When you hear that there’s a sequel to Chess, most eyes roll. However Zac Burns over at Ludeme Games saw David Sirlin’s design document for Chess 2: The Sequel and wanted to play it. Since no one else was making Zac decided that he would.
Zac, like most of us, started playing Chess at a young age. His father taught him, “It was a defining moment in my childhood when I beat my father,” he said. As time passed and he continued playing he quickly found the common issues most have with the game. The issue is that Chess is mostly about memorization. An incredible fact most might not know is that roughly 60% of all top level Chess games end in a draw.
Could you imagine any of your favorite competitive games or sports where that high of a percentage ended in a draw? No one would play it.
While Chess 2: The Sequel sounds like a joke, this stale metagame is where Sirlin’s design for Chess 2 started. Zac was excited to see the way Sirlin was addressing the issues. Some key differences in Chess 2 are, the mid-line invasion as a win condition, a double blind bluff mechanic called dueling, and the different armies plays can choose from. The result is an updated form of Chess, where you actually play your opponent’s mind, rather playing against your opponent’s ability to memorize moves.
Don’t be mistaken, it’s still Chess. It plays still feels like Chess. However, where Chess is ultimately ‘discovered’ the sequel opens up. “Chess is a lot more fun when you are improvising, when you are adapting to the situation, when you figuring things out for yourself, rather than being told what to do,” Zac said. We enjoy learning and discovering ideas. Chess, as old as it is, has been figured out.
Zac as a developer is draw to how games teach ideas. He actually puts it very succinctly:
“I think games are important for education. Games themselves are systems, and when you’re playing, you are learning to adapt to the system or how to exploit a system. Doing that process and encountering new systems is strengthening to a person intellectually. I don’t think games should be about abnegation or gambling. They are powerful tools.”
Zac used to work at mobile gaming companies and grew a distaste for many of the practices we see dominating the industry: free-to-play, pay-to-win, etc. He recalls an email, where a husband confided that his wife wanted him to stop playing their game, but how he couldn’t convince himself after recognizing how much money he sank into it. It soured game development for Zac.
That is why he finally made the jump to indie, and started Chess 2. He wanted to make games for what he loved about them. Games have a powerful ability to teach and educate. Zac references Zachtronics Industries Space Chem. Zac stated that Space Chem helped understand programming better. in particular parallel programming and working with channels. These are the types of games he wishes to make, ones that teach new ideas or help players better understand a complex concept.
The interview holds a wide variety of topics including a definition of a “skinner box,” Zac’s dream company setup, and ways to teach language in games. Zac is still hard at work on Chess 2 and you can expect to see that out on Ouya in December. Until then, you can follow his website or on twitter.