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Author Topic: Learning from the "DnD for Dummies" ad in terms of game design  (Read 2073 times)
Palaskar
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« on: September 16, 2005, 09:44:33 AM »

I don't know if this should be posted here or in Publishing, so I started here. I've ommited stuff that I know has been obviously talked about, in this case, pregen characters. Please be patient, I don't get on The Forge often.

I saw the "DnD for Dummies" commercial a few days ago, and was wondering what could be learned from the commercial in terms of game design to get people into the hobby. Here's what I noticed from the commericial:

-No funky dice. Gone is the d20. The woman in the commercial say something along the lines of, "I always wanted to try DnD, but when I saw those 20-sided dice, it just frightened me." Please note that I like both d20s, d6, and d100s. (There was a real mess over at rpg.net about this.)
-Simple descriptors. The man in the commercial brags, "I have all the tools I need to go from 1st level Barbarian to Epic Level Dungeon Master!"
-I also believe there was an emphasis on story telling over wargaming in the commercial, but it went by so fast I couldn't tell.

The following two belong more in Publishing:
-Watch what you name your game and how you promote it. (See above -- the Dungeon Master thing was probably a holdover from the cartoon series.)
-I also noted their choice of promoters in the commercial: a mixed-race couple of one white woman into yoga, and one black guy into skeet shooting. Lesson? IMHO, Try for the following target audiences: couples, liberals, people into spirituality and health, and gun bunnies.

And no, I don't own the book. I can't afford it until Christmas, and I don't know if it's really worth buying it for purely game design purposes -- i.e., learning from WotC/Hasbro's marketing research.
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Palaskar
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2005, 10:07:21 AM »

Gah. I should've probably ommited "story-telling over wargaming" since that's been discussed to death on the Forge.

On the other hand, having "all the tools" to progress in a setting, as well as become a GM, probably bears some discussion.
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timfire
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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2005, 10:26:26 AM »

I saw the "DnD for Dummies" commercial a few days ago, and was wondering what could be learned from the commercial in terms of game design to get people into the hobby.

Hmmm, it must be remembered that the commercial is a piece of marketing, which is a different thing than design. You can take almost any game and market it towards any people group. *Designing* an RPG for non-gamers is a different issue. Here are a few threads that get into the whole newbie/non-gamer thing:

Newbie-Friendly Indie Games
Rapid deployment rpgs
Everyone's a Gamer: A Rant (This one is only sorta on topic)

... OK that's all my quickie search came up with.

Like I said in "Newbie-Friendly Indie Games", I seem to have success with my game The Mountain Witch in actual play with non-gamers because (I believe) the game has a solid premise (little "p") that's easy to understand.

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Josh Roby
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2005, 10:44:49 AM »

The first question regarding "Getting Other People into Gaming" is why.  I don't mean this rhetorically, I mean the answer to this question answers a lot of your following questions.  If your answer is "to diversify our revenue streams" which seems to be Hasbro's answer, then you need that broad-based appeal to multiple demographic groups (mixed-race couple, blue state yoga practitioner, red state skeet shooter) and downplay the learning curve difficulty (funky dice, progression to DM).

HOWEVER.

I don't believe Hasbro is actually attempting to diversify their D&D market.  I don't think they're after people who have never gamed before.  I think they're after the players they've "lost" over the years (and maybe their family and friends).  This ad campaign is all about increasing market visibility and name recognition, and nothing will get gamers to pay more attention than a public attempt to validate their hobby to the mundanes.  Also, 30-year-olds who haven't gamed in fifteen years might pick up the Dummies book for nostalgia's sake.  They may consider starting up a game again, but as long as they buy that first book, then the ad's done its work.
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Palaskar
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2005, 11:54:57 AM »

I checked out Newbie-Friendly Indie Games before posting, and found it very helpful. Thanks for the other two links. I'll go look at them as soon as I finish this post.

Ok, stupid question, but is the following:
Quote: you need that broad-based appeal to multiple demographic groups (mixed-race couple, blue state yoga practitioner, red state skeet shooter) ...

merely marketing, or is it possible to design a game that better appeals to multiple demographic groups? Or am I just missing the point again?

BTW, I should have mentioned straight away that this question is in context of redesigning my generic RPG, Signature. I'm basically happy with the way it is now, but I worry that it's still a bit too esoteric for beginners and suffers from a neat "tagline." Frex, when I used the tagline "What if RISUS met HERO? It's the Signture RPG!" to plug it, reviewers typically asked, "where's the point-based chargen?"

(For people who are curious about Signature, I posted about awhile back on a thread called, "My RPG is too weird for most people to grasp.")
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2005, 12:04:18 PM »

is it possible to design a game that better appeals to multiple demographic groups?

I think it's very possible.  I think games like Breaking the Ice do this very well.  I also think, however, if you designed a game for broad-based appeal, it would look nothing like D&D.  Because Joe Average isn't interested in fighting monsters and taking their stuff.  Joe Average may be interested in being a hero, but that's not what D&D is about.
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Palaskar
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2005, 12:24:16 PM »

Gah. I meant -lack- of a neat or -proper- tagline above. Like I said, the current "tagline" for Signature doesn't really work right.

Quote:
[Is it possible to design games that appeal to multiple demographic groups?] I think games like Breaking the Ice do this very well. I  also think, however, if you designed a game for broad-based appeal, it would look nothing like D&D.  Because Joe Average isn't interested in fighting monsters and taking their stuff.  Joe Average may be interested in being a hero, but that's not what D&D is about.

Hey, I don't mind this at all. Like I mentioned before, this thread is going to be appliead to my genric RPG, Signature. I'll do a search for "Breaking the Ice" now.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2005, 12:37:51 PM »

Hey there,

Something I've really noticed about Primetime Adventures (and also about BtI) is that people who actively dis-identify as gamers get interested when they hear the premise (again, "small p").  There's something there that has context in their lives.  Thanks for the mention, Palaskar. : ) (There's link in my sig, btw.) 

This page has a link to an excerpt from the dummies dnd guide.  It's interesting looking at how they present the information.  The target audience seems to me to be 1) non-gamers, 2) who have been exposed to D&D and 3) who probably have some negative preconceptions about it.  It starts out with making an analogy between role-playing and playing pretend, and goes on to list the virtues of D&D and what makes it different from other games.  These include: the fact that the game is continuous and progressive (ie your character changes & advances), it involves storytelling and is educational (teaching math etc. to youngsters).

It also breaks down the "components" of the game in a different way that I'd think of, from the inside. They are: the players, the GM and the adventure.  Dice and the game text itself are listed as supplies.  I wonder if this is a productive approach, along with touting the virtues of the activity (not that they aren't present, just, is that what would make table top rpg more popular, really?), or if the authors are just coming from an apologist's point of view because the hobby has such low status in the US.

I'm curious to see who buys the thing.  Gamers? Young folks who haven't found gaming culture yet?  Parents of kids who play D&D?

best,
Emily
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2005, 12:44:28 PM »

Hasbro has the luxury of advertising to a large audience and attempting to appeal to a wide demographic. Shot gun advertising...you'll hit something.

However, there's a great deal to be said about designing what you yourself feel passionate about. That includes the novelties, like twenty sided dice. Plenty of people out there love those things too and if you design with your passion in mind, they will pick up on that, riff off it and want your game.

The small press publisher has the luxury of pursuing what they actually care about. While the large press publisher falls to the economic pressures that harmoginise a product into meaninglessness.

Oh, I was a bit ranty, wasn't I!?
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Darren Hill
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2005, 05:25:06 PM »

I'm curious to see who buys the thing.  Gamers?
The only person I know who's bought it is a gamer - but he bought it because he thought it would be a humourous book rather than an actual help manual.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2005, 11:40:01 AM »

Exactly, Darren.  Non-gamers simply don't care and a yellow-and-black cover isn't going to make them care.
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