News:

Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Tri-level GNS play & Tron

Started by Mortaneus, February 13, 2003, 12:50:36 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Mortaneus

Hmm....I can think of a possible way to incorporate all three into a game design...don't know if this would work or not...but....

Concept:  TRON (the movie)

Play the users from a Simulationist perspective,

the programs from a Narrativist Perspective,

and the Games they play from a Gamist Perspective.


Would that even be possible?  Or would the layered reality just result in the dragging of the next lower layer into the parent layer's mode?  Could you make them distinct enough to pull this off?

Ron Edwards

Hi Mortaneus,

Welcome to the Forge! I hope you don't mind that I split your post from its parent thread, Incoherence is fun!.

Guys, we talked about this one time, right? Marco, or maybe James D. West (james_west)? I'm remembering from about a year ago. If anyone can help out with links ...

The question, I think, is who gets to play what. Does everyone play at each level, which is what I think you're describing? Also, it seems to me that the conflicts, priorities, and even the emotional investments are the same throughout all three "levels" of the movie, so it's hard for me to imagine switching as the venue switches. But I'm curious to see what others would think.

Best,
Ron

Mortaneus

I think the question I have is whether it is possible to achieve a true 3-way hybrid through a layered-reality approach to the setting design?  It would be extremely klunky, but might theoretically be possible.  Then again...it might just be a receipe for a massive headache, as you attempt to play characters playing characters playing characters, or some such.  I would think, first of all, it would require a very dedicated actor stance from the participants, to be able to KEEP the modes of the layers separate.

contracycle

Eee - maybe on a MUD.  I've thought about games that have multiple layers such that you have different preferences at different layers doing different things that synthesise the world itself.  I'm not sure about doing it tabel-top - the big problem is that it triples the amount of feedback the GM has to give becuase they have to be able to give suitable answers to each framework that describes a common scene.  Worse, its difficult to see this working in campaign play as the different frames would force the characters apart very strongly, I expect, even more so than a random group of adventurers.  Contriving mechanisms to give them common problems will get silly quickly.  I think games built to be run once, using characters once, could be done this way, though.
Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Mike Holmes

Yep, in one of the threads that Ron must be referring to, I posited the notion of a game of Norse fate where the character had a Sim life, and a Narrativist afterlife. Along with a couple other ideas. In fact didn't a recent thread refer to those threads on the idea of playing all three modes?

So, yes, it's been discussed, but, no, I can't find the threads either.

Mike
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Walt Freitag

Well, the Arabian Nights LARP might have come close. It has the requisite layers of reality, but it was not intended to support different priorities of play at different layers -- quite the contrary, in fact. Nonetheless, it might be argued that the "frame story" layer in which all the players share the role of Shaharazad is a touch more Gamist (collect enough points to "win" by saving Shaharazad's life), the "main character" layer in which players play their more or less permanent roles is the most Narrativist (they're interacting with the Storytellers to create stories on recognizable themes, thus earning those points for Shahrazad), and the "sub-story" level in which players primarily explore what it's like to be other characters in other situations is the most Simulationist. A different rule system design could have emphasized instead of minimized those differences.

To really allow for distinctly different priorities at different layers, I think there has to be a real break of some kind between the layers. Something that shifts radically enough from one layer to another -- character identity, point of view, or even reality itself -- to prevent one layer's priorities from dominating another's.

To offer an ineffective example, suppose you had a game in which the characters are baseball players in which you want, say, Narrativist exploration of a character-based Premise; and embedded within that is a system for playing out the actual baseball games that the characters play, in which you want the players to prioritize Gamism. At first glance this might look like it would work, but I don't think it can. Sooner or later the two will come into direct conflict. If the manager pulls a well-performing pitcher early to punish him for having an affair with his wife, then some other priority (possibly Narrativism, or possibly Simulationism) is overshadowing the Gamist priority of winning the game. But if the players all just forget everything else that's going on and focus only on winning during the baseball games, then the Gamism is overshadowing other priorities elsewhere (and not just while the game is going on; if a conflict can be put so completely aside during game time, it's obviously not very dramatic.)

A more complete break is needed. For example, suppose the game were about the careers of professional wrestlers. In their world, the wrestling matches are faked and are one of many aspects of building a career. But when a character is in a match, the character becomes the fictional wrestler persona, and matches are resolved as purely Gamist competitions. Essentially, inside the ring is an entirely different reality. Inside the ring, the "real" characters don't exist (so their real emotional issues, conflicts, enmities, etc. become irrelevant). Outside the ring, who wins inside the ring has no great emotional significance (because the matches are fake). The inside-the-ring play could affect some aspect of how the story proceeds, but not in any straightforward "winning is better" way. An entire scene in the Gamist layer would then become, to the Narrativist layer, the equivalent of a single resolution roll. This prevents the different priorities from coming into direct conflict, but at the cost of separating the layers more, making it more difficult for them to interact in an interesting way.

One thing going for you is that Tron is nicely set up with multiple layers that appear to have about the right degree of separation. (As long as you don't use the plot device that creates characters in the computer world who are direct copies or avatars of the real-world characters.) The potential difficulty of this is underscored by the rather poor use the original movie made of its multiple layers of reality. (Tron achieves a mystical transformation within the computer world, with no reference to an obvious possible explanation at the real-world level for how such a transformation could have taken place: establishing communication with the humans at their terminals, who could then have empowered Tron with system-level operations: "Run Tron" or "SetPrivileges [Tron, #all]" or something like that.)

- Walt
Wandering in the diasporosphere

Mortaneus

Quote from: wfreitag
A more complete break is needed. For example, suppose the game were about the careers of professional wrestlers. In their world, the wrestling matches are faked and are one of many aspects of building a career. But when a character is in a match, the character becomes the fictional wrestler persona, and matches are resolved as purely Gamist competitions. Essentially, inside the ring is an entirely different reality. Inside the ring, the "real" characters don't exist (so their real emotional issues, conflicts, enmities, etc. become irrelevant). Outside the ring, who wins inside the ring has no great emotional significance (because the matches are fake). The inside-the-ring play could affect some aspect of how the story proceeds, but not in any straightforward "winning is better" way. An entire scene in the Gamist layer would then become, to the Narrativist layer, the equivalent of a single resolution roll. This prevents the different priorities from coming into direct conflict, but at the cost of separating the layers more, making it more difficult for them to interact in an interesting way.

This is an interesting possibility...basically expanding upon the individual random resolutions at a level, and using them to create a microcosm in which the resolution is played out in greater detail in a different mode...

However, I see the question being asked 'Why bother?'

I think in this sense, it isn't so much a matter of coherence, but instead Efficiency of game design...has that term been used before?  I haven't noticed it as a concept to be addressed in the various articles, but then again, I haven't read them all yet.  Is efficiency of game design a valid concept under the GNS model?

Jack Spencer Jr

My friend's current game sort of does this, albeit in a manner which may be familiar to most people. The gameplay is sorta Simulationist most of the time (possibly with some Narrativivist flavoring sprinkled in) and then it shifts abruptly to Gamism during combat. The shift is rather jarring. It's very much like how it is in Final Fanatasy VII-- a weird sound, the screen gets weird then fades to black, then it comes back to thew combat screen with that pulse-pounding music going. Actually, what happens is the situation gets to the point where it's obvious combat is happening then he openly state it. Everyone gets ready for it, making sure they have their character folder opened to the combat page, miniatures are brought out and placed, initiatives get rolled and by then things get moving. I personally don't find this very engaging. It might work better as Drift instead of the Slam Bang Smack that it is.

I do feel for you with the idea of a Tron RPG. That's my homemade game I made when I was, like, twelve. I gave up on it because of the game grd scenes where the PC would essentially be playing a video game. I found this to be patently ridiculous. It reminds me of the tag line on the David Letterman Top Ten List book "Like Watching Television In Conveinient Book Form." Tron RPG turned out to be like playing a video game in "conveinient" RPG form. It just didn't work for me is what I'm saying.

szilard

Here's a question:

Would it be possible to run a game where characters existed simultaneously on different levels, possibly indirectly (or even directly) affecting each other - in such a way that some players are always playing Sim, others always Narr, others always Gamist?

Take something Tron-like for instance, forgetting about the Games for the moment. What if play in the users-world was Sim, while play the program-world was Narrativist? What if some players played users and others played programs? What if there was limited (command-line and cause-effect) interaction between the two?

Could that work?

Stuart
My very own http://www.livejournal.com/users/szilard/">game design journal.

Jack Spencer Jr

I don't know about that idea, Stuart. In your first paragraph you more-or-less described incoherence, which is only a problem if these styles come into conflict and, more likely than not, they will which will either lead to:
    [A]One player backing down at some point or another and thus losing some enjoyment from the session. What will usually happen here is said player will stew about it, possibly for a decade or more, and will become a ticking time bomb that eventually becomes

A conflict arises between two or more players (I'm including the GM in with the players BTW) and nobody backs down, perhaps tired of being screw like in A. The group degenerates into an arguement over "doing it right" with typical dogmatic debates of "rollpaying vs roleplaying" and the like coming up until eventually a member leaves or is kicked out or the group disbands entirely.
[/list:u]If you can figure out a way to make this work, then let us know. Most of us have personally experienced B to varying degrees, some quietly, some may have actually come to blows.

In your second paragraph, you're suggesting running several, parallel games that somehow interact with each other. That's interesting. Explore that a bit, probably in Theory or Design.

BTW, I am confused about what the cyberspace is Narrativist and the user's world is Simulationist. Is there a reason for this?

szilard

Jack,

I think you misunderstood what I was getting at in the first paragraph. The second paragraph was supposed to be an example of it.

The idea would be for people who enjoy playing Sim to play in a sim world while the people who enjoy playing Narrativist play in an environment more conducive to that. (you could replace one of those with Gamist, if you want. This is really just a thought experiment at this point.)The twist would be that the players would all:

a) be around the same table

b) have some points of contact with each other

There would, essentially, be two games in two different modes running parallel with some points of contact between them.

Does that make more sense?

Stuart
My very own http://www.livejournal.com/users/szilard/">game design journal.

Mortaneus

Quote from: szilard
There would, essentially, be two games in two different modes running parallel with some points of contact between them.

I think the central problem area, and what deserves the most scrutiny, are those contact points.  Whether it's a bunch of players in different modes sitting side-by-side, or each player having to deal with each simultaneously, or in sequence, the contact points remain the difficulty.

Is it possible to have several different, for lack of a better word, 'realms' of play that affect each other in some meaningful way, and yet remain distinctly different in mode?  Is this possible, or rather paradoxical?

Stuart DJ Purdie

One thing that's runing through my head recently, on this theme is a that of a Labile system - that is, one that can be easily shifted from one mode to another.  I'd always though of this as a system that can Drift easily.  The initial suggestion in this thread suggests another way - well defined, distinct realms of play.  

This would only be useful in two situations

1) When all players enjoy playing on more than one level, and the play shifts between them to acommodate them.  Note that all players must enjoy the different styles - rotating through them to please different peoiple in order is a cover for dysfunctional play.  Rotating through them because that's what the players all want is functional.

2a) When your running a game, but you don't know what the players want.  A Labile system can then be drifted on the fly to match the player expecations.  I am doing something akin to this with my cheerleaders RPG.  It's not ideal, and would never qualify as a good thing.  However, it may be the best tool in a situation, and thus bears exploring.

2b) Running a game with well defined levels of play, whilst it requires a lot of frontloading of the expected styles, would allow a description of play prefferences in jargon free manner.  Assuming that the three styles were complete and functional, then the question "Which part of the game did you most enjoy" is easily matched to a GNS prefference, and is a question that is normally well within all players comfort zones.

I submit that both situations are rare.  The former lends itself to well defined, stratified areas - the Tron suggestion.  2a needs a lot of flexability to do well, and should, I think, be left for another thread.  2b would be the same as the first, but used differently.

I do, however, think that the play has to take the players as a whole.  Trying to have some players playing Gamist, and some Sim, at the same time means that half your players will be bored at any one time, as Jack mentioned above.

Having serial episodes reduces the points of contact between modes to 2 (start and end), and, if functional, keeps all players interested.  A very different setting is a good cue to the players to change mode, and distinct personas is also.

Tron is a perfect match to model such a tri-layer system with.  You'd have (effectivly) three different characters sheets - for each layer and mode.  Because the change in mode would come from in character actoin, the player would be expecting the change - which would reduce the jarring effect.  Wish I'd thought of it, and think that it has potential to work.  Maybe not great, but well enough to be worth doing.

Jack Spencer Jr

This is an interesting idea, covering different GNS modes with different points of contact allowing them to sit at the same table. I'm not going to say it's impossible because theoretically it is possible, I suppose. I am wondering if it is actually practical. All games can have isolated instances of all modes of play if you pull them out of context (and probably hold them in the proper light but that's besides the point here) When we talk about GNS we're talking about prioritized play. When Ron talks about and "instance of play" he means at least one session if not two or three or more. Problems in a group come when they players' GNS preferences come into conflict. I guess one way to look at it is that the players sort of realize that they're not really playing the same game. Problem is, this often led to "doing it right" arguements instead of real understanding.

What's being suggested here is that the players would essentially be playing two or three different games which are the same game. Theoretically, I suppose this is possible. Having a game that supports all three GNS modes with very clearly outlined areas of when and where for each mode and such to avoid the conflict usually found. Or such is my understanding of what is being discussed. I'm just wondering if this is, in fact, practical. I'm wondering if in trying to please everybody it actually winds up pleasing nobody.