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Author Topic: Simulate vs. Explore  (Read 8071 times)
Zak Arntson
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« on: May 24, 2001, 03:59:00 PM »

Here is my take on Simulation vs. Exploration.

Simulation holds the weight that "Sim" does as a prefix to video games.  SimAnt, for example, handles anthills _NOT_ realistically, but with its own set of consistent rules.

But the rules don't make it a simulation, it's the encouraged GAMEPLAY.  The player is encouraged to explore what it is like to be a (simulated) ant colony.  It may not be realistic, but this takes a second to the goal of player experience (read: gameplay).

This helps squash the idea of Simulationism evoking _realism_.  It's more a gameplay than a ruleset.  I think that the G/N/S theory should be taken further from rules and more towards EXPERIENCE of the game (which then causes rules).

So my bias kicks in, design of a game:
Premise -> Desired Play Experience -> Rules.

G/N/S applies to the Desired Play Experience FIRST and rules NEXT.




Exploration is a word that brings up these same feelings, given a premise, you then explore it.  But Exploration sounds like a theme more than a basic gameplay.  Your Simulationist game doesn't have to be about exploring (though most would be).

I would call Exploration a large subset of Simulation.




Conclusion:

Assuming the following definitions of Gamist & Narrativist:

Gamist - Experience consists of a competitive environment with an end goal of winning and losing.

Narrativist - The drive behind gameplay is the telling of a story.  The style and themes of play are more important than defining an environment (sim) or an end-result (gamist)

The definitions of Simulationism and Exploration

Simulationism - An open-ended environment with the goal of experiencing one or more aspects of that environment (often tightly defined).

Exploration - A subset of Simulationism where the theme is focused on exploring the environment (which can be physical, emotional, etc).

---

There's a hole here, in that I have a gut-feeling that there is a Simulationist theme that DOESN'T include Exploration.  But I can't think of any good examples.  Maybe after I get home from work ...

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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2001, 04:40:00 PM »

I don't think realism is a subset at all.  Because the One True System will encompass rules (or a rule) to govern all events that could happen in our world + a variable.

GURPS is exactly this.  The GURPS sourcebooks are simply plug-ins to cover historical or fantastical situations.  

Other games do this:
Champions (Hero system) is +Superheroes, V:tM is +Vampires, BESM is Gurps-lite with rules that deal with events specific to anime, Blue Planet's Synergy is +sci-fi concepts (space exploration & colonization and the technical advances that accompany such things).

Thinking it over, Simulationist games seems to have a recurring theme of The System.  Does The System have a name?  Then there's a good chance that it's a Simulationist game -- The System (Synergy, Sillouhete, GURPS, BRPS, BESM, Storyteller, etc.) is used (with our without optional plug-ins) to adjucate events happening within the setting.  Look at the conversions (GURPS: Vampire, GURPS Castle Falkenstein)...by adding the appropriate plugin, you could easily do Synergy: Vampire or BESM: Heavy Gear or BRPS: Castle Falkenstein.  There's a wicked cool modular component at work here that doesn't exist in other games (well, not the same way at any rate).  

I would argue that D20 (NOT D&D, just the D20 System) is a rules-light Simulationist system.  D&D inserts not the prototypical setting, but more or less a STYLE of play (Gamist & Narrativist).  Note that the d20 System is VERY basic and is open to quite a bit of tinkering and adjustment -- presumably to handle the Simulationist System/Rich Setting that seems to appear again and again.

Just some thoughts, perhaps way off-base.  But who knows?  

- J
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2001, 05:53:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-05-24 19:59, Zak Arntson wrote:
The definitions of Simulationism and Exploration

Simulationism - An open-ended environment with the goal of experiencing one or more aspects of that environment (often tightly defined).

Exploration - A subset of Simulationism where the theme is focused on exploring the environment (which can be physical, emotional, etc).


Not to keep harping on the vaguaries of definition.  But what precisely is the difference between "experiencing" the environment and "exploring" the environment, and how would you define that in a manner that a casual user of the model would have a clue what you mean.  
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2001, 05:54:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-05-24 20:40, Jared A. Sorensen wrote:
I don't think realism is a subset at all.  Because the One True System will encompass rules (or a rule) to govern all events that could happen in our world + a variable.


Realism as a subset of what?  Realism could be a premise behind any game, but I don't know how this ties .  Are you equating Simulationism to Realism + Plugin?  I have to disagree with this (see my above post for my definition of Simulationism).

Quote

Thinking it over, Simulationist games seems to have a recurring theme of The System.



Many Simulationist games are like this, but I would contend that it is not required of a Sim game.  In fact, the System is separate from G/N/S.

Quote

I would argue that D20 (NOT D&D, just the D20 System) is a rules-light Simulationist system.


I agree.  A Meta-System (like D20, GURPS) is one large subset of Simulationism.  But then you can have a Meta-System be Gamist or Narrativist, too.

Quote

Just some thoughts, perhaps way off-base.  But who knows?  

- J


Bullheadedly applying my own model (Premise -> Desired Experience -> Rules), there are TWO of these going on with the Meta-System games:
Premise: METASYSTEM -> Desired Experience: G/N/S -> SYSTEM Rules
Premise: PLUGIN -> Desired Experience: G/N/S -> PLUGIN Rules

Example:
Premise: METASYSTEM -> Desired Experience: central mechanic -> d20
Premise: Fantasy using d20 -> Desired Experience: Battling foes and avoiding traps in dungeons in search of treasure ->D&D

I think where D&D fails for me is that I try to have an experience that isn't accomodated well by the rules.  I want to create an Upper-Class Archaeologist but am forced to make a Rogue with appropriate skills like Decipher Script and Knowledge: Ancient History.  At least it advertises itself as much (rather than Vampire, where the advertised experience isn't supported by the rules).

I think your idea of Meta-System + Plugins is very powerful, but it exists outside of G/N/S, since there are Narrativist and Gamist games out there that use the Meta-System + Plugin model.




I'm also thinking about a circular game design method where you have:
Rules -> Premise -> Experience -> Rules -> ...

I think the three are tightly connected and can be interchanged and combined (and split up to subcategories) depending on your goal as a designer.  Yikes, I've introduced Premise, Experience and Rules.  I didn't mean for it to be three things, honest!
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2001, 06:10:00 PM »

Jared:

Okay, just reread your post and realized what you mean by Realism being integral, especially for a MetaSystem that wants to support many Plugins.

Valamir:

I would say that Experiencing and Exploring are synonomous.  I just didn't want to use the word "explore" in the Simulationist definition.  Like I said, I have this gut feeling that you can have a Simulationist game which isn't Explorative, but I can't figure it out.  Yet.

To a casual observer, I would use the SimAnt, SimCity, Sim* series to explain Simulationism.  You have an environment and within the confines of that environment, you explore (!!) that environment.

So ... to a casual observer:
Gamist: Focus is winning/losing.
Narrativist: Focus is on story.
Simulationist: Focus is on exploring an environment (like SimCity or SimAnt).

(still can't shake the thought of Sim w/out Explore ... maybe it'll come to me in a dream?)

Lastly, what other focuses are there?  Maybe G/N/S doesn't grab 'em all?
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2001, 06:40:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-05-24 22:10, Zak Arntson wrote:
Simulationist: Focus is on exploring an environment (like SimCity or SimAnt).


See, I agree with the definition but not the word.  Its like one of those vocabulary tests in grade school where you have to match up the defintion to the word...you've got a line connecting a definition to the wrong word.

What I mean is:
1) your definition focuses on "exploring" the environment.  Why the reluctance to simply call this style Explorative.  

2) Why the insistance on useing a word that doesn't mean what you want it to mean.  Simulation already has a definition, and it isn't "exploring the environment".

Again, I see simulation as being outside of the style model.  In the same way that Fortune vs Karma mechanics are independent of style, so Simulative vs Abstract mechanics are independent of style.  Risk is an game about global conquest with very Abstract mechanics.  World in Flames is a game about global conquest with much more Simulationist mechanics.  The degree of simulation built into the game system in completely independent of the type of game.

To offer another example, The Star Wars and Battle Tech collectable card games offer combat between players with very abstract mechanics.  Collectable card games like The Last Crusade or Dixie offer combat with much higher simulative elements.  Again independent of game form.

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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2001, 07:57:00 PM »

I know I'm not supposed to talk about this on the Indie games site, but...

If you wanna play an Upper-class Archaeologist, it's easy.
Multiclass as an Aristocrat/Expert.  Take Skill Focus Knowledge (History), Decipher Script, Appraise, etc. and a few extra Languages.  You could also do the Indiana Jones thing and be an Expert/Rogue.  OR you could make up your own class.

And the whole threefold model is about game DESIGN...what is the game built to do?  You can drag race in an SUV but it's made to go off-road...

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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Zak Arntson
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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2001, 10:15:00 PM »

Valamir:

To myself, the word Simulation conjures up an environment, and interactions within it.  And this is the focus of what I consider a Sim'ist game.  To me, Explorative conjures up physical adventure and harsh environment.  I also have the bias of a programmer, so Simulation probably holds a different flavor to myself.  But we could probably argue for a long time, since it sounds like we have different feelings for the words.

I can just as easily use the word Explorative if it becomes accepted jargon for game design theory, but the term Simulationist is what I have encountered most here at the Forge, and it rings true to me.

Example: I am designing a game called Null Compliant, where the players take on the roles of Machines.  Using my nifty 3-part model:
Premise: Playing a Machine is not Compliant with its Function (achieved independence).
->
Experience: A Null Compliant coping with the limitations of its design in various (often hostile) environments, and balancing its Compliance (if it becomes TOO Compliant it loses its independence, but if it loses all Compliance it ceases to function).  I want to emphasize the fact that you are playing a Machine coping with its own programming and situations it probably isn't designed to deal with. This strongly says Simulationist to me (but it may scream Explorative to you Smiley
->
Rules: With the Premise and Experience in mind, I envision a rules-light system that emphasizes a Machine's point of view (binary (yes/no) logic, powers of 2 are emphasized in rolls and rules, 4 physical & 2 "mental" attributes are measured in bits).

I think I should move this Premise->Experience->Rules into a new thread.




Jared:
Yes, maybe I could do an archaeologist that way, but I would need access to the Dungeon Master's Guide AND an additional blessing of the DM.  Not to mention the lack of Feats and special skills that come with the standard Player classes.  The nature of the game mechanics discouraged me from playing what I wanted.  Which tells me A) I am playing the wrong game, or B) I should change my expectations of the game, or C) I need to invest more brainpower into working around the limitations.

If D&D wants to encourage varied character types and pleasing people who want non-standard classes, it fails.  I don't think this is what it wants, though.  Now I'm talking about games as if they have their own desires.  Maybe this is a good thing?

And yeah, the G/N/S is about design.  D&D's design goals and my player goals were at a conflict.  I'm hoping that by using G/N/S when designing my own games, I can let players know what they are getting into so they don't get disappointed.  Or lead players into a certain way of playing and letting them know beforehand.  I felt that D&D, with the new Feats, Skills and talked-about better customization than 2nd Edition, misled me into thinking I could REALLY customize my Rogue.  (My first idea was a Chinese Ghost Story inspired Taoist priest that would be a Monk/Druid multiclass with powers over Undead.  I had to scrap that).

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2001, 04:49:00 AM »

Zak,

MAIN POINT
You might want to check out my OPERATIONAL definition of Simulationism on the "variant phylogeny" thread (apologies if you have already). This defines the term very strictly in game-design terms.

The real problem is that although G/N/S does describe goals, it cannot be based on the "feelings" underlying these goals. It has to be based on behaviors we can observe, or game mechanics that facilitate those behaviors.

If a person makes a story-promoting decision in an RPG session, that is a Narrativist act - it doesn't matter if he "felt" explorative or competitive at the moment. Say he's fightin' a monster and makes some decisions, even one that kills the monster successfully, that overtly move some conflict and theme along - that was Narrativist, especially if other options existed. Winning the fight with the monster in this case, even if the player got a real rush from the challenge that the character might die, is not Gamist.

ANOTHER POINT
I don't object to any content-based aspect of the term Exploration. In fact, I don't particularly object to the term at all. But I do think that we have a term, established already, and a set of behaviors it covers very adequately - and in clear discourse, even if the term you have isn't ideal, you don't change it once it's been established -  you have to be describing a previously-undiscovered or unacknowledged thing in order to propose a new name. If we are only refining our understanding of an existing term, then the term stays - even if that refinement is pretty radical.

Best,
Ron

P.S. It also looks as though "Premise," as refined on GO, needs to have a whole bunch of text 'ported over here.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2001, 06:38:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-05-24 20:40, Jared A. Sorensen wrote:
I don't think realism is a subset at all.  Because the One True System will encompass rules (or a rule) to govern all events that could happen in our world + a variable.

GURPS is exactly this.  The GURPS sourcebooks are simply plug-ins to cover historical or fantastical situations.  

Other games do this:
Champions (Hero system) is +Superheroes, V:tM is +Vampires, BESM is Gurps-lite with rules that deal with events specific to anime, Blue Planet's Synergy is +sci-fi concepts (space exploration & colonization and the technical advances that accompany such things).

Thinking it over, Simulationist games seems to have a recurring theme of The System.  Does The System have a name?  Then there's a good chance that it's a Simulationist game -- The System (Synergy, Sillouhete, GURPS, BRPS, BESM, Storyteller, etc.) is used (with our without optional plug-ins) to adjucate events happening within the setting.  Look at the conversions (GURPS: Vampire, GURPS Castle Falkenstein)...by adding the appropriate plugin, you could easily do Synergy: Vampire or BESM: Heavy Gear or BRPS: Castle Falkenstein.  There's a wicked cool modular component at work here that doesn't exist in other games (well, not the same way at any rate).  

I would argue that D20 (NOT D&D, just the D20 System) is a rules-light Simulationist system.  D&D inserts not the prototypical setting, but more or less a STYLE of play (Gamist & Narrativist).  Note that the d20 System is VERY basic and is open to quite a bit of tinkering and adjustment -- presumably to handle the Simulationist System/Rich Setting that seems to appear again and again.

Just some thoughts, perhaps way off-base.  But who knows?  

- J



It's like the scene in the Blues Brothers where Jake gets struck by a beam of stained-glass-mottled light and proclaims, "I have seen the light!"

Well it was right there all along. As a person with a simulationist bent, this is all rather obvious to me. When I started playing Champions the thing that struck me was how one system could be used to simulate anything. Sure, the system was point based and likely to lead to gamism. But the rigorous mechanics appealed to me like no other system had before, or has since for that matter. Why is this important? Because in an explorative game, my players are likely to range far and encounter many things I hadn't originally planned on (including things like stubborn magically locked iron vault doors, or whatever; not just creatures). A system like this gives me the tools that I need to make a consistent (if imperfect, of course) simulation of the situation. I look forward to the (incredibly) long delayed 5th edition of Hero System with baited breath.

A couple of disagreements, though. First, though having a modular system is a possible indicator of a simulationist game, there are many narrative and gamist sytems that are used either generically, or in more than one game as well. What is Theatrix if not a generic narrative system? And Maelstrom's house system is used in several games while still being very narrativist. Also, there are plenty of simulationist systems that are designed to fit a specific genre so tightly that they wouldn't make sense in another game world. Feng Shui, I would argue, is just such a system.

Which leads me to my second point, which is despite having been made generic, D20 is still very gamist. Much like the point systems in Hero and GURPS can tend to sponsor Gamist activity, D20 has all the classic gamist elements from D&D: classes, levels, hit points, experience points, etc. None of these things serve to simulate any particular genre that I can think of (though some argue that Hit Points are a tool for simulating high fantasy; a contention I argue against a lot). They are pretty good gamist elements, however. They provide a well defined framework and an easily identifiable overall goal, getting EXP to level up and gain new abilities. The addition of a workable skill system shows a shift to the simulationist (one that other systems were doing back in 1977), but, all-in-all, I'd still say it leans to the gamist side.

So, while modularity or universality is often a goal of Simulationist games, the correlation is loose at best.

Mike Holmes
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2001, 08:33:00 PM »

on wrote:

Quote

The real problem is that although G/N/S does describe goals, it cannot be based on the "feelings" underlying these goals. It has to be based on behaviors we can observe, or game mechanics that facilitate those behaviors.


Yup.  Very good point.  I suppose I'm trying to reason things out in my own head, and probably applying the existing terminology somewhat against their intentions.

I think a great "Where we are now" webpage, listing the main theories, with arguments for and against.  That way people like me can get up to speed quicker without having to read all these older posts.  (I did go back and read that Phylogeny thread, btw).

After reading the Phylogeny thread, I think I have a better idea on what you are all saying when Simulationist is written.  Thanks for referring me.
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greyorm
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« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2001, 07:37:00 AM »

Quote

Winning the fight with the monster in this case, even if the player got a real rush from the challenge that the character might die, is not Gamist.


I'm not entirely sure I agree with this stance.  Here's why:
If the goal of the player is to do a certain thing (in this case, kill the monster) and they are doing it without regard to the effect on the story or whether they are in-character, and their mind is twitching along, crunching numbers as to the best way to defeat the beastie, then it IS a Gamist exercise, I say!

G/N/S to me has been about both intent and action...it is like philosophical discusions of morality in that sense: was breaking into the drugstore wrong if it was done to get medicine for a dying accident victim?

If we judge this event solely on the basis of the action, without regard to the desired goal or current mindset -- without regard to the intent -- then we're missing half the picture.  Yet, OTOH, the ends do not justify the means.

So, is there, perhaps, something we're overlooking here: the difference between player-orientation and player-effect?  In that killing the monster might very well be a narrativist action in the overall context of the game, because it moves the story along in some manner, but gamist in the actual undertaking and reasons for that undertaking?

So there are two seperate levels of interpretation to deal with -- internal and external, situational and contextual.  (If you get what I'm saying?)

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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2001, 07:54:00 AM »

There are so many things DURING play that can be construed as G/N or S.  I mean, during D&D (pretty Gamist setting), for example, I'm playing an Archaeologist.  I create my character with some appropriate equipment and interesting skills (Simulationist), but realize that the game will involve combat, so I get two-weapon fighting and ambidexterity feats (Gamist).

Then, while playing I bounce around between picking the appropriate damage-dealing attacks while fighting a troll (Gamist), shouting out effete sayings, "Riposte!  Touche! Have at you!" (Simulationist), and out of combat focus more on the archaeological interest of the catacombs than the vulgar desire for uninteresting treasure, such as gold (Simulationist).

So I see the G/N/S system as primarily a design tool to help the designer focus the game, to encourage a sort of play.

D&D works as Gamist and Simulationist because it's nostalgic (though I tons of beefs with it).  Though I think the goal of a game like Rune is much more obvious, and the designer will see their intentions play out much easier.

How many times have we seen Gygax complain that people keep introducing namby-pamby story elements to D&D (to be fair, he complains more about how people AREN'T dungeon crawling)?   If he had approached the original D&D with a hugely Gamist bent, D&D would probably have been hard-pushed to move away from any Dungeon Crawls (enforce X HD monsters on X level).

A designer has no explicit control over the players, so you've only got your rulebook to guide them.
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