One question I’ve been pondering as I go about designing a strategy game is that of clarity in game mechanics, and in combat systems in particular. Committed players of strategy games (and many other genres, for that matter) have long taken joy in pulling apart the math behind the combat resolution systems that drive the games they play, in part to seek an advantage or upper hand and in part out of simple fascination. This description of the mass queen experiment from the StarCraft2 Hacks blog is a great example. It runs through a bunch of math, based on things like minerals, gas, queens, hatcheries, food, game time, energy, “transfuses,” injections and more, and comes to the colorful but perhaps surprising conclusion that “Queens are better cost effective healers than Medivacs.” Food for thought.

What’s interesting to me is the question of where a combat system might lie on the spectrum from transparency to obfuscation (through complexity or by other means), how that stacks up against the combat results you as a designer want to produce, and whether a game is any the better or worse for your equations and calculations being deeply buried, or riding on the surface of play. Continue reading