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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 202 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Can a game designer work for all three (G/N/S)?  (Read 17894 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #30 on: September 12, 2002, 07:37:37 AM »

Hi Jason,

The only solutions are as follows.

1) Practice self-critique and critical reading, so that when we do Drift or otherwise interpret game texts to increase our own satisfaction during play, we know it. That's why "as written" shows up so often as a qualifier in the discussions, and I think that's a good thing.

Good recent example: Vincent talking about his InSpectres play in Actual Play forum, being very clear about whether the Premise [which is in the text] matched what they ended up doing, and using other games for comparison and clarification.

Obviously, play overrides text in terms of "having fun," so no discussion of this sort is about "being faithful" or "purer" forms of play in terms of following the text.

2) During discussions, reinforce the necessary reader-perspective of translating "Gamist player," "Gamist play," and "Gamist design" into the appropriate long-hand versions, throughout all the discussions. It's a minor hump that newcomers to the Forge pretty much have to get over, I think, but considering that doing so actually clears up a lot of concerns, it's worth taking the time to do so.

3) Recognize that conclusions here generally result from corrroboration. It takes a lot of dialogue and multiple instances of play and discussion of play to arrive at them. Most references to (say) Vampire are based on a lot of discussion, some of it dissenting, rather than on just me saying "I played it and that's how it is."

Part of this idea is based on the notion of productive discourse. If I critique my play of Champions, and you critique yours, and if we can communicate about that relative to the same game texts, then our different behaviors can be made sensible in terms of the Forge theory-vocabulary.

This method also admits that variation is possible; that not everyone has to experience the play of a given game the same in order for its text to be classifiable. Sort of the "close enough for government work" idea.

It also leaves every conclusion open for further investigation. "Hey, you guys all say that GURPS is a big Sim game, but lookit the point-balance rules - how does that fit in?" And then we discuss that, as well as experiences during play, and so on.

Best,
Ron
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #31 on: September 12, 2002, 09:41:31 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
"Focus" as a term seems to have crept into discussions lately without the loincloth of a definition to hide its bare ass. Mike seems rather certain of its definition, but perhaps that's worthy of a thread in Theory some time.


I was thinking something very like that.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Coherence refers to GNS. Focus refers to subject matter.


I can understand this use of focus to refer to subject matter. It is probably useful to have a way to discuss what a game is about, particularly in terms of what it attempts to explore. In that sense, you could say that little fears has a very tight focus, as it only explores the fears of children. I'm not sure under what circumstance you would be able to say that a game is unfocused in this sense. GURPS arguably has as its focus an attempt to model any universe; D&D has as its focus creating fantasy adventures. A game might, I suppose, be unfocused if it was not at all clear to anyone what the game was about, or if it seemed to be about several unrelated things for which no connection was apparent.

Jargon (and, after all, what we are doing is creating jargon) is useful insofar as it improves communication. It does so by giving us terms of art, words that have a meaning narrower in the mouths of those in the field than to others, so that by saying "Narrativist design" we understand it to mean the rather longer statement "designed such as to facilitate play that pursues narrativist objectives" (or something to that effect). But jargon loses value when it removes words from our vocabularies which we need in order to express other ideas for which we lack better words. Bob clearly was using focus within the confines of GNS:

Quote from: Dead Pan Bob
So wouldn't it then be possible to create a game that is unfocused (in the narrow sense of not zeroing in on full on support or preferential support of any of the three G/N/S modes) and yet still coherent?


He had every reason to use it that way; it was being so used by others:

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
Coherence does fit into this - an unfocused game will almost always be incoherent. However, an incoherent game can be focused on one play style for the majority of it, and then have some incoherent rules jammed in it. (I think Dying Earth is a prime example of this sort of game.)...


If we limit the use of focus to mean what is the game about, then we can't effectively use it to talk about a game that focuses on a stye of play in a GNS sense. We lose a word. That would be all right, if it's not a word we often used and there are obvious substitutes for it; but I can't think of a way to say focused on one play style without that word, without some awkward construction.

I think that a Game Focus certainly exists; but I think that a GNS focus also exists, and there may be other foci related to games, such as a mechanics focus, a stance focus, a mood focus. I don't know what you would call some of these things if you remove focus from the general to the special vocabulary.

--M. J. Young
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #32 on: September 12, 2002, 10:11:22 AM »

I guess I just move a bit too slowly to keep up with these forums. I get called away for a couple hours in the middle of writing a post, and the discussion just moves beyond what I was saying into new areas.

Quote from: Dead Pan Bob
But, your response raises a couple of other questions - specifically this notion of "facilitates X during actual play" bothers me a bit. Unless we limit our discussions to also include "as written" tags or "as played by me" tags, we can introduce some confusion, can't we?

I mean, the critical language of G/N/S doesn't preclude me from having the opinion that when I paly Champions that it facilitates Coherence during play, as I play it - even if everyone else on these boards feels otherwise.


I know a guy who ran a reasonably popular RPG site and wrote a few good articles in the field who admits that he doesn't really care what the system of a game is when he buys it, as in the end he always runs every game pretty much the same using house rules and mechanics he's cobbled together over many years of play. It works smoothly for him, because he doesn't have to think about the mechanics. It's a bit like buying a hundred games to pirate parts for GURPS play. But it obviously is not a bit like playing the game he bought.

That's an extreme example. There aren't a lot of people who would actually think they could evaluate a game by running it with their own system and ignoring the game engine. On the other hand, even Gary Gygax has admitted that there are rules in OAD&D that he doesn't use, and although I'm very by-the-book in that game, there are rules I don't use. But the question is, at what point does that mean you aren't really playing that game? If I say that the armor adjustments by weapon type of OAD&D are too cumbersome in play and don't add anything to the game, how much difference does that make to the essentials of the game? D&D is a particularly good game for this. How many people have thrown out alignment? How many argue about whether or not Unearthed Arcana rules should be included?

In the end, what most people play in most games, once they're familiar with them, is a patched version. They've developed their own patches. That's why you might find that a particular game works for you which everyone else says doesn't work.

A discussion of the merits of a game system really have to be "as written"; the value of "as patched by me" might be useful, in the sense that you might say "there is a lot of good in this game that can be salvaged by making these changes". But such patches inevitably place the bias of the patchmaker onto the system. A game that incoherently combines gamist and narrativist support such that players find themselves working for different aspects or being rewarded for actions contrary to those which facilitate what might have been thought the clear goals of the game can be "fixed" by 1) removing the support for one of the competing modes or 2) finding a way to subordinate one goal to the other or 3) finding a way to balance the two goals during play. But which of these you do will reflect not the game system but your preferences. It could be easier to reduce it to gamism, yet you might rather eliminate the gamist aspects to reduce it to narrativism because you would more enjoy a narrativist game.

You might be very good at drifting a game to work in the way you prefer during play. If so, the way to discover how it's geared to work is to examine what you had to ignore or change, and why.

--M. J. Young
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #33 on: September 12, 2002, 11:08:49 AM »

Quote from: M. J. Young

You might be very good at drifting a game to work in the way you prefer during play. If so, the way to discover how it's geared to work is to examine what you had to ignore or change, and why.

--M. J. Young


Well, as a critical evaluator of a game system, that works.  My question is more focused on the application of the G/N/S model to my game design.

What it boils down to is, in G/N/S taxonomy, is that I'm a person who prefers a realtively even balance between facilitating Narrativist play and facilitating Gamist play - with facilitation for Simulationsit play a distanct 3rd.

I want to design a game that fulfills my wish to facilitate Narrativist play and Gamist paly in equal measure - so what rubricks does one use to assess this "as written"?

FREX: From the G/N/S material, I get that a low search and handling time mechanic is important for enjoyable Narrativist instances of play - but how quick and easy does the S&H have to be in order to optomize for Narrativist play?  

Can the resolution mehcnaic also include some tactical meta-game choices that will allow for one character to be in Author stance making tactical chocies for his character using his knowledge of the rules to maximize his Gamist mode for that instance while also not annoying the player who is currently in Directors stance trying to make decisions based on thier vision of fulfilling a dramatic story arc?

Whew, that was a long paragraph.  

What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?

If the later, doesn't that then mean that my natural tendencies as a GM will nec. drift the game in ways that better Faciliate Narrativist Play and Gamist Play, but when I unleash my derivitive screed of a game upon the world, it won't meet my design criteria?

[Edited to correct a glaring spelling error]
Cheers,

Jason
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #34 on: September 12, 2002, 11:19:58 AM »

My mistake on the focus thing. I was defining it as we've used it a lot about here before. And Bob probably was asking about something else. Perhaps if he rephrased that question. Ah, but I think he has...

Mike
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #35 on: September 12, 2002, 11:40:00 AM »

Brass tacs. Cool.

Quote from: deadpanbob
I want to design a game that fulfills my wish to facilitate Narrativist play and Gamist paly in equal measure - so what rubricks does one use to assess this "as written"?

FREX: From the G/N/S material, I get that a low search and handling time mechanic is important for enjoyable Narrativist instances of play - but how quick and easy does the S&H have to be in order to optomize for Narrativist play?  So with all that, it's not an issue.

All play of all modes is enhanced by as low a S&H time as possible. That meaning that S&H are defined as the non-fun parts. I can't imagine anyone jumping up and down because the chart that they have to look at this time is more complex than the last.

The appropriate question is whether or not the S&H is justified by what it produces. And this can leave you with long or short results in any mode. There is no correllation between S&H and mode, IMO. One could imagine a hiddeously complex resolution system that was somehow so empowering to the players as to make it more than worthwhile.

What Narrativism should not be concerned with are mechanics that exist soley to create "tactical" choices, or are just there to increase the verisimilitude of the simulation.

Quote
Can the resolution mehcnaic also include some tactical meta-game choices that will allow for one character to be in Author stance making tactical chocies for his character using his knowledge of the rules to maximize his Gamist mode for that instance while also not annoying the player who is currently in Directors stance trying to make decisions based on thier vision of fulfilling a dramatic story arc?
That's exactly what this thread is trying to address. All I can say so far is, if so it's not going to be easy to find. What we can offer is Walt's solution of congruence, which would be to try to establish elements of the game such that when what you described occured, that nobody could tell the difference. This has been theorized about a lot, and I think the best answer so far is that you can make a game more congruent. Total congruence is likely not possible.

Quote
What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?
One can make guesses, an generalized stabs at assessment, yes. But in the end the proof will be in the playtest. But that's OK, we likes to playtest. :-)

Quote
If the later, doesn't that then mean that my natural tendencies as a GM will nec. drift the game in ways that better Faciliate Narrativist Play and Gamist Play, but when I unleash my derivitive screed of a game upon the world, it won't meet my design criteria?

Which is why we don't solely playtest our own games. Independent play is best. (Heck as Wick once told me, until you get it in front of a group of bad players, you really don't have an idea)

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #36 on: September 12, 2002, 12:39:32 PM »

Hi Jeremy,

You wrote,
"What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?"

The latter. Emphatically, the latter. GNS-thinking can help this process, especially in terms of evaluating others' enjoyment and their comments, but it cannot provide the handy-dandy "use this mechanic to be Narrativist" toolbox that, in some ways, your question is shooting for.

It may seem as though phrases like "Tunnels & Trolls is a Gamist design" are so strong that one might then say, Ah, it must have had The Gamist Dice Mechanic, then, or something like that - but such statements are produced through corroborative experience and assessment, not through insta-diagnosis.

Side note, regarding Mike's comment: I think that some modes of play prefer/favor higher handling-time, particularly those with very strong commitments to in-game causality (ie some forms of Simulationism). I agree with the second sentence in his paragraph very strongly.

Best,
Ron
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #37 on: September 12, 2002, 12:50:12 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes


What we can offer is Walt's solution of congruence, which would be to try to establish elements of the game such that when what you described occured, that nobody could tell the difference. This has been theorized about a lot, and I think the best answer so far is that you can make a game more congruent. Total congruence is likely not possible.


Mike


Mike (or Walt, for that matter),

Please explain.  I'm not sure how 'congruence' is being functionalized here.  In essence, is it saying that any mechanic, when observed during play, that tends to allow (support? facilitate?) two (or three) modes of play to a reasonable degree of player satisfaction for that instance is congruent?

In essense, is congruence a critical term that referrs to such mechanics - but the defining of said congruent mechanics can only be done via the subjectivity of their feel during play?

Cheers,

Jason
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #38 on: September 12, 2002, 01:57:12 PM »

Jason,

Almost all of our terminology applies to play. Mechanics that facilitate X or Y term are often referred to in shorthand. So "congruent play" would be very much like my George and Nguyen description; congruent rules would be those which (we think, or have experienced, or have hopefully corroborated with others) facilitated such play.

I'm not sure whether that point clarifies your understanding or not, but it seems to be a point that I'm repeating a lot lately. I'm bringing it up here in order to say that referring to a rule/design as X is never anything but a "I think it facilitates X play" statement.

I also think that "subjective" isn't really the issue - as I said before, good discourse actually removes the "well, I feel this way and you feel that way" option from the discussion.

Best,
Ron
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #39 on: September 12, 2002, 02:06:54 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

You wrote,
"What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?"

The latter. Emphatically, the latter. GNS-thinking can help this process, especially in terms of evaluating others' enjoyment and their comments, but it cannot provide the handy-dandy "use this mechanic to be Narrativist" toolbox that, in some ways, your question is shooting for.


Yeah, well, that's what I thought would be the answer.  I was yet again hoping to feed my other essential need: intellectual laziness.  Ah well, I guess if you want to screw something up properly, you've got to do it the hard way or some such.

I agree with Mike, btw, about having other groups playtest besides my own.  Which is why I'm happy to have found the Forge.  I'm assuming that you all consider doing this from time to time for games that get built under these kleig lights?

Thanks for the good discussion.

Cheers,


Jason
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #40 on: September 12, 2002, 02:13:15 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

I also think that "subjective" isn't really the issue - as I said before, good discourse actually removes the "well, I feel this way and you feel that way" option from the discussion.


Ahh, but in my line of work and my mind-set deals with facts and measurements and such.  The George and Nguyen example talks about the fact that the mechanics essentially didn't get in the way of either of their play styles, if memory serves, based on their mode of play in that particular instance.

So congruence is a function of how unobtrusive the mechanic is?  I.e. the less it get's in the way of the Narrativist mode desire to direct events to tell a Premise satisfying story, AND the less it gets in the way of the Gamist mode desire to overcome the challenge and win, AND the less it gets in the way of the Simulationist mode desire to experience the world in a self-consistent fashion, the more congruent it (the mechanic) is, would this be correct?

It seems analogous to the use of focus groups for market research - a good research design team puts together a framework that tries to ferret out what the group really wants - and tries to do so in a way that isn't leading or intrusive.

Cheers,

Jason.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #41 on: September 12, 2002, 02:21:40 PM »

Hey,

Actually, my line of thinking in the example concerns the rules facilitating the kind of congruent play going on, not just staying out of the way. At least if we are talking about "congruent design," that is.

Best,
Ron
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Jeremy Cole
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« Reply #42 on: September 12, 2002, 04:39:18 PM »

Quote

Hi Jeremy,

You wrote,
"What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?"


No I didn't.  Is there two Jeremys?
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #43 on: September 12, 2002, 05:48:57 PM »

Quote from: nipfipgip...dip
Quote

Hi Jeremy,

You wrote,
"What I want to know is, are there any accepted methods for assessing these things as the game is being designed, or do we necessarily have to take a build-playtest-assess G/N/S support - rebuild - playtest - asses G/N/S suport approach?"


No I didn't.  Is there two Jeremys?


I think Ron was in a hurry, since I've only recently begun signing my posts with my parent given name, Jason - an easy oversight when you type as fast as Ron must ;-)

Cheers,

Jason
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #44 on: September 12, 2002, 07:41:17 PM »

Quote from: deadpanbob
I agree with Mike, btw, about having other groups playtest besides my own.  Which is why I'm happy to have found the Forge.  I'm assuming that you all consider doing this from time to time for games that get built under these kleig lights?


Oh, no you don't, people still owe me playtests!

But, um, yes, in general, you'll find that often people are willing to do playtesting for you here. Often theoretically in exchange for playtesting thier games. Thoretically...

But I'm not bitter...

;-)

Mike
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