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Author Topic: Troy's Standard Rant #2: Follow Up  (Read 11980 times)
Troy_Costisick
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« on: September 28, 2005, 09:15:58 AM »

Heya,

I suppose I should call these non-rants, but in the end it’s not really important.  This is a follow-up to the rant I wrote here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16809.0
Again, I make a point and then a request for help :)

The Point:

In that thread, Adam Cerling expressed some difficulty in grasping the meaning of the questions that I outlined in my initial post.  I can empathize with him.  When I first was asked “what is your game about” I was working on Ember Twilight.  I was like…. “whattya mean what’s it about?  It’s about playing a game and having fun.”  I’ve come a long way since then, and a lot of it is thanks to the folks here at the Forge who had the patience to work with me on it.  Now I’d like to share what I’ve learned with those who are also struggling in this department.  Here’s how I’ve come to interpret and use these questions:

- What is your game about?

This question can offer a high initial barrier to receiving helpful replies.  For newer designers it can be very hard for them to articulate what their game really is about without giving a huge exposition on setting history, chargen, or the combat system.  Typically, those aren’t what a game is about.  A game “is about” accomplishing something. 

A sub-question of “What is your game about” is “What does your game accomplish?”  As in, what style of play does it support?  What will be the outcome of a campaign/session/reward cycle?  What product (if any) will it produce?  It is important to know what your game can do before you start thinking about things like character races, equipment, or setting history.

I asked three other designers to answer this question.  I learn best by example, so I thought I’d include them here so that others can see how they answered what their game is about.

-Ron Edwards (Sorcerer): Both the price and the potential of arrogance.


-Vincent Baker (Dogs in the Vineyard): It's about these young men and women who ride from town to town, holding the Faith together. It's about the problems small towns face, it's about sex and lying, and most of all it's about violence. What use is violence? What justifies violence? What are its consequences?


-Ralph Mazza (Universalis): Universalis is about creating stories:  100% of the mechanics are designed with this idea in mind.  The rules provide the means to ascribe attributes to people places and things.  Components are nouns, Traits are the adjectives, Events are the verbs.  Coins regulate how much control a player has over the story and Challenges and Complications are simply mechanical ways of deciding whose version of the story sticks


These games play wildly different from each other, but each has a solid answer to the question.  Contrast the length of Ron’s answer vs. the length of Ralph’s.  First thing that should strike everyone is that neither are very long, but Ron’s is very brief and to the point.  When you are creating an answer to this question for your game, be aware that you don’t have to have a three page dissertation (or even three paragraphs for that matter) describing what your game does.  All three answers above are excellent and do not go into the minute detail that I sometimes see designers go into for their games (and I’m also speaking to myself as I write this).  The minute detail will come out in subsequent posts as people ask further questions and you have the opportunity to further explain your design.  When someone posts their initial answer to this question it is most helpful to keep it to a single, informative paragraph or less.  The answer should be the *essence* of your game.

Also, if your game is a game that supports Narrativist tendencies, then is this an excellent place to mention your Premise (see Ron’s and Vincent’s answers).  If your game is Simulationist, then this is an awesome opportunity to briefly state which component of a game (character, setting, situation, system, color) your game intends to explore.  If you are creating a more Gamist design, then this is the place to let everyone know the importance of strategy, tactics, gamble and crunch (see Ron’s essays) in your game.

Trust me, an answer DOES exist for any role-playing game ever made.  The problem is, sometimes it’s not a very good answer.  The example used over and over around here is that DnD3e is about “killing monsters and taking their stuff.”  That is very true and is a great thing for DnD to be about.  It is not a great thing for someone else’s game to be about.  When deciding what your game will be about, it is important to know what others have done and do something (at least slightly) different from it.  You’re not going to out-DnD DnD.

Synonyms for this question include: “What is the point of your game?  What is the most interesting facet of your game?  Why should someone play your game?”

- What do the characters do?

This can be another question that intimidates new designers.  When I was first asked (again on Ember Twilight), my answer was “the characters go out and have adventures.”  To my thinking, that’s just not a very good answer.  Almost all games have adventures of some kind and in just about all of them the characters “go” somewhere. 

A good answer to this question should include the motivation for character action, the consequences of character action, and how the player-characters interact with each other and with the NPC’s.  Another way to state the question is “What’s the point of playing a character in your game?” or “What can the characters accomplish in your game and why would they want to?” 

This can kinda get into the fuzzy area of “will the players find it fun?”  Chances are that they will, so when answering this question do not worry about explaining why the players will think it’s fun.  That’s an answer to a totally different question.  Instead, just describe what the characters can do.  The replies you receive will tell you how fun people think it will be.

I asked this question to the three designers I mentioned above.  Here is how they responded:

-Ron Edwards (Sorcerer): Summon, bind, and command demons to serve their goals. The demons have their own inhuman issues as well, so every sorcerer-demon relationship is a time bomb.


-Vincent Baker (Dogs in the Vineyard): The characters confront the problems in the communities they serve and try to put them right. They root out sin and corruption, they fight demons and heal the sick and broken, they pronounce judgment and fulfill promises.


Ralph Mazza (Universalis): Question two is a little harder for Universalis.  As the second sentence above says every story needs characters.  Since Uni doesn't have a specific setting, theme, or genre defining what the characters do is hard.  Basically characters do whatever characters do in stories.  The first phase of the game establishes the Tenets for that session of play and it is during the Tenets phase that settings, and genres emerge.  After that phase of play it should be clear what the characters for that game do.  In fact the rules for establishing Tenets in chapter two now includes the following:  ".  A good sign that you don’t have enough Tenets to begin play is if you can’t yet imagine an interesting character and what that character should be doing in the story."


I knew Ralph might have a hard time with this question, which is why I really wanted to ask it of him.  But if you read close what his answer says, it tells us that the characters in Universalis are tools the players use to address What the Game is About.  They are components for “creating stories” as he put it above.  It is an excellent answer.  But also look at what Vincent wrote for Dogs in the Vineyard and what Ron wrote for Sorcerer.  They’re saying essentially the same thing.   The characters are the tools the players use to explore the game.  And more importantly, each tells HOW the characters are used to explore and address the game.  It’s the “time bomb” in Sorcerer, the “confronting problems” in Dogs, and “establishing the Tenets” in Uni.  A good answer to “What do the characters do” will tell how the players use the characters to experience what the game has to offer.

Synonyms for this question include: “What will the characters experience in your game?  What is the point of playing a character in your game?  What are the capabilities of the characters in your game?  What makes the characters of your game different from characters in any other game?”

- What do the players do?

Of all the questions, this one I think can cause the most confusion.  I remember asking this to one of my buddies (Frank) who was designing a game.  His answer was, “Aren’t the characters and the players basically the same thing?”  The answer is a resounding no! 

The characters and the players are two separate entities that interact.  Player motivation and character motivation are sometimes congruent, and sometimes not.  This question wants to know what the players do to impact the Shared Imagined Space (SIS).  This includes, but is not limited to, the meta game currencies a lot of games have.  Plot points and drama dice are two common examples of this currency.  How do the players use them to affect their characters, everyone else’s characters, and the setting?  If there is no meta-game currency, what can the players do to alter the SIS?  How do they interact with the story through the system?  Or, how does the system aid them in affecting the story and its elements?  IMHO, this is a far more important question that #2, but it can only be answered after #2 is established. 

Here is how the pro’s answered it:

-Ron Edwards (Sorcerer): Exert massive influence over the conflicts faced by their characters, as well as the character's full ability to decide anything the player decides - keep or abandon their demons, stick to or abandon their goals, ally or combat with whomever they want.


-Vincent Baker (Dogs in the Vineyard): The players play their characters, fully and with passion. The GM prepares towns in crisis and then plays the people there, also fully and with passion. The resolution rules make sure that the "fully and with passion" part really happens.


-Ralph Mazza (Universalis): Players in the game develop characters, setting, and a plot.  They do this by taking turns to spend Coins to purchase facts about who the characters are and what they're doing and by setting up plot complications and conflicts in order to earn more Coins.


Compare these answers to the ones from above about characters, and it’s easy see how different they are.  I’ve seen some people overlap their answers for 2 and 3, but that is a massive mistake.  They should be answered narrowly and concretely for each.  When answering what the players do, one should keep in mind that it is indeed separate from what the characters do, but it must show how the player makes the character do what he does. 

Most importantly, look at how each of these games empower the players.  Your game should do likewise.  The players need something to do, and more importantly they need responsibility and ownership of the game as they play.  By ownership, I mean they need to have a mechanism (supported explicitly by the system) through which they invest their time, emotion, and personal interest in the game as it unfolds.  This is how the players engage the game.

Synonyms for this question include: “What are the responsibilities of the players and GM in your game?  Where does player power begin and end?  Where does player stop and character begin?”

In closing, I feel these questions are very important in guiding design, especially for newer designers.  It is vital they be addressed and answered.  But you know what, you don’t have to know the answers to start posting in Indie Design.  You really don’t.  Sometimes you might not know the answers, and that’s okay.  That’s what we’re here for- to help you discover the answers for yourself.  Please, I implore anyone who is thinking of designing a game, ask questions.  Do not be afraid to admit that you don’t know something for sure yet.  That’s okay.  The folks here are here to help, not score points or show how dumb you are.  They are here to help make better games.  It’s in their best interest as better games make better gamers, designers, and thinkers of us all.

The Request:

I am by no means an expert on game design.  I am no better than anyone else reading this and am probably worse than most.  What I am requesting is a double-checking of what I wrote.  What I would love to see people supplement my explanations of these questions.  It is important that more than one point of view be seen.  Don’t post if you’re just going to reword a sentence or two of what I wrote.  That will just convolute things.  What I’m looking for is another insight that will help me, and anyone else who reads this, design better games.  And in the end, that’s what we’re all here for.

Peace,

-Troy
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Jeph
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Posts: 338

Jeff Schecter


« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2005, 01:53:40 PM »

Excellent post, Troy. This is the first time that these questions have really clicked with me--I've seen them a hundred times before, even asked them myself, but I never really get around to addressing them fully when I write a game. I now find myself mentally going over the answers with respect to the projects that I'm currently working on. Well done!

One thing that struck me, though, is that you don't directly address how what Players A, B, C, and D do can be completely different. (Vincent spoke to that topic anyway, giving separate responses for the player and the GM.) Many new designers assume that the standard player/GM split is the only way that things can be done. Specifically pointing out that typical game master duties can be distributed among the players might be a good idea. Examples of games with atypical player/GM setups: Rune, with rotating GM duties; Great Ork Gods, where each player is in charge of setting the difficulty levels for a couple of types of action; and the Shab Al-Hiri Roach, where the rules on scene framing and NPC control and conflict are explicit enough that a traditional GM isn't really required.

In short, I think that question 'What do the players do?' could be made more useful by addending another query: 'What is the specific role and function of each player?'

Jeff
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Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other
Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2005, 03:49:38 PM »

Heya,

Good point Jeff.  I should have mentioned that especially in Ralph's answer for Universalis.  That's about as decentralized as GM duties can get.  I appreciate that feedback,  good stuff :)

Peace,

-Troy
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2005, 04:43:15 PM »

I'm mostly concerned with "What is your game about?"  The other two questions are certainly useful, especially at untangling traditional player/GM duties and the sally-forth-and-adventure format and presenting the possibility of something different and potentially greater.  Those two questions don't need any changes; the only difficulty with them is separating the player/character equation and recognizing that the GM is a player just as much as the others at the table.  Once you clear that up in your head, you can run forward at full speed.

But "What is your game about?" is the killer question.  First off, it assumes that your game is about something, which may not be a good foundational assumption.  It certainly serves narrativist games well, but its use for the rest of the vast landscape of roleplaying I find somewhat dubious.  This is highlighted by Troy's assertion that every RPG out there has an answer to this question, and I don't think that's the case.  What is GURPS about?  Or alternately, consider Changeling: the Dreaming, which I best heard described as "Five different games masquerading as one."  Changeling doesn't have one answer to this question, it has five answers to this question -- and that's one of the systemic problems with Changeling as written.

The first question's casual use of the word "game", which conflates a number of meanings in this context, is problematic.  By this question are we asking what the social-activity-that-is-the-game is about, or are we asking what the rules-that-compose-the-game are about, or are we asking what the imagined-content-created-by-the-game is about?  I think this is probably the root of so many people responding to this question with long lists of rules -- they hear the question and they think that 'the set of rules which are in the gamebook' is the 'game'.  In order to get a useful answer to this question, you have to draw the distinction between what I like to call the Book and the Game.  Everything you write, everything you publish, everything that gets put onto paper is the Book -- and trust me, players will read it, go "That's nice" and then go do their own thing.  That part -- "their own thing" -- is the Game.  When they sit down at the table, start talking and rolling dice and telling stories, that's the Game, and as "game designers" we really have to recognize that our influence on the Game is at best indirect and at worst completely irrelevant.  I'm sure there are some gamers out there somewhere playing Sorcerer to kill monsters and take their stuff, and there's nothing that Ron can do about it.

"What is your game about", when unpacked, can explode into something more like "What do you want gamers to accomplish when they play your game?"  To me, this screams control issues all over: I, the game designer, want to reach out into the world through my book and dictate the actions of five strangers, ensuring that since they do what I want them to do, they will have fun.  The assumption that the game is about something means that, if people play the game and don't address what it's "about", they are then "playing the game wrong."  The gamebook becomes an implement of control for the game designer, often someone dissatisfied with their prior game experiences, and attempting to wrench things into the shape that they "should" be.  It's sort of the grand-daddy of the Impossible Thing Before Breakfast and Illusionism: game designers supposedly have a total control over the game, under which the players unwittingly follow all the designers' plans for them.  By answering "What is your game about" the designer somehow dictates what people playing the game will be playing about, which is pretty much absurd.

Up to this point, it probably sounds like I don't like the question.  In truth, I don't like the phrasing of the question, because it's just waiting to be misinterpretted in all the ways I've outlined above.  Now I'll be more positive.

A better way to unpack and rephrase the question, and one that is, I think, a little more realistic about how the product that game designers create and how it actually gets used, abused, and ignored, is to ask, "What kind of play does your gamebook support?"  This avoids the "game in what sense" issue, since it asks about play, not "the game".  It avoids the control-freak element by recognizing that the game is not about anything so much as it (hopefully) supports a specific kind of play -- perhaps it even supports play addressing a specific premise -- but five fourteen-year-olds can still use it to kill monsters and take their stuff.  (Because they will.  And they won't really be fourteen, either; they'll be thirty-something professionals who just want to unwind).  You can't play the game "wrong" -- at worst you're simply not using some tools that you have access to.  Perhaps those tools would have only got in the way for what you're going for, which is something completely different than what the game designer intended. (And how cool is that?)  Lastly, and I think most importantly, this patently allows a multiple answer: my game supports character-driven stories and/or high epic action.  It's assumed that some players will go for the character-driven stories and some will do the high epic action, and some will do both, and all three are okay.

The question remains: what are you, as a game designer, providing for your consumers?  That's a question worth answering.
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Green
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Posts: 247


« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2005, 04:52:38 PM »

Joshua,

Can you find ways to unpack the other questions Troy raises as well?  I really liked how you rephrased the "What is your game about" question because, as you said, it's sort of awkward in games that do not have a specific setting or a specific premise to address.  How do you think you can apply the same process to the other questions?
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2005, 05:06:20 PM »

Josh and Green,

Before you start down that path it might be useful to examine the assumptions at the core of your questioning of the question.

Can you find many games for which there is no immediately obvious answer to "what is your game about"...you site GURPS and Changeling as examples.  But why do you assume that those games wouldn't be better if they did have a concise concept of what the game is about?

Isn't it possible that there are alot of games out there that have been designed without asking that key question, and as a result don't have a good answer...and that maybe...asking the question and having a good answer is actually a better way to design games...and that maybe those games would have benefited greatly from some cohesive thought along the lines of these questions when they were being designed...
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Adam Cerling
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WhiteRat


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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2005, 07:50:29 PM »

Troy,

Good timing. Just the other day I was about to start a new thread addressing my confusion with how these questions applied to the Pool (and similar setting-agnostic games).

But then I went and re-read Ron's review of the Pool, in which he concludes:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
If the resulting system were presented with several light settings, this RPG would be among the strongest small-games available.

Oh, I thought. Maybe the Pool isn't a game, maybe it's just a system. As a System, in Big Model terms, it is a means of agreeing what happens in play, but it says nothing about Setting or Situation or Character or Color -- all of which are necessary to have Exploration.

It feels strange to think "the Pool is not a game, only part of a game," but if that's the case, then I understand why I can't answer the questions well for it and for similar systems.
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
Blankshield
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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2005, 07:55:53 PM »

The Request:

I am by no means an expert on game design.  I am no better than anyone else reading this and am probably worse than most.  What I am requesting is a double-checking of what I wrote.  What I would love to see people supplement my explanations of these questions.  It is important that more than one point of view be seen.  Don’t post if you’re just going to reword a sentence or two of what I wrote.  That will just convolute things.  What I’m looking for is another insight that will help me, and anyone else who reads this, design better games.  And in the end, that’s what we’re all here for.

By weird co-incidence, I was asked to talk about game design in my blog* recently, and wrote about the three questions today.  Here's the relevent bits from that post.

Ok, on to the questions. The three questions that are getting asked around the forge these days everytime someone pops up with a new game are:
What is your game about?
What do the characters do?
What do the players do?

These are very high-level questions. To give two (extremely different) examples, I'll give the answers for both D&D (3.0 and 3.5 specifically) and my own game Death's Door.

D&D:
What is your game about? Killing monsters and taking their stuff.
What do the characters do? specialize their abilities (classes), work in groups, improve on a linear scale to face progressively tougher monsters and get progressively better stuff.
What do the players do? Players: direct a single character's actions, make tactical choices in combat and during character advancement. GM: control the environment, direct all secondary characters and antagonists, provide appropriately scaled challenges and rewards.

Death's Door:
What is your game about? Facing & accepting death as part of life.
What do the characters do? Know they are going to die, try and get three goals accomplished before that happens.
What do the players do? Provide real goals for the characters. Direct a character's actions towards their goals OR set roadblocks between other characters and their goals OR provide feedback and encouragement AND rotate through all three roles during the course of play.

----
If you cannot answer these three questions about your game, your design will flounder. However, this doesn't mean you need to know it all right off the bat. When I started designing Death's Door, all I had was the answer to the first question, and couldn't articulate it nearly so clearly. I flailed around with things like "It's all about how, in western society, we have these taboos and it's about looking at them and blah blah blah."

Rather than knowing the answers, what you need to do is keep these questions in mind so that they inform the writing process.

Gech. That sounds artsy and highbrow and shit. Let's try this:

If you aren't thinking about what the characters should do, then you won't necessarily answer it with your rules, and people reading the game will not be able to consistently create characters that will work with the system. A good example of nailing 'what the characters do' is D&D 3.0 and 3.5. It is made very clear throughout character creation that the characters are specialized, are meant to work in groups, and advance over time.

If you aren't thinking about what the players do, you may fail to give them the necessary tools to interact with the characters and the rest of the imagined space. You may also fail to give them enough ties into that space to maintain interest. A good example of this breaking down is Shadowrun. What a character (netrunner) does is very clear and very detailed, but it isn't well attached to what the players do: while a character is netrunning, that player is engaged, and everyone else is stalled, often for long stretches of time. Also, the player with the netrunner is often stalled while the other players are engaged.

If you aren't thinking about what your game is about, your rules will lack focus. Some of them will support different or opposing styles of play, sometimes your flavour text and setting will not mesh with the rules for actually playing, and further. A good example of unfocused rules is Advanced D&D, way back in the day. The rules and 'how to play' advice couldn't decide if you were supposed to kill things and take their stuff, or engage in moral/ethical conflicts, or be just like characters in popular fiction, and ended up implying that you ought to be doing all three and it should work just dandy.

James
* My blog audience is small and local; mostly people I game with or otherwise know socially and locally.  Nigh-unto none of them have the time or inclination to visit the forge in anything more than a cursory capacity; they just know I make games and stuff, and some of them have expressed interest in also doing so (or expressed frustration at past failed attempts).
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I write games. My games don't have much in common with each other, except that I wrote them.

http://www.blankshieldpress.com/
Josh Roby
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2005, 08:02:06 PM »

Val--

I don't object to the question so much as I have issues with how easily misapplied it is.

That said, no, I don't think GURPS would be 'better' if it had a strong thematic focus.  It would be different, sure, and it would look a lot more like Forge games, but it would also lose most of its utility.  Changeling, on the other hand, could greatly benefit from being split into its five component games -- I personally did that with homebrew rules more than once.

Green --

The other two questions don't need much unpacking as they stand, in my humble opinion.

"What do the characters do?" concerns the imagined action -- what's the story, the competition, the events, the color?  What happens in pretend-land?

"What do the players do?" concerns all the real people involved.  It's about the procedures performed, and how they work together to create play.  You could rephrase it to "What do the people around the table do?" to eliminate the player/GM confusion, but at that point you're assuming that they're around a table -- not the case in LARPs or online gaming.

And WhiteRat --

I'd agree with your assessment from a different angle: the Pool is not a game until people are playing it.  If they're playing it, they'll create a setting, and then it's a "complete" game.  If no one is playing it, the Pool is just a book.
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Darren Hill
Member

Posts: 861


« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2005, 11:25:23 PM »

This is an excellent thread. It's just a shame the Subject title won't make it easy to find for those who go looking for this kind of information. Is it possible to c hange thread titles?
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2005, 03:36:58 AM »

Heya,

Quote
The first question's casual use of the word "game", which conflates a number of meanings in this context, is problematic.  By this question are we asking what the social-activity-that-is-the-game is about, or are we asking what the rules-that-compose-the-game are about, or are we asking what the imagined-content-created-by-the-game is about?


-The social activity is pre-suposed: you're roleplaying.  The imagined content flows from the rules and system of the game.  So a good answer to the question is an answer that will take all three into account and then provide the designer and/or reader with useable information to begin the design process or discussion.

Quote
What is GURPS about?

-Like I said in my previous post, I do not want this thread to devolve into "What is X game about?"  But for this one I'll do it because it seems to be a hang up.  Note: Oppinions will vary and what I say may not be the most accurate assessment and certainly isn't the last word on the subject of what GURPS is about.  For that, you'd need to ask Steve Jackson.

-GURPS is about providing users with massive resources and simple mechanics so that they can create adventures in whatever genre or genres they desire.

-There. That's it. That's all.  You might think it's more complicated that that, but truly it isn't.  Anything else added just complicates and convolutes what the game is really about.  But let's get to the heart of the matter.  The main hang up I see with people who have trouble with this question are those that put a lot of importance on Setting.  Unless your game is a Sim game where exploration is on Setting, the setting is not what your game is about.  For instance, games like Call of Cthullu, Middle-earth Role Playing, and Star Wards D6 are examples of games where it is about the setting.  DnD, Mechwarrior, Vampire, Dogs in the Vineyard, and The Riddle of Steel are all examples of games not about the setting.

-Often times the setting will contribute to what a game is about.  For instance, Vampire is set in modern America.  That's cool, but modern America is not what it's about.  It's about Vampire coping with personal issues in modern America.  And by the way, that last sentence is the Situation of the game.  Which often is what the game is about. Situation is a combination of Setting + Character.

Quote
Before you start down that path it might be useful to examine the assumptions at the core of your questioning of the question.

Can you find many games for which there is no immediately obvious answer to "what is your game about"...you site GURPS and Changeling as examples.  But why do you assume that those games wouldn't be better if they did have a concise concept of what the game is about?

Isn't it possible that there are alot of games out there that have been designed without asking that key question, and as a result don't have a good answer...and that maybe...asking the question and having a good answer is actually a better way to design games...and that maybe those games would have benefited greatly from some cohesive thought along the lines of these questions when they were being designed...

-This is excellent, Valamir.  This is the whole reason that we ask questions like this and really the whole reason the Forge exists.  It's to help us make games that are more thoughtful and cohesive.  I couldn't sum up any better justification for the purpose of my post than this.  I truly appreciate you posting it.

Quote
This is an excellent thread. It's just a shame the Subject title won't make it easy to find for those who go looking for this kind of information. Is it possible to c hange thread titles?

-Yeah, that's a good point Darren.  If I ever make a post like this again, I'll try to give it a better title.  Sadly, no, you cannot change the title once it's fixed.

Peace,

-Troy

PS: Please do not take my evaluation of GURPS above as an invitation to add your own.  That's not what this thread is for.  If you feel the need to discuss the three questions in relation to GURPS, which I think would be a fine discussion, then please take it to another thread.  Thanks :)

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gsoylent
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2005, 04:30:04 AM »

So D&D is about "Killing and looting stuff." That may be true, I was never a big fan.  But its not exactly a very flattering way to put it especially when in the same post we have quotes of indie games, by their authors, who get to make the case for their game very elloquently.

It's a bit like if I were to say regarding painting that "Cubism is about deconstructing form in time and space" and Impressionism "is just tricks dots and light".
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Blankshield
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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2005, 09:30:39 AM »

So D&D is about "Killing and looting stuff." That may be true, I was never a big fan.  But its not exactly a very flattering way to put it especially when in the same post we have quotes of indie games, by their authors, who get to make the case for their game very elloquently.

It's a bit like if I were to say regarding painting that "Cubism is about deconstructing form in time and space" and Impressionism "is just tricks dots and light".

Enh.  I think this may be quibbling over hairs, but I think you're missing an important bit:
"Killing monsters and taking their stuff." 

The emphasized words  are actually kind of important in there.  But please, let's not turn Troy's thread into a debate about D&D and/or perceived snobbery.  I happen to think that D&D has a cool and well focused "about", and with 3 and 3.5, finally has rules that arrow in and support it.  PM me if you have questions about why I think those specifics are so important.

James
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I write games. My games don't have much in common with each other, except that I wrote them.

http://www.blankshieldpress.com/
Josh Roby
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« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2005, 09:58:28 AM »

The social activity is pre-suposed: you're roleplaying.  The imagined content flows from the rules and system of the game.  So a good answer to the question is an answer that will take all three into account and then provide the designer and/or reader with useable information to begin the design process or discussion.

Yes, the social activity is pre-supposed, which is the problem with the question.  If your question pre-supposes parts of the answer, then you're not really asking as much as you think you are.  Conflating the social activity with the imagined content and the procedures of play only serves to conflate Question #1 (social) with Question #2 (content) and Question #3 (system).  Should these be related?  Absolutely.  Are they the same thing?  Absolutely not.  Before we can 'take all three into account' we need to first figure out what those three things are (not definitively, but at least roughly).

"What kind of play does your gamebook support?"  ... The question remains: what are you, as a game designer, providing for your consumers?

GURPS is about providing users with massive resources and simple mechanics so that they can create adventures in whatever genre or genres they desire.

Exactly.  The best answer to this question is framed in what the game provides, not what it is about.  It's about the tools, concepts, and (perhaps most importantly) the opportunities which are offered to the social environment.

Now, I'm not trying to say that the question should be changed.  "What is your game about?" is an excellent shorthand.  It's just that, like with all shorthand, it has the potential to be misconstrued.  My only intent is to provide a little disambiguation.
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lumpley
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« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2005, 10:15:41 AM »

Well I gotta say, the first question I ask about any game is "what is it about?" and I mean about.

If it's not about anything, I'd rather know that before I invest another second in the game.

I'm in favor of disambiguating the question in the other direction.

-Vincent
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