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Author Topic: Where investment seeds  (Read 27732 times)
Callan S.
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« 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.

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?
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contracycle
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« Reply #1 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.
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #2 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
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Chris Engle
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #3 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.
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komradebob
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« Reply #4 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.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 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.
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komradebob
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« Reply #6 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.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Callan S.
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« Reply #7 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. 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
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Mark Woodhouse
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« Reply #8 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.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #9 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.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #10 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).
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Mark Woodhouse
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« Reply #11 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.
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komradebob
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« Reply #12 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?

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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Josh Roby
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« Reply #13 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.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 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?
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