Quadradius

The computer game concepts that most interest me, and most engage my computer game design time, are those that bridge the paper game world and the traditional computer game world. If you play a game like Scrabble, or Bridge, or Magic online your experience is vastly different than Starcraft or Counterstrike or World of Warcraft. Why are there so few games in the gulf between these designs?

There are a few, and one of my favorites is Quadradius. It feels like a board game, but is not at all a mere transliteration of a board game. It brings the strengths of the computer to more traditional game design without the burden of trying to be a simulation.

The game pits two players against each other on a gridded board with a bunch of checkers, or “quads” on it. Each turn a player can move a quad to an adjacent (orthogonal) square. If there is an enemy quad it is destroyed. The goal is to eliminate all the opponents quads.

Simple so far – you could play that much with a board and pieces, and it wouldn’t be much fun. The life of the game comes from the periodic spawning of power ups (“orbs”). These power ups can appear on any unoccupied square and a player doesn’t know what one is until one of their quads land on it. Then the quad will get a power from a set of over 70 powers – secret from the opponent until used. A player can (with one minor exception) use as many powers as desired during a turn. Examples of these power-ups include:

  • One Time Effectsdestroying all pieces in a column, or randomly teleporting the quad
  • Permanent Power-ups - invisibility, or ability to move diagonal
  • Permanent De-buffsEnemy pieces in a row are unable to gain more orbs
  • Board Changes - Creating higher or lower altitude squares, creating squares to which a player’s quads can teleport.

There is nothing else to it really – but you have to play it a few times to understand how wildly different the games play from one another based on what orbs spawn where. It is an excellent example of a game with an enormous amount of luck and skill – your first time playing you could beat the best player out there – but they will beat you  over 95% of the time, at least until you get your basic strategy down.  When you play them watch how they capitalize on their orbs by denying you more and more space till all your quads have been crushed. Or watch how they stall against your apparently unstoppable offense until they get the orb spawn that turns it all around. Or watch how they waste your time with piece exchanges in skirmishes simply slowing down your ability to pick up orbs while they wait for spawns they can get to.

One of the most interesting and addictive elements of the game is the ability to bluff. With many games, such as Magic, you have to be an excellent player – and your opponent must be good as well – before you can really bluff. With Quadradius I bet you will be bluffing within your first few games. Each move you make can  betray what your power-ups are, and you will find it useful to make moves which hide their identity, or paint a picture of a non-existent  threat in your opponents mind. I have chased my opponents pieces all over the board with a perfectly useless power-up, so convincing them the threat was real that they actually conceded when trapped. I have made moves which I realize the instant I have committed that I had just sprung a trap which my opponent lay for me and the threat I thought existed was completely different than I was playing for.

You can play as a guest or pay a subscription to be a member. The guest version is an excellent game, probably as good as the member version- which has a bunch of extra powers. Don’t worry – if you play a member the game is “fair”, the powers available to both players are restricted, the member powers are only enabled when both players are members. If you like the game I encourage you to subscribe, the extra powers are fun, and your game record will be kept on a month to month basis – but mostly I think the designer Jimmi Heiserman deserves a lot more than he will probably get from his excellent and original design.

Jimmi and I have spent some time talking about what I can do to help with Quadradius, or the next version “Qrimson”, or some other project. We will be getting together in the next month to talk more seriously about it. There are a number of things that could improve the traction of the game a lot; such as a single player version and a better metagame, but right now games like these are very hard to capitalize on – which is a shame. A shame not only for designers, but for the players because there are only so many designers who are willing or able to spend the amount of time necessary on what is ultimately just a labor of love.

In the meantime, if you try out Quadradius and see “Shmoo” say hi!

Comments

10 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. DB,

    Just wanted to say thanks for the heads up on this amazing game. My roommate and I are currently addicted to this simple yet very complex game.

  2. Willi B,

    That’s 2 for 2 on spotting great games out there, Richard. I’m glad to hear you are trying to work with this designer as well.

    Keep those finds coming!

  3. Duncan,

    First, I love this game, and Dr Garfield’s comments are insightful. I’ve definitely recommended it to friends.

  4. Duncan,

    Second, is there any way to comment/get feedback from Mike Elliot? As an amateur game designer, I’d love to hear more about getting on email lists for cattle calls or more advice about having larger companies look at designs from some no name guy.

  5. MikeElliott,

    Hi Duncan, I probably left off the comment flag on the previous article again. Without any background, it is really hard to get on the radar for larger companies. Smaller companies are more likely to look at newer stuff from new designers, but it is still a hard sell and small companies do very small runs for most games. There are a number of small game companies that attend GAMA and Gencon and other conventions and you can attempt to get an audience by talking with some of them at the various shows. Your goal is to convince them to let you submit something, and not to get a sale or commitment to doing the game on the spot If you have a reasonable playtest group, you can often work your way into a companies good grace by helping to test some of their existing games (for no pay but it can get you some experience). It can get you a foot in the door. For the larger companies like Hasbro or Mattel, they are unlikely to talk to you or allow you to submit anything until you develop a resume in the field. And most importantly, consider it your hobby and not a career. For every success story like Richard and Reiner, there are half a dozen designers that make a modest living at it and many many more that barely scrape by or do it as a second job.

  6. Have your played the medieval browser game field, like KingsAge, or, the current best one, Grepolis. The latter has this great constant changing strategy for the first 6 weeks or so.

  7. driven2sin,

    This game can easily catch fire, but the design team has to ramp up to surf the waves once it makes big splashes. Too many times there have been a big buzz for the game and then no push to the next level. Frustrating for any of the older fans like me. This game also works very well as a spectator sport. We held a small Quad-con in a Philly barwith just 2 laptops on a table with the players facing each other like playing heads up poker. Trash talking etc with everyone watching on both sides on the moves.. famously Black Jorge won all 6 of his battles. Where are the other Quad-cons? Richard would be the best guy to break this game out of its infinite loop of obscurity.

    And yes, a single player mode is something I preached from the get go. And it is why I play the blitz style which is viable enough against many players and doable in A.I. (as long that side gets a decent amount of aggressive orbs.) Especially if you limit the A.I. to only play small board. And perhaps a smaller pool of powers. But again, no design team push to keep any momentum going on this front as well.

    The game needs some foster parents asap

  8. OncoByte,

    Games as rich as Quadradius can be capitalized upon. They key is to make the game more available.

    Mobile devices capable of rendering rich graphics and networked play are everywhere now! They can serve as bridges to the full game while generating revenue.

    Step 1:
    A ‘lite’ version of Quadradius with a 5×6 board (L-R play in landscape mode). A limited power set only. Sell it for $0.99 on iPhones, Android phones, etc…

    Step 2:
    An expanded version for the phone/pad. 5×6 board available for the phones, and 7×8 board available for the pads. All powers available. Charge $4.99 which includes a 3-month subscription to the browser based game.

    Companies like Zynga have shown that real-time, network based games are possible on portable devices (see their game Scramble for the iPhone).

    Add to that a spectator mode and the ability to save/review/share completed games and you have a juggernaut.

    A one-player version would be great as an unguided tutorial – a sandbox to learn how powers work. It could even be used as a “puzzle” mode akin to chess puzzles (“win in 2 moves,” for example). Develop good enough AI to challenge experienced players may be a tough task with diminishing returns.

    Great game – best hopes for you guys to launch this thing!

  9. I’ve been a fan of Quadradius since its inception – and a bigger fan of you since M:tG’s inception. As an amateur game designer and CCG designer, you’ve been the figure I’ve tried to mold myself into whilst designing games, and I can only hope that you can do things for Quadradius that Jimmi has either been unable or unwilling to do. Good luck with this new endeavor, and if you need any insight, don’t be afraid to ask the QuadBoard – most of us are either designers ourselves or design enthusiasts, and full of ideas.

  10. Thx Richard for this informative post. As a gamer I enjoyed reading this.

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