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Author Topic: New Narrativism and the GNS's Closeted Sister  (Read 8596 times)
Bankuei
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« on: May 18, 2003, 08:01:57 PM »

Hi Fang,

Ok, looks like we're on the same page with a lot of stuff, that was the clarification I needed.

Quote
What about a different perspective that takes the game as a whole into consideration and the GNS/'creative agenda' is an important, but not all encompassing, design element.

(snip)

Or, aren't there valid design practices beyond pragmatic?


Perhaps I'm wrong here, but my overall design philosophy is the gameplay experience which may or may not be the same thing as creative agenda, but works well for me.   Hell, my Sim entry was based on the idea that I wanted to roll a couple of D20's and get exploding dice rolls.  It was a sufficient cause for me to start.


Quote
I'd have thought 'Inspirational' was obvious. Isn't that how a game supports its design scheme? If you have rules for summoning demons, that supports the Explorative Agenda? of 'doing stuff with demons.' That's the most recent incarnation of System inspiring play. But another would be drawing cards to 'make your character's life more complicated' or something. Like I said, I see this as fertile ground abandoned every time the Lumley Principle is cited.    


Sure, its a perfect example of mechanics supporting Creative(Explorative if you want) agenda.  I was not familiar with how you were using Inspirational.  Please tell me more about where it gets abandoned, I'm not following where you're "exploring" with this topic.

Quote
I don't think The Pool is a consumer-friendly product, but the Questing Beast is moreso, along the same lines as The Riddle of Steel affording Narrativism to the consumer-base. Where is the discussion of turning 'hard core Narrativist designs' into broad-audience products without 'dumbing them down?'


I'm not sure I follow you here. The Pool seemed very easy to pick up for me and the folks who I have gamed with.  If you mean consumer friendly in the sense it needs flashy art and layout, I think that's a different(but important) subject.  I'm not exactly sure where you're going with the question though...I've found Inspectres to be both mainstream and friendly, if the question is about making a bigger market, well, that's a question of money and promotion.

Quote
'd also like to see a 'sister theorem' to the GNS that was like a menu for designers. The GNS is for diagnosing problems in real, actual gaming instances; doesn't it seem backward to design a game to prevent problems (GNS facilitating) rather than to exemplify some approach? I think theory can 'go there,' I don't believe GNS is the best tool but its existence implies that such a 'sister theory' is possible.


I understand, but the basic idea of "what is it supposed to do and how does it do it" seems to be the simple core and a useful one at that.

Chris
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Le Joueur
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Posts: 1367


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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2003, 07:44:07 AM »

Okay, I've split this topic off (from this one) because it seems to finally be 'settling down' to a single discussion.

Hey Chris,

You bring up some valid points, if I may?

      With one aside:
    Quote from: Bankuei
    Quote from: Le Joueur
    I'd have thought 'Inspirational' was obvious. Isn't that how a game supports its design scheme? If you have rules for summoning demons, that supports the Explorative Agenda? of 'doing stuff with demons.' That's the most recent incarnation of System inspiring play. But another would be drawing cards to 'make your character's life more complicated' or something. Like I said, I see this as fertile ground abandoned every time the Lumpley Principle is cited.

    Sure, its a perfect example of mechanics supporting Creative (Explorative if you want) agenda.  I was not familiar with how you were using Inspirational.  Please tell me more about where it gets abandoned, I'm not following where you're "exploring" with this topic.

    Not knowing the design processes of individual games I would only be able to wildly speculate.  What I am getting at is how the structure of the system being in line with the creative agenda so much that it creates at least a 'slippery slope' into desired play is a popular issue on the Forge.  So is the Lumpley Principle.  Nowhere have I seen the two brought together.  I think this is important, because in many instances of citation of the Lumpley Principle, I've thought the ideas presented could either be greatly enhanced by indexing the 'Inspiration' principle or trumped by it.  Keeping these important comments on system separate seems to be at their detriment (as well as the absent discussion about the 'Taking Part' principle).[/list:u][/list:u]And now for the topic of this thread; Narrativism and GNS.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Quote from: Le Joueur
    I don't think The Pool is a consumer-friendly product, but the Questing Beast is moreso, along the same lines as The Riddle of Steel affording Narrativism to the consumer-base. Where is the discussion of turning 'hard core Narrativist designs' into broad-audience products without 'dumbing them down?'


    I'm not sure I follow you here. The Pool seemed very easy to pick up for me and the folks who I have gamed with.  If you mean consumer friendly in the sense it needs flashy art and layout, I think that's a different (but important) subject.  I'm not exactly sure where you're going with the question though...I've found InSpectres to be both mainstream and friendly, if the question is about making a bigger market, well, that's a question of money and promotion.

    That's exactly what I mean, "...and the folks who I have gamed with."  Imagine pitching it at the How to Host a Murder audience.  I imagine a lot of head-scratching.  On the other hand, InSpectres comes with 'all the trimmings.'  I haven't had the pleasure to see the final version, but it seems a lot more 'man in the game store' friendly that way.  That's why I compared The Pool with The Questing Beast; they're the same system, with different accessibilities.

    I've been thinking a lot about something Jake Norwood told me about The Riddle of Steel's Narrativism.  It doesn't seem like a Narrativist game right away, does it?  I might go so far as to say that it takes Narrativism out of the "high-falutin'" category and slips it in under the door.  A lot of people I know feel really threatened when I start talking about things like Theme and Message with their favorite movies, yet the movies that have them are the only ones they like.  I like to think that Narrativist games might succeed more broadly if the Narrativism was included in a 'pay no attention to the man behind the curtain' fashion (and I'm not talking 'give it only to the gamemaster').

    We're almost there, I'd like to see discussions about 'doing it that way' rather than just 'how to do Narrativism.'

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Quote from: Le Joueur
    I'd also like to see a 'sister theorem' to the GNS that was like a menu for designers. The GNS is for diagnosing problems in real, actual gaming instances; doesn't it seem backward to design a game to prevent problems (GNS facilitating) rather than to exemplify some approach? I think theory can 'go there,' I don't believe GNS is the best tool but its existence implies that such a 'sister theory' is possible.

    I understand, but the basic idea of "what is it supposed to do and how does it do it" seems to be the simple core and a useful one at that.

    But that's just it.  I'd like to see a "what is it supposed to do and how does it do it" theory, but the GNS clearly states that it is a "how to categorize what is actually done and how it gets messed up" model.  Use the same principles, but change the focus from diagnostic to prescriptive.  I realize that many, many people here 'do that in their heads' and probably feel such a 'rewriting' is therefore unnecessary, but I disagree.  I think a second, sister theory using the same principle concepts would be a welcome addition.

    Can you see the difference?

    Fang Langford
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    Bankuei
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    « Reply #2 on: May 19, 2003, 08:33:19 AM »

    Hi Fang,

    Quote
    What I am getting at is how the structure of the system being in line with the creative agenda so much that it creates at least a 'slippery slope' into desired play is a popular issue on the Forge. So is the Lumpley Principle. Nowhere have I seen the two brought together.


    Hmm.  I think we have a lack of common words here for you to describe what you're getting at.  I still don't understand what you are saying.  I'm going to try to meet you halfway, so let me send out some probes and tell me if I'm hot or cold here as to what you're saying:

    -What is the link between rules/mechanics/whatever as written AND the system as the group plays it(Drift/no Drift/whatever)?
    -What are the techniques used to make sure that system as written makes it MORE likely for folks to play according to the creative agenda?
    -How does the game as a whole(system, setting, color,etc.) support the creative agenda?
    -something else?

    I'm not sure what you mean by Inspiration being indexed here...The idea that system(or anything else in the game) should support the creative agenda seems obvious, just like a hammer should be good at hammering.  I'm really flailing here, so please help me out.

    Quote
    That's exactly what I mean, "...and the folks who I have gamed with." Imagine pitching it at the How to Host a Murder audience. I imagine a lot of head-scratching. On the other hand, InSpectres comes with 'all the trimmings.' I haven't had the pleasure to see the final version, but it seems a lot more 'man in the game store' friendly that way. That's why I compared The Pool with The Questing Beast; they're the same system, with different accessibilities.


    Well, Fang, funny enough, most of the people who I have gamed with were not gamers(I should have made that clear), but even more than that, most of them had never heard of GNS, and don't really care.  I don't even really talk theory with them.  They picked up the Pool with ease.

    But, let's clarify something, what is consumer friendly?  As you yourself pointed out there is the hardcore hobbyist market, that's one set of consumers.  Then there's the hardcore(but I don't fiddle with mechanics) market of consumers.  Then there's the "I like to play, but its no biggie" consumers.  Then there's the non-gamers sorts of consumers.  Do you see what I'm getting at here?

    The Pool is very easy for me to "get" and to explain.  If you don't roll any successes, I say what happens.  If you roll successes, you can either say what happens or get more dice.  I can explain this idea to non-gamers very easily, and have done so many times.   The Riddle of Steel, on the other hand, is very accessible to gamers, but not non-gamers.  Sorcerer is accessible to one of the hardcore crowds, but not gamers in general.  

    Personally I don't think Narrativism should be "high-falutin" in any manner.  Everyone all around the world understands stories on some level, therefore Narrativism is not too hard to understand outside of the gamer's context.  I have found the Pool to be that perfect game that doesn't require pulling out any kind of theory for folks to get.  Honestly, the standard, non-gamer will tell you how they're approaching the game with "What would be cool?", "How do I win?", or "What would be real?" in terms of the game.

    Second, I don't see a need for folks to argue "how" to make Narrativism "more" consumer friendly.  If the point is to get more people playing that way, or some form of conversion, then we all know the answer.  It's rather simple.  Give someone like Jared, a couple million dollars to set up a campaign, nation-wide, with demos and posters, and nifty artwork, and collectible stuff, and a network of "Live" games, and make something like Inspectres or octaNe a set, a clique, and a lifestyle for folks to cling onto.

    Quote
    Use the same principles, but change the focus from diagnostic to prescriptive. I realize that many, many people here 'do that in their heads' and probably feel such a 'rewriting' is therefore unnecessary, but I disagree. I think a second, sister theory using the same principle concepts would be a welcome addition.


    I am one of those people.  Again, the idea of pure functionality("Does this support my desired gameplay experience?") has always been in my head, so I never really needed a theory to assist in making a game.  In fact, the sad part is, I think the real hobbyists you mentioned spend more time talking about "how to design" than either designing or playing games.  If nothing else, actual play has given me more insight into design than any theory.

    Chris
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    Le Joueur
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    « Reply #3 on: May 19, 2003, 02:09:26 PM »

    Hey Chris,

    I hope this finally clears things up:
    Quote from: Bankuei
    Quote from: Le Joueur
    What I am getting at is how the structure of the system being in line with the creative agenda so much that it creates at least a 'slippery slope' into desired play is a popular issue on the Forge. So is the Lumpley Principle. Nowhere have I seen the two brought together.

    ...Tell me if I'm hot or cold here as to what you're saying:

    - How does the game as a whole (System, Setting, Color, etc.) support the creative agenda?

    Okay.  You've got part one.  I've clipped to exactly the Inspiration part; that's how the game (as in anything that gets to the consumer, usually the printed part) Inspires play.  The more it serves the 'creative agenda,' the better by most accounts.

    Here's the second part: note that the Inspiration part is about 'everything in the game.'  Note how the Lumpley Principle is about 'everything in the game.'  How come no one discusses the two in concert?  They must be interacting somehow; I'd even say that different designs prioritize them differently.

    I think a designer prioritizes these whether they do so consciously or not.  I'm inclined to believe that it's more important to Inspire play than to create consensus (because being inspired is a good motivator for seeking consensus) and if it comes down to a choice between the two, I'll go for the former.

    Now on top of those two, I'm prioritizing a third category 'even higher.'  That would be how the game ensures that participation is available to every player.  That's the 'Taking Part' guarantee.  It's all fine and good to Inspire them, but if they can't do anything about it, what's the point?  It's great and wonderful if the game gets them to a consensus very quickly, but short of getting to do something about that, what's the point?

    It's not so much that I'm trying to identify the Inspiration part, but the interaction between all three.  (Which may redefine the parts; this is a relatively new idea and needs work.)

    Back on-topic:

    Okay, I'm not really experienced enough to say 'what is right for a target group (your choice).'  What I was saying is that, as of my last reading of The Pool, you either have to have someone indoctrinate you or you don't 'get' The Pool without some grounding in role-playing games.  Slap it in a book and sell it at Barnes & Nobles and I don't expect people who've never gamed to 'get it.'  That isn't a problem with How to Host a Murder.  I'm not saying that a game couldn't be built around it with minimal effort (not that it was minimal, The Questing Beast is an example of that).  Alone, The Pool is a little hard to fathom (for people who don't even know what a success roll is, for example).

    But that isn't the issue I was trying to raise.

    What I'm saying is that design discussions over Narrativism seem bogged down at the 'make it happen' level and aren't even touching on the 'get it to happen' level.  This is more than just a presentation point.  One thing I sense may make Sorcerer a little hard to swallow for the uninitiated is choosing the Edwardsian Premise for play.  (I haven't the scratch to read it yet; can someone help me out here?)  The Riddle of Steel doesn't even discuss it, if people choose Edwardsian-Premise-based Spiritual Attributes then away you go into Narrativist play.  There's a different approach going on here, one subtle and theoretically more broadly palatable.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Personally I don't think Narrativism should be "high-falutin" in any manner.

    Neither do I, but some of the tries I've seen lately to make a deliberately Narrativist game seem to wind up reiterating Ron's essay about the GNS.  And didactically too.  Narrativism doesn't need to be that hard, 'cuz it isn't.

    But why don't we discuss those methods of design?

    I'm afraid it has to do with my other point back in the other thread.  Putting 'creative agenda' ahead of all other design concerns.  Here's an example; you want to make a Narrativist game that doesn't call for as much 'in your face' Edwardsian Premise addressing, you put functional play as you highest priority and after some development, it turns out to be a Simulationist: Exploration of Situation game.  Why?  Because you didn't put 'making a Narrativist game' at a higher priority than 'creative agenda.'  If you can't see how 'making a Narrativist game' and aspiring to a Narrativist 'creative agenda' are different, then we'll have to start another thread to sort that one out.  (Heck, one of the contestants in the Iron Game Chef contest pulled out because his game ceased being Simulationist, even though that was the goal, but that's off topic here.)

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Quote from: Le Joueur
    Use the same principles, but change the focus from diagnostic to prescriptive. I realize that many, many people here 'do that in their heads' and probably feel such a 'rewriting' is therefore unnecessary, but I disagree. I think a second, sister theory using the same principle concepts would be a welcome addition.

    I am one of those people.  Again, the idea of pure functionality ("Does this support my desired gameplay experience?") has always been in my head, so I never really needed a theory to assist in making a game.  In fact, the sad part is, I think the real hobbyists you mentioned spend more time talking about "how to design" than either designing or playing games.  If nothing else, actual play has given me more insight into design than any theory.

    This speaks to two different issues.  Let me see if I can separate them.

    "The idea of pure functionality" can and does get in the way of other potential goals.  In the Narrativist game example above for example.  Striving for more and more functionality or a 'creative agenda' that doesn't focus the players' attentions on Narrativist issues can easily lead away from the primary goal, a Narrativist game.

    I understand and happily accept that "pure...functionality" is a common and legitimate design goal.  However, I am championing putting "functionality" at the service of other goals (not in making dysfunctional games) some of the time.  Not for everyone, but hey...can we at least talk about some of the alternatives to 'functionality-first' design?

    That leads to the second point.  It's unfair to characterize people who use theory to augment their designs as "sad."  I hear Donjon occurred precisely as an exercise in writing a game for an uncommon GNS goal; does that make it a 'sad design?'  We really need to get past the idea that anyone's design style is right or better.  If one designs intuitively and gets a good game, great!  If another plies design work using theory as the measure of their work and gets a good game, I don't think that's sad, I think that's great too.

    I really doubt that the presence of theory really stops anyone from designing.  I think the people who "spend more time talking about 'how to design' than...designing" would find something to "spend more time talking about" no matter what.  I'm not particularly pleased of the subtle characterization most pragmatists (you may not be included here) make that theory 'always gets in the way of design.'  Speaking from the 'other side,' that's simply not true.  (It's like fishing that way; fishing theories don't actually impede fishing, they just give the 'not really committed' fishermen something to do instead of fishing.)

    I guess that's some of the vinegar that got me started.  All the "pure functionality" designers not really entertaining much space for theory on giving "pure functionality" the shotgun seat and letting something else drive.  Elsewhere I'm offering that perhaps games may succeed (by whatever measure) because they present a repeatable set of feelings.  Designing to recreate a 'set of feelings' would be different from "pure functionality," wouldn't it?

    Fang Langford
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    Bankuei
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    « Reply #4 on: May 19, 2003, 03:03:28 PM »

    Hi Fang,

    Ok, I was a bit lost with the Inspiraton part, now I got it.  So what we're talking about here is the link between "Game as written"(including art, layout, and everything about it) to "Game as played"(via Lumpley principle), correct?  

    If this is what you're referring to, then I wholeheartedly agree that this is an issue that needs to be looked at more.  Particularly when we look at how folks play Sorcerer, or Riddle of Steel, and "Don't get it" because assumptions about how things "should be played" got in the way of the actual rules and advice put forth in the games themselves.  I'd love to pursue this topic, and would recommend its own thread.

    Quote
    Now on top of those two, I'm prioritizing a third category 'even higher.' That would be how the game ensures that participation is available to every player. That's the 'Taking Part' guarantee. It's all fine and good to Inspire them, but if they can't do anything about it, what's the point? It's great and wonderful if the game gets them to a consensus very quickly, but short of getting to do something about that, what's the point?


    This is what my Ball analogy is all about, particularly on the Social contract level.  I'd love to see some real play examples and observation about "Taking Part"(who's got the Ball?) and how it gets traded around.

    Quote
    What I'm saying is that design discussions over Narrativism seem bogged down at the 'make it happen' level and aren't even touching on the 'get it to happen' level.


    Fang, this is what I call the Narrativism Initiation.  Mostly, the "make it happen" conversations are a result of folks who are familar with Narrativist play, trying to describe it to folks who are not.  Dust Devils, the Pool, Inspectres, and Trollbabe, do not just "allow for it", but push for it when you play.  This is often the reason that the initiates constantly refer to those aforementioned games and say, "Just play it".

    Pretty much after you do it, there's not too much to say about it.  You "understand it" on that intuitive level, and you don't need to spend so much time trying to understand the concept.  It's rather like riding a bike.  The "get it to happen" part isn't necessary, the games are there, and the techniques can be transferred to anything past that point.  

    That's why Sorcerer is such a hard entry game, because the Mechanics are (on the surface) straight Sim.  It's the Fortune in the Middle and protagonist play stuff that really makes Sorcerer at all Narrativist.  Folks play it, but they don't understand what they're supposed to be doing with it, and then, they shrug, and go, "I don't see what the big deal is".  Same thing with ROS when folks don't use the SA system as written.

    Funny enough, the games that best push for Narrativism in play, are the games that explicitly handle who gets the Ball when(Taking Part).  I think this is because, as you put it on your site, everyone wants story, and subconsciously, they push for story when given the Ball.  The explicitness of the rules is necessary to get past the assumptions about how games are supposed to work that prevent the Passing game.

    Quote
    Here's an example; you want to make a Narrativist game that doesn't call for as much 'in your face' Edwardsian Premise addressing, you put functional play as you highest priority and after some development, it turns out to be a Simulationist: Exploration of Situation game. Why? Because you didn't put 'making a Narrativist game' at a higher priority than 'creative agenda.' If you can't see how 'making a Narrativist game' and aspiring to a Narrativist 'creative agenda' are different, then we'll have to start another thread to sort that one out.


    I follow what you are saying, but I don't see the cause for concern.  You're not designing for an audience who cares what the hell it is in GNS terms.  You're designing for folks who care about the gameplay experience.  If you design a Narrativist game that turns out Sim, but fulfills what you're looking for in play, good(see octaNe).  If you're designing a Sim game that turns out Nar, and its fun in play, good(see TROS).

    My point of functionality is: What do you want(in gameplay)?  Does this game give it to you?

    Quote
    That leads to the second point. It's unfair to characterize people who use theory to augment their designs as "sad."


    I'm not applying to folks who make designs.  I'm talking about folks who putter around on the design threads for years, asking about this and that("What kind of world should I make?", "What's more popular?", "How many races should I have?") as opposed to just sitting down and doing it.  I'm a fan of theory supported games.  What I was referring to was the hardcore hobbyists as you put it, and the fact that a portion of them spend all their time doing nothing but debating theory, without observation from play, without designing the games that fulfill whatever sort of gameplay experience they're seeking, regardless of what theory applies.

    Quote
    "The idea of pure functionality" can and does get in the way of other potential goals. In the Narrativist game example above for example. Striving for more and more functionality or a 'creative agenda' that doesn't focus the players' attentions on Narrativist issues can easily lead away from the primary goal, a Narrativist game.


    Let me clear up what I mean about functionality- "How is it in play?"  Nothing more, nothing less.  So, a functional Narrativist game, consistantly encourages most folks to enjoy a Narrativist experience during play.  That's it.  Functionality cannot be determined before play.  You can do what you think is going to work, or things that "have worked before", but until you put that puppy to water, you can never be sure.

    So, when I talk hard about striving for functionality, that's design, play, tweak, play, rip apart, rebuild, play, tweak, etc.  

    Functionality cannot get in the way of your goal, because whatever your goal is, the closer you are to it, the more "functional" the game is.

    So, using your own example, your not-quite-Sim game.  How is it in play?  Does it do what you want?  If so, it is functional.  If not, then it needs work.  That's all there is to it.  It didn't turn out to be Sim.  So what?  Is it fun?  See, my sense of functionality is rather simple, but its all about play.

    Chris
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    Le Joueur
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    « Reply #5 on: May 19, 2003, 06:28:53 PM »

    I'm glad we've cleared up the ancillary material, Chris.  Now down to brass tacks.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    This is what I call the Narrativism Initiation.

    What I was talking about then, is games which don't require any (or as much) Narrativist Initiation.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Funnily enough, the games that best push for Narrativism in play, are the games that explicitly handle who gets the Ball when (Taking Part).

    That's right, but many games still hand-wave that part away.  This, for me, is a problem, one that significantly inhibits the diversity I would expect in Narrativist games.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    My point of functionality is: What do you want (in gameplay)?  Does this game give it to you?

    Let me clear up what I mean about functionality- "How is it in play?"  Nothing more, nothing less.

    You make it sound so simple.  It isn't.  You have the luck of being able to assimilate all of the issues involved and gestate it into a game completely unconsciously.

    And you seem to think it's so easy for everyone.  That's an unfair assumption.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    So, a functional Narrativist game, consistently encourages most folks to enjoy a Narrativist experience during play.

    Except, in the case of Narrativism, what about those who don't have as good a handle on 'what is the Narrativist experience' as you do?  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  See, for you, trial and error is plenty fine; that's great!  But you talk as though that's good enough for everybody; it ain't.

    Some of us would actually like to write a game for which extant play does not exist.  Furthermore, one where 'what it should play like' is not all that clear.  Using common, 'play, rinse, repeat' techniques tends to create games of familiar tenor, which is wrong when you want 'something completely new.'

    Second to that is the whole idea of Ulterior Agendas.  What is The Matrix (besides a movie, a look, special effects, and et cetera); what is it philosophically speaking?  It poses (on one level) the question, 'what is real?'  I'm fond of looking at all the ads for Powerade and everything else in terms of how it poses the old solipsist's question, "I think therefore I am, but is anything else real?"  I could infer that The Matrix has this question as an Ulterior Agenda.

    What if a game design has an Ulterior Agenda?  Either you've really gotta know how ideal play will look or you need to have some kind of design scheme to create it.  Well, I don't really know what ideal play will look like for Scattershot.  I have been grasping at straws for some time about how to practice in-play Transition and coming up with nothing.  If I pressed ahead without at least an Ulterior Agenda of creating the first clearly Transitional game, I'm pretty sure I'd just come up with GURPS.  Eminently functional, but hardly what I wanted.

    So functional does get in the way, even moreso when you don't have a clear goal.  To say otherwise is to really obliterate the meaning of the word 'functional.'  Yes, I want to make a functional game, but I want it to be a functional Transitional game; nobody knows what that looks like.  Trial and error could take decades; do you want to wait that long?  Theory gives me some of the 'jump off point,' but not much.  Using an Ulterior Agenda helps me ponder each piece as it goes in, separately and as system, in terms of supporting a concept I've never seen in play.  The Ulterior Agenda says more than 'make it functional' it says how.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    So, using your own example, your not-quite-Sim game.[list=1][*]How is it in play?
    [*]Does it do what you want?
    [*]If so, it is functional.  If not, then it needs work.  That's all there is to it.  It didn't turn out to be Sim.  So what?
    [*]Is it fun?
    [*]See, my sense of functionality is rather simple, but it's all about play.[/list:o]

    That's naďve.  (First of all the "not-quite-Sim game" in the Iron Chef Simulationist contest wasn't mine, but I think I can answer these questions for it.)[list=1][*]Kinda Narrativist, kinda Simulationist; not that focused.
    [*]I'm not sure.  This isn't what he started out wanting; doesn't that mean it's dysfunctional?  But it's turning into a different game, does that mean it's functional?
    [*]So what?  The whole point was to win the Iron Chef Simulationist contest.  Are you saying that game design is always a crapshoot and I can never expect to get the game I want because I don't grasp your sophistication over 'functionality?'
    [*]By itself, yeah; it woulda been more fun to win the contest.
    [*]That's simple?  You raise the bar quite high if you expect people to bundle all their goals in design up in the ideal of play; it can be pretty complicated doing it that way.[/list:o]It'd be really hard if a designer set his sights on a niche but couldn't quite figure out the ideal of play that functionality must aspire to to 'get there.'  I guess you don't have much truck with targeted design.

    I've tried to demonstrate using an Ulterior Agenda for designing a game in "In Your Element, Out of this World."  I even detailed as much of it as I could as I wrote.  You can see that I walked into the game with a very detailed Ulterior Agenda and very little in the way of an ideal of play.  To say that I used that to create functionality is to use the word 'functionality' in a way I could not imagine nor feel that comfortable with.

    Every step of the design of IYEOW was derived from the Ulterior Agenda.  Then it was pressed onto a potentially functional ideal of play.  (Let's face it, I didn't have time to write a whole new game system, it's actually the Pokémon cartridge game with the serial numbers filed off to protect the innocent.  My partner has so totally analyzed the hell out of those little monsters, I could write that in my sleep.)  I don't even know if it will actually work or be received as workable.  The competition created an additional Ulterior Agenda, no playtesting.

    In this example, you can see a lot of things going on as priorities where functionality was pretty much barely a secondary concern.  This is, as far as I can tell, a completely foreign design practice to you.

    And that's just fine.

    Quite frankly, your way works for very many people; I'm not concerned with its viability or application, it's the standard.  Working from an Ulterior Agenda, I think, is also a valid way to design; one that has received little discussion (and a lot of derision).

    That's what I'm interested in discussing.

    For you, functionality appears to be the guiding force of design, for me it is 'just another (very important) tool.'  Que sera sera.

    I'm just not sure if I'm getting through.

    Fang Langford
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    Bankuei
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    « Reply #6 on: May 20, 2003, 08:07:30 AM »

    Hi Fang,

    We seem to be getting clearer and clearer with each step :)

    Quote
    What I was talking about then, is games which don't require any (or as much) Narrativist Initiation.


    What I've been trying to point out, is that Narrativist Initiation happens in play.  It's the magical moment when folks "get it".  This can happen in two ways:  as part of the implicit Ball handling on part of the group(Nar D&D, Sorcerer), or as an explicit part of the rules, due to Ball handling being defined by rules as written.  

    Most of the confusion for folks comes from trying to do the former, before trying out the latter.  The latter naturally "initiates" people, and the former is then easily grasped.  

    Once I understood the idea of player narration, I designed a nifty little thing called Forgotten Fist, that used fun reroll mechanics and player narration.  I had a blast, and Narrativism "clicked" with me, beyond what I was doing before.  Playing octaNe opened it even more, and finally in a TROS game with Clinton, I saw what scene framing was all about.

    So we already have a lot of games that don't require understanding or any idea of what Narrativism is about before play, because they generate it, through play.  Most of the folks who keep slamming their heads against the concepts could solve most of their problems with some actual play of these games.  I know, personally, I was like, "Why didn't I just play the Pool to begin with?!?"  

    Quote
    That's right, but many games still hand-wave that part away. This, for me, is a problem, one that significantly inhibits the diversity I would expect in Narrativist games.


    I know games that explicitly handle the Ball issue are pretty new, so naturally the first thing we see is handing over the Big 3(Character, Conflict, Outcome) in narration as part of ensuring that it is clear that someone other than the GM gets a chance to have the Ball(taking part).  But we're also seeing many games that are dividing how the Ball gets used on more subtle ways as the design diversifies.  

    Donjon splits Outcome(facts), with Narration.  Ditto with Dust Devils.  Trollbabe splits Conflict(player request) with Outcome(sometimes player, sometimes GM).  TROS puts Conflict in the players hands with SAs.  In all honesty, I think Nar game design is diversifying at a nice rate.  It takes time to play, and get feedback, tweak, and repeat to explore new avenues.  

    Quote
    You make it sound so simple. It isn't. You have the luck of being able to assimilate all of the issues involved and gestate it into a game completely unconsciously.

    And you seem to think it's so easy for everyone. That's an unfair assumption.


    I don't think design is easy.  I do think determining whether you've succeeded or not is "easier".  It is a trial and error process.  What I am saying is that the issue of functionality "getting in the way" as a goal doesn't make sense.  Functionality is a measure of how well you've fulfilled your design goals or not.  

    Quote
    Except, in the case of Narrativism, what about those who don't have as good a handle on 'what is the Narrativist experience' as you do?


    Go play those games.  Get initiated.  Feel it. Understand it.  Then say, "What encourages this?"  Extra bonuses(Sorcerer's cool mechanic)?  Extra Reward points(TROS)?  Handing the Ball as raw power to the players(Pool)?  Something else?

    Quote
    Some of us would actually like to write a game for which extant play does not exist. Furthermore, one where 'what it should play like' is not all that clear.


    Well, that's when you do a LOT of design, play, rinse!  You should really talk to Mike and Ralph about their experiences with Universalis.  As one of the more "out there" games, they went through a ton of playtesting, and changing rules.  I play tested for them, and was surprised at how well they had turned something that was on its 5 or 7th clunky iteration into something legible, digestible, and easy, fun to play that supported their original goals.  It was the feedback that allowed them to do this.

    On your note of making a functional transitional game, you should take a close look of transitional in play.  It happens, unconciously, often in play.  Players, GMs, groups, are doing it all the time.  

    You have a goal, functional transitional play, now you need to pin down, "At what points do I want transition?  What do I want as the trigger to transition?"  Are certain activities in the game going to always be a certain thing(Combat=Gamism?)  Is the group going to determine which set of rules apply to what?  Perhaps the transition happens at the beginning of each scene, or perhaps the group votes.  Do benefits from one sort of play carry over to the next?  If I have some form of carry-over advantage from  Nar-wise roleplayed well, does that bonus transform or kick in when it comes time for Gamist combat?  If I tactically thought things out well, can I carry over some advantage to my Sim action?  etc.

    Quote

    1.   Kinda Narrativist, kinda Simulationist; not that focused.
    2.   I'm not sure. This isn't what he started out wanting; doesn't that mean it's dysfunctional? But it's turning into a different game, does that mean it's functional?
    3.   So what? The whole point was to win the Iron Chef Simulationist contest. Are you saying that game design is always a crapshoot and I can never expect to get the game I want because I don't grasp your sophistication over 'functionality?'
    4.   By itself, yeah; it woulda been more fun to win the contest.
    5.   That's simple? You raise the bar quite high if you expect people to bundle all their goals in design up in the ideal of play; it can be pretty complicated doing it that way.


    2- Transforms into a new game?  Is it fun, does it do something you want it to do?  Yes?  Functional.  I consider this just like when you're looking for your wallet and you find your keys.  The accidental, Eureka! design method, and its given us more than a few scientific breakthroughs.  So yeah, maybe you fail on making your Sim game, this time, but you pulled out a nice Narrativist or Nar/Sim hybrid?  Cool.

    3 & 4  Is that really the point of why you design?  That sort of thinking is what gets us "What sells the most merchandise/mini's?" sort of design we've had for the last decade.   The point of roleplaying is the play, first and foremost.  Business issues, etc. are seperate issues. But more importantly, in order to understand what you've done, you need to play it.  

    "I've played it, and it didn't turn out Sim, ok, now what?"  "How do I fix this?  What specifically, mechanics, rules, play-wise, pushes this game for some other form of play?  Is it the modifiers?  Is it the resolution?  Is it the rewards? etc."

    You wouldn't fly in an untested plane.  Winning the contest requires not just design, but the willingness to rigorously play and see what happens.  

    You are correct, my idea doesn't necessarily take into account Ulterior Motive, but I am well aware of it, and rather willing to discuss it.  Most notably, I've found that WW's high concept Sim games have all had some serious Thematic pushs as part of the Ulterior Motives(Werewolf-Nature, Mage-Free Thought, etc.).  Ron's games have had serious Ulterior Motive in pushing what I call "Stealth Narrativism" where the mechanics themselves push for, and teach someone about Narrativism without the person knowing a damn thing about the concept.  

    I still don't see how functionality gets in the way of Ulterior Motive, again, if the Ulterior Motive is what I want, then functionality is measured in that fashion.  So if winning the Sim contest is the goal, then yeah, that failed.  But I don't think anyone is going to produce a "how to win contests" design theory...If the goal was simply to produce a Sim game, its playtesting as outlined above that will "show" anything that pushes the game to do otherwise.

    Chris
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    Le Joueur
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    « Reply #7 on: May 20, 2003, 09:03:29 AM »

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Once I understood the idea of player narration, I designed a nifty little thing called Forgotten Fist, that used fun reroll mechanics and player narration.  I had a blast, and Narrativism "clicked" with me, beyond what I was doing before....

    I know games that explicitly handle the Ball issue are pretty new...

    Donjon splits Outcome(facts), with Narration.

    Woah!  You making a real big error here.  Narrativist games are not about 'who narrates.'  Their only about how the 'action' in the game forms an answer on the game's thematic question.  (Or how play addresses the Edwardsian Premise.)  It don't matter if the gamemaster does all the narration as long as the game solves a thematic question.

    It's sure great with all these new 'ball-handling' games, but many of them are nothing at all like Narrativism; Donjon being the biggest example - it's Gamist IIRC.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Quote from: Le Joueur
    You make it sound so simple. It isn't.

    I don't think design is easy.  I do think determining whether you've succeeded or not is "easier".  It is a trial and error process.  What I am saying is that the issue of functionality "getting in the way" as a goal doesn't make sense.  Functionality is a measure of how well you've fulfilled your design goals or not.

    Y'see, that's where we disagree.  (And the point I'm not getting through on.)  The best question I could ask is "Succeed at what?"  Our design styles differ; in mine choosing what to succeed at is a separate issue from 'creative agenda' and now obviously separate from functionality.  It's how you choose what to succeed at, that I call the Ulterior Agenda.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    The point of role-playing is the play, first and foremost.  Business issues, etc. are separate issues.

    On the contrary, some design specifically for salability first, I'd even argue that there is a Hidden Agenda that the game isn't playable, but sells; that way it goes home with you, but next week you're right back at the store shelling out more money.  I covet your idealism, but that doesn't make it true.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    You are correct, my idea doesn't necessarily take into account Ulterior [Agenda], but I am well aware of it, and rather willing to discuss it.

    Okay, functionality aside, have you designed anything with an Ulterior Agenda?  How did you apply it?  Me, I generally keep it mind as I consider each element or relationship between elements in the growing design.  When I get stuck, I ponder the Ulterior Agenda separately, to clarify my vision.

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Ron's games have had serious Ulterior [Agenda] in pushing what I call 'Stealth Narrativism....'

    But that's what I was talking about....  Narrativism that does not make you learn Narrativism.  Without having a concept like Ulterior Agendas to refer to, how have we been talking about making more diverse games of stealthy Narrativism.  That's what I'd like to see discussed; how to 'stealthify' Narrativism (or any -ism for that matter; that's why I asked for a sister theory to GNS, better to facilitate such discussion).

    Quote from: Bankuei
    I still don't see how functionality gets in the way of Ulterior [Agenda],

    I'm not being clear here.  A person with an Ulterior Agenda is not impeded by functionality.  Too many times I hear, 'functionality is all' and ask, 'what of Ulterior Agenda?'  'Doesn't matter' is the usual response.  The accent upon 'functionality over everything' prevents even the conception of an Ulterior Agenda, not the application of an existent Ulterior Agenda.  I think it's about time we began discussing any (or every) aspect of Ulterior Agendas, but I keep getting 'I hope it works for you' put downs.

    Fang Langford

    (Who is quite happy that this is finally closing the circle.)
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    Gordon C. Landis
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    « Reply #8 on: May 20, 2003, 09:37:33 AM »

    Hey,

    As far as terminolgy goes - how about using Social Agenda rather than Ulterior Motive/Agenda?  Since it lives primarily (in Ron's model) in that Social Contract level, Social Agenda seems reasonable . . .

    Gordon
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    clehrich
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    « Reply #9 on: May 20, 2003, 10:26:43 AM »

    Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
    As far as terminolgy goes - how about using Social Agenda rather than Ulterior Motive/Agenda?  Since it lives primarily (in Ron's model) in that Social Contract level, Social Agenda seems reasonable . . .

    While I do think "Ulterior Motive/Agenda" is rather clunky, I would push to see this category of agendum not be constrained to social contract issues.  Frankly, I think Ron's model is overly limited here.  See the various arguments in "Aesthetics and Reality" et al.
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    Chris Lehrich
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    « Reply #10 on: May 20, 2003, 10:39:43 AM »

    Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
    As far as terminolgy goes - how about using Social Agenda rather than Ulterior Motive/Agenda?  Since it lives primarily (in Ron's model) in that Social Contract level, Social Agenda seems reasonable . . .

    Yeah, that's a good one, except it didn't apply to the Ulterior Agenda I was following with the Iron Chef contest; that was 'to win.'  Other valid ones might include 'to sell like gangbusters' and so on.  We could give each of these difference Agendas, because they do often compete, but since they compete only with each other, I think one term might be less confusing.

    Very thought provoking though; my compliments on a good idea.

    Fang Langford
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    Bankuei
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    « Reply #11 on: May 20, 2003, 02:48:38 PM »

    Hi Fang,

    Glad to see we're making headway...

    Quote
    Woah! You making a real big error here. Narrativist games are not about 'who narrates.' Their only about how the 'action' in the game forms an answer on the game's thematic question.


    Sorry, I skipped too many steps here.  What I meant was, through understanding how other games were using player narration as a tool for Narrativist play, I myself, used it in a design.  Having not experienced Narrativist play before, I found it "initiated" me.  I had no real understanding of it, designed with the vaguest notion of it, and succeeded, and happened to teach myself how it worked in the process.

    Second, on point of Ulterior Agenda...

    Yes, many things are designed with the point of salability.  Notice that salability is not concerned with playability.  The consumer, in the act of roleplaying, is not buying the game with the intent to buy the "most salable" game, but rather the game that promises what they want from the roleplaying experience(regardless of whether it does or not).

    If you are trying to judge your design on GNS issues, then we're talking functionality measured in how it plays.  If you're trying to judge your design based on salability, then we're talking functionality measured in sales.  The second issue is a worthy subject, but you can repackage any system enough ways and sell it well if you spin it correctly.  Consider that D&D3E is R.Talsorian's Interlock + WW's kewl powers list.  This is a marketing and presentation issue, which is different than simply a design issue.  They are linked, but do observe the difference.

    Quote
    Okay, functionality aside, have you designed anything with an Ulterior Agenda? How did you apply it?


    Yes thrice over.  Even my foray into the Sim contest wasn't even a result of "wanting to win".  I just wanted to play a game with a couple of D20's being rolled and exploding dice rolls.  Small reason?  Sure.  Good enough for me to design?  Yep.  Hence, Songs of the Dead.  

    Forgotten Fist? I wanted to play with reward systems.  Before I discovered SA's, I had Values, which were used to give the player rerolls and Story points.  My ulterior motive?  Reward solely through roleplaying Values to enforce players roleplaying those Values.   The player narration was simply an added extra later on.

    Main Void Main?  I wanted all of the power over character death/removal from play to be completely within the player's hands.  The GM has no say over it, only the player.

    My Ulterior Motives range from something I personally find appealing(exploding D20's) to mechanical design goals that force a style of play upon a group.

     
    Quote
    Too many times I hear, 'functionality is all' and ask, 'what of Ulterior Agenda?' 'Doesn't matter' is the usual response.


    Let's say I wanted to make a game that caused people to examine their lives and change bad habits.  Great Ulterior Agenda.  In the end, people play it, and it fails to do what I intended.  What does my Ulterior Agenda mean then?  It's vaporware, its the goal.  Everyone has good ideas, few people will find the ways to make them occur.  Functionality is that bridge from "Wouldn't it be cool?" to "This is what I was talking about!"

    I'm not trying to say that Ulterior Agenda is without merit.  I'm saying it cannot reach earth without functionality as its steed.

    Chris
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