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Author Topic: Syndrome  (Read 1210 times)
asymmetrical
Member

Posts: 5


« on: February 25, 2010, 06:55:44 AM »

Hello everyone.

I'm an avid roleplayer who have tried my hand at writing rpg's a couple of times before, however I have to this day not been successfull for various reasons, so I thought that I would try my hand at doing it somewhat more systematically this time. In real life I work as a designer and programmer and thus I will use the methodology learned there.

First off I have made a sparse design-brief, and from that I have generated 20 ideas, picked the best ones and started another generationset in order to flesh out the borders of the world.

Now, my question to you all is this, have anyone used a method like this and is it any good? Any problems?

The design-brief looks as follows:
Pulp heroes are transported to another dimension having to explore the ruins of a lost civilization.

 1: The other dimension is an old zoo and some of its inhabitants are a former servitor race to the        lost, as is humans, having killed there former masters are now trying to escape.
 2: It is an old outpost to a civilization that engulfed itself in civil war and some of the inhabitants of that dimension is degenerated members to that civilization.
 3: It is in all actuality an old terraforming ship sent to earth to colonize the planet.
 4: It is a parallel universe whose laws of physics have started to crumble, the old civilization is still around, trying to escape.
 5: It is an old alien battlefield where creatures and robots still fight a forgotten battle for a civilization that long ago destroyed itself.
 6: It is a test, to see if a civilization is a threat enough to be destroyed, for those who are strong enough to "conquer" this dimension there can only await destruction.
 7: The dimension is a prison and the civilization is not lost, rather they are a tribe of humans who have forgotten their origin as prison-keepers and upholds there job by virtue of "old rituals".
 8: The other dimension is a network of roads to other places, used as a transit system by the lost civilization.
 9: The dimension is a burial place and what is seen as a lost civilization is simply the grave-monuments.
10: The dimension used to be the hunting grounds and a resort for the high and mighty in the lost civilization.
11: The dimension is a laboratory where the lost civilization conducted dangerous experiments.
12: The dimension is a conduit for energy/magic/jelly beans for a civilization and other less advanced groups/civilizations have sprung up around this.
13: The dimension is a keepingplace for artefacts from a long lost civilization.
14: The dimension is a dna-bank.
15: The dimension was used as a sanatorium for the lost civilization.
16: The dimension was used as a laboratory for the lost civilization.
17: The dimension is a collecting place for technology and dna, that slips closer to other dimensions to gather said stuff, in preparation for war.
18: The dimension held religious importance for the lost civilization.
19: The dimension is a junkyard for hazardous technology.
20: The dimension is a creature.

The ideas I picked where: 11, 15, 19

And I wrote them together to something like this:
The dimension:
The dimension started of as a laboratory for dangerous experiments and later, as a sanatorium for dangerous individuals and kind of a junkyard for hazardous technology when the lost civilization started to crumble.

How is the dimension and the lost civilization:
 1: A series of floating islands over a mist, no-one returns from a descent/ascent/trip into the mist.
 2: A huge sprawling city with strange architecture.
 3: A series of tunnels and rooms, no-where where you can get up above ground.
 4: A series of glass domes and tunnels far underneath water.
 5: Most structures are overgrown, with strange animals roaming about.
 6: There are anomalies here and there, places where the normal rules of the natural world is distorted.
 7: Most of the ruins are made of white ceramics, but are now cracked and broken.
 8: Discs/round shapes is very common in the architecture.
 9: The number three is very common in the architecture.
10: Shadowconstructs are one of the defensive instruments most commonly used.
11: There are three different kinds of places, the sanatorium area, the hazardous waste area and the laboratories.
12: The hazardous waste ares are large factory like structures, residing underground.
13: Laboratories are cold structures, made of steel and ceramics.
14: Every once in a while if you peer into the abyss underneath you catch a glimpse of something moving. Something large.
15: There are places in certain environments where, if you push the correct button/macguffin/lever, can see strange creatures moving about in a strange light, they cannot be touched and sometimes one can even see an impossibly huge creature.
16: There are guardian creatures and servitor races who guard the dimensions different hideouts.
17: There are strange glyphs everywhere.
18: Their are human groups who wishes to flee the place.
19: There are human groups who wishes to tame the dimension.
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Excalibur
Member

Posts: 94


« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2010, 08:30:58 AM »

This sort of sounds like a pseudo-random setting generation script like something you can find online.

It makes for an interesting sample of a primordial ooze for setting design.

Questions:
1. Are you attempting to create a new game or a new setting for an existing game?

2. If it's for a new game that you're designing, what is it about? Not the setting (where the game takes place) but, in a word, what is the game about? Combat? Interaction? Love? Hate? (also, not it's genre: pulp heroes, superheroes, fantasy...that's more to do with the setting as well)

3. If it's for a new game, how is your game about what you describe in #2? how does your game do that?

4. How does your game reward or encourage that behavior?

5. What, basically, get's the player's adrenaline pumping? Makes it fun? How do the above questions accomplish that?

While the way you're generating your setting looks interesting I would say that creating a game this way would be the wrong direction. It is sort of like designing a User Interface: Design the look then implement the functionality. I think you need to go in reverse, design the functionality then design the interface.

How do characters interact? Through narrative alone? With dice or cards? Charts?
How do the characters interact with the world?
How is conflict resolved?

There's a list called the Power 19 floating around here, you might want to look at that to get an idea of where you want to go with this.
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-Curt
asymmetrical
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2010, 09:21:33 AM »

Well, yes and no. Its like brainstorming, then cherrypicking ideas, I would certainly not call it pseduo-random unless you consider all you idea-creation pseudo-random. I think that picking the first idea that comes to your mind is counterproductive since its seldom the most interesting one.

1. I am creating a new game.

2. Exploration. For me this was clearly stated in the design-brief.

3 to 5: In my opinion the answers to those questions are setting-dependent, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding your questions?

I look at it rather like designing the way that characters interact with the world rather than look. How would you suggest that I design the functionality when I do not know how the characters will interact with the world? Are you suggestion through rules? because I have a hard time understanding how conflict-handling frameworks will  benefit this when we do not even know where the conflict will be?
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Excalibur
Member

Posts: 94


« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2010, 10:10:23 AM »

Well, yes and no. Its like brainstorming, then cherrypicking ideas, I would certainly not call it pseduo-random unless you consider all you idea-creation pseudo-random. I think that picking the first idea that comes to your mind is counterproductive since its seldom the most interesting one.

True enough there, most of my first ideas were flops. I didn't mean pseudo-randomness was a bad thing, but looking at your charts, what would you get if you threw a d20 3 times? It might be interesting in a different way altogether while not your first pick.

Quote
1. I am creating a new game.

2. Exploration. For me this was clearly stated in the design-brief.

Indeed, you did say that your characters explore this civilization. That's what they do, but why do they do it? What's their motivation? What is the driving force behind the exploration?

However, we'll go ahead and rephrase questions 3-5 using exploration.

Quote
3 to 5: In my opinion the answers to those questions are setting-dependent, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding your questions?

3. How is your game about exploration? how does your game do that? Is it narrative? Do you have charts, dice, or cards? What are the stats, attributes, powers, abilities, talents, etc. created to support exploration?

4. How does your game reward or encourage exploration? Material rewards? Abstract score? Increases in level? Allowing the characters to explore more?

5. What, basically, get's the player's adrenaline pumping? Makes exploration fun? How do the above questions accomplish that? Simply put, what makes you nervous or excited to explore in this game? What makes you pump your arm in victory when you succeed? What makes your hands sweaty in anticipation of an outcome? (I have yet to find a game that does this...though pvp online games get my adrenaline going pretty good...heart-pounding action is fun stuff). And it doesn't have to be this extreme, the question basically asks: What brings the players back for more? What makes exploration so fun that your players will want to come back time and again to do more exploration?

Quote
I look at it rather like designing the way that characters interact with the world rather than look. How would you suggest that I design the functionality when I do not know how the characters will interact with the world? Are you suggestion through rules? because I have a hard time understanding how conflict-handling frameworks will benefit this when we do not even know where the conflict will be?

Mechanics can be generalized. Look at D&D for example, a simple mechanic of rolling d20 plus modifiers to beat a difficulty score. You don't need to know anything about the environment to design that simple mechanic. You don't need to know that character x came from dimension y where they're all z times stronger than characters from dimension q. Then figure out who can lift more...that would just be a modifier to a conflict-resolution mechanic.

When you are trying to resolve conflict, what do you do? Compare stats? Roll dice? Cut a deck of cards? Play rock-paper-scissors? Tic-tac-toe?

Conflict resolution can be tricky. If you want to fit it to the environment (Steampunk, high tech, fantasy) start with a basic mechanic and then add modifiers to that mechanic for the given environment.

I'm relatively new to full-on design of games. I've been dabbling in design for the past...wow, has it been 32 years already? yeesh.

My first games were a d6, a piece of construction paper, and drawing a bunch of Xs and Os (Os were you and your friends, Xs the monsters...there might have been a map too, but I can't remember). I would roll a die and my brother (or cousin) would roll a die for the monsters. Highest won the contest. We could take that same mechanic and go to a post-apocalyptic wasteland or space pirates or underground para-military bunkers. The mechanic does not have to be tied to the environment in which your game takes place.
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-Curt
Vulpinoid
Member

Posts: 803

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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2010, 03:23:06 PM »

There's been a range of this sort of thing coming out over the past couple of years. They have a range of names, but common among them is the term "oracle".

Gaming Oracles.

Oracle Games.

etc...

The idea is that you randomly draw inspiration from something and build up a setting from those random seeds. I think that one of the first games to really refine the process in it's current form is "In A Wicked Age", but there are plenty of others that follow similar notions.

Many use cards for their randomization. This helps because you can quickly draw three or four cards from a deck and be guaranteed that the same number will not appear multiple times. It's also good because it gives you 52 things to play with (if your using a standard deck) rather than 20 (as for the sides of a d20). Using cards also allows you to thematically channel the options...hearts might represent political affiliations within the setting, clubs might represent differences in the ecosystem.

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

Posts: 5


« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2010, 06:54:43 AM »

True enough there, most of my first ideas were flops. I didn't mean pseudo-randomness was a bad thing, but looking at your charts, what would you get if you threw a d20 3 times? It might be interesting in a different way altogether while not your first pick.

I believe I understand your point now and I would say this that the difference lies in that I had an image in my mind from the beginning that I work out from, in this case a man with a jetpack fleeing a shadowmonster in some city-ruins, and from that premise I wrote the design-brief and started to brainstorm around it.

The difference lies in that I'm using this method to flesh out my initial idea, checking out which things works well with it. What I assume you suggests is a random definition method, while I would call mine an exploratory test of the concept.

Quote
Indeed, you did say that your characters explore this civilization. That's what they do, but why do they do it? What's their motivation? What is the driving force behind the exploration?

3. How is your game about exploration? how does your game do that? Is it narrative? Do you have charts, dice, or cards? What are the stats, attributes, powers, abilities, talents, etc. created to support exploration?

4. How does your game reward or encourage exploration? Material rewards? Abstract score? Increases in level? Allowing the characters to explore more?

5. What, basically, get's the player's adrenaline pumping? Makes exploration fun? How do the above questions accomplish that? Simply put, what makes you nervous or excited to explore in this game? What makes you pump your arm in victory when you succeed? What makes your hands sweaty in anticipation of an outcome? (I have yet to find a game that does this...though pvp online games get my adrenaline going pretty good...heart-pounding action is fun stuff). And it doesn't have to be this extreme, the question basically asks: What brings the players back for more? What makes exploration so fun that your players will want to come back time and again to do more exploration?

You ask how the game rewards and encourage players and characters to explore if I have understood you correctly, and while these are important questions to ask I would consider them very low level questions. I assume that players going into a game will at least try to work with the gamemaster, and those questions sounds like a carrot-and-stick approach.

For me it is irrelevant. I'm looking for a method for gamedesign, not a series of questions. Why is it important that I map these things out first? Why is the rules system important that I map out first? Why is the goals of individual characters interesting when I'm trying to make a game that, by definition, have a broader scope?

Quote
Mechanics can be generalized. Look at D&D for example, a simple mechanic of rolling d20 plus modifiers to beat a difficulty score. You don't need to know anything about the environment to design that simple mechanic. You don't need to know that character x came from dimension y where they're all z times stronger than characters from dimension q. Then figure out who can lift more...that would just be a modifier to a conflict-resolution mechanic.

yes, but why is it important in the design-state of a game to know these things? How does a rules-framework help me design a game?

Quote
I'm relatively new to full-on design of games. I've been dabbling in design for the past...wow, has it been 32 years already? yeesh.

32 years? Excellent, then pleas give me the main ways in which you can take a game form start to finish based on what I have here. If you need more definitive questions then pleas tell me what the most common pitfalls are and how do you avoid them? How do you keep the creative process going? And how do you avoid getting a hodgepod of ideas all mixed together, that is how do you keep the design coherent?
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asymmetrical
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2010, 06:57:06 AM »

There's been a range of this sort of thing coming out over the past couple of years. They have a range of names, but common among them is the term "oracle".

Gaming Oracles.

Oracle Games.

etc...

The idea is that you randomly draw inspiration from something and build up a setting from those random seeds. I think that one of the first games to really refine the process in it's current form is "In A Wicked Age", but there are plenty of others that follow similar notions.

Many use cards for their randomization. This helps because you can quickly draw three or four cards from a deck and be guaranteed that the same number will not appear multiple times. It's also good because it gives you 52 things to play with (if your using a standard deck) rather than 20 (as for the sides of a d20). Using cards also allows you to thematically channel the options...hearts might represent political affiliations within the setting, clubs might represent differences in the ecosystem.

Interesting, although unfortunately for me it does not sound very applicable, but I might be wrong?

I'm looking for a method to design a game for myself, and I wish for that game to be coherent and have a strong design, and it sound a bit to much random, but perhaps I'm wrong?
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Brendan Day
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2010, 09:14:30 AM »

First off I have made a sparse design-brief, and from that I have generated 20 ideas, picked the best ones and started another generationset in order to flesh out the borders of the world.

Now, my question to you all is this, have anyone used a method like this and is it any good? Any problems?

I too overlooked this, and thought you were making lists that the players would use during the game.  What you're describing is a well-documented brainstorming session.  I think that everyone goes through these steps, although perhaps not in such a systematic way.  In some ways, the method that you're using would be most valuable at the end of the game design process, as a historical record of the decisions made over the course of the project.

I believe I understand your point now and I would say this that the difference lies in that I had an image in my mind from the beginning that I work out from, in this case a man with a jetpack fleeing a shadowmonster in some city-ruins, and from that premise I wrote the design-brief and started to brainstorm around it.

As a player, I'd want know how the game brings that image to life.  The setting and history of the world are important, but I want to know what the characters actually do, and what role I will play in their actions.  I assume that the game designer and gamemaster will deliver a compelling world.  I want to know what the game itself does to promote compelling play.

Taking the approach that you describe above, perhaps it would be useful to write a power 19 summary for the game, creating lists for each question?  That would encourage a coherent and strong design, and let you document every step of the process.
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asymmetrical
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2010, 01:46:10 PM »

As a player, I'd want know how the game brings that image to life.  The setting and history of the world are important, but I want to know what the characters actually do, and what role I will play in their actions.  I assume that the game designer and gamemaster will deliver a compelling world.  I want to know what the game itself does to promote compelling play.

Taking the approach that you describe above, perhaps it would be useful to write a power 19 summary for the game, creating lists for each question?  That would encourage a coherent and strong design, and let you document every step of the process.

I like. I will take the questions who is already answered and write it out here, then I will expand on the other ones.

So, lets go then:

1.) What is your game about?
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Excalibur
Member

Posts: 94


« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2010, 09:12:29 PM »

OK, I see two BIG major themes here: Pulp Heroes and Science Fiction.

What draws you to Pulp Heroes in this Sci-Fi setting?

I assume you are talking about turn-of-the-century style action such as portrayed in The Mummy, Indiana Jones, and stuff like Flash Gordon (the original series, books, comics, etc). Am I assuming this correctly?

Again, exploration is what your characters will be doing. What is the major theme in why they are exploring? Is it to find a way back to their own home? Is it for survival? You mentioned cooperation, I think THAT is really what your game is about. Cooperation amongst the players. Does it make sense to you why I say that exploration isn't what your game's about but cooperation could be?

Now, this may be a bit early for you, but think of it this way: If you were to bring attributes, conflict-resolution, and other game mechanics into your brainstorming sessions, how would you create a mechanic based on exploration? Now, look at it from the perspective of cooperation...What do you see there?

I can see exploration mainly as a narrative, something that may include the combined efforts of the players and the GM (or strictly the GM or possibly just charts of random results). I can see a few skills which might be needed. I see a boardgame where players can play map tiles as they explore the area.

Now, with cooperation, I see a lot more possibilities. Things such as group-based action pools, helping with die rolls, characters supporting one another during stressful times. I see the GM giving out more experience point rewards for helping during critical situations. Stats governing leadership and teamwork, skills or powers that give bonuses for more group participation. I think of coop-mode in Unreal Tournament where you're fighting aliens or capture the flag (as an example).

To me, when I think about what I want my game to be about, I tend to think in intangibles not in terms of action verbs. For instance, the game I'm currently working on involves interactions between players and their environment, players and monsters, players and NPCs, and players vs players. There are different types of interaction from the physical to the metaphysical. My current goal is to work on the combat system and while I already have a setting designed for it (high fantasy/steampunk where Humans are not the dominant race) the game mechanics themselves are not intertwined with the world the characters hail from.

In many discussions in this forum, people have wanted to design Pulp Hero-based games. I've already asked why you are drawn to this genre so I'm going to ask a few more questions.

Do you envision this game to be similar to The Rocketeer (based on the comment about the guy with the jetpack) or Flash Gordon only from around the 1920s? You never mention why these people are put in this particular setting (you do elude to how they are). An accident (like in Land of the Lost)? On purpose (like the Fantastic Four traveling to the Negative Zone)? Brought against their wills (like in Secret Wars by Marvel)? Are these people ordinary "fellas and dames"? Are they all human? Do you want this game to be fast like an action movie? Feeling like it's big cinema action?

OK, so I asked a lot more questions... Smiley
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-Curt
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