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Author Topic: Design theory vs. play desires  (Read 5418 times)
Gordon C. Landis
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« on: January 17, 2002, 12:00:55 AM »

Seemed like I should split this out of the Narrativism thread if I wanted to comment on it - and I do . . .
Quote from: Marco

So I think so long as GNS is preserved as a combination of what people want out of gaming and game design theory (which could be two entirely different models--see GDS) some poor fits (The Window) will have to be made to fit a three-bin system.

I've seen this issue before.  I'm not sure I fully understand it - but if I do, my respose is  . . . why would you want to separate design from what people want?  Wouldn't the goal of design be to provide - or at the very least not get in the way of - what people want?  Thus, isn't a combination theory the "best" way to approach it?

I mean, in a very fundamental way - I'm not trying to have the "System Matters" debate here.  Though maybe that's what this is really about . . .

Huh.

Gordon
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2002, 06:50:10 AM »

People don't know what they want until it's in front of them. Seriously.

If you ask someone what they want in a door, they'll tell you. But they won't tell you everything they want and they'll unintentionally leave out certain details (like, oh, what side the hinges are on and whether to use a pushbar, a plate, a doorknob, etc.).

This is how design goes:

Designer pulls together all the elements and incorporates them into a single thing. Designer shows gives it to people. People use it. How well they are able to use it is a measure of the Designer's ability.

And really, it doesn't matter whether you're designing RPG's, software, furniture or fountain pens. As my friend Joe says, "All design is old design." Just make it work ("work" including aesthetics and cost and such).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2002, 07:25:15 AM »

Hello,

My thinking on this topic is founded on what is apparently an unusual view.

My "biggest category" is role-players in the broadest sense. A sub-category is "designers," again, very broadly, including any and every effort in that direction. And then a sub-category of that is "commerce," in that some designed-games are offered to others for sale.

I contrast this view to the prevailing notion that we have designers over here, wondering or telepathically "just knowing" what is wanted by the players/customers over there, and players/customers over there eagerly anticipating what those designers, over here, will come up with next.

Now for two other categories of interest: 1) a role-playing game as an object, book, or set of information, and (2) role-playing as an activity. The one is simply not the other, and they cannot be confounded in any way, given a critical examination.

As far as I'm concerned, my priority of any effort at any level of the three categories (going inward: play, design, sell) should be #2, not #1. Therefore, insofar as #1 (making books) occurs, it exists in service to #2 (actual play).

So the issue Gordon raises seems very odd to me.

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2002, 11:17:33 AM »

Though I'm not confident I/we have clearly articulated the issue Marco is poiting to, I'm pretty sure I'm with Jared and Ron.  This IS (IMO) an odd issue, and my "instinct" is that there is no point/value in seperating out a theory of what people want from a theory of how to design.

But I've seen it raised a number of times by very clever people (like Marco), so I'm assuming there might be something I'm missing.

Gordon
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Laurel
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2002, 12:45:13 PM »

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

This IS (IMO) an odd issue, and my "instinct" is that there is no point/value in seperating out a theory of what people want from a theory of how to design.

But I've seen it raised a number of times by very clever people (like Marco), so I'm assuming there might be something I'm missing.

Gordon


I agree; unless one is trying to determine "who wants what" which I think is the heart of G/N/S.  What does player type G want, and how does that contrast from what player type N wants, and how can I as a S-loving designer create a G-oriented game that will be enjoyable without extraordinary drift?
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2002, 03:00:48 PM »

Quote from: Laurel

I agree; unless one is trying to determine "who wants what" which I think is the heart of G/N/S.  What does player type G want, and how does that contrast from what player type N wants, and how can I as a S-loving designer create a G-oriented game that will be enjoyable without extraordinary drift?


Boy, I'm having trouble figuring who's agreeing/disagreeing about what here.  I agree - "who wants what" is the heart of GNS, and therfore "what players (that is, all participants) want" and "how you design" are linked.  I thought that Marco was saying (as I've seen others say) that it's a MISTAKE to link those two elements, and that puzzles me.

Until/unless someone chimes in here to say why you SHOULD look at design and play goals as seperate things, I guess we're just spining our wheels,

Gordon
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Marco
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« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2002, 04:02:25 PM »

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

I've seen this issue before.  I'm not sure I fully understand it - but if I do, my respose is  . . . why would you want to separate design from what people want?  Wouldn't the goal of design be to provide - or at the very least not get in the way of - what people want?  Thus, isn't a combination theory the "best" way to approach it?


Hi Gordon,

You've got me wrong: I'm not saying design shouldn't take into account what people want. I'm saying that the *scope* of both systems is different in that GDS doesn't prescribe system-design.

GDS is a system of describing priorities in play.
GNS describes priorities in play AND suggests game-designs.

Thus you get The Window described as a Simulationist system instead of a Narrativist system which is, I think everyone will agree, a weak categorization (i.e. it's completely counter-intuitive).

In GDS, The Window is purely and clearly D. In GNS it winds up being S with an attendant thread(s) about its supposed identity crisis.

-Marco
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2002, 05:07:06 PM »

Marco,

Doesn't GDS have the same issue with Sorceror that GNS has with The Window?  So . . . I guess I still don't understand how you see the differeing Scope of the two theories really matters.

Obviously though, this isn't as big a deal for you as I'd thought it might be.  Feel free to drop the issue.  If there is anyone out there for whom it is a big deal, speak up - otherwise, it seems like I may have raised an issue that's not really an issue.

Gordon
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Marco
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GDS
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2002, 08:07:43 PM »

In GDS, *players* of sorceor are looking for a dramatic story so they'd fall into D firmly (I don't know if it distingushes between a dramatic story and drama at the gaming table--but anyway). Not an issue for GDS.

In GNS, The Window appeals to D players but doesn't have N mechanics (i.e N-design) so it gets stuffed into the Simulationist box--which clearly doesn't fit it. The reason? Because GNS prescribes *system* and GDS discusses what *players* want. Is that any clearer?

-Marco
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Gordon C. Landis
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GDS
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2002, 12:46:18 AM »

Quote from: Marco

In GDS, *players* of sorceor are looking for a dramatic story so they'd fall into D firmly (I don't know if it distingushes between a dramatic story and drama at the gaming table--but anyway). Not an issue for GDS.

I disagree here - GDS doesn't cover the the important "in-play creation by all" aspect of Narrativism, so to my mind Sorceror *needs* those extra-threads of clarification/explanation if you want to put in D.
Quote from: Marco

In GNS, The Window appeals to D players but doesn't have N mechanics (i.e N-design)

Ah, this is where I lose you - in my mind, N-mechanics/design is also a *player* desire.  GNS, GDS, any one of the elements is a player desire.  GNS adds some (important and interesting to some - problematic for others) notions about how system effects the ability to acheive the desire, but that's all, as far as I can tell.
Quote from: Marco

 so it gets stuffed into the Simulationist box--which clearly doesn't fit it. The reason? Because GNS prescribes *system* and GDS discusses what *players* want.

hmm . . . and carrying on with my last thought, I wouldn't say GNS prescribes system - it associates (in a far looser way than some people seem to think, IMO) system with the ability to effectively implement what players want.

And while I'm not entirely comfortable with the WAY The Window fits in the S-box, I wouldn't say it *doesn't* fit.
Quote from: Marco

Is that any clearer?

I think so - we may be at the "agree to disagree" point, unless you've got an idea about how to resolve our disagreement about what contitutes a thing that players want.   Or you (or someone) has another angle to attack this from.

Thanks for the discussion,

Gordon
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Marco
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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2002, 05:10:23 AM »

We can agree to disagree--but I think you're still missing my point.

N-Mechanics can be a player desire--sure. So can "always rolling low" or using funky dice. The fact that Sorceror is a definite subset of Dramatist play is clear because the D-player is focused *somehow* on story.

GDS does NOT purport to tell you HOW to focus on story. Finally, GDS isn't *at all* about systems. An AD&D player can be "focused on story" as can a Sorceror player and both are comfortably in the D-category.

It's in GNS that the player desire for story gets tied into game mechanics and puts The Window (and any non-narrativist story-telling game that doesn't include a set of specific mechanics) in the "horribly dysfunctional," (and possibly "deceptive" if it contains a setting or situation with "Narrativist Color." In other words, story-oritented non-narrativist play is treated as broke (and that's often done in the text of some posts on this board as well).

-Marco
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Laurel
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GDS
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2002, 11:00:19 AM »

Quote from: Marco

Because GNS prescribes *system* and GDS discusses what *players* want. Is that any clearer?

-Marco


Actually, Ron has said in a different thread yesterday or today that GNS is intended for modes of play: what players want.   Since Ron created GNS he does get the benefit of determining the intent; nobody else can take that away from him.  

The original Threefold GDS model discusses GM modes of play.  It was later applied to what players want, but not necessarily with the approval of the oldschool cabal that created it.  

A whole lot of confusion results because of models being applied to issues and situations beyond their intended application- in science, in psychology, and most definately in RPG game design and theory.   :)

See the new thread I started about Intent.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2002, 11:18:28 AM »

Hello,

Marco, over and over I see a fair statement of a GNS point followed by what seems to be a wild leap of "therefore." Here this has happened in two steps.

"It's in GNS that the player desire for story gets tied into game mechanics ..."

That's fair. "Story" of course is pretty vague, and I'd qualify it as "story in some specific fashion," such that one may want to create it, or experience it, or see it as a side-effect, or whatever.

Then,
"... and puts The Window (and any non-narrativist story-telling game that doesn't include a set of specific mechanics) in the "horribly dysfunctional," (and possibly "deceptive" if it contains a setting or situation with "Narrativist Color."

I balk at the "any" part. Unknown Armies is a fine example of a non-Narrativist story-telling game, and it's as peachy an example of Simulationist-play-facilitating design with an emphasis on Character Exploration as could be found. There are many, many others covering a range of emphases, such as RuneQuest or Cyberpunk (with a qualification there) or all sorts of things.

You seem to be stuck on that "horribly dysfunctional" phrase, as if it applied to any and all games that aren't Narrativist yet include "story." It does not so apply, in my text. It simply doesn't, and repeating that it does isn't getting us anywhere.

And then the bonkers part,
"In other words, story-oritented non-narrativist play is treated as broke (and that's often done in the text of some posts on this board as well)."

Oh for golly goodness' sake. What's broken is the insistent claim that "story-oriented" can be a single, unified concept. You even agreed with me that it cannot, a bit ago. As for non-Narrativist play w/story of some sort, or rather, for design that facilitates such play, nothing's broken about it until some aspect of the design fails to facilitate it in some consistent way, or until said aspect promises something that it cannot deliver. Vampire qualifies, drastically. The Window qualifies, mildly - this is not a horrible screaming indictment but an observation; see my review for precisely the degree to which I think it's an issue during play.

You may want to consider that "I perceive it as treated as ..." or "People might perceive such text to be implying ..." and similar phrases are completely irrelevant to me, and to any thinking person engaged in discourse. I deal with specific text and rhetorical necessity, not with flighty inferences about what I or others "might mean," or "could be thought to mean if you squint and cock your head to one side."

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2002, 01:22:57 PM »

Marco,

Sure, I'm up for looking at this further.  [Turns out I'm going over your post with a fine-toothed comb, in that "quote and respond" method some folks dislike.  Please, I use this simply as an attempted method to reach clarity - I do not mean to offend.]
Quote from: Marco

The fact that Sorceror is a definite subset of Dramatist play is clear because the D-player is focused *somehow* on story.

But how is that useful?  In particular, how is it any more useful than GNS saying the D-player is focused *somehow* on prioritizing Exploration
Quote from: Marco

GDS does NOT purport to tell you HOW to focus on story.

OK, I can see that - I'm certainly not saying there aren't differences in the "scope rules" of GDS and GNS, just questioning what the advantage is.  GNS does tell you HOW Narrativism focuses on story, because the manner in which you focus IS what distinguishes it from other kinds of story-orientation (e.g., Dramatism).  But it does not say *only* N may be be story (little-s) focused.  So I'm not sure what the absence of HOW in GDS adds to its' applicability - if the how is not in GDS, then in needs to be in some explanatory commentary/thread.  Just like GNS needs that explanation/thread for The Window.
Quote from: Marco

Finally, GDS isn't *at all* about systems. An AD&D player can be "focused on story" as can a Sorceror player and both are comfortably in the D-category.

Oh, this sparked a KEY realization for me - comfortably in the D-category, fine.  But they would NOT neccessarily be comfortable in each other's games.  
Quote from: Marco

It's in GNS that the player desire for story gets tied into game mechanics

No, I wouldn't put it that way - in GNS, the player desire for story is tied into game style, which may be best served by particular mechanics, but not of neccessity.  N is characterised by a player desire to participate, during play, in the creation of a likely-meaningful story.  There's nothing prescriptive about mechanics in that.  It may turn out (and it does, best as I can tell) that certain mechanics best fascilitate the goal . . . but the initial, theoretical focus is still on the goal.
Quote from: Marco

and puts The Window (and any non-narrativist story-telling game that doesn't include a set of specific mechanics) in the "horribly dysfunctional," (and possibly "deceptive" if it contains a setting or situation with "Narrativist Color."

Ron has addressed this from his angle . . . uh, I guess I'll leave it at that.
Quote from: Marco

 In other words, story-oritented non-narrativist play is treated as broke (and that's often done in the text of some posts on this board as well).

Or maybe I do have something to say - story-oriented non-narrativist play *IS* broken - for someone with Narrativist desires.  It most certainly AIN'T broken for, e.g., a Dramatist.

There is a lot of focus on Narrativism here at the Forge, and I certainly can understand how that can come across as disparaging to other play styles.  But really - IT IS NOT MEANT THAT WAY.  I've got nothing against people speaking up from time to time and saying "hey, it seems like you're slighting Gamism" or whatever, but when the response is "No, that's a valid play style, just not what I'm talking about at the moment" . . . at some point, you just have ask to people to accept that you mean it.  *I* most certainly mean it - while I'm very interested in the Narrativist stuff, I'm not yet clear (and haven't been able to experiment in play enough to determine) exactly where my preferences lie.  A decent amount of Immersion is pretty important to me, and "dramatism" may do a better job of preserving that than N does.  That's what my "Player Illusionism" thread was meant to be about.  And I can see a fascinating discussion of story-focus in a G context . . .

But back to the topic at hand - does that make MY position clearer?  Or at least, do you now believe I understand your position, and just disagree with it?

Gordon
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Marco
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« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2002, 06:29:53 PM »

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

Marco,

Sure, I'm up for looking at this further.  [Turns out I'm going over your post with a fine-toothed comb, in that "quote and respond" method some folks dislike.  Please, I use this simply as an attempted method to reach clarity - I do not mean to offend.]

Hi Gordon,
I've got no problem with point-by-point analysis. :)

Quote

But how is that useful?  In particular, how is it any more useful than GNS saying the D-player is focused *somehow* on prioritizing Exploration


a) More correctly GNS doesn't address Dramatist concerns (the Dramatist exists between S and N)
b) Saying that what a person wants out of gaming is a story (under GDS) is useful in that it lets out D and S play. Under GDS the S (also meaning simulation) means that the player is interested in simulating a reality. Under GNS simulationist applies to two modes of play:

a) those interested in simulating a reality--or exploring/experiencing play in one.
b) story-oriented simulationist play (where the GM is the story teller or the simulation is not one of a reality but of some sort of fiction). This also comprises character development (in the lit-sense, not the 17th level sense).

Quote

OK, I can see that - I'm certainly not saying there aren't differences in the "scope rules" of GDS and GNS, just questioning what the advantage is.  GNS does tell you HOW Narrativism focuses on story, because the manner in which you focus IS what distinguishes it from other kinds of story-orientation (e.g., Dramatism).  But it does not say *only* N may be be story (little-s) focused.  So I'm not sure what the absence of HOW in GDS adds to its' applicability - if the how is not in GDS, then in needs to be in some explanatory commentary/thread.  Just like GNS needs that explanation/thread for The Window.


I'm not suggesting that GDS is *better* than GNS. It's not like you should throw out GNS and stick to GDS--they do different things. GDS doesn't tell you how to design a system. It does tell you what sorts of things a player might/might not like. A D-player will NOT like monster-filled dungeon crawls with lots of tricky death traps. If you run a spec-ops game for an S-player, expect to do *a lot* of homework (you might have to for the N-player but then, you might not. The S-player will likely care if your UK Marines have the wrong side-arms).

If you consider vanillia narrativism in the N-bucket (I think VN play should be considered S, personally: how does the VN player "create story?") then the VN player might still play in (and maybe even enjoy) an S-game and a somewhat S-GM.

[Aside] Most good S-GM's in my experience will, over the course of a multi-story-line game take into account what the players want and thus, with their input, create story-lines that suit them. I don't see a VN player having a lot of conflict with a S-GM who is also story-oriented in the sense that the GM wants to use a N-Premise theme, doesn't railroad (maybe frames excessively--but certainly keeps tabs on player frustration), etc.
[/Aside]


Quote

Oh, this sparked a KEY realization for me - comfortably in the D-category, fine.  But they would NOT neccessarily be comfortable in each other's games.  


Right. Hardcore N-players (as opposed to VN who *might* be) have a very specific story-oriented view: specifically they want player-authorial mechanics or (failing that) a social contract where they get a lot of say in the story or at the *very* least have complete license in deciding how the Premise gets resolved (this is what I think is often referred to as 'drift' and has been described as "playing a game the way its creators didn't intend it to be played"--a value judgment, I think--and a telling one).

Note: this is also NOT Ron's definition of Drift. Ron isn't one of the people making that specific statement.

Quote

No, I wouldn't put it that way - in GNS, the player desire for story is tied into game style, which may be best served by particular mechanics, but not of neccessity.  N is characterised by a player desire to participate, during play, in the creation of a likely-meaningful story.  There's nothing prescriptive about mechanics in that.  It may turn out (and it does, best as I can tell) that certain mechanics best fascilitate the goal . . . but the initial, theoretical focus is still on the goal.


A few points:
1. the term creation of a likely meaningful story either requires specific mechanics or gets the game system declared broken (i.e. needing house rules) or at best drifty (which, implies it's weak if not actually broke).
2. again, the goal BY IT'S DEFINITION requires game-mechanics to execute properly.

Quote

Ron has addressed this from his angle . . . uh, I guess I'll leave it at that.

Or maybe I do have something to say - story-oriented non-narrativist play *IS* broken - for someone with Narrativist desires.  It most certainly AIN'T broken for, e.g., a Dramatist.


Three answers:
1. If you're right, that's what happened to The Window.

2. Maybe. The broken bit is tricky: I've seen posts that say something is broken if you need house rules to play it. I've seen a post that says that The Window will need some house rules to play in a Narrativist Fashion or a Sim Fashion. I've seen posts that say The Window isn't broken. I think they were all from people in general agreement.

3. Since Narrativist is covered under Dramatist, it's correct to say that for *some* Dramatists the game might be considered broken--not for others.

Quote

There is a lot of focus on Narrativism here at the Forge, and I certainly can understand how that can come across as disparaging to other play styles.  But really - IT IS NOT MEANT THAT WAY.  


I don't think anyone has any malice--I do think that there's a trend towards seeing story-oriented non-narrativist play as being inferior. It isn't an air-time thing, it's a language thing (and post thing--read Jesse's post about arguing with Simulationist story-oriented gamers about what story-oriented play is all about).

Saying things like "in a simulationist game the players have no control over when or how they encounter a monster" makes it sound like the writer(s) believe all sim games are railroaded.

Read chapter 5 of Ron's essay and see what happens when VtM players try to play.  Either they drift to N (which requires changing the game rules), drift to illusionism (which can be a lot of fun but remember: the players only contribute "characterization" and are "unaware of the extent to which they are manipulated"--but hey, it's not dysfunctional ... "necessiarily"--oh and the game will require house rules to get it there) but, _most likely_ (emphasis added) outcome is that there's an ongoing purile power struggle with the GM and the players.

The first two imply that VtM is broke (i.e. needs house rules) but could be played. The third suggests that there's no native story-oriented mode for it that is any good. This model is then applied to a lot of games--like Dead Lands ... games that focus on story without N-mechanics.

Quote

I've got nothing against people speaking up from time to time and saying "hey, it seems like you're slighting Gamism" or whatever, but when the response is "No, that's a valid play style, just not what I'm talking about at the moment" . . . at some point, you just have ask to people to accept that you mean it.  *I* most certainly mean it - while I'm very interested in the Narrativist stuff, I'm not yet clear (and haven't been able to experiment in play enough to determine) exactly where my preferences lie.  A decent amount of Immersion is pretty important to me, and "dramatism" may do a better job of preserving that than N does.  That's what my "Player Illusionism" thread was meant to be about.  And I can see a fascinating discussion of story-focus in a G context . . .

But back to the topic at hand - does that make MY position clearer?  Or at least, do you now believe I understand your position, and just disagree with it?

Gordon


Yes, clear. Was I clear about the split between GNS and GDS?

-Marco
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