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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 50 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Troy's Standard Rant #2: Follow Up  (Read 11526 times)
Josh Roby
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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2005, 11:09:21 AM »

Vincent, how do you apply that standard to games like Universalis, GURPS, The Pool, etc?  Games where the 'about' is either skeletal ("stories") or created by the players and not the game designer?
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lumpley
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2005, 12:00:18 PM »

I take the cue from Primetime Adventures: in play, Universalis and The Pool are about the issues raised by the game's fiction's situations, whatever those situations and issues turn out to be. Like Primetime Adventures', their rules are designed to make that happen.

The game designer leaves the "what" of "what it's about" to the players, but in such a way that play WILL be about it.

Whereas GURPS' rules don't reliably make play about anything - GURPS leaves not only "what it's about" but aboutness entire to its players. (In fact, I'd say that GURPS - and not just GURPS, the class of rpgs it represents - isn't even aboutness-neutral, it's aboutness-hostile. It's harder to make play be about something, using some sets of rules, than to make play be about nothing.)

-Vincent
« Last Edit: September 29, 2005, 12:38:51 PM by lumpley » Logged
Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2005, 12:25:57 PM »

Heya,

Quote
Vincent, how do you apply that standard to games like Universalis, GURPS, The Pool, etc?  Games where the 'about' is either skeletal ("stories") or created by the players and not the game designer?

-I think that the definition you are using for "about" is a lot narrower than is generally used around here.  That is a pitfall.  Narrowing how the word is used will result in exclusion of game designs, themes, and potential.  Check out Ralph's response to the question in my origonal post.  It is an excellent example of what a game that lacks a setting is about.  And again to reiterate, I feel you are too hung up on the importance of setting as a necessary component of a game design.  A prefab setting is not necessary in any way.  Many games don't have one and don't need one.

Peace,

-Troy
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2005, 12:55:24 PM »

Vincent, I like your answer!  So either the game as written is about something, or it has the explicit potential to be about something.  Either way, when actually played, it will be about something.  Nice and neat.

I'll offer a limp-wristed defense of GURPS and other focusless systems in saying that most of them have a couple things that they can reliably create games about, but those things are never explicitly stated, nor are they explicitly supported.  GURPS, for instance, is very good at narrow-focus objective-based missions.  That's where it started (I have a copy of Orcslayer), and that's what I presume the central designers and writers primarily use it for.  That said, I'll join the chorus saying that a book is more valuable to the customer when it actually says what it does, rather than lets them find out after purchasing.

Troy, I'm not talking about setting.  If I were, I would have included Sorcerer in the list of games with skeletal 'abouts'.  Sorcerer has a very specific, well-defined, and well-supported 'about': arrogance, its price and benefits (paraphrase).  You can express that in whatever setting you like.  The games I listed have no setting, true, but they also have no specific focus.  That part is not in the box, so to speak.  There are games with settings but without foci -- it's just impossible to write a good setting without a focus, so these are usually pretty low-quality.  I won't name names, because with my luck one of the designers will probably be reading.  But all those games that have settings that are just piles of kewl stuff with no real unifying principle other than weak genre conventions?  Yeah, those.  It's possible to pick these up, insert a focus, and make them work, but this typically requires rewriting broad swaths of the setting material.

To sum up: the question "What is your game about?" works best when you're talking about people at a table playing the game (not the book, not the setting, not the system).  The game designer has weak control over Actual Play, but absolute control over what's included in the book, which provides tools, concepts, and opportunities that may be used in Actual Play.  The game designer can't dictate what Actual Play will be like, but he can certainly have intentions as to what he'd like it to be, and can use his control over the contents of the book to provide a set of tools, concepts, and opportunities that can help make his intentions more likely to occur.  But that's long and boring, so let's continue to use "What is your game about?" and refine from there.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2005, 02:54:37 PM »

Heya,

Quote
But that's long and boring, so let's continue to use "What is your game about?" and refine from there.

Sounds good.  And I really appreciate your input.  Questioning everything is how we learn, and I know I have learned a lot from this thread.  Big thanks also to Ralph and Vincent.  Their insight further illuminated the purpose of these questions to me.  I feel much better equipped to both ask and answer them.  And in the end, that's what I was hoping to get out this.  Sweetness....

Peace,

-Troy
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Adam Cerling
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« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2005, 06:01:53 PM »

I've also learned from this thread. The game I'm designing has no setting, but it felt so much like it was about something that the "about" question confused me. Now that I understand how "about" doesn't require a setting, I think I can answer that question for my game.

(And the answer, for the curious, would be something like "My game is about how you choose and how you change when your goals, beliefs, and dreams conflict.")
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
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