Monster Roller was conceived during a pitch meeting. After seeing a couple of suggestions for games, the boss made his choice and said:
“We’re making a slot machine game.”
I was about to make this face:
But quickly remembered I was a mature adult and so slapped on a smile. A professional smile.
“Yeah, sure,” I said.
I too had my ideas during that pitch meeting, which were all tossed in the bin. That was fine. The bigger problem, to me, was that I was making a slot machine game. ‘What the fuck,’ I thought. ‘A slot machine game. I was not put on this god damned planet to make a slot machine game.’
A more elegant way to phrase it:
Where was the user agency?
That was my number one, eloquent, professional concern.
The boss kept on saying ‘make it random.’ No. Fucking. Way. I tried that. It was a mess. How the hell can anyone play a random game? Why would anyone play a random game? I preferred skill and strategy with a side of RNG. Not RNG with a side of skill and strategy. Obviously I was not building this game for me but for others (games are product, guys) but I could not see how anyone would play… something… entirely… random.
That being said, after my initial shock wore off (and I tried most of the ideas that turned out not to work), I started to see the logic behind the choice of a slot machine game.
Number One: No one had ever successfully made a slot machine game with a strategy element.
Design is about solving problems of interaction, communication, and game mechanics. This was, from a certain point of view, a fascinating exercise in making the mechanics associated with slot machines (such as jackpots, holding, etc.) work within a battle framework.
Number Two: Everyone gets the idea of a slot machine and the additional depth keeps them hooked.
I could treat the simplicity of the game as a gateway drug to the heavier gameplay aspects of deck building, targeting, betting, elemental strengths and weaknesses, and so on.
Number three: People love monsters, which was the chosen theme.
For today, the reason why I brought up my bitching over the lack of player agency is because I want to show one part of the solution to mixing strategy with the slot machine.
Each monster in the game has a role. In a role-playing game, you wouldn’t use an all-fighter party, especially if none of them could heal. Naturally they’d all be dead at some point without a healer. The same principle applies to Monster Roller. The idea here is that pairing monsters produces better results. This party building, according to how the monsters synergize is called building a play.
We have four basic types of roles:
Whatever role a monster has, all monsters have two modes. The first mode, by default, is the attack mode. Then the second mode is the ability mode. Different roles have different abilities.
- Mode 1: Attacking
- Mode 2: Defending / some self-healing
- Mode 1: Attacking
- Mode 2: Healing / Shielding / Protecting / Removing Debuffs for other party members
- Mode 1: Attacking / Inflicting Status Effects
- Mode 2: Mostly defending itself, similar to Fighters
- Mode 1: Attacking
- Mode 2: Various Buffs (affects an ally’s next move)
We’ll go over them in the next section.
Fighters usually have a high attack and low HP, though sub-types (that we won’t get into this time) vary in the degree of attack/hp and in slot (ability) composition. They can only attack in varying methods and defend. You won’t win a fight fast without these guys.
The very first fighter we made was Magmus, and he has a low HP/high ATK combination (this sub-type is known as a Glass Cannon.)
His low HP makes him heavily dependent on healers or supporters. Below are his slots:
The top row is simply different art for the same basic attack value. (Get 3 of a kind for a huge jackpot!) Then the other slots are the weak attack, critical, and special ability (2x attack). Lastly, they can also mug for gold.
Various kinds of defense: immunity (with wings) means no damage taken at all. There’s a long shield (with the 2), a short shield (plain shield), a shield that also nets money, and a resist shield (with the paw) — it resists negative status effects.
Then there’s also a self-heal, though that happens rarely.
Other fighters, like Snapplant, have a higher HP but lower ATK, but sometimes have very cool abilities. Snapplant in particular, is somewhat harder to get than Magmus because of its Party Drain ability.
The half-full heart means a party drain attack. It’s pretty powerful.
Supporters and Healers
These guys usually have the ability to attack and heal, shield or protect. Protecting is separate from shielding — it’s a skill where the monster protecting takes the damage instead. The shield is your typical defense up spell.
Some supporters can also remove bad status effects (debuffs), give the regenerate buff, and even attack well (at the expense of HP).
Totoduck is an example of a monster with a decent attack stat, low HP, and useful abilities (though it cannot defend itself.)
Totoducks can shield the party, heal the party, or heal an ally (icons, top to bottom). Their attack stat grows similar to that of a Fighter.
Monsters that cause various status effects. Their abilities aren’t so great (it’s hard to make jackpot combinations with them) and they can’t heal themselves. However, all debuff abilities stack. If you get stunned twice, the values of both stun abilities are counted — which means a world of pain when you get stunned for four turns twice.
A good example of a monster in this class is Flurriken. Flurriken can stun the entire party for a single turn, or shrink other monsters, halving their stats.
To counter these, Totoducks are usually added to a team to provide support. Another tactic is to wait it out and counter with buffs like regen.
Modifiers are fascinating, high-HP, low-ATK support-types. Their abilities are subdivided into rate, duration, and area of effect modifiers. Basically: they buff the person next in line.
All the slots on the far right affect the monster next in line.
A rate modifier, like Nattilus, makes adds a bonus range from 1.5 to 3x on whatever is rolled by the next monster.
In this example, Nattilus is adding 1.75x to Pyropup’s party attack. If Pyropup’s attack value is 8, that means it will deal 14 damage to EVERYONE.
Some Common Plays We’ve Noticed:
Hoopip + Any Low HP Character (typically Magmus)
Hoopip can regenerate itself and protect other monsters; that way you don’t have to heal anyone and it just soaks up damage.
Zenzird + Gillbane
All of Zenzird’s abilities either turn single-target abilities into PARTY attacks or lengthen the duration of a debuff (by 1, 2, or 3 turns).
Nearly all of Gillbane’s abilities are single-target debuffs (stunning, poisoning, or both).
Combining them results in either party-wide stuns or poisons or poisons / stuns that don’t end.
Five of Gillbane’s attacks deal a debuff.
Zenzird is a duration / Area of Effect modifier.
There you have it! Hope this guide explained how to build plays and teams.
If you are interested in fighting a live PVP match against the designer, get in touch!