Or perhaps more easily, The Cycle of Form vs. Function.
In game development, a big thing to remember when designing enemies is to think of a function before creating a form. I. E. don’t make anything until you already know what it’s going to do. Otherwise, you’re wasting time, efoort, morale, and a often great designs.
And really, you get better ideas from manipulating the system anyway. The Magic: the Gathering trading card game is a good example to use here, though each example will likely take a bit of explaining (any example for this post would require mechanical background anyhow) so bear with me, it’s worth it.
At some point, Magic created a “Future Sight” expansion, conceived as a teaser for possible future card mechanics and settings and whatnot. A lot of these cards are real gems, playing with the mechanics to create some novel effects. i’ll try to explain them in a way and an order that’ll require the least background knowledge per card, but Magic is a slightly complicated game.
In Magic, to play any sort of spell or summon any type of creature or item, you need Mana, a sort of magical energy. You get mana by setting down a Land card, and from that point on, you can “tap” it for mana of its color, or sometimes for colorless mana. Most spells require mana of a certain color, some of the more powerful ones need mana of two or more. And normally, you can only set down one land a turn, making it tough to get out the big scary stuff early on. And here’s where a very intriguing nonbasic land from Future Sight fills its niche:
You see, some creatures allow you to send them in facedown as a colorless, indiscriminate creature of low power and with no abilities for three colorless mana (which actually means you can pay for it with any color you want). At a later time, you can then “morph” these creatures faceup for the cost listed. Sometimes this is because it causes a special effect when flipped, sometimes it’s because it’s cheaper than the regular summoning cost. But Zoetic Cavern is a different case; because it’s a land that comes in as a creature, you can later flip it to effectively play a second land that turn. But if you don’t need any more land, why not leave as a creature to help cover your defenses? Future sight also has a morphing artifact and a morphing enchantment, and another unique use of the morph mechanic:
Remember how I mentioned creatures needing specific colors of mana to cast? Notice the mana cost (on the left side) and then notice the morph cost on this card. They’re two different colors! Quite a few cards have abilities activated by mana of colors not their own, but this is the only card as of yet with an ability that effectively lets you play it with a color other than its own. What this means is, if you don’t have any blue mana available, you could cast it face down, and then later morph it using the white mana cost. Imagine your opponent’s surprise when you tap a plains (which provides white mana) and reveal this! This also effectively allows you to place it in a deck with no blue mana and you don’t have to do any fancy wrenching around with casting requirements to get it out.
Speaking of colors and mana costs, here’s another interesting one:
Normally a card’s color is the colors of mana required to cast it, and this one requires red mana, but look, it says right there on the card that it’s colorless! A lot of cards in the game are protected from, react to, or target, cards of specific colors, and colorless spells of course aren’t susceptible to this. This card here has all the traits of a red spell, and even needs red in its casting cost, but it isn’t red, which makes it really useful as a countermeasure when opponents are benefitting from your red spells and you’ve got all this red mana lying around for nothing. You might even be able to use it to kill whatever likes your red spells so much.
As you can see, working with the rules can give you some great ideas, but enough gushing about magic, let me give an example of my own ideas, that’ll show you the whole long-winded cycle that I named the post after. We’ll do it in the list format from Working with a Brain that’s AWOL.
- I feel like I need a creature that’s immune to having its stats lowered.
- But that’s boring, everyone has that. How do I make it more unique.
- I can give it a stat nothing else has… then nothing can change that stat because nothing’s designed to change that stat.
- Heck, maybe I can make all of its stats unique.
- By having no stats in common with other creatures, it’s clearly fundamentally different. Perhaps it should be an alien…
- Actually, with no typical stats, it usurps the whole system… so maybe it’s not only alien, but extradimensional, conforming to a completely different system of rules.
- So now it’s not only immune to stat changes, but effectively attacks, blocks, and any interaction at all. This presents problems. It can’t do anything.
- How would an extradimensional being react to our world anyhow? There’d be some interesting consequences for an organism designed to function under a different set of rules.
- Perhaps to protect itself, it could temporarily alter bits of the universe to keep it safe, as a sort of traveling “safety bubble,” like a bathosphere.
- Maybe the change could be two-way, allowing anything that enters the bubble to not die instantly.
- But it would only alter structures and organisms, not phenomena such as lightning.
- Aaand, there’s our power. Not only is it essentially untouchable by anything but a direct attack, this guy also can convert teammate’s stats back and forth between the two systems to cope with debuffers.
So by following the Form following Function rule, I was able to get a more interesting function out of it, after getting an interesting form. Funny how creativity works, eh?
You’ll see the results of this creature once my scanner’s up and running again; for now, happy creating!!