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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 61 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Gamism and gamer's games  (Read 16374 times)
jdagna
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« Reply #30 on: May 05, 2003, 11:26:50 AM »

[quote="Emily Care]The question I have is this: How in designing a game can one identify discreet elements, parameters and courses of action that allow one to experience the good stuff of strategic thinking (using a system to it's fullest extent, making informed decisions, taking risks and having it pay off, etc) without dissolving into hopeless munchkinism?  How to design a game or what game has been design to harness those rules-lawyery-leanings or just anyone's innate desire for a compex challenge into roleplaying?[/quote]

I'm not sure how generalized an example I can give you, but I can provide two specific ones from my game.

First is a combat example.  Characters get two normal actions per round and one interrupt action.  Wise utilization of the interrupt action is key to strategy.  With it, you can interrupt another person's action - so most people use it to duck behind stuff before they get shot.  But... if you squander your interrupt early in the round, you may be left as a sitting duck later.  So you've got lots of decisions to make and no white and black answers as to what's best (because you have limited information about the situation).  There's also a very effective wait action if you think you know what the enemy is going to do next.

Second is a social example.  There are a lot of social modifiers representing character approach and NPC attitudes.  In bribery, two things are most important: the potential reward (the bribe) and the potential consquences (and likelihood of suffering them).  Players can often greatly reduce the bribe price by offering to help NPCs escape the consequences.  Saving money is obviously a good thing... but if you just bribed Joe to kill his boss, do you really want to show him your secret hideout so he can avoid being arrested?

I think this avoids munchkinism because most of the factors are rooted in the setting, not some sort of player creation currency.  This way, the GM has influence both over the intial setting and the potential consequences.  I think it encourages strategy, because it offers multiple options that seem equally viable from the rules' point of view.  The die roll doesn't change, just the potential consequences down the line.
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Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #31 on: May 05, 2003, 11:42:03 AM »

Quote from: Paganini
Mike, it's not really an opinion, but it seems like you're unfamiliar with strategic depth.


Um, no.

We just disagree as to what it means.

361 moves is paltry. Condisder your average wargame that uses freform movement (no hexes or anything) by inches, like Warhammer. There are literally an infinite number of angles that I can move that unit upon. And there are infinite numbers of potential responses. There are some simple calculations regarding vectors as to ranges and such, but these are endlessly complicated. Terrain? Armor ratings? Unit density. Area effect weaponry. Even in a game like SFB with hexes, there are literally dozens of things that I can do in a turn, and thousands in combinations (anyone for plannig a high speed turn onto a dropped shield after weapons fire and deploying T-Bombs into the enemy hex? Think they'll fall for it?). More if you consider refinements.

Before anyone claims that some of the combinations are obviously dumb, and don't count, then answer me how many of the 361 first moves of Go are also dumb. And later, when there are less choices, how many more become dumb by incremets. Let's compare apples to apples.

Many rules all in conjunction make play more complicated in general. Sure there are occasions where some rules actually make the obvious choice easier. But most games avoid these like the plague. Most additional rules are included because they add possible sorts of actions.

Randomization makes things less complicated? Far from it. Since one can do the math on probabilities, randomization just becomes another thing that you have to plan for. In fact there are several principles involved, but here are two important ones. First a knowledge of the expected value is important so that you can make plans based on what progress you can expect to make given a particular plan of action. Then there's the worst case scenario analysis which is also taken into account with any die roll. These factors make decisions that much more difficut, not simpler (and anyone who ignores them is going to get his hat handed to him by the player that pays attention).

No, it seems to me that you are the one that's really unfamiliar with the sort of things that can add to stratigic depth, Nathan. If you don't want to acknowledge that these things are all important to the discussion, then, well, as I've said, we've a difference of opinion.

To bring this back on topic, the very reason I play RPGs is because they have an infinite number of possible actions. Your character can do anything at any time. I mean, when the winning move could be "quack like a duck", how can you say otherwise? And often you choose your own victory conditions. Lot's of gamers see RPGs as the "Ultimate Gamers Game" for just this reason.

But for the most part I think it's a pointless question. RPGs are for people who like RPGs, and GO is for people who like GO. Why does it matter if one is superior to another according to some odd definition of some pointless term? Are we hoping that GO players are an untapped market for playing RPGs?

Mike
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Paganini
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« Reply #32 on: May 05, 2003, 01:15:59 PM »

Mike,

Uh... I'm not sure what you're arguing with. You calimed that you disagree with me about what strategic depth means, but your comments about Warhammer use exactly the terms I presented. You haven't said anything that I disagree with here. (Well, except that 361 is not really paltry. It's a lot, compared to other abstract strategy games. Chess, for example.) As far as I know, no one is claiming that Go has more strategic depth than RPGs. The question was about how crunchy bits relate to strategic depth. The answer is that crunchy bits can add strategic depth, or they can remove strategic depth, depending on how they're implimented.

As for your Warhammer example, I'd want to add the restriction that only meaningful moves contribute to strategic depth. Not all moves in Go are good moves, but every move has an actual effect on the game.

In theory, you do have an infinite number of moves in a Warhammer battle, but given the scale of the game, only a fraction of those moves are of distinguishable value. (I.e., at Warhammer scale, it doesn't really make a difference if you move forward at 90 degrees or 91 degrees - so it's not really fair to count them as separate potential moves for the sake of determining strategic depth.)

I don't know how much strategic depth Go has when compared to Warhammer - the data isn't there for the comparison, since no one has ever tried to crack Warhammer that I know of - but I don't really care. The important thing is not "which one is deeper," but "what range of depth is needed for satisfying Gamism?"
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Thierry Michel
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« Reply #33 on: May 06, 2003, 07:52:28 AM »

Quote from: Emily Care
How in designing a game can one identify discreet elements, parameters and courses of action that allow one to experience the good stuff of strategic thinking (using a system to it's fullest extent, making informed decisions, taking risks and having it pay off, etc) without dissolving into hopeless munchkinism?  


I would expect Gamist players to be ruthless optimizers of their characters, but I don't see it as a bad thing in itself. The problem arises when the game rewards the player who knows the rules best (or more precisely, all of the exceptions and crunchy bits) over the player who tries to think strategically, and I suppose that's what you mean by 'hopeless munchkinism'. The obvious counterploy is to try to design every additional crunchy bit such as it adds new tactical options if one is so inclined, but does not disturb play balance - make everything above the core mechanics optional somehow.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: May 06, 2003, 08:18:02 AM »

I don't suppose it will be surprising to people to learn that the new essay provides no less than five meanings for the word "munchkin," some of which operate at very different levels and for different purposes from the others.

So maybe it would be good to specify exactly what one means when using the word - 'cause Inigo is right about that, yet again.

Best,
Ron
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Emily Care
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« Reply #35 on: May 06, 2003, 04:17:28 PM »

Quote from: Thierry Michel
I would expect Gamist players to be ruthless optimizers of their characters, but I don't see it as a bad thing in itself. The problem arises when the game rewards the player who knows the rules best (or more precisely, all of the exceptions and crunchy bits) over the player who tries to think strategically, and I suppose that's what you mean by 'hopeless munchkinism'.

Good question.  Thank you for clarifying my hazy use of the term.

I think you hit on something important:
"the game rewards the player who knows the rules best (or rather all of the exceptions and crunchy bits)"

In the normal course of things, most games will give rewards for knowing and using the rules. That's not a problem in and of itself. However, if the rules are obfuscatory or complex enough that it's difficult for everyone to have the same level of understanding of them and there are substantial rewards for knowing the ins and outs, then that's suboptimal design for enjoyable strategic play.  

Crunchy bits are number crunching, right?  That could be an obstacle to understanding.  It makes sense why the classic strategic games are simple.  There is a world of difference between someone using known, clear rules to exploit an opening you leave them, and having someone pull a loophole out of the bag to best you.  It feels like cheating if you didn't have access to the same information.  Ah, this is the play balance portion of the gamist program.  

I look forward to reading about the 5 forms of munchies.  Having them to refer to will help avoid confusion. Are they like the five deadly venoms? (sorry, I couldn't resist...)

--EC
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Thierry Michel
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« Reply #36 on: May 07, 2003, 05:44:05 AM »

Quote from: Emily Care
 There is a world of difference between someone using known, clear rules to exploit an opening you leave them, and having someone pull a loophole out of the bag to best you.  It feels like cheating if you didn't have access to the same information.  


But the problem arises simply from the "any action is possible"  nature of RPGS.  If you pull off the winning move 'quack like a duck' how am I supposed to anticipate it in my strategy ? I see munchkinism as a (maybe hopeless) tentative to formalize as many choices as possible within the rules  (so you can tell your opponent to refer to 6.34.a - duck sounds, 2nd paragraph: mallard).

It doesn't have to be that way, though, one could also imagine an abstract resolution system where in fact "every possible action" amounts to the same trade-offs and the descriptions  are just for colour. A kind of Gamist Hero Wars, I suppose.
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Paganini
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« Reply #37 on: May 07, 2003, 06:31:56 AM »

Quote from: Thierry Michel
Quote from: Emily Care
 There is a world of difference between someone using known, clear rules to exploit an opening you leave them, and having someone pull a loophole out of the bag to best you.  It feels like cheating if you didn't have access to the same information.  


But the problem arises simply from the "any action is possible"  nature of RPGS.  If you pull off the winning move 'quack like a duck' how am I supposed to anticipate it in my strategy ? I see munchkinism as a (maybe hopeless) tentative to formalize as many choices as possible within the rules  (so you can tell your opponent to refer to 6.34.a - duck sounds, 2nd paragraph: mallard).


Thierry, this is kind of what I was getting at in my other thread. "Quack like a duck" can't be a winning move unless it really is a winning move. It's not the quacking itself that's important; there has to be something that defines it as a winning move. It has to have some identifiable game effect *beyond* just realizing the event "Thierry quacks like a duck" within the fictional reality.

That's the idea I was exploring for elsewhere. In the context of the fictional reality, what exists for the players to put on the line, to potentially lose or gain? If you think traditionally, you've got life or death of character, riches, glory, etc. etc. But these things are all just ways to represent pure Lumpley Principle Credibility. In Ben Lehman's terms, they all "represent power." This is the actual guts of "how Gamism works," in my view.

Think of it this way:

Winning or losing a game of RISK is the social prestiege element that Ron's talking about.  There's some, maybe small, social conflict at stake. You want to outdo your friends. They want to outdo you. Credibility is the countries and armies on the little map. It's the actual resource that they're fighting with and for. Credibility is their power to do things in the arena. Its is the weapon, its the currency that is gained or lost through skillful play.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #38 on: May 07, 2003, 11:29:26 AM »

To clarify here's the situation:

In the hypothetical game's "Guide to Monstrous Fauna" there's a creature called the Quagduck that's a giant man-eating duck. In the description is says, "An easy way to fend off this horrendous beast (which doe to it's tremendous size is likely unkillable by other means) is by quacking like a duck which will make it think that you are one of it's kind; it's not too bright. At that point it's a small matter to kill the now passive creature from behind."

The point is that there are potentially infinite numbers of facts that the player may have to try to accumulate to be good at such a game. Strategy here? Well, going into the Quaggy Marsh Swamp maybe I should do some reading up on the Marsh first in the local library to see what I can find out about dangerous fauna.

No munchkinism, just a player trying to bend the Gamist odds in his favor.

And this is just one axis along which strategic depth can be developed in an RPG. I propose that there are litterally an infinite number of potential axes. That is, an RPG can be litterally as complicated as you'd like to have it be.

Am I getting any clearer?

Mike
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Paganini
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« Reply #39 on: May 07, 2003, 11:50:33 AM »

Hey Mike,

You know, this whole deal about the definition of strategic depth has been a colossal tangent. I think I accidentally led you off the scent here when I said that Go has more strategic depth than Chess - which is true, but you seem to have taken that as a claim that Go has more strategic depth than anything else.

You remember this? This was the main point, that the rest of my post was leading up to:

Quote from: I
So, let's say that such layering is a given for a strategic game. How much depth do we really need? Tic Tac Toe obviously doesn't have enough - it's a trivial matter to run through the entire tree. Do we need as much as Go? I'm sure that the actual answer lies in a range of personally acceptable values. Too few and strategy is trivialized, because anyone can read out to the end. To many, and strategy is trivialized because no one can read ahead at all, and options are just chosen at random.


Once I established that strategic depth is something that can be mathematically and factually determined (you said you agree with this, right?), the question was not "what game has the most strategic depth," but "how much strategic depth do we need?"

Theirry, I think, was proposing that the ultimate gamer's game is one that has the most strategic depth with the fewest rules. You're saying that fewer rules does not necessarily mean more strategic depth. I agree. I'm saying something different: that unlimited strategic depth is not necessarily a good thing. There's a comfort zone to be found between "not enough" and "too much."
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Emily Care
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« Reply #40 on: May 07, 2003, 12:51:21 PM »

Quote from: deadpanbob
Designs that facilitate good strategic play... play are games without break-points, layering and currency transfer issues - particularly at character generation.  Any of these things in the system will be immedaite attractors to players like myself - and we will work out how to take advantage of them - because a lot of the strategic play in RPG's happens during character creation.  


It makes sense that so much of it happens there, since the character is the primary tool the player has in the game world, it's what would be used to gain leverage.    

Complex game systems (of the dysfunctional variety described above and elsewhere) and ones that try to take into account the millions of different situations that may come up that could be exploited in a "creative" or rules-bending fashion, may in some way be the way they are because of the way authority, or power, or what have you, is apportioned.  Interpreting rules and finding loop-holes or manipulating currency transfers may be ways of trying to eke more power out of the situation.  Seems inevitable given the oppositional character of gm/player relations and coming from the idea that only one person should have almost all the say about what goes.

--EC
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #41 on: May 07, 2003, 01:11:54 PM »

Quote from: Emily Care

Complex game systems (of the dysfunctional variety described above and elsewhere) and ones that try to take into account the millions of different situations that may come up that could be exploited in a "creative" or rules-bending fashion, may in some way be the way they are because of the way authority, or power, or what have you, is apportioned.  Interpreting rules and finding loop-holes or manipulating currency transfers may be ways of trying to eke more power out of the situation.  Seems inevitable given the oppositional character of gm/player relations and coming from the idea that only one person should have almost all the say about what goes.


I agree whole-heartedly with this.  It's precisely this reason that I ended up as the GM for all of the RPGs I played in my early years.  I simply couldn't stand to let someone else be in charge of the narrative authority.

However, even after I got over this issue, and found games that did a better job of apportioning the narrative authority - I still had this evil little gamist/munchkin inside who needs to be satisfied, especially when I play.

I think that putting an atagonistic sping on the GM/Player relationship explicitly in the text (like Mr. Nixon did with Donjon) makes for a heck of a way to encourage the gamist nature of the game.

Cheers,


Jason
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deadpanbob"
Emily Care
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« Reply #42 on: May 07, 2003, 01:18:23 PM »

Quote from: deadpanbob
I think that putting an antagonistic sping on the GM/Player relationship explicitly in the text (like Mr. Nixon did with Donjon) makes for a heck of a way to encourage the gamist nature of the game.


It's amazing the difference that consciousness makes.  Antagonism and competition are fun and are healthy to indulge in.  I think the whole "how things are isn't the only way" has been well covered (one of Mr. R. Edward's fabulous 5 threads comes to mind...) but it bears repeating when thinking about how not to design a gamist game.


--EC
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #43 on: May 07, 2003, 01:25:53 PM »

Quote from: Paganini
Theirry, I think, was proposing that the ultimate gamer's game is one that has the most strategic depth with the fewest rules.


To be precise, I paraphrased him this way, and was told that this was not true.

Mike
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Thierry Michel
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« Reply #44 on: May 09, 2003, 02:06:43 AM »

Quote
Antagonism and competition are fun and are healthy to indulge in.


Yes, playing the best you can knowing everyone does the same is a reward in itself for my type of gamism.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: Paganini
Thierry, I think, was proposing that the ultimate gamer's game is one that has the most strategic depth with the fewest rules.

To be precise, I paraphrased him this way, and was told that this was not true.
Mike



It's a definition as good as any other I could propose.

In practice, I found that complex rules are not needed for the type of strategy I enjoy, so the games tend to be on the abstract/dry side, with little reliance on luck. Alternatively, you could say that any game where skill matters and where one's play improves with experience is somehow a gamer's game.

Coming back to the start of the thread, what surprises me is how little rpgs considered as Gamists borrow from other games. Mechanisms tend to be of the wargamish type but wargames themselves are not purely gamists (hence the politically correct euphemism for them: Conflict Simulation).
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