Structured Game Design (Warning: Long Post)

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Roy:
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I tried it last night, and it was so useful I felt like kicking myself in the head too.


Now don't go and strain yourself ... here, let me help! <kick>  <laughs> I'm just kidding, of course.

I'm really glad this helped you out.  It's done wonders for me whenever I needed to do any form of problem-solving.  

I'll start on the next part tonight and see if I can get it posted late tonight or tomorrow night.

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com

Roy:
Hey, Rob!

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I have certainly imagined my "perfect game" many times before, but have never gone through and done a treatment of it as you have. In many ways I have kind of done things in the reverse, I have had a vision of the gameplay I want my game to support, and have been constructing the mechanics and concepts to build up to this game play.


I used to try to design this way, but the end result never turned out the way I wanted.  So I started defining what result I wanted and reverse engineering it.  It's really worked for me and I think it's fun too.

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Have you found being able to draw on this "game treatment" helpful in communicating the nature of the game to other people?


Definitely.  I can give someone the game example from my first post and they go "OH!  That's cool!"  Saving these is also great for giving new players an idea of what is expected from them without boggling their minds with a bunch of rules.  

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Each iteration or attempt at it by me has refined it, giving way to the broader design I have for it now.


Absolutely.  Revision is the secret of great writers.  They get the bare bones down first then revise, revise, revise.  The trick is to keep going forward without bogging yourself down with unnecessary details.  If a rule or concept doesn't support your vision for your game, chuck it out the window.

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com

RobMuadib:
Quote from: Roy

While responding to another post, I mentioned the way I start designing RPGs.  Ron thought it would be interesting to develop the idea further, so I'm starting a new thread dedicated to exploring this idea.  I would love for everyone to jump in and help us flesh this idea out.

Anytime I want to design either a new setting or a new system, I'll sit down and imagine what a "perfect" game session would be like when it's actually played.  In my mind's eye, I'll actually see fictional players sitting around a table playing my game.  

As they're playing their game in my mind, I'll write down the game in a dialog format without any details of how the system behind the game works.  Here's an example of a game in progress:



Oh yeah, one point I wanted to make, is that I believe including some mechanical details in imagining how the game is playedcan be very useful. Not so much about the actual implementation of those details, how results might be derived, but how those results would be used.

For instance, one of the major elements of my design is the use of an underlying log scale for the trait scale. The players use of this Table/system is a major element of the design, and will majorly shape the game language of the system.  

So I guess I don't believe excluding all mechanical elements is necessary useful, as a game relies on the mechanics to provide a large part of it's language. Again, it is relevant to the nature of the system, of course. But my game system features major use of the Design Architecture by the players to create game elements such as settings, guises, props, and special FX. Thus, a general feel for the mechanical details will be essential to how the players will engage in play.

Otherwise, I believe it is a great idea. But it must be tempered by understanding how much your game is going to rely on mechanics to be played.

Actually, that leads me to an interesting thought, after you have completed preliminary design of the mechanics, to go back and see how well your games mechanical language supports or impedes the type of play you imagined.

Rob

Roy:
Once I've got my list of assumptions and questions, I'll go through and make a list of what I consider to be the important elements of the game.  This is the first stage where I start making decisions about my design.  Here's what my list might look like for the example in my first post:

Basic Idea:  Monsters exist in a modern world.  Most people can't see the monsters for what they are.  The players kill the monsters.

The players drive the action.  The GM doesn't force the players along a set plot, but creates situations that the players can explore and interact with.

The players are encouraged to speak in character and act out non-violent actions.

The setting is a dark and moody version of our reality.  The GM is encouraged to use spooky descriptions, but the players are expected to be larger-than-life action heroes.  

The GM is encouraged to design adventures as a series of exciting situations that build to a climax.  Each situation should make the players want to know the answers to the questions that are raised without forcing the players along a specific path.  

The game will not be marketed to one specific age group and should avoid adult-only content.

The resolution system will not focus on specifics, such as how many feet characters are from the monsters, or how much damage will be taken from a fall of a certain height.  The resolution system should have a cinematic, action adventure, larger-than-life feel to it.

The resolution system will be a fortune-based set of mechanics using dice, but will feature a mechanic where a player can take absolute control of the results of his character's action for a short period of time.  This mechanic should encourage creativity and interesting situations.

The resolution system should be nearly identical for all action checks, whether they're combat, magic, or a skill.

The player has complete control over whether his character can die or not.  If a character is defeated during a scene, the GM can put him into a sticky situation as long as he doesn't kill him.  If a player wants his character to die (i.e. doesn't like him after he played him), the player should let the GM know so that the GM can help him "write out" the character.

The recommended campaign will feature the players as new members of an ancient secret society that protects mankind from the monsters.  The players will start with very little info on the society but will gain knowledge of it's past as they play more adventures.

The players are encouraged to help each other come up with great ideas during all aspects of the game, whether it's character creation or actual play.

The GM is encouraged to play off the ideas of his players and not just his own.  For example, if a player sees a monster as a vampire instead of a ghoul, the GM could change the monster to a vampire.

Although the setting is a modern setting, give the GM ideas on how they can adjust the game to different time settings such as the 1930s.[/list:u]

Now that I've got a good understanding of the important game elements, I'll get out a three-ring binder and seperate it into different sections.  I prefer to use a three-ring binder for organizing my design since I can easily add, remove, or move pages.  This binder becomes my design document.  My sections would probably include:

Setting

Character Creation

Character Improvement

Action Checks

Adventure Design

Campaign Design

Player Advice

GM Advice[/list:u]
 
I'll stick my list of important elements right in the front of the binder with my example of gameplay right behind it.  Whenever I come up with an idea, I'll compare it to my important elements and gameplay to see if it fits.  If it fits, I'll put it in the binder under the appropriate section.

How you proceed from here is really up to you, but here's my suggestion.  Although I'm always coming up with ideas that fit in the other sections, I think it's very important to spend most of my time designing the setting first.  I think all other aspects of the system should be integrated in tightly with the setting.  If I don't truly understand my setting, how can I design an action check system that captures it's flavor?

When I've fleshed out my setting, I'll go through each design element and ask myself how I'm going to accomplish it while integrating it in with the setting.  Each of these questions usually end up a page under the appropriate setting in my binder.

After I have the hows of my system worked out, I'll playtest it over and over until I'm satisfied everything works the way I want it to.  

When I'm satisfied with the way the game works, I'll sit down and create a table of contents for my book.  I'll get out another three-ring binder and seperate it into the same sections that appear on my table of contents.  Then I'll write each section as I want it to appear in my book.  When I've got this done, I'll go back and revise it until I'm satisfied.  

Well, that's my two cents on the topic.  What do you think?  What structures have you found that help you design games?  

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com

Roy:
Hey, Rob!  Thanks for the comments.

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Oh yeah, one point I wanted to make, is that I believe including some mechanical details in imagining how the game is playedcan be very useful. Not so much about the actual implementation of those details, how results might be derived, but how those results would be used.

For instance, one of the major elements of my design is the use of an underlying log scale for the trait scale. The players use of this Table/system is a major element of the design, and will majorly shape the game language of the system.


I understand where you're coming from on this, and I've done the same thing myself.

The reason I quit doing it like that is that I found I became married to a cool mechanic that just didn't fit the game I was trying to create.  Sure, it could have worked beautifully in a different game, but just not in the game I really wanted to design.

Now I believe that the game mechanics should evolve from your design goals and should be totally integrated with your setting.  It's tough to do but when you accomplish it, it's sheer magic.  

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com

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