first time in history, Zane was fun! Players no longer felt constrained by their arrowless, clunky chips. When the +:psblack: was taken away and replaced with the weaker +:pschip:, Zane went back to feeling clumsy. The key was that Zane needed arrows. But how to give them to him, when even one arrow made him too good?

    The solution was to give a ton of arrows... to everyone! In this way, Zane lost his “clunky” feeling, but was still in a reasonable place, powerwise. What we came up with was, finally, the version we have today.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I think this version is tons of fun! However, one thing we didn’t change was Zane being a massive troll. He can force opponents to discard great hands for awful ones. He can steal their crash gem before their first move. He can deny them from ever drawing the chip they need to win the game. Just remember, the next time your opponent complains about any of these, it’s allowed in the rules for you to say,

    [​IMG]

    Previous Article: History of Midori in Puzzle Strike
    Next Article: History of Combine

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    Star Slayer, Lofobal, Plum and 2 others like this.
  2. Archon Shiva

    Archon Shiva Well-Known Member

    Perhaps it's not having pictures of older chips, or being less familiar with the expansion characters, or maybe it's just Zane being confusing, but that one felt harder to follow than previous history classes.
    link6616 likes this.
  3. vivafringe

    vivafringe Moderator Staff Member

    Hmm... what were some of the things you were confused by?A lot of the confusion indeed probably comes from not having intermediate images (no help for that, sadly, unless someone kept archives) and the other things you mentioned. But if there's a way to make it clearer I'll give it my best.
    Xom likes this.
  4. Fry

    Fry Well-Known Member

    Zane has the distinction of having the most potential chip designs submitted. To me it was funny to keep reading Sirlin say things like "you aren't thinking big enough. The chip is MAXIMUM Anarchy, your design is 'a little bit of anarchy.'"
  5. Turbo164

    Turbo164 Well-Known Member

    (italicized intro says Midori instead of Zane)

    Great article, didn't seem hard to follow.
  6. Lemmingrad

    Lemmingrad Well-Known Member

    I may have an old old old low rez image of zane's chips, but we're talking back where MA made everyone took a gem in their hand, crashed it then MA trashed itself iirc.
  7. ApolloAndy

    ApolloAndy Well-Known Member

    Yeah. I remember a lot of the discussion for Maximum Anarachy either being completely insane (trade your discard pile with your opponent's discard pile) or just boring (discard your hand and draw 5 chips. +black). I'm actually pleasantly surprised that a fairly balanced, fairly fun, and still seemingly Anarachic (but in actually not really) chip came out of that disucssion.
  8. rabid_schnauzer

    rabid_schnauzer Well-Known Member

    There was also an intermediate version of Crash Bomb wherein it negated various forms of :pspurpleshield: reactions. Many of which had wording which only made sense to the author(s)Such as this gem of inZanity:

    [​IMG]

    Crash Bomb :pspurpleshield: Main: +:pschip: You may put this chip on top of your bag. Reaction: Your :psorb: cannot be :pspurpleshield: reacted to. +:pschip::pschip:.

    Note that this reaction required you to react to a :pspurpleshield: reaction, but it then retroactively prevented that :pspurpleshield: reaction from having happened in the first place. It also provoked a lot of discussion amongst testers as to whether :pspurpleshield:s which didn't send gems (Gemonade, Healing Touch, etc) should be reactable or not and what happened in the mirror match when Crash Bomb was played against Crash Bomb, which is itself a :pspurpleshield:

    So it was iterated first for clarity, to change the "cannot be reacted to" into a "negate a :pspurpleshield: reaction" and then further iterated to simplify the reaction to reaction interactions as:

    Crash Bomb. Ongoing: The next time you play a Crash Gem or Double Crash Gem, it can’t be :pspurpleshield: reacted to and discard this chip.

    And while that version made sense and worked for an aggressive Zane, it led to a period where optimum Zane play was clearly monopurple and not interesting nor chaotic at all.
    Star Slayer, Turbo164 and vivafringe like this.
  9. Fry

    Fry Well-Known Member

    I still think "each player passes their discard pile to the next player, also pass MA" would have been fun. Gaining other players' character chips could cause some serious Anarchy.
  10. Sotek

    Sotek Super Moderator Staff Member

    I think my favorite thing about the final Maximum Anarchy is that the play and counterplay of that chip are both deep and weird valuation.

    If you buy a bunch of colorful enders and Zane spams MA, you're going to absolutely destroy him!
    But he can just not play MA and then you have a bunch of shitty enders and can't do anything.
    So maybe you don't buy a lot of colorful enders? Then Zane spams MA and can buy a bunch of colorful enders and do really really well.
    so you have this complex interplay of how far from a normal ender density do you go before it backfires, and meanwhile there's the crash potato/crash bomb interaction and ... it's a lot of fun. :)
  11. vivafringe

    vivafringe Moderator Staff Member

    I'm fond of MA, because it was one of the few moments where I actually was able to contribute from the design angle. While I'm good at finding problems, I'm pretty bad at design. Most of the time, my feedback is one of these:

    A) This sucks, fix it please!
    B) Boring robot iteration, like "remove this clause, it doesn't affect the game enough to be worth the text."

    When it comes to actually solving the tough problems, usually it's Garcia, Sirlin or someone else. "+:psred:+:psblue:+:psbrown:+:pspurple: to everyone" is maybe the only example in the entire game where I submitted a wacky idea that made it.

    Okay, I'm done patting my own back. We now resume our regular program, where there are huge problems and then Garcia fixes them.
    Xom, FimPhym, Sotek and 3 others like this.
  12. Star Slayer

    Star Slayer Well-Known Member

    Another great article. Funny, I had finally decided today (a few hours before reading the article - I swear!) to buy Zane with my gold.

    I joined development in December 2011 and I remember that Zane caused quite a few problems. I really like the final version of Maximum Anarchy though. The four arrows were a sheer stroke of genius, viva! While there is lots of thinking and tactical decision involved in playing it (and little anarchy at all), it does create absurd and hilarious and - dare I say it - anarchic situations. Back to the earlier versions: I saved a few of those. Sadly, I don't have the version that let everyone play a puzzle chip, but I have two of the later ones.

    Here is the version that let you play Crash Potato:
    [​IMG]

    Here is the version with the black arrow:
    [​IMG]
    vivafringe likes this.
  13. PumpedAaron

    PumpedAaron Active Member

    Any chance we could see a history of Troq? *FLEX*
    Inkstud likes this.

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