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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 74 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: At What Point Is Redundancy Redundant?  (Read 4735 times)
Mark Johnson
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Posts: 238


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« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2003, 12:26:35 PM »

Stuart,

Is a glossary necessary if the index notes the page on which the definition occurs?

    Ex.

Skills  3, 17-18, 42-46

On page 17 there is either a sidebar or some other sort of formatting that offsets the definition clearly.[/list:u]

At what length of document does an index become necessary?
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szilard
Member

Posts: 260


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« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2003, 12:53:49 PM »

Quote from: Mark Johnson
Stuart,

Is a glossary necessary if the index notes the page on which the definition occurs?

    Ex.

Skills  3, 17-18, 42-46

On page 17 there is either a sidebar or some other sort of formatting that offsets the definition clearly.[/list:u]


Not for me. The index with good notation and offset definition in the text is actually my preference.

Quote
At what length of document does an index become necessary?


I think a lot of that will depend upon formatting. Densely packed text makes the need for an index much greater. An increased frequency of clear subheadings with a good table of contents decreases that need.

One way of doing things with shorter texts that may not deserve a full index would be to have a short index of definitions.

Stuart
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My very own http://www.livejournal.com/users/szilard/">game design journal.
M. J. Young
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Posts: 2198


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« Reply #17 on: March 22, 2003, 02:38:38 PM »

I'm always saying that a game text needs to be exactly as long as it needs to be, and no longer; and must include what is necessary and not more. But this question is very telling: how do you know what is enough and not too much?

Most of the important aspects of play should be presented at least twice, in two different ways. Those could be by description and by example, but there are other possibilities. If an aspect of play could be easily confused with something else, present it thrice. Be certain that whatever is essential to play is going to be understood by whoever reads it.

For example, Multiverser uses what we call "relative success" to create a single-roll hit and damage system: whatever you roll on your attempt to hit is the number on which your damage is based. Although not unique in gaming (I first saw something like it in Zebulon's Guide to the Galaxy, a supplement for Star Frontiers, in the mid 80's) it's unusual enough that players often are looking for what die to roll for their damage. When we explain relative success (which applies to all skill use, not just combat) we mention that it applies to damage as well; when we explain attack rolls, we again explain in brief that the number rolled is the basis for the damage; and we have a section on damage where we go into detail on how to find the damage from the attack roll. In this way, we assure that anyone looking for how damage is determined will understand that there is not a second roll, despite the ingrained assumption from so many other games that such a second roll is necessary.

That's a case of redundancy used to overcome presuppositions, and that's an important category.

Another area for its use would be in the relationship between general principles and specific applications. We have a section in which we explain how resistances reduce damage in general; we also have sections in which specific skills are presented that reduce damage, and we reference the section in which the general explanation appears as well as illustrating it in the particular case. The redundancy works because when the reader reaches the specific cases they've already been given a preliminary understanding of the general rule, yet there is enough explanation of the general rule at this point to call it back to memory.

You provided one excellent example of part of your concern, though,
Quote from: when you
My current game uses a basic conflict resolution mechanic to resolve the conflicts as delineated in seventh grade English class: man vs man, man vs nature and man vs self. The game revolves largely around the last conflict. To what level of detail do I need to show how the system applies to examples of the first two conflicts: surviving an avalanche, seducing a rival's wife or engaging in combat given that these events can occur, but are not the focus of the game?
Ah, here we're getting at something solid: how clearly must you explain the peripheral elements of play?

The core answer is, well enough that users can figure out how to use them. What that means in your case may take a bit of consideration.

You suggest that there is one generally applicable mechanic that resolves everything, but which is used primarily for "man against self" conflicts. It might be that all that is necessary is a simple paragraph explaining something like
Quote
Sometimes the conflict will be against another man, and sometimes it will be against the environment. In the case of man against man conflicts, resolution is determined the same way but that in place of the Internal Resistance attribute the other character's Will Power is used. If the conflict is man against the environment, such as a survival situation, Internal Resistance is replaced by a value determined by the referee, representing the difficulty of overcoming this obstacle, where simple tasks range from five to ten, mediate tasks from ten to twenty, and difficult tasks from twenty to forty.
On the other hand, if the differences in application are greater than merely what number to use for one value, you might need considerably more text to illustrate how the mechanic works in those less-common situations.
Quote from: You also
Is a glossary necessary if the index notes the page on which the definition occurs?
There are certainly too many variables to answer that definitively. Multiverser has a table of contents, and outline of the rules, a glossary, and an index which distinguishes definitive, illustrative, extended, and general entries. However, it's a large core rule book; we determined to do everything we could to assist referees in locating materials. With a 16-page PDF, you could easily end up with more pages telling you where to find things than you have of core rules.

Someone once told me that PDF files support internal hyperlinks; I've never attempted that, but if so you could save yourself a great deal of effort by utilizing this. Also, PDFs are searchable. Do you need an index for a searchable format? Yes, if it's to find the definitive use of words that are used frequently in application; but no if it's merely to point people to materials they can find easily enough through the table of contents or a simple word search. (Of course, a lot of people assume that PDF means you're going to print it; that depends much more on whether the rules must be at the table during play. It might be that play only requires two pages of reference materials once the rules have been read and understood, so consider that as well. In any event, if you've got charts or tables that will be referenced in play, it is usually wise to extrapolate these to their own section which can be printed separately from the full game, to be used in a manner analogous to screens.)

I hope this helps.

--M. J. Young
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Bruce Baugh
Member

Posts: 143


« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2003, 01:58:32 PM »

You've got enough repetition when a few more people tell you "this seems redundant" than "I wish there'd been more examples and explanations". You probably can't get a perfect balance, so you want to err on the side of a bit more exposition than is strictly necessary than a bit less. Statisticians refer to type I and type II errors - finding something there when it actually isn't and missing it when it actually is there, or "false positives" and "false negatives". In gaming writing, type II errors are the ones that lead folks to give up on your game; type I errors generate brief annoyance, usually followed by comforting thoughts like "...but less enlightened souls than myself might find that handy." :)

In some cases - a lot of them, actually - you can reduce the need for repetition by choices of grammar and style. Simple present tense and active voice seem to help a lot of gamers pick up on stuff, simple present because it helps with the sense of "you are here and now", active voice because the variety of verbs and emphasis on identifiable entities doing he actions break up monotony and connect the reader to the sort of people and events you're describing in your text. (There are, of course, exceptions. There are always exceptions. I'll defend these as valid generalizations without trying to say that they are always and everywhere appropriate.)

I strongly agree that we should think of manuscripts as getting playtested just like rules. Until such time as we beam pre-verbal concepts directly into the brains of players, the text (like the layout and art) is as much part of the game as the intellectual content of the rules.
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