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Author Topic: Kill Power 19  (Read 20113 times)
Garbados
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Posts: 19

Good Life Advice


« Reply #30 on: July 26, 2009, 06:55:53 PM »

Quote from: Wordman
This statement has two problems:
    * It's considered totally true and useful only to those who already know what they are talking about.
    * When applied to those who really need to understand it (i.e. those that don't know what they are talking about), the statement is completely false. To such a person, the presentation is such that it is just a question and not a conversation at all.

Ah! I had the same reaction when first asked what my game was "about". I thought it was a simple question of setting, but now I understand it is a much deeper, more difficult inquiry, not unlike a conversation. I took some offense when told my answers were uninsightful, even after I said I didn't understand the question, but now I understand uninsightful answers are a rather common response, as is confusion. I'd advise those asking "what is your game about" to give some examples, and kindly alert those to whom you are inquiring that it should provoke conversation in pursuit of an answer, rather necessarily than a simple one or two sentence reply (although you may eventually produce such an answer, it's uncommon to have one right off the bat).

As for the Power 19, it's not that sharp a tool. Not a bad place to start privately, but publicly? Too much writing, not enough substance. Trying to answer questions like "What is your game about?" "Who are the characters? What are they doing?" and "What are the players doing?" are a much better start for First Thoughts, in addition to rule excerpts and snippets of theoretical play.
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Luke
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« Reply #31 on: July 26, 2009, 09:43:51 PM »

I completely believe that the conversations you talk about having are very illuminating in learning how to design the type of games that Forge theory likes to see designed. But, that being the case, beginners would be better served if you just started talking about the conversation directly, instead of hiding it behind a checklist or "catch phrase-like" questions, at least when not face-to-face.

Wordman, it certainly sounds like you're grinding axes here. What gives? I'm not a theorist of any stripe or kind. The type of design that I push for is more universal in application -- clear purpose, clear instructions -- than limited to even just RPGs.

The discovering what your game is about is a process. Most designers don't know what their game is about to start. And most designers have an idea that they're shooting for, but their mechanics are missing the mark. By asking the question and demonstrating that the mechanics don't support the answer, we can begin a conversation about better marrying the two.

No check list is ever going to design a game for you. Not a list of 19, not a list of three. However, there is certainly more than one way to tackle design and advice. You're welcome to dispense yours on this site, too.

-Luke
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Wordman
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« Reply #32 on: July 27, 2009, 06:54:03 AM »

Wordman, it certainly sounds like you're grinding axes here.

Then you may be reading too much into what I'm saying. If I seem to be belaboring the point, that is because I perceive that my point isn't actually being understood, which means I'm doing a crappy job of articulating it. Let me try it from a slightly different direction.

Many of the responses so far have dealt with "what we really mean" by asking "what is your game about?". I'm not talking about that, really. Instead, I'm talking about what message is actually perceived by someone starting out when the see the question "what is your game about?", particularly if they do so in the isolation of internet browsing. My contention is that:

  • The difference between what is meant and what is initially perceived is very large.
  • The techniques needed to make what is meant understood vary greatly depending on the venue (e.g. in person v.s. browsing the net).
  • The current techniques used to make what is meant understood require a high degree of rapid interaction to work.
  • To the average person starting out in game design who happens to stumble across this site and those it as spawned, that rapid interaction will be almost entirely absent at the start, as the person instead will be reading passively most of the time.
  • The current presentation of what the person is passively reading often gives the impression that it is supposed to be consumed passively, while the reality is that it is not (i.e. it is meant to be a conversation, not a thought puzzle).

As an example, a lucky beginner might hit upon the following advice right away (maybe by seeing one of Luke's seminars): "you should talk to other designers to figure out what your game is about and how you can match your mechanics to make it so." Instead, however, the first advice most beginners find is just "What is your game about?". While the intent of this may be to lead them to the previous type of advice, it does not read that way. Instead, it comes across as "figure out in your own head what your game is about". In other words, while the intent of asking "what is your game about" in person is to start a conversation, the message actually conveyed when asked on an internet page (particularly in a format like the Power 19) is just the opposite: go off and figure these things out by yourself, then report back.

Another example of the type of problem I'm talking about:

If you ask "what's your game about?" and they go, "Well, its about hard choices and the consequences that come from following one's beliefs despite the odds," you know your having a different conversation from the guy that says "It's about survival" or "It's like D&D only I use a streamlined combat system based on the d100."

Take a good look at the dynamic this implies. What it means is that asking the question provides information and benefit to the person asking, but none whatsoever to the person answering. As part of a conversation, this is fine, as the idea would be that one asking now has intelligence on where to guide the conversation. When coming across the question on the internet, however, the one asking is entirely absent, and the only conversation going on is inside the reader's head. And in this venue, the question is useless, because it is not designed to directly serve the one reading it.

A player of mine, probably quoting someone else, once said "prayer is just an internal monologue upon which you which to force the properties of a dialog". The flaw in things like the Power 19 seems to be just the opposite: taking the properties of a dialog and trying to force them into an internal monologue. Questions that work very well face-to-face often fail when consumed passively. They certainly seem to in the form of the Power 19.
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What I think about. What I make.
Luke
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« Reply #33 on: July 27, 2009, 09:07:32 AM »

It sure sounds like we're agreeing.

The only minor difference is that I am using this, admittedly inadequate, software to try to carry on conversations.
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mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« Reply #34 on: July 27, 2009, 09:32:48 AM »

Take a good look at the dynamic this implies. What it means is that asking the question provides information and benefit to the person asking, but none whatsoever to the person answering.

I agree with what you're saying. This was incredibly frustrating when I started posting questions here (not that long ago). I'm just wondering if, though this may not be the most intuitive way to get to the heart of the conversation for the person answering, maybe it really is the most effective way (so far) to get the conversation going. It seems that (if anyone) Luke would have a lot of experience with this.

I don't think that anyone is saying it's the only way to do things, just the way that has been the most helpful up to this point. I'd be interested to see some new approaches since, like I said, it's not the most inviting way to be introduced to game design.
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
Wordman
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« Reply #35 on: July 27, 2009, 12:25:30 PM »

The only minor difference is that I am using this, admittedly inadequate, software to try to carry on conversations.

I guess part of my point is that I don't see this as a "minor" difference. Forum conversations are very different animals than face to face conversations, and require different tools to reach understanding, though there is some overlap. But, my broader point was also that ideas about game design are often consumed far afield from even forum discussions, as reading passive essays in isolation. In that context, tricks that work great for face-to-face conversation fail miserably, in particular the "what is your game about?" question.

But, so what. The point is to kill the Power 19. To that end, consider the following (sort of based on what I've been saying, mostly not): several years worth of discussion about the Power 19 is now etched into the internet. While some of it links back to some kind of "source" (usually the post in Socratic Design, to which I am intentionally not linking, for reasons that will become clear in a second), much of it does not. Thus, when a budding newcomer encounters the term "Power 19", they google it. At this point, a critical first impression is formed based on what they see on the first page of results.

What they see first right now (at least, I do) is the aforementioned post on Socratic Design, which talks about what a great idea it is, even though the questions are presented without much explanation.

Until that stops happening, the Power 19 will never die.

Killing things on the net isn't really possible without the explicit involvement of those who put them there. The best you can hope for fighting in the arena of Google is to gain more mindshare than the other guy. As an example, the only thing speaking against the Power 19 in that first page of search results is this thread. This is already in the fourth position in the results I see, which is a good start.

Instead, imagine a world where the first result on the Google search is a blog post called "Problems with the Power 19" or "Why you shouldn't use the Power 19" or something similar. I'd wager that you'd soon see a lot fewer people using it and, importantly, knowing why they don't.

Maybe this thread can act as such a post, but seeing how it has already been misinterpreted in another thread on this same board, a blog post would probably work better. Once created, if everyone who wanted the Power 19 dead made a point in linking to that blog article (with the link text saying "Power 19") any time they mentioned it in a forum or blog post, it would hit the top Google ranking in no time (at least, provided it didn't link to pages that currently have a higher rank, which is why I didn't include a link above). At that point, instead of newcomers being guided to a toolset they will be chastised for using later, they are directed to where you want them to go in the first place.
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What I think about. What I make.
Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1962


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« Reply #36 on: July 27, 2009, 02:19:47 PM »

Over in another thread, Patrice said:

Quote
On a side note, that's why "kill power 19" doesn't help much more than power 19 itself, because nobody can eventually chew the hard bit for you, however satisfactory the thread might have been in a primal scream sort of way.
(emphasis mine)

It was definitely worth a chuckle. I thought it an apt and amusing commentary on this thread, despite the fact that I've found this thread rather educational.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #37 on: July 28, 2009, 10:46:48 AM »

Of the power 19 questions the ones I really like in answered in a post are 2,3,14,15,16. Why? Because for me they constitute the core of design intent for the game; what do we see, what do we do, how does it effect us?
Also 2 and 3 emphasise the character player spit, such an important thing to keep track of. These are the ones I zoom in on, because I know they are questions that people will be able to answer illuminatingly.

Luke, I wonder if you put these up the top would you be so mad at them? Just like "what is your game about", I treat them as the start of a conversation: Look at your responses in previous questions, the part that gets the most colour is "space buccaneers, unapologetically evil aliens, shooting, and rayguns". Immediately, people trying to work with you know what to hop on board with and suggest ideas for.

17->19 are clearly inappropriate for first thoughts; it's not a marketing driven design process, but an inspiration driven one!

The remaining questions are either those I consider to be advanced: 1, 8, and 9, which contain useful design insights in the form of an almost incomprehensible question, or are those that suggest a basic list of rpg components:
pre-existing setting, character creation, resolution mechanism, character advancement, incentives.
I'd rebuild those as:
starting inspiration and restrictions, pre-play creation mechanism, conflict mechanics, all other change mechanisms, and ways for the players to coordinate (incentives/flags etc).

Now obviously that's my personal take, so for my personal set of questions I'd shift things around into:

What do the characters do?
What do the players (inculding GM) do?
What do you put the most effort into describing?
What kind of effect do you want to have on your players?
What part of your game are you most interested in?
What parts of the game are you having most difficulty with?

Then after that, as advanced questions:
What is your game about?
How does your game divide authority for deciding (and narrating) what happens?
How does your game keep players interest and make them care?

Then the hows:
How does your background and setting relate to what you want the game to be about?
How do you introduce that setting to the players?
How do the players (including GM) create the starting situation and characters?
How does that relate to your what your game is about?
How does your system resolve uncertain situations?
How does your system keep track of changes to characters or setting?
Are there any standard progressions or built in changes, and how do those work?
How do the way things change reinforce what your game is about?
Do you have any ways to help players coordinate and deal with problem behaviour?
If so how do those relate to what the game is about?

I'd ask people only to answer the first 6 in their post, but to think about all the others. Amusingly, there are 19 of them! I'd suggest my second "how" is not commonly considered, but I think it's pretty relevant, especially if there is a lot of content to get across.

You can't kill the power 19, but you can leave it to obsolescence by replacing it with something else. So is my alternative worse? Or does it not go far enough? Does it miss out something important? Could you do better? Go for it!
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Luke
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« Reply #38 on: July 28, 2009, 01:51:48 PM »

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough.
Filling out a questionnaire isn't going to design a game for you.
It's a waste of time.

Engage people on these forums in a dialogue. Then go home and play your game a lot. That's it.

-L
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Librabys
Member

Posts: 33


« Reply #39 on: July 28, 2009, 03:40:35 PM »



Engage people on these forums in a dialogue. Then go home and play your game a lot. That's it.

-L


Kinda like it... straight forward... efficient.... lol.



When i filled the power 19 i misunderstood a lot of question. It should be formulated better maybe.
I did make me think about some issues though, so i would say not totally useless...
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Troy_Costisick
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Posts: 802


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« Reply #40 on: July 28, 2009, 05:31:51 PM »

quote]Donít just throw them out there and expect peQuote
Engage people on these forums in a dialogue. Then go home and play your game a lot. That's it. Quote
Engage people on these forums in a dialogue. Then go home and play your game a lot. That's it.
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Luke
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« Reply #41 on: July 28, 2009, 06:38:21 PM »

Troy,
No, really. At best, they're counterproductive. At worst, they're a waste of time.

I'd been away from First Thoughts for a while. Upon my return I found, as a substitute for dialogue the following:

"How do I present my game idea."

"Answer the Power 19."

And the post that followed would be/is a wall of text. The answers were/are half-hearted answers at best or just skipped with a "I don't know" at worst.

Readers had to sift through a wall of text to begin asking questions. Worse, the questions seem to encourage posters to stick to their assumptions and cling defensively to what they thought game design should be.

I came back to First Thoughts to try to help. To try to stir up the community's game design energy at the entry level. I found myself actively avoiding Power 19 threads. I talked to many of my peers. They felt the same way.

So I debunked the questions, forcibly. To shake things up. To make people think. To revive a culture that challenges assumptions.

And then you went and brought the status games into the mix. My criticisms are based on critical thought. My posts are in my voice. That's it. So don't start with the status games.

Kill Power 19,
-L
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David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #42 on: July 28, 2009, 11:51:35 PM »

Quote
Seriously kids, don't use the Power 19. There's no rationalizing or discussing needed. There are better ways to talk about and learn about game design.

I hate to see a message like this without saying what those ways are. I don't quite qualify as one of these new "kids" that might be coming here to "talk about and learn about game design," but I still don't feel like I know what these tools are. 

In general, I don't really see the forge as a great place to learn about game design. The articles aren't really organized into any coherent "start here - go here" format. A lot of the best discussions and information are buried within posts and sticky-ed "read this first" threads.  A lot of people who do show up here really don't understand what's going on -- "Aethera and the kill power 19" being a great example. Those people really only learn the what and the where from the people who respond to them.  On top of all this, there's a bunch of bizarre lingo that takes a lot of time to understand. 

Instead, I see the forge as a place to discuss your game concepts and individual play experiences. This allows you to hone your game. Occasionally, an old hand will stop in and enlighten the reader on some aspect of game design, and while the rookie will become wiser for it, I wouldn't consider that a learning tool.

I think it'd be great to see a resource which discusses common pitfalls of a new designer, and what to read and why.

Sorry if this post diverges from the original intent of your post.
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...but enjoying the scenery.
Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #43 on: July 29, 2009, 01:36:17 AM »

And it's great because The Forge isn't a place to learn game design. I would have shun such a place. It's a place to share your ideas, sparks and play experience, and to build from that. From what I'm reading, it looks a bit like you were expecting to be spoon-fed. If this is a case, I dearly hope your expectations weren't met. Imagine what you say coming true: you would find here a big series of articles with no debate and feedback, pure theory display, maybe organized in "lessons" "common pitfalls in game design" lectures and the like. Some luminaries would post their lessons once in a while as people would follow the "good direction".

Quite the contrary, I maintain that what is a pitfall for you might be a stepping stone for me. This is all key in "indie". It's about you, your game, your sparks, your experiences and what this all gives birth to. Yes, that means you have to delve, shuffle, dig, ask, play, report, share again, delve again, dig again, destroy, create, try, etc. because it's about shaping your designs, not about becoming someone else's enlightened disciple.

Power 19 might be the good way for someone and not so relevant for someone else. I think that Luke tries to address the tendancy to take Power 19 for granted and the easy-mode fashion of posting it and consider it as THE good start. If I were to subsume this thread in a productive way, I'd say that there's no good way to start, that you have to find your own according to your ideas. If Power 19 fits and suits that, great, use it. If it doesn't, don't get stuck in the pattern fashion and do it your way, you are an indie designer after all. And don't expect models, frames and lessons to do the thinking for you. There's nothing to learn actually.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #44 on: July 29, 2009, 02:10:45 AM »

I always thought that the P19 were much too front-loaded with opinion, but that's just my personal take and Troy, you are correct to point out, pooping in your soup is not something worthwhile. However, I do agree with Luke that the First Thoughts Forum would be a more productive and useful place if nobody ever posted a filled-in P19 catalogue again.

- Frank
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If you come across a post by a guest called Frank T, that was me. My former Forge account was destroyed in the Spam Wars. Collateral damage.
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