*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
March 26, 2019, 04:40:38 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 162 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: A Learning Experience  (Read 8551 times)
Jason Kottler
Member

Posts: 51


WWW
« on: May 07, 2009, 05:33:46 AM »

I recently ran an indie game that provided me a lot of insight - in a bad way.

For all the details, check out my post: http://blog.ultrablamtacular.com/2009/05/04/antipatterns/

In other news, I'm way behind on beyond-myself playtesting, but I will be looking for playtesters soon. I should probably post a request for volunteers on the playtesting forum, eh?

Jason
Logged

Jason Kottler -Ultrablamtacular!
JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2009, 09:07:57 AM »

I reckon as a play report this should be in "actual play", so I'll respond as if it was and some mod can move this.

I find it interesting that the explanation actually got in the way. Presumably you just wanted to find out what the game was supposed to do and do it before you went back to look at why. It's a shame, as I would have thought extra explanation would have shifted things from "This is how you play, don't you know" to "This is how to play like we do", which would have been a lot less patronising.

Also if you know how to balance stats, could you say how you do it? A lot of people are glad for advice in how to make that work, although I do find the cycling in that example bizarre: Surely by setting the stats up in a certain way you have declared what you want to do. I find it interesting that the game design requires every character to do something in every category of action, but presumably does not provide ways to make each type of action relevant to different types of character. "I'll bash down this door" "No I'll try it, the life experience would be good for me" "?? But your the hacker guy?" And then later the pattern is reversed, to the sound of ringing alarm bells! Although this attempts "balance" in terms of stats, it has nothing to do with niche protection or symbiosis or some of the more common group balance methods.

Also, did the game advertise it'self as a rules light game? Or was that just assumed from the lack of random tables and modifiers? I mean from this angle that looked quite constrained, (which is not always a bad thing, constraints breeding creativity and all that). How much of those first two hours was checking if you'd got the hang of the system, how much actually doing what it said?
Logged
Pilsnerquest
Guest
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2009, 10:00:04 AM »

I'm sorry, what RPG were you playing?
Logged
Jason Kottler
Member

Posts: 51


WWW
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2009, 05:11:52 AM »

... A lot of people are glad for advice in how to make that work, although I do find the cycling in that example bizarre: Surely by setting the stats up in a certain way you have declared what you want to do. I find it interesting that the game design requires every character to do something in every category of action, but presumably does not provide ways to make each type of action relevant to different types of character. "I'll bash down this door" "No I'll try it, the life experience would be good for me" "?? But your the hacker guy?" And then later the pattern is reversed, to the sound of ringing alarm bells! Although this attempts "balance" in terms of stats, it has nothing to do with niche protection or symbiosis or some of the more common group balance methods.

Also, did the game advertise it'self as a rules light game? Or was that just assumed from the lack of random tables and modifiers? I mean from this angle that looked quite constrained, (which is not always a bad thing, constraints breeding creativity and all that). How much of those first two hours was checking if you'd got the hang of the system, how much actually doing what it said?
[/quote]

Yes, the cycling was bizarre. And it got instant negative reactions from the group - "What? You mean I suddenly RUN OUT of dexterity?" and I even said, "No, it's so you have to do something else, sometimes!" But the impression was already made and hey, people can form their own opinions. I didn't think it was a great idea, but as a designer, I understood the motivation.

I don't know if it was advertised as rules-light, but it certainly was. It didn't have that many mechanics, my group just didn't seem to like ANY of them. And most of those two hours were spent following the adventure and character creation instructions. I admit - most games I study a lot harder than this trying to provide a transparent interface to my players. But this game was addressed to the group as a whole, and seemed pretty specific about how it wanted you to proceed. So I thought I'd try to use it as it seemed to be intended.

Also, yes, I guess this thread belongs in Actual Play. Sorry!

Logged

Jason Kottler -Ultrablamtacular!
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2009, 04:18:05 PM »

Unless the games design goal was to make a 'dexterous guy' game, then it has goals beyond simply emulating a dexterous guy. This goal is clearly going to come ahead and conflict with any notion of just emulating a dex guy, at some point?
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Jason Kottler
Member

Posts: 51


WWW
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2009, 05:34:10 PM »

The problem was that the game said: First, pick what you're good at. Now, you only get to use what you're good at every four challenges or so. I don't mind games that put characters into situations where their strengths don't apply. But this was like telling Indiana Jones: OK, you've used the whip. You can't use it again until you've gone dancing.
Logged

Jason Kottler -Ultrablamtacular!
Vulpinoid
Member

Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


WWW
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2009, 06:09:58 PM »

It might be an idea to incorporate the following notion...

Don't say "you can only use certain abilities again once you've cycled through a couple of others".

Instead say "You can use any of your abilities, but you only gain experience after you've cycled through a few others".

Then apply the caveat..."You can only expend experience points on skills that you've actually used during the course of the game".

This way the one character can keep using their single kick-arse skill, but the player on the side who uses a bit of variety will start to improve a range of abilities.

It has the advantage of not arbitrarily limiting the characters, but instead encourages them to diversify their activities.

Just an idea...

V
Logged

A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2009, 06:37:55 PM »

Hi Jason,

If it meets the designers goal, what's wrong with the 'dancing rather than bullwhipping' Indiana Jones example?
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Jason Kottler
Member

Posts: 51


WWW
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2009, 10:45:47 PM »

Hi Jason,

If it meets the designers goal, what's wrong with the 'dancing rather than bullwhipping' Indiana Jones example?

Hey, if it meets the designer's goal, that's great. I never said what game it was for a reason. But it sure didn't please my players. And if a designer's goals include "make people want to play again," that carries some weight, too.
Logged

Jason Kottler -Ultrablamtacular!
Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2009, 02:13:28 AM »

It does sound a tiny bit irritating. "How do I get to play a character who bashes through doors?" "Why, by creating a Hacker guy who carries a whip and dances, but who wants more life experience to expand himself!"

I'm exaggerating of course, but still ...
Logged

Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2009, 03:58:02 PM »

Augh! I can't help but react to a strong, unspoken implication (and all the more strong for being unspoken) that envisioning a guy who does X, then him doing it repeatedly, is the fun sought after by all. I'll be clear in saying I don't implicitly accept this as being the case. If this doesn't apply here, I'm just noting this to be clear on the matter, regardless.
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2009, 07:05:58 PM »

Callan, interesting point! I can agree with that. But although it's not the only way, that doesn't necessarily justify this game mechanic:

I'm going to assume a lot here, but hopefully state it, so we can still talk about it:

Assuming players will be attempting to achieve the same goal, but operate in a system where only one person at a time attempts tasks, the stat system can be used to divide up those tasks. This task diversification also becomes a way of differentiating characters. Creating an action cycling system that attempts to break down those divisions defies players attempts to express character difference by them.

I'll shift the example into another arena; if people build characters to live by certain principles, for example building their principles from a matrix of principle building blocks, it would be bizarre if they were then required to permute their principles until they had reached every combination before they were able to act as they conceived the character.

This system essentially makes whatever trait set it is applied to meaningless as an expression of character, because the rate of occurrence of that behaviour is always 1-in-n, where n is the number of elements.

Now outside of an explicit "group task plus division of labour" framework, setting a skill to highest might have no relation to how often you will use that skill. A classic example being the reluctant but skilled swordsman. But even in that situation (and I'm super-simplifying because it opens up massively once you expand the view), choices about skill use are made for in-character reasons, which may not fit the arbitrary demands of the skill system.

But to be fair to the guy's system, what does such a skill system do? Well first of all it requires creative solutions to problems; finding ways to use weaker stats to still solve situations, so even a stupid guy needs to work things out every now and again, but as with all such restrictions, it can get in the way of something else.

Now you might say that expressing character identity as "the fast one" or "the clever one" is a bit 1d, and I'd probably agree, but it is one facet of how people imagine their characters, and a facet that the cycling system (without V's nice hack) wipes out.

So what alternate forms of expression are still there in the system? Motivation, depending on the requirements for character group cohesion, and presumably there is a certain amount of latitude in how people express actions associated with the various attributes, both of which make the stat very different from the principle permutation I suggested, and so mean there is a lot of possibility for expression, from a certain perspective at least. But I would wonder whether the system encourages you to take such a perspective, or whether it just chucks a roadblock in front of one character expression style, and hopes players work it out for themselves, or even does not understand that they don't find it obvious.

In my old shadowrun game we had some players playing up to their chosen psychologies, and others playing out action types they were interested in, the fact that they could also shift from one to the other I saw as a strength.

Apart from that, any ideas how to shift a "creative skill use" system to a group context? I suspect implementing some kind of group resolution system could stop the division of labour occurring, but I'm sure there are a number of hidden advantages with the original I am missing, like the "space" given to a player by having their character be the expert in an area.
Logged
Brimshack
Member

Posts: 84


« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2009, 07:22:20 PM »

It strikes me that one possible reason to require cycling might be to encourage people to think about resource allocation at the group level rather than the individual level. When the challenge isn't too tough, you would want characters weak on the relevant stats to step up, saving the big-gun for the time it matters most.

But I don't know if that's what this guy has in mind.
And it leaves an open question as to whether the possible pay-off in engaging people at such planning is worth the down-side in limiting options.
And of course, the idea might still be character-centered after all, just as a means of forcing characters to be multi-dimensional.

The thing that struck me most about this was the choice of a sort of command&control rule (you can't do 'x') when incentives might accomplish some of the same goals (e.g. you get extra experience based on how many different skill-sets you use, or perhaps you get a small bonus if using a skill untapped thus far into the cycle). One might be able to encourage players to mix up their activities without putting them in a position where they find they cannot pursue what seems to them a logical option because of the cycling rule.
Logged
JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2009, 07:47:57 PM »

Fair point, and breaking doors all day could give you a pretty sore shoulder, so perhaps this is more realistic than we thought! It does give me an funny image of kiddy challenges though; "Ok, I just solved this reflection puzzle, now can you count these beads?" 5 year old:"Yes, there are 5, go us!!"

Actually that's pretty cute. Also, I wonder if it changes the skill balance of the team somewhat: As a GM of a traditional division of labour team, you can be quite confident that they will have the highest skills in each category for each check. For one of these teams, I suspect the average would be a lot lower, as skills from the entire spectrum will be used. But it might well be self adjusting, but I still wonder how you'd set the challenges.

I'm leaning more towards incentive rules too as I like what they do to the game; shifting it into the preferred form rather than jamming the players in, the only snag can be that a player who gets how the game "prefers" him to work later can get a bit left behind, so there should always be a way for him to catch up, once he gets it.
Logged
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!