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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Callan S. on November 10, 2005, 12:58:56 AM



Title: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 10, 2005, 12:58:56 AM
Snakes and ladders is an amazing game. I recommend all Forgites play it again sometime soon if you haven't recently. Preferably with someone young and excitable!

What amazes me is that there is ZERO player input. You do nothing, it's all dice rolls. Yet it engages a level of excitement regardless. It often starts with someone getting a lead (perhaps even a major lead, by climbing a ladder). There's that sense of gambling satisfaction or even a feeling of 'I am the one to win' and bang, that persons invested in the games result. This investment is detected by the other players and then flows through them, who suddenly don't want the other person to be able to hold a win over them. Follow through with hopes literally rising and falling along with ladder or snake and even more investment occurs. It's an amazing design!

Taking it a step further, sans any other human to give feedback to further a players investment is progress quest (http://progressquest.com/).

It's a satirical game, poking fun at the grind of fantasy roleplay games. You start the program, type in your PC's name and hit go. Everything else is automated…you watch a progress bar sliding across the bottom as your PC beats a monster. Once it's slid across, other bars like XP or your treasure list slide along a little bit.

I like it. I have a level fifty one character (nearly level fifty two). I did zero to get that, but I like what I see on the extensive character sheet the program generates. I like his spell list, which has such nifty sounding spells as 'Good move', 'Invisible hands', 'Braingate' and a bunch of other funky names that got added to my list over the levels. I wonder what a '+28 Holy cambric magnetic field shield' does. In terms of the program, it does nothing. But that doesn't matter, I still wonder what it does in an IS sense, if you get what I mean.
 
It's the sort of thing that the forge would commonly define as colour. However, once I've invested in it, it's not colour any more. It can return to just being color, if the player feels a reason to withdraw from it. But I'll get onto that in a future thread.

Parlour Narration
Some of the recent indie design games have contained 'Parlour narration'. Where players fill in the colour component of the dice rolls resolutions and there is no player input combined with those dice resolutions.

I wonder though, whether this is a misreading of the designers original motive. Instead perhaps the designers were groping for rules which generate material. Material a player might get excited by and invest in. It's not really 'playing the game' but instead 'playing with it' like you might play with a toy (and bond with/invest in that toy).

"But I don't need anything the game to help me with this, I already have my own investment that I'll bring along!"

I wonder that this may be the view of Forge regulars who have had more enjoyable gaming careers. It lines up with play techniques where players discuss what they'd like to have in the game, in advance of actual play.

It's a technique that hasn't really meshed with my own group and I think I now have an insight as to why. Basically my groups desire is to find investment 'in game' rather than before it. I'll use a clumsy analogy: Discussing what you want before play is like deciding as a group that your going to go to a pub…and deciding what beers you will bring with you to the pub. Rather than going and finding out what beer the pub has on tap (and trying them all until you find one you like), your going to bring along just the beers you like.

In a hobby where many keep returning to play they just don't find fun, bringing just what you like sounds a much better idea. But I wonder if it undercuts that basic agenda of exploration …of going to a pub because you want to see what that place has, rather than because you want to drink the beers your happy and comfortable with in a different place.

A few assertions there. How sound are they?


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: contracycle on November 10, 2005, 03:31:21 AM
I think you have a point there.  At least, it has reminded me of a similar phenomenon: tombola horse races.  I'll explain becuase I don;t know how widespread this practice is.

A tombola is a kinda charity fundraiser with nominal competitive sports and blind auctions and so forth.  Somewhat similar to carnival entertainments and the like.  Anyway, one standard at these events is a wooden horse race that works as follows: you have 6 or so wooden horses on a track marked in squares.  Punters select a horse and bet on it, but the horses are controlled randomly.  A d6 is rolled for each horse and it moves that many squares toward the finish line.

Now obviously, like snakes and ladders, there is absolutely no capacity for the player to control or influence the horse, or even to make a meaningful selection of which horse to back.  But none of this matters because the whole event is for charity anyway - its just an excuse, really, to make a donation and keep yourself midly amused.  But people do get excited about it, and call out to their horses and so forth, and I remember as a kid being quite invested in the fate of my pocket money.  The winning horse did get some kind of reward, and so there is an aspect of real gambling, but as you point out the player is effectively a bystander rather than a really functional participant.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: MatrixGamer on November 10, 2005, 10:32:34 AM
The gambling analogy does shed light on this idea.

Say we are playing roulette. My choice is to put my money down on red or black (or a number if I really want to lose). That choice is 50/50 so it really doesn't matter which one I pick - it is just choosing to play. I don't control what happens at all but the excitement is very real.

I think of compulsive behavior and the excitement surrounding it as part of hunting psychology.

We desire certain things (sugar, salt, fat in food, security, sex, comfort, etc.) These things are rare so when we get them we want more because we may not get them again for a while. If we were in a state of nature this hording move would be alright because nature would prevent us from getting more. In the land of surplus we have no limit on consumption so we get fat, and internet addicted. Even when we find what we want, we look for more, regardless of whither we control it or not.

Snakes and ladders is an ancient Hindu game that originally was used to teach religious concepts of reincarnation and dharma. It's telling that the US version of this game - Candyland - is about excessive consumption. Games do tell us about ourselves.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Josh Roby on November 10, 2005, 10:59:14 AM
I think you're attributing a dismissal of color as immaterial that isn't really the case.  Color is one of the components of exploration, and it is something that players explore and are interested in.  Color is important -- color is the multiplier that creates intensity out of the other components of exploration.  So the assertion that color can engage players is certainly a sound one.  That color can engage players without any of the other components involved is also sound -- snakes and ladders being a prime example.  Everything White Wolf has ever put out is another.

However, whether exploring Color without exploring the other four components is actually role-playing will stir up some... discussion, let's say.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: komradebob on November 10, 2005, 06:45:40 PM
I think you're attributing a dismissal of color as immaterial that isn't really the case.  Color is one of the components of exploration, and it is something that players explore and are interested in.  Color is important -- color is the multiplier that creates intensity out of the other components of exploration.  So the assertion that color can engage players is certainly a sound one.  That color can engage players without any of the other components involved is also sound -- snakes and ladders being a prime example.  Everything White Wolf has ever put out is another.

However, whether exploring Color without exploring the other four components is actually role-playing will stir up some... discussion, let's say.

Some very interesting points. Have there been any other really good discussion threads about the exploration of Color?

I'm asking because I think that this might have some interesting implications for Sim design, and even might have some important implication for Sim-Participationist design ( yeah, I know, boo-hiss).

It is interesting that Callan chose the snakes'n'ladders example to start the conversation ( well to me, anyway) because I've been thinking a lot recently about the differences between the way that rpgs are traditionally presented to potential buyers versus the way board games are presented. I can't quite put my finger on the issue I'm getting at, but it has something to do with symbolism in game art and components, and the reaction one has to them. I mean that at a deeper level than "pretty is good", too.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Josh Roby on November 10, 2005, 09:02:36 PM
I suspect the word you're looking for is iconic, Bob.  Board games and card games (and video games) make extensive use of icons with powerful symbolic potential -- these allow players to immediately assign meaning to those icons in a quick, intuitive way.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: komradebob on November 10, 2005, 09:15:05 PM
I suspect the word you're looking for is iconic, Bob.  Board games and card games (and video games) make extensive use of icons with powerful symbolic potential -- these allow players to immediately assign meaning to those icons in a quick, intuitive way.

Aha! That's it. Off to do some work.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 11, 2005, 03:10:39 PM
Hi Joshua,

What are the other components of exploration you mention? I don't know the forge jargon for those (or have forgotten). As for colour creating intensity out of these other components, I think I'm more talking about a player getting so interested in a piece of color, it becomes more than colour.
Quote
However, whether exploring Color without exploring the other four components is actually role-playing will stir up some... discussion, let's say.
To clarify the thread topic, I'm not going there. But I am asserting that investment is vital to roleplay. And that ways of getting investment to hopefully happen are very important. How does that sound?


Hi Robert

Quote
I can't quite put my finger on the issue I'm getting at, but it has something to do with symbolism in game art and components, and the reaction one has to them. I mean that at a deeper level than "pretty is good", too.
I'm thinking the difference is that RPG's have largely been designed with a BYO assumption, in terms of investment. While boardgames provide many, many different bits of colour (or icons, if you prefer), of which any part by chance might be something a particular player gets quite worked up about and invested in.

It's something I'm going to look into soon; that the BYO investment assumption of roleplay games is frought with entropy. Primarily because one players investment may be another players color. The BYO assumption works if every single investment brought to the table makes another player invest as well. Thus play continues as investment bounces back and forth. But in reality, people are quite different (especially as they grow older) and the ball will get dropped more often than not, until all players have investments but they inspire nothing in any other player present. Then play is at a dead halt (barring any application of illusionist techniques).


Hi all,

When I used the word toy in the first post, I remembered the old threads about Toy Quality (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14057.30). Although those threads revolved more about identifying what toy quality is, while I'm looking at how toy quality garners investment from players which can then become the focus of play and rules use.

Also, here's another fun, instant little example of the threads focus: They Fight Crime (http://home.epix.net/~mhryvnak/theyfightcrime.html)


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Mark Woodhouse on November 11, 2005, 04:07:22 PM
It's something I'm going to look into soon; that the BYO investment assumption of roleplay games is frought with entropy. Primarily because one players investment may be another players color. The BYO assumption works if every single investment brought to the table makes another player invest as well. Thus play continues as investment bounces back and forth. But in reality, people are quite different (especially as they grow older) and the ball will get dropped more often than not, until all players have investments but they inspire nothing in any other player present. Then play is at a dead halt (barring any application of illusionist techniques).

I can definitely attest to this happening in actual play with some regularity. The essential post-mortem diagnosis for a couple of groups I gamed with in recent years that I and another player mutually arrived at was almost precisely that - we lacked a common set of enthusiasms. When we came together to play "a Western" or "a noir" game, the things we meant by that - the things that created our investment and fired our desire to play - were almost entirely orthogonal. So each of at the table felt like we were firing on all cylinders - but whenever we needed to have our play intersect, to pass the "ball" back and forth, we would slow to a fraught and deadening crawl.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Josh Roby on November 11, 2005, 04:10:59 PM
It's the sort of thing that the forge would commonly define as colour. However, once I've invested in it, it's not colour any more. It can return to just being color, if the player feels a reason to withdraw from it.

What are the other components of exploration you mention? I don't know the forge jargon for those (or have forgotten). As for colour creating intensity out of these other components, I think I'm more talking about a player getting so interested in a piece of color, it becomes more than colour.

Ah, now I understand.  You're using Color to mean "insignificant details" when in fact it means unimportant details (that is, details with no import).  The glossary definition of Color is: "Imagined details about any or all of System, Character, Setting, or Situation, added in such a way that does not change aspects of action or resolution in the imagined scene."  Color can be significant and engage players and get them interested, but Color does not actually ever change the development of the game's fiction.  As a quick example, consider lightsabers.  Lightsabers are neat!  I can totally dig on my lightsaber and get really attached to my lightsaber, but in the end, my lightsaber is just a sword that glows.  As long as my lightsaber doesn't do anything that affects the development of the game that a regular old sword could do, it's still Color.

(Lightsabers can parry blaster fire, yeah, which makes them more than Color, but if they didn't parry blaster bolts, they'd be pure Color.)

There's nothing wrong with Color, nothing 'less' or lacking with things that are Color.  It's just a category of "things in the game that don't have a mechanical impact".  If something does have mechanical impact, it's one of the others, which are: System, Character, Setting, and Situation.

The Parlour Narration games that you referenced control all aspects of these four components and give players only control over Color -- that is, players cannot make any meaningful decisions about anything that will affect the outcome of the game.  They can only Color the game.  Actually, it's a lot like a coloring book -- the playes can't draw whatever they like, they can only color in what's given to them.

As a contrasting example, most White Wolf games have tons and tons and tons of Color, which the typical player does not feel privileged to participate in, only slavishly emulate.  Players have control of the other four components, and the System does not lend itself to the kind of play implied by the Color provided in the books. Consequently, players often have a difficult time syncing their actions up with the Color that they're "supposed" to be emulating.  (This may be the root of the disdain for Color you detected.)

The basic equation (that I have some issues with, but whatever, I'm explaining, not developing) is: (Characters + Setting) x Color = Intensity.  The (Characters + Setting) is considered roughly equivalent to Situation.  So consider an awesome situation with zero color -- you get zero intensity.  The more color you give a game, the more intensity you'll get no matter what the Situation is.  So color is, again, pretty potent and important stuff.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that it "is" significance, but it at the very least is a factor of significance.  So your investing in color is pretty much exactly what you're supposed to do with it.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Josh Roby on November 11, 2005, 04:14:13 PM
Mark, I'd suggest that it wasn't the Color you guys weren't agreeing on, but the Situations -- when I say "Western" and I mean shoot-out at the OK Corral and you say "Western" and you mean O, Pioneers, it's the situation that we're differing on, not the Color (guns, dust, sky, horses).


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Mark Woodhouse on November 11, 2005, 06:28:25 PM
Guess I wasn't clear. What we didn't agree about was what should BE Color. One person is grabbing on to something with all their might, saying "Here! Me! This is what the game's about. This is what should matter" and someone else is like "Why are you obsessing about THAT? It doesn't matter." Not on the CA-clash level, but strictly within the domain of Sim. Me: "If it's a Western, we've got to have a shootout!" K: "If it's a Western, I want to play poker!" T: "If it's a Western, the bad guys should be all grubby and nasty, and the good guys should be clean and sing."

Nobody is blocking anybody, nobody is proposing stuff that doesn't fit into some commonly agreeable domain of Color that ought to be there. It's just that nobody is INTO anybody else's vision. The Dream doesn't gel. We're all parallel-playing along in our own little vision of The West, and zoning out anybody else's contributions to the game EXCEPT when they impact Situation.

Which leads to basically functional, but boring, play.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: komradebob on November 11, 2005, 07:42:21 PM
Art is expensive. Physical components are expensive. Both of these are places where color can be focused. In cards and boardgames, these physical artifacts are often present. In RPGs, there is either a lack of these components, or a de-emphasis on them in favor of written color. The dollar cost of these color-related artifacts is the primary cause for their infrequent inclusion in rpgs compared to other sorts of games.

(All of the above statements are of generalizations. Please read charitably).

This line of consideration leads me to a few related thoughts:

1) What happens when those physical pieces of color are the genesis of a game rather than a tacked on afterthought?

2) Is this one primary reason behind the seeming inability of a large part of the broader game playing population to grasp rpgs?

[Admittedly, I'm biased, since I'm working on a personal project that involves that line of thought as a core design issue. However, a couple of recent threads over at rpgnet have been discussing the impact of physical components on early D&D ( in particular polyhedral dice being available only in complete sets and the presence of very weird plastic cereal monster toys on the tabletop), so that has also brought up the subject in my mind.]

3) Has the inability to produce physical bits of color been a major evolutionary pressure in rpg development? How has this affected design and play priorities?

I also have a question based on the original post regarding snakes'n'ladders compared to rpgs:

Can faux-gamism be a selling point for a game? I see a number of popular boardgames, both kids games and adult games where it almost appears that gamism is tacked on. I'm thinking of things like Charades (the traditional game), but also Trivial Pursuit and Cadoo ( and sister games). In these games, it seems like the gamist winning is often, in actual play, extremely secondary to the actual enjoyment of the game ( which is usually the mid-game activity). Is there an implication here for rpg design and rpg marketing?

Thoughts?



Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Josh Roby on November 11, 2005, 08:17:32 PM
Me: "If it's a Western, we've got to have a shootout!"
K: "If it's a Western, I want to play poker!"
T: "If it's a Western, the bad guys should be all grubby and nasty, and the good guys should be clean and sing."

With the exception of the clean/dirty thing, those are all situations, Mark.  Unless you wanted to shoot people to no purpose, K wanted to play poker just to play poker, and T wanted to sing about nothing.  All three of those are juxtapositions of elements that the players assigned significance to.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 12, 2005, 02:16:24 PM
Quote from: Joshua
There's nothing wrong with Color, nothing 'less' or lacking with things that are Color.  It's just a category of "things in the game that don't have a mechanical impact".  If something does have mechanical impact, it's one of the others, which are: System, Character, Setting, and Situation.
Yup, I get you on mechanical insiginificance. But what about this: The GM is narrating the passage through a dark abandoned city to the black tower in the middle. He describes the empty houses to each side, like hollow skulls. Stone gargoyles leer down from every roof and an old windvane squeeks in the wind, not with the traditional cock as its emblem, but a cockatrice. He then goes on to describe getting closer to the tower, when he's interrupted by a player saying...

"HOLY SHIT! A cockatrice windvane! I GOTTA HAVE IT!"

He then proceeds to bring System, Character, Setting, and Situation into bearing, as he tries to scramble up the slippery roof to get his prize.

It was color, but now, through the players passion, it is driving System, Character, Setting, and Situation. It's driving the game. Indeed passion like this is the heart of play?

It was color, but what is it now?


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 12, 2005, 02:42:19 PM
Hi Mark,

Thank you, perfect example of the disjunct I was getting at with that BYO investment thing. It's something I think snakes and ladders and similar board game techniques might be able to help with.


Hi again, Joshua,

Basically what Mark is refering to is "One mans trash is another mans treasure". Well, more the reverse of that "Ones mans investment is another mans colour".
Quote
With the exception of the clean/dirty thing, those are all situations, Mark.  Unless you wanted to shoot people to no purpose, K wanted to play poker just to play poker, and T wanted to sing about nothing.
It's really the other way around that's the problem. Mark wants to shoot people to a purpose, but the other players see no purpose in it, thus it is not setting...in terms of the group play it becomes color. When he does a high noon shootout, everyone just listens as if the whether was being described to them. None of the other players assign significance to it, thus it isn't a situation...it fritters away to just being colour.


Hi Robert,

Good question! I'd say 'minion of an evil master' is a bit of color. What happened to it, when it became the core of my life with master? I'm at a bit of a loss on that question (anyone else care to jump in?).

Those other two questions are so good, I'll have to go and mull on them for awhile! :)


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Josh Roby on November 12, 2005, 04:51:05 PM
None of the other players assign significance to it, thus it isn't a situation...it fritters away to just being colour.

Ah, you're going with a 'majority rules' sort of definition.  The bulk of the group thinks it's Color, so then it is Color.  From my angle, there's no group definition until there's group consensus, so if the bulk of the group thinks it's Color and one guy thinks it's Situation, I'd say that it's Color for them and Situation for him.

So have we been in screaming agreement? ;)


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Graham W on November 13, 2005, 01:49:12 AM
Nice discussion. Let me ask something and correct me if I've misinterpreted.

When I play something like Snakes and Ladders, what I enjoy are very childish things. I like picking up dice and rolling them; I like the way the Snakes look threatening (it wouldn't be the same if they were just arrows pointing down).

Now, I enjoy similar things in roleplaying games. In Dogs In The Vineyard, I like rolling huge handfuls of dice; in My Life With Master, I like the three differently shaped and coloured dice which I can play for; in the Shab Al-Hiri Roach, I like the cards with instructions on them.

(I wouldn't enjoy Dogs In The Vineyard half as much, for example, if the dice were rolled by a computer.)

Are these things colour, exactly? If they are, they seem to be a very different sort of colour from the cockatrice windvane. They have nothing to do with the shared world the players have created. What I enjoy is playing with the physical trappings of the game: how is that categorised?

Graham


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: TonyLB on November 13, 2005, 04:24:11 AM
What I enjoy is playing with the physical trappings of the game: how is that categorised?

Toy Quality (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14092.0)?


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Ice Cream Emperor on November 13, 2005, 05:24:56 AM
Thank you, perfect example of the disjunct I was getting at with that BYO investment thing. It's something I think snakes and ladders and similar board game techniques might be able to help with.

I'm curious what techniques you are thinking about -- or even what other general factors might make Snakes & Ladders less prone to this problem than, say, D&D.

The only thing that really comes to mind is simplicity/limitation. As you've pointed out, Snakes & Ladders is 100% spectator sport, which means that even if the players do have wildly divergent focuses, they have a limited ability to screw with the game everyone else is playing. Furthermore, there isn't a lot to go on, as far as colour: there are snakes, there are ladders, there is a start and there is an end. Possibly, your game tokens have funny shapes, or there are illustrations on the side of the board where little boys and girls are eaten by snakes. Given this extremely limited set of elements, it's not surprising that players might have an easier time agreeing on what the game is about, or what 'colour' is important. The probability of someone investing in the fact that the squares are numbered -- and consequently attempting to turn the game into a numerologically-inspired simulation of their game piece's spiritual journey towards enlightenment -- is pretty low. In part because, as mentioned, the game does not ask for any input of this sort. You can play Snakes & Ladders without caring about the colour at all, and instead investing entirely in the gambling elements.

That said, there is nothing in the design of the game to stop one player from thinking that the coolest thing about the game is the ladders, and someone else to think the awesomest part is the snakes. Or to stop one player from thinking the point is to win (therefore despairing at snakes and gloating at ladders) and the other to think that snakes are just so damn cool that in fact the point is to fall down as many snakes as possible while making hissing noises and addressing their game piece as Sisyphus.

Perhaps more realistically, Monopoly is a game rife with investment conflicts, particularly when played by young kids. The list is almost endless: who gets to be banker; owning the 'pretty' properties because you like their colour, literally; trading in all your 50s for 1s so you can have enormous wads of cash; refusing to ever mortgage property or trade; railroads (anything with railroads, they're like a crazy super-vector for these sorts of disagreements); whether going to jail on purpose is cool; free parking; hotels vs. houses. Nobody plays Monopoly the same way even when they play by the same rules; and I still remember games of Monopoly in which rules were concocted for shutting down the power at hotels and using a mortgaged lot to house a machine gun.

Again, this just seems like a matter of how much player input there is, how simple the rules and colour of the games are, and also (perhaps) how abstract they are. By including lots of colour with real life parallels, Monopoly encourages the same sort of crazy investment-disagreements that happen in real life over those same things.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Graham W on November 13, 2005, 10:29:12 AM
What I enjoy is playing with the physical trappings of the game: how is that categorised?

Toy Quality (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14092.0)?

Ah, useful. Thanks.

Bloody Forge, it's always been discussed before.

Graham


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: komradebob on November 13, 2005, 10:56:39 AM
So, is the general thrust of this thread that game designers should give more serious consideration to Color as an element of design than they usually do?


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: talysman on November 13, 2005, 11:08:17 AM
So, is the general thrust of this thread that game designers should give more serious consideration to Color as an element of design than they usually do?


it seems that way, except that I get the impression this thread is more about the physical embodiments of Color. which leads to a problem. I don't agree that studying Snakes and Ladders is going to help RPG design very much. first, because as has been mentioned, the Color (and the Fiction linked to Color) has no effect on play; and second, although physical props like maps, cards, and character sheets can add a little to the quality of the game, the real board, tokens, and pawns in RPGs is in the Fiction, and the Fiction can be changed during play; that's the essential nature of an RPG.

I think also that in ordinary games versus RPGs, it's all Color and System, with Character, Setting and Situation being part of Color. the Color is not very important, it's just a gimmick to sell the game; all the real play is about System and the people around the table. thus, board games and card games can have some benefit to someone designing the social rules for pure Nar/Gam RPGs, but they won't be as useful for Sim RPGs or the rules that support Exploration in Nar/Gam.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: komradebob on November 13, 2005, 11:30:55 AM
So, is the general thrust of this thread that game designers should give more serious consideration to Color as an element of design than they usually do?


it seems that way, except that I get the impression this thread is more about the physical embodiments of Color. which leads to a problem. I don't agree that studying Snakes and Ladders is going to help RPG design very much. first, because as has been mentioned, the Color (and the Fiction linked to Color) has no effect on play; and second, although physical props like maps, cards, and character sheets can add a little to the quality of the game, the real board, tokens, and pawns in RPGs is in the Fiction, and the Fiction can be changed during play; that's the essential nature of an RPG.

I think also that in ordinary games versus RPGs, it's all Color and System, with Character, Setting and Situation being part of Color. the Color is not very important, it's just a gimmick to sell the game; all the real play is about System and the people around the table. thus, board games and card games can have some benefit to someone designing the social rules for pure Nar/Gam RPGs, but they won't be as useful for Sim RPGs or the rules that support Exploration in Nar/Gam.

Interesting points. I think I would (semi) counter that studying Chutes and Ladders becomes important in the marketing of rpgs.

Which, in a way, points to the necessity of a game designer either being a truly well rounded renaissance type with a multitude of skills, or being willing to take their baby and find partners to further develop the color aspects of their system.

I will say that Color plays a very important role in my buying and playing habits. I can probably count on one hand the number of games that I've bought or played due to system on one hand, while I can look at a shelf full of stuff in which color was the deciding factor.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Kesher on November 13, 2005, 02:22:46 PM
I would say that Ron's review of octaNe (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/reviews/25/), in particular his summation and suggestions at the end, has discussed some of this as well.  He seems to be saying that Jared, sort of accidentally, made Color the real engine that drives the game.  A happy coincidence, I guess, since Color is the whole selling-point in the first place.

Aaron


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: timfire on November 13, 2005, 03:36:56 PM
I disagree a bit with some of the discussion of Snakes and Ladders. You guys keep saying S&L is like gambling---no, it IS a gamble as defined by Ron's Gamism article (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/21/). There are basically two aspects to gamist play, "crunch" and "gamble". Both are forms of challenge. Crunch forces players to use their skill, while gamble forces players to use their Guts. Different games put different emphasis on each. Chess is pure crunch, Craps is pure gamble. Even though the players in S&L have no input beyond rolling dice, it still represents a challenge.

The excitement comes from the gamble. Within a gamist setting, people want to win. Period. Even if nothing is "at stake", the willingness to gamble shows a player's Guts, so there's still an investment. Color may contribute to a games excitement, but its the gamble (aka challenge) that creates the excitement.

Callen, what types of games do you play? Maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I have the impression you have gamist tendencies. I wonder if the lack of success you've had with BYO invenstment systems is related to CA. But maybe I'm off there.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 13, 2005, 08:08:21 PM
Joshua:
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Ah, you're going with a 'majority rules' sort of definition.  The bulk of the group thinks it's Color, so then it is Color.  From my angle, there's no group definition until there's group consensus, so if the bulk of the group thinks it's Color and one guy thinks it's Situation, I'd say that it's Color for them and Situation for him.

So have we been in screaming agreement? ;)
We agree! However, I'd like to add an idea on top of that: The person who is alone in their investment will feel their enthusiasm dampened, for various reasons. It might be situation for him now, but as the group feedback sinks in that may well turn it back into just being colour.


Ghraham:
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Are these things colour, exactly? If they are, they seem to be a very different sort of colour from the cockatrice windvane. They have nothing to do with the shared world the players have created. What I enjoy is playing with the physical trappings of the game: how is that categorised?
Before we get to Tony's answer, why would you say you seperate imagined objects from physical trappings?


IC Emporer (real name?),

I didn't imagine the snakes and ladders technique helping by somehow forcing everyone to focus on the same thing. Instead I imagined how it spawns a number of investments and that improves the odds of the group finding a common investment between them. Much like in capes, how any number of conflicts might end up on the table, until suddenly one just clicks with several members or all of the group.


John:
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I don't agree that studying Snakes and Ladders is going to help RPG design very much. first, because as has been mentioned, the Color (and the Fiction linked to Color) has no effect on play; and second, although physical props like maps, cards, and character sheets can add a little to the quality of the game, the real board, tokens, and pawns in RPGs is in the Fiction, and the Fiction can be changed during play; that's the essential nature of an RPG.
No effect on play? Are you sure? I've just given examples of increased excitement and a desire to pursue that excitement. This is what drives play...it's lack of mechanical effect doesn't mean much if a player starts making all his game actions revolve around colour that he's invested in. Rather than affecting the mechanics you affecting the player. That's a pretty big game effect!

On the second problem, I'm not sure what you mean. How is it a problem if it can be changed?


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: talysman on November 13, 2005, 09:24:00 PM
John:
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I don't agree that studying Snakes and Ladders is going to help RPG design very much. first, because as has been mentioned, the Color (and the Fiction linked to Color) has no effect on play; and second, although physical props like maps, cards, and character sheets can add a little to the quality of the game, the real board, tokens, and pawns in RPGs is in the Fiction, and the Fiction can be changed during play; that's the essential nature of an RPG.
No effect on play? Are you sure? I've just given examples of increased excitement and a desire to pursue that excitement. This is what drives play...it's lack of mechanical effect doesn't mean much if a player starts making all his game actions revolve around colour that he's invested in. Rather than affecting the mechanics you affecting the player. That's a pretty big game effect!

On the second problem, I'm not sure what you mean. How is it a problem if it can be changed?

actually, your description of the game made me think there *wasn't* any Color effect on play. there was enjoyment of Color, but it sounded like it was the pure gamble that was creating investment.

here's the test: if the ladders were changed into balloons, the snakes into anvils, and the pawns were shaped like cartoon cats, dogs, mice, and tweetie birds, would that have changed play?

as for the second point, keep in mind that the problem I was referring to was that board games like Snakes and Ladders woudln't be helpful; the second reason I gave for why it isn't useful is because RPGs are played on a *fictional* board with *fictional* tokens, and this board and these tokens are infinitely variable, changed by play. in contrast, Snakes and Ladders has a fixed board with fixed Color; Color does not change the game, and the game does not change the Color. the only thing that changes the game is the gamble itself.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 13, 2005, 09:52:50 PM
Hi Tim,

I'm gamist, part repressed narrativist. Have enjoyed D&D 3.0 a great, while grinding teeth at the gamist potential of Rifts (unsupportive in terms of my needs, in its rules).

It's interesting. When I wrote about it I didn't really think of snakes and ladders as gamist. Even though I wrote about all the bio feedback about winning. I guess because it lacks something I'm heavily invested in - player input. So in a way, although there's excitement for me, it just seems like colour because it's not my prefered type of gamism. Thus it's that 'ones mans treasure is another mans colour' thing again.

Interesting, because it's not gamism for me yet, yet I am invested.

BUT, what about the second example of progress quest? Perhaps a sim desire...remember how I want to explore just what braingate does, etc? What do you think?


John:
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here's the test: if the ladders were changed into balloons, the snakes into anvils, and the pawns were shaped like cartoon cats, dogs, mice, and tweetie birds, would that have changed play?
Good question! I think in terms of board games it has no effect, but in terms of roleplay games...replying to Tim helped me answer this. What's happening is that this is not my sort of gamism, but at the same time it's reving my gamist engine. I'm just sitting here, reved up with nowhere to go.

With a boardgame, there is nowhere to go. With roleplay there is - the SIS. And while I'm reving, what am I focusing on? The colour presented to me. I want to rev out of this lack of player input and take whatever imaginary object is there to be had, and hit it with player input until I change my chances of winning. The thing I'm going to grasp for first was the colour involved when I was being reved up. I'm charging the red rag I've been taunted with, so to speak, even though it doesn't mean anything mechanically.

I think I get your clarification on the second problem. But why does roleplay have to have colour that is always infinately variable? Surely elements of it can be as fixed as you like - a gothic, brooding atmosphere in vampire, for example.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Josh Roby on November 14, 2005, 10:18:17 AM
here's the test: if the ladders were changed into balloons, the snakes into anvils, and the pawns were shaped like cartoon cats, dogs, mice, and tweetie birds, would that have changed play?

Would it change the mechanical progress of the game?  No.  Would it change the experience of the game?  Yes.

Color has no mechanical effect -- that does not mean it has no experiential effect.  In fact, Color's experiential effect is why it's there, why it's one of the five components, and why it heightens intensity -- its sole purpose is to create that kind of engagement that Callan is talking about.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: talysman on November 14, 2005, 11:41:57 AM
here's the test: if the ladders were changed into balloons, the snakes into anvils, and the pawns were shaped like cartoon cats, dogs, mice, and tweetie birds, would that have changed play?

Would it change the mechanical progress of the game?  No.  Would it change the experience of the game?  Yes.

Color has no mechanical effect -- that does not mean it has no experiential effect.  In fact, Color's experiential effect is why it's there, why it's one of the five components, and why it heightens intensity -- its sole purpose is to create that kind of engagement that Callan is talking about.

really? I would say that the primary purpose -- if not the sole purpose -- of Color in an RPG is to tie the Characters, Setting and Situation to the Fiction as a whole.

and what I am saying above is that Color in a board game does not serve this purpose, so it won't help the art of RPG design to study Color in board games (except in the sense of studying art design for marketing purposes.)


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 14, 2005, 07:38:32 PM
I'd agree it isn't intended to serve that purpose in boardgame design...boardgame colour just provokes the imagination as an unintentional side effect, which board games don't utilise.

But whatever colours intended effect in board games, it does get a player jazzed about the colour involved.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: M. J. Young on November 17, 2005, 09:17:03 AM
Just a quick note on a side point:
I see a number of popular boardgames, both kids games and adult games where it almost appears that gamism is tacked on. I'm thinking of things like Charades (the traditional game), but also Trivial Pursuit and Cadoo ( and sister games). In these games, it seems like the gamist winning is often, in actual play, extremely secondary to the actual enjoyment of the game ( which is usually the mid-game activity). Is there an implication here for rpg design and rpg marketing?
The gamism in Trivial Pursuit (the example on which I can most easily focus) is the actual enjoyment of the game; the "winning" is part of the reward system which attempts to provide secondary support for that activity. Gamism is about bragging rights, remember? When in Trivial Pursuit it asks me a question and I give the right answer, I've just showed off my skill at knowing the answers to these kinds of questions. When I have answered twelve in a row and managed to pull a wedge from it, not only do I get the in-game reward of adding that wedge to my playing piece, I also get the real and totally gamist reward of having the other players "totally impressed" with that--whether they express it by cheering me on or by raising the bar for themselves to try to beat me.

Oh, and the fact that you can deflect blaster blasts with a lightsaber does not make it less color, because you can, in the right game, deflect arrows with a sword, and I'm sure that the lightsaber itself does not deflect the blaster blasts but the skill of the user. The "color" is not that this is a weapon that can be used offensively and defensively, but that it is some sort of high-tech light-based version of such a weapon.

--M. J. Young


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 19, 2005, 03:21:05 PM
Rob alexander brought up another investment garnering technique in another thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17455.30). I think it's very useful for this thread.
Quote from: Rob
Quote from: Callan
Liking stuff between dungeons isn't automatically simulationism. It's easily a renewal process of investment, getting jazzed up about the game world and pumped to play. What you do when you play, shows your prefered agenda. What you do to get pumped up tells us nothing about agenda.

That makes sense. Kind of like the cut scenes in a computer game; you're not really playing (since you're basically on rails) but you still enjoy it, and it "renews you investment" as you describe. The actual play resumes when you start the next level / enter the dungeons.

I'll add my reply, where I wonder about a traditional gamer habits getting in the way of investment:
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Yes, cut scenes are an excellent example of an investment inspiring technique! It's probably anti roleplay to many traditional players though "If I can't do anything, then it's not roleplay and I simply must not invest in anything there". It's probably a battered gamer syndrome thing...cut scenes are supposed to tease the players (like the principles behind a strip tease), but many poor GM's drag them out as much as they like, excluding any actual play. To put it crudely, that's blueballing rather than a tease.


Title: Re: Where investment seeds
Post by: Callan S. on November 21, 2005, 05:04:13 PM
Oh, another idea is mutual risk. An analogy would be a tug of war with mud in the middle, between the two teams. Now, imagine just being pushed into that mud...it would suck. But imagine being dragged into the mud by the other team...not so bad, eh? Because perhaps you could have dragged them into it.

I think alot of older RPG's have relied on the GM to push people into the mud, so to speak, and yet the GM has to cope with the flack from that. With indie games now there seems to be a real tendency to put everyone at risk, and thus everyone is comfortable to invest in the game more than in a game where the GM just pushes them at will. More investment means better play.