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Author Topic: Incoherency and Sales  (Read 10786 times)
damion
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Posts: 198


« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2002, 10:23:40 AM »

Quote

It would also seem that most of the most successful role-playing games have had a Simulationist bent despite their overall incoherency.  Is the market for Simulationist games larger than Narrativist ones? And, it would appear that market for Gamist games is larger than both, but mostly concentrated in the CCG, wargame and board game arenas, not so much in RPGs.

Maybe this the wrong thread, but I'd like to address this point, from the original post.
Weather incoherence facilitates drift may be debatable, but I believe putting Simulationism into a game DOES facilitate drift. My reason for this that, of all the factets, it is the most difficult to add.
Gamism:
Add:Can be added if not there already. Classic DnD has GM vs Player competition(To a degree). Player vs player is also possible. Doing XP rewards relative to ACTUAL characther actions (who get's the kill?).
Some systems may make this more difficult than others.

Remove:If the GM is suble, like DnD it can be removed without to much trouble. (Say XP is based more on the groups actions, than an individuls)
Most Games with Overt Gamism it is a large part of the point of the game, so it would be tough to remove. I can't think of any though.

Simulationism:
Add:Very difficult, as this requires adding rules. In some cases, the rules needed to support these rules arn't really there or do not provide sufficient detail. Imagine trying to figure out the exact jumping distance in Amber.
Remove:Conversly, this is relativly easy, as it involves ignoring rules, using karma instead of fortune('Sure, you can do that'). Most Sim games I've played in the GM  does this to a degree on their own.

Note:I'm not trying to equate 'Simulationism' with 'Rules', it's more complex than that. DnD has many rules, but is only semi-Simulationist. Earthdawn's magic system is more Sim than DnD's, but has a comparable rule size. But generally adding it requires adding more rules to simulate more situations.
 
Narrativism:Probably the easiest to add, as all one has to do is change the focus of play. Very little system change is needed, mostly it is a way in which the GM and Players interact. Admitably this is true with the other priorities also, but not as satisfying. (Like I said, jumping distance in Amber) Or imagine trying to add Story game, it would be silly.
This may have been while there were few historically Narrativist games, but I'm not sure.
Remove:For the reasons above, pretty easy.

Just  some thougths.
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James
contracycle
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« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2002, 10:29:22 AM »

Being perverse, I'm liable to suspect that incoherency is in fact a sales volume virtue, in that it alienates few.  While a focussed, a well designed game is necessarily angling at a smaller target market.

Fang, a sales model based on the virtue of the product rather than its commercial viability is asking for disaster.  If its really virtuous in its own right, give it away for free rather then get embroiled in the business end and quite possibly end up in significant debt.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2002, 10:41:48 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
Fang, a sales model based on the virtue of the product rather than its commercial viability is asking for disaster.  If its really virtuous in its own right, give it away for free rather then get embroiled in the business end and quite possibly end up in significant debt.


I think that's his intent. To give it away right now. His is not a "sales model" but a "success model" based on utility.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2002, 10:43:25 AM »

Hi Damion,

Definitely interesting thoughts. Here are some notions of mine on the subject.

RELATIVE EASE
Gamism seems to be the most powerful and intuitive "add-on" of the three, in my experience. Part of the reason is that gaming is social, and any social situation can quickly be leveraged into a fun or not-fun competitive one. Another part is that practically any element of the system itself can be transformed into the in-game "metric of success," whether it's staying alive, being more effective, gaining property and influence, or whatever - although such an in-game metric is often not present, and the Gamist interact focuses on such things as spotlight time and other social things (e.g. getting laid, to take it to the most extreme).

Contrary to your notion, I think that Simulationism (especially with either Setting or System focus) gets added relatively easily as well, in two ways.

(1) Given that the group is committed to such a mode of play, details that reinforce that mode get added in "layers" over many sessions, such that the final "book" of play would be absolutely huge - but no one perceives it as such, pointing to the rather slim original rulebook as evidence.

(2) When people publish a non-Simulationist game based on their own development and play of it, they tend to beef it up in Setting and System terms far beyond what they actually used in play. Over the Edge is my favorite example of this; what the authors actually played did not include the setting Al Amarja at the outset, merely a shared, apparently unspoken aesthetic about what it would be like or about. By all accounts from the people I've spoken with, it was relatively Narrativist play. But the published game is one of the most setting-heavy out there, pound for pound, and its presentation heavily emphasizes its Exploration as a priority.

Narrativism seems to be a very strong and intuitively-accessible mode of play for people without much experience in more common modes (common in terms of texts). However, it seems to be exceptionally difficult for many people who do have that experience, even those who say that they prefer "story" or who are frustrated with other modes. I personally lay the blame for this on the widespread desire to achieve The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast, but that issue is definitely for another thread.

I disagree with you to some extent about the relationship of "rules" to Narrativism, but that would be getting off track too. In terms of traditional-Sim rules ("how far can I jump with a STR of 12?") I agree with your points, though.

THE QUESTION
Let's see ... does Simulationist focus encourage Drift? I don't think so. I think by definition, "design focus" (or rules that facilitate a Coherent GNS social contract at the table, to give it its full name) and Drift are at odds with one another. In other words, if I play Rune and try to go Sim-Character with it, I'll probably hit my head against a brick wall repeatedly and very likely piss off my fellow players.

I may or may not take this issue to another thread. Have to see where it goes from here, whether it ties into the original set of posts or not.

Best,
Ron
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damion
Member

Posts: 198


« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2002, 01:44:26 PM »

Ron,
     Well, I'll bow to your greater experiance with both GNS and breadth/depth of games, and most of it is other thread material anyway.
Rethinking I'd agree on the simplicity of adding gamism anyway.
Alot of that was stuff I'd been thinking for a while anyway.
My main point that for a game to be 'Driftable' the best thing is to put elments in the game that are easy to remove,but hard to add.  Elments that are easy to add can be inserted in small amounts/left out and should not be impeded to a great degree.  This is present in most games anyway, as every system I know of includes  a 'it's your game, play it how you want' section.
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James
M. J. Young
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« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2002, 02:50:43 PM »

Quote from: Justin Dagna
It seems to me that many of the most successful products have often been the least coherent, and the examples in the article seem to indirectly make this point....perhaps incoherent games appeal to a wider audience, even if they fail to satisfy any member of that audience?


Two points I think have been missed in all these excellent observations which are directly relevant to the question.

The first is that the analysis of games by a GNS model is relatively recent; all of the games we point to as successful predate most of the public discussion of the model, and certainly its formulation as understood here.

The second is that the games which we point to as commercially successful are in the main collaborative efforts, and both benefit and suffer from that. Even in those cases where one name appears on the cover, much of what is contained within the pages was developed in play, an effort to cover "what we actually did".

I suspect that any random group of gamers contains, if we were to analyze them in detail, people more or less committed to each of the goals suggested by the model; and many play with multiple goals, either balancing or drifting during play. In some groups, these clash; in others they mesh through compromise (which someone has cleverly defined as "that agreement which displeases all sides equally"). Obviously, gaming groups must have "worked" to some degree, or games never would have made it to print.

Thus games were designed to attempt to emulate play; but play was itself incoherent, drifting between the desires of the players. The writers failed to recognize this aspect of what was happening; since they were all at the same table ostensibly playing the same game, they assumed quite reasonably that they were all doing it in the same way and for the same reasons, to the degree to which that mattered. Not having the categories presented by which to analyze what they were doing, they included gamist, narrativist, and simulationist elements in most of their work.

Some games stumbled on coherence, and some of them did it successfully. But to point to games which predate any discussion of GNS and observe that they were successful despite being grossly incoherent in this regard is a bit like saying DVD's are a failure because more people have VHS systems and more movies are available in VHS format.

To put the question in a different perspective, of all the games that failed, how many were incoherent versus coherent?

--M. J. Young
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #21 on: September 07, 2002, 04:04:24 PM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
(which someone has cleverly defined as "that agreement which displeases all sides equally").

I found this is Amrose Bierce' Devil's Dictionary:
    COMPROMISE, n. Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.[/list:u]  Is that close?

    Fang Langford

    p. s. Contracycle, I wasn't talking about
product design, I spoke of breadth of audience (arguably a marketability concept); is it conceivable that one might design a game that was both virtuous and commerically viable?  They're not mutually exclusive you know.
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Valamir
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« Reply #22 on: September 07, 2002, 11:38:12 PM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
Some games stumbled on coherence, and some of them did it successfully. But to point to games which predate any discussion of GNS and observe that they were successful despite being grossly incoherent in this regard is a bit like saying DVD's are a failure because more people have VHS systems and more movies are available in VHS format.
were incoherent versus coherent?

--M. J. Young


I think that's a damn brilliant observation, and one that bore repeating.
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contracycle
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« Reply #23 on: September 09, 2002, 06:40:25 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur

p. s. Contracycle, I wasn't talking about product design, I spoke of breadth of audience (arguably a marketability concept); is it conceivable that one might design a game that was both virtuous and commerically viable?  They're not mutually exclusive you know.


Only by accident IMO :)  I think they are opposed goals, not that it is totally impossible for the same product to fulfill both.

I forgot that you had already decided to distribute freely.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #24 on: September 10, 2002, 03:31:16 PM »

Here's my sudden thought on this matter:

Nobilis is all over the boards at RPG.net right now.  Why?  Because people are trying to figure it out.  Is it too compliated? Does it work? Is the writing good or bad? Why buy such an expensive game when other games do gods already.

And with every three to four posts, someone says, "Well, now I'm going to buy it."

Now the key thing is, the sales aren't tied to incoherence, they're tied to people talking about the game.  If it was a great, tight game, would there be anything to talk about?  Would there still be posts?  Would the game still be in front of people every day, egging them on to buy it?

I offer this: that old-style incoherence often allows people the opportunity to keep coming up with new fixes, and thus new conversations (like hot rods of old, and computer patches of new).

Like the ending of the Sixth Sense, which propelled a simple movie into the box office stratosphere because people kept talking about it, I'd offer that incoherence allows, if not enourages, conversation, because something's not working, and everyone has conflicting ideas on how to fix it.

This presents a problem.  A well designed game (or computer) without lots of problems doesn't fascinate the gamers (or gearheads) like a game or machine with problems, and so it's discussed less.  Less verbiage means less attention means less sales.  (Think about Aint It Cool News and any party you've been at with gamers are genre fans -- people spend more time talking about what wrong with a specific movie (with clear flaws hardly worth talking about anyway), instead going on and on about movies they love.)

So: Problem games keep the conversation going.  It's not a GNS issue, per se.  Nobilis seems to work fine -- except for those who hate it so much that they have to keep trying to prove their point about how terrible it is in public.

So, it seems, if you're going to design a coherent game that you want to sell, add something to stick in people's craws to keep the talkin' going.

Yes?

Christopher
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jdagna
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« Reply #25 on: September 10, 2002, 06:41:03 PM »

Christopher,

Keeping people talking is definitely important as a marketing aspect (and, you're right, not much of a GNS factor).

However, I'm not sure something has to be broken to get people talking.  

First off, no matter how good a game is, the majority of people out there won't like it so they always have something to fix.  Even AD&D seems to have more detractors than solid fans (especially on online forums).  

Secondly, there are a few games that keep getting brought up by people in other RPG.net threads.  Recon seems to be one of them, and from what I've heard, it seems to be a pretty coherent, well-done game (I certainly haven't heard anything bad about it).  Recon may not get a lot of its own threads, but it has certainly been noticed by people like myself who might not have heard of it otherwise.

In any event, that more or less continues to support my hunch, which is that games are probably successful regardless of any issues raised by GNS theory.
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Justin Dagna
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Jeremy Cole
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« Reply #26 on: September 10, 2002, 07:10:51 PM »

Perhaps the idea is that a game has to have something that sparks interest, whether its a broken ruleset or a very new idea or a controversial one or whatever.  Games that 'slip under the radar' may be very good ones, but lack that hook.  Any consumer item that hits a mainstream market has it.  A song doesn't have to be broken to sell, but it must grab the casual listener's attention within fifteen seconds.

Perhaps major selling games are incoherent because they are attempting as many hooks as possible, or throwing out rewarding play to make the hook as obvious as possible.  Or maybe once they know the hook will lead to interest, they attempt to encompass as many play groups as possible, not wanting to lose sales for coherency.

But this is all getting back to spike marketing.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #27 on: September 11, 2002, 01:56:50 PM »

Hi Justin,

I didn't mean to suggest something has to be broken to generate sales.  Just that tinklering leads to talking, that can lead to sales.

The Sixth Sense isn't broken, to refer to another example I offered, but caused a lot of talking.  Because the ending whas strange and unique and offered a whole new light on the movie.  "Did they really play fair" through the whole he's really dead thing was part of a lot of conversation, and in part people went back to see if it worked.  It did.

By the same token, hot rods and computer crap offer lots of people lots to talk about and play with -- even if the machines are working.  This is part of the "hobby" part of the hobby, that has, in fact, little to do with sitting down and playing.  

It's been covered before, but lots of people spend a great deal of time tinkering with game systems, but precious little time playing.  But they still get pleasure from the tinkering.  Their online discussions keep a game in the RPGer's eyes.  Again, this seems to me to be one way to generate discussion.  Most people who've played Nobilis seem to think it works just fine.  So the conversation isn't about it being broken.  There's a ten page thread about Rebecca's writing style.  That has nothing to do with the rules, GNS, or tweaking the rules to "finally get them to do what I want."

All I wanted to suggest that GNS incoherancy helps promote discussion as a lot of people work at cross-purposes to "fix" a game -- and a game that simply works well loses that advantage.  It needs, I suggest, something else in its place to get people talking.

I think the folks at Hogshead were really smart to grab Nobilis in this regard.  The game and the world are really so strange there's a lot to talk about.

Sorcerer on the other hand, works just fine and the game world doesn't exist.  So those two options are out the window for long debates -- or even pleasant discussion.

So then, what is there in the game to spike a conversation on. What's an interesting "conceit" of the game that could really provide a starting point for comparing notes among posters.  That would generate discussion.  (Note I asked the same question about RoS some months ago: "What sets this game apart from other games?"  Because those unique elements that will get people talking will keep the game in the public's imagination.)

For me, Sorcerer has several points of entery.  The one I might go with is "The GM has a automatic NPC to hook every PC.  Which one's work best for you?"  And note that this is a tangent to the various Pokeman Problem threads.  I think this angle -- PCs and Demons and the relationship between them, in story and play and emotional stakes -- is something to really push.  It's part of what makes Sorcerere different than any other RPG.

Chrisotopher
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jdagna
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« Reply #28 on: September 11, 2002, 03:52:08 PM »

Ah... sorry Christopher.  I obviously didn't read your post closely enough and jumped to conclusions.  Thanks for your response!
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Justin Dagna
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