I’m feeling pretty good about the rules and how all the dice will be laid out. I’ll probably include some alternate rules with the rulebook, for easier/less variable games, but I’m definitely happy with the current form as the final state of the official rules. Now all I need is the art and all the visual design elements! A lot of work, to be sure, but also not something I’ll be doing with my own head and hands like the game design was. For now, I thought I’d tell you about what my goals were when designing it.
When designing Save the Singularity, I had these ideas in mind very strongly throughout. Save the Singularity is supposed to be fun, but it’s not supposed to be only fun, and that’s not even at the forefront of what it’s supposed to be. At its core, it’s a horror game. Almost a thriller. It’s meant to evoke the heightened alertness, the positive anxiety, the tension, of being on the precipice of something great and terrible. There’s this monstrous, overwhelming force rolling your way, and you and the other players have to band together to have even the slightest chance of getting through it alive. Everything is riding on your efforts, and even if you do your best, the odds are you’ll probably lose.
The game is cooperative. It’s not the players warring against each other, it’s all the players together struggling against the great, indifferent might of the rest of the universe. A tiny, doomed few against the incredible, uncaring ability of the rest of the world. What makes it worse is that the rest of the world isn’t malicious, they’re not trying to kill you-it’s just that they don’t know what powers they’re tampering with, and they will end up releasing forces beyond their wildest nightmares should they succeed before you do.
The game is difficult. It’s not impossible, but you have to play really smartly, and not give in to the biases all gamblers face, to succeed. In addition to all the in-person playtesting, I wrote a computer program to simulate simple agents playing the game a few thousand times in order to iron out some kinks in the probabilities. A basic, naïve algorithm-if you’re about to roll more than 6 dice, stop-wins 35% of the time. A perfect super-agent, able to predict but not affect dice rolls, wins 85% of the time. That implies that there exists a strategy such that if you play really smartly, you have just better than 50% odds of winning. Which is what I want: if you do everything right, you can barely tip the odds in your favor. It’s sacrificing a little bit of realism (the odds of a negative Singularity vs a positive one in the real world are much worse) for a lot better gameplay. I want to evoke terror and a feeling of nigh hopelessness, but not make it so clearly actually hopeless that people don’t bother to play.
And according to the feedback I’ve been getting in the actual human playtests, I have succeeded. I’m really satisfied with this game, and despite being so simple, I think it brings two important new elements to the casual, push your luck style party game scene: being cooperative, and being primarily about an experience other than “fun”. It would be really cool if this inspires other people to try out those less-explored areas of gamespace.