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[ leiavoia.net ]
v0.2 "Switchboard"

v0.3 "Zombie"
[due ~September 2004]


[ as told by leiavoia ]

Quick Project History

The idea for this game goes back about 5 years or so. It started out as a primitive cards+dice game. After putting together a decent looking mockup, i realized that even though i had good intentions and designed a reasonably balanced game, this game was booooring. The constant drudgery of writing and scoring and keeping track of several dozen little paper punchout bits and hoping nobody sneezes was too much. There were too many calculations and minor details. This game was no good in its current form.

I shelved the game for a year or two. It sat in my closet for all that time with the little pieces and boards and cards packed nicely away. About this time, i started getting more involved with programming and computers and also started following the development process of Master of Orion III. I was very interested in certain design aspects of the game as well as learning about artificial intelligence and game design with a programmer's viewpoint. I was inspired to take the ol' cards+dice game i made once upon a time and do something new with it: turn it into a PC game with a heavy AI slant

I quickly learned that programming did not come naturally to me. But i still found the design and the artificial intelligence to be fascinating. So now, i have this wonderful idea for a game and some programming experience, but mostly in scripting languages like Perl and PHP and just enough object orientation to be slightly dangerous, or at least know what i'm talking about.

So now i am opening the project up to a wider audience. There are some very good concepts here, but we need the help, both in programming and in design. I want this project to be open for discussion and also open sourced, mainly because i am starting the project for fun and not for profit. That and i'm also a Linux / open-source fan and i don't want another game that only runs in Windows!

Design Goals

The goal is to create a strategy game that is simple but deep. Easier said than done. By watching Master of Orion III's example, which tried to accomplish that same thing, i have learned that bigger is not always better. There must be ways to add more fun and strategic depth without making a game that is overly complex. Therefore, the strategy in AXIS should come from carefully placed game elements and a push and pull between opposing ideas (offense verses defense, for example), not from a plethora of details and statistics.

Another design goal is to create a game in which you are the strategist not the tactician. You should not have to make every little move. It would be more interesting to give each unit or group a mind of it's own and a set of behaviors to work with, then try to work with them in a more hands off fashion. This concept is interesting but is difficult to implememnt effectively. However, dealing with the unit's intelligence is part of the strategy of winning.

Designing an AI intensive game not only adds a very different approach to the Turn Based Strategy game genre, but it also allows the computer to be able to play against you. Many open-source games in development have only a multiplayer feature because there is no AI to play against. If each unit and group in AXIS is programmed with its own little brain and makes its own decisions, we are already closer to having a game that works as well in single player as it does in multiplayer.

Another problem that can take down a good strategy game is time. Some games take an eternity to play. The goal for AXIS is to have a game that is relatively engaging timewise but that does not take a week to finish. However, AXIS games should be scalable; those who want a fire-fight kind of game can play in a crowded playing field and a small map, those who want a lengthy campaign can have it their way as well with a very large map. Startup options should therefore be plentiful. This adds replay value. However, we want to avoid feature creep and bomb the player with too many options. The design philosophy here is: lots of startup options, but only where they make a difference. Lots of little options are interesting, but may have no percievable effect on gameplay and waste a lot of time and attention in the meantime.


These ideas didn't come out of nowhere. The original concept (in the cards+dice version) was meant to be a modified and more complex form of the board game Stratego. The AI-control ideas come from several places, but most notably the program-and-watch play of Maxis' RoboSport and some macromanagement concepts in the original Master of Orion III design.

From Times Long Ago

Here's a few shots of the cards+dice version from long ago (a few years actually).

The Map
Here you can see the 4 interlocking hex map boards with all the pods and barriers in placement. The two gold-sided pieces are the axis flags.
The Map (Close Up)
A more detailed shot of the above. Here you can clearly see the barrier and water tiles.
Fun With Hex Boards
You can put the map boards together in many different ways. Hopefully, the new AXIS can also break the boring square map idea and "think outside the box" for real.
Combat Lineup
Here's some combat in play with status effects in the circles above and below the cards.
Some cards with stats
Card Close Up
Here you can see all the stats used in the previous mockup version.
Total Cards
All together, there were about ~70 unique cards in the mockup version.