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Author Topic: "Likely" Characters (Sim essay)  (Read 16134 times)
Matt Snyder
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« Reply #30 on: February 06, 2003, 11:35:42 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

It occurs to me that these sorts of mechanics might be especially useful in very metaphysical settings such as Dreamspire (are ya listening, Matt?), where characters might just exist in a sort of semi-vaccum with only the limited elements that have been created in existence.



Oh, yes, I'm listening. In case you hadn't figured it out (I sorta mentioned this on my Chimera forum), Avatar-13 is a disguise. Think on that, and know that once Nine Worlds is "put to bed" (and we're talking a serious deadline for that one), Dreamspire is up to bat.
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Matt Snyder
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"The future ain't what it used to be."
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #31 on: February 06, 2003, 02:54:11 PM »

Yeah, Walt got there first. I guess skipping a day (I was pretty sick yesterday) means I miss a lot of discussion and have to catch up.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
OTOH, if one were to make a game where there were no "corners" to turn with regard to the main area of exploration, then such a reward would be crucial. I can't envision such a game at the moment, so it's highly theoretical. But I think it could be done.


As I believe I indicated on the previously cited http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=41017">Balance thread, you can achieve the same result by having reasonable limitations on the character's movement which are gradually eliminated by advancement. I can imagine characters working on their high school newspaper, then getting a job with the local paper doing local news, then (assuming the paper is part of a conglomerate) being picked up to do county news, and so on until they're international correspondents circling the globe. The world is always infinite from the beginning; the characters can't reach until they've managed to prove their explorative abilities.

Earlier in the discussion, the issue was whether advancement mechanics were inherently gamist. Although several people have effectively addressed it, I should point out that such advancement mechanics might be coherent with narrativist and simulationist designs, in the right context. That is, we're distinguishing between:
    [*]A character who exists to beat the game world and improve enough to rise to the top;
    [*]A story which explores the issues of coming of age or advancing in society or other areas (a boy who joins the military, and must wrestle with the fact that he's getting better at killing people, but becoming the sort of person he personally abhors in the process? You could do the same with an advancement mechanic in a political game).
    [*]A world in which the characters start as novices and move toward being experts through the plying of their crafts.[/list:u]
    Each of these could be served by a mechanic that increased character ability; in each case, that ability increase could be combat-oriented, depending on the characters and the situations. There would, I think, be significant differences between them; but superficially they would be very similar.

    Quote from: Mike also
    On another topic, how does a GM identify when a player has "prioritized exploration"?....In Sim, well, you're always exploring or your not playing an RPG....How do I positively reward prioritizing exploration, when, if done correctly, it's being done constantly?


    I think this is a question that hasn't really been addressed that I've seen. We've previously focused on what kind of reward could you give for simulationist play, but never asked the more basic question: How do you recognize it?

    In my previous newspaper example, you would probably do something about uncovering the good stories and identifying the crucial elements. That's what would matter in real life, so this would be a simulation: good reporters get promoted. (Oh, and you could have others involved, like photographer, assistant, editor.)

    That might work, anyway. If it became competitive, of course, it starts to become a bit gamist; on the other hand, there are areas of life where there is competition, and you can't simulate them without incorporating that into them.

    --M. J. Young
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    contracycle
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    « Reply #32 on: February 07, 2003, 12:46:02 PM »

    several random thoughts

    Quote from: Mike Holmes

     How do I positively reward prioritizing exploration, when, if done correctly, it's being done constantly?


    Maybe its not how, but why.  Which bits do I reward, and for what purpose.  Dunno, thought I'd mention it.

    Mike also wrote:
    Quote

    Your elephant comment is well taken. That is, in proposing all these methods for adding areas to explore, we miss the fact that, in theory, the universe of play in most games is presented as infinite already. All the player has to do is to say, "I go around the corner. What do I see?" and presumably the GM has to reward him with a description of a new street to explore. Thus, in such a game, these do not seem to be very potent rewards.


    The rewards might be self fuliflling, in that it might be rewarding to succesfully contrive a way to see something that you would find interesting to see.  The corner to be turned could be a problem, something which obscures the view.

    M.J. wrote:
    Quote
    As I believe I indicated on the previously cited Balance thread, you can achieve the same result by having reasonable limitations on the character's movement which are gradually eliminated by advancement.


    It strikes me that this can be literally advancing, as in the "fog of war" of many computer games.  Often, extending to gain vision entails risk, or is problematic, or expensive in some resource (including units).  If places to go and things to see is the limitation, then perhaps maps are the most basic implementation, in both geographic and experiential senses.
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    "He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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    Mike Holmes
    Acts of Evil Playtesters
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    « Reply #33 on: February 07, 2003, 02:19:41 PM »

    Gareth has some good points. I'd not be surprised to learn that the only true reward available to a player who prefers Simulationism is the simulation itself. In which case searching is pointless (made all the more likely by the possibilty that there is no "superior" sim play to reward.

    Hmmm..

    Mike
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    Emily Care
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    « Reply #34 on: February 10, 2003, 01:40:29 PM »

    So, if we let go of the idea of external rewards being useful in sim play, what else would we look to to encourage this kind of play? What structures in the mechanics, what social atmosphere in the gaming group?  My approach to sim play was formed by hours of out of game discussion of in-game-world characters, culture and concepts.  

    Also, are we talking about sim as though it is monolithic?  There's a pretty broad range of play that falls under the category.  Each might benefit from a different approach.

    Vincent started this thread talking about point purchase systems and how they tend to get thrown out for sim play.  Are we saying now that metagame rewards are at odds with sim play? Drift it to gamist in uncomfortable ways? Sounds like we're talking about what doesn't work to encourage simulationism.

    --Emily Care

    edited in: if this conversation has gone elsewhere and this thread is dead, I'll play nice and go home.
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    Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

    Black & Green Games
    Walt Freitag
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    « Reply #35 on: February 11, 2003, 01:43:43 PM »

    Actually, Emily, I'm glad you continued this because I for one haven't reached any kind of conclusion here. I'm just being slow to put my thoughts together on this.

    My current question is, if all the rewards are "internal"... so what? I'm not convinced that that precludes systematic rewards.

    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    All the player has to do is to say, "I go around the corner. What do I see?" and presumably the GM has to reward him with a description of a new street to explore. Thus, in such a game, these do not seem to be very potent rewards.


    But not all corners turned are equally worthy of reward, and not all answers to "what do I see?" are equally rewarding.

    Let me address the second clause first. I believe that "you turn the corner and see another mile of trees and farmland" is almost certain to be less rewarding than "you turn the corner and see a Black Knight and a Green Knight beating the crap out of each other at a bridge."

    Furthermore, the latter case is more rewarding in a particularly Simulationist way. Whether or not it represents an opportunity to overcome a challenge, whether or not it will contribute to the aesthetics of the outcome, it definitely represents more interesting exploration options than a tract of currently uninhabited farmland.

    The question remains whether a system, a setting, or a GM can control these rewards in any "systematic" way so as to preferentially reward Simulationist decision-making. I believe -- to say in one sentence what should probably be a whole chapter -- that a system could but most don't, a setting can't but most claim they do, and a GM can and usually does but most claim they don't.

    - Walt
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    Emily Care
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    « Reply #36 on: February 11, 2003, 02:16:54 PM »

    Quote from: wfreitag
    Actually, Emily, I'm glad you continued this because I for one haven't reached any kind of conclusion here. I'm just being slow to put my thoughts together on this.

    Whew. :) Glad to help, Walt.

    Quote from: wfreitag
    The question remains whether a system, a setting, or a GM can control these rewards in any "systematic" way so as to preferentially reward Simulationist decision-making. I believe -- to say in one sentence what should probably be a whole chapter -- that a system could but most don't, a setting can't but most claim they do, and a GM can and usually does but most claim they don't.


    It's the part of gming most easily overlooked: simple everyday description of what the players interact with. Do you mean that a setting can't do it because a setting (per se as a module or game book material, not how that is used by the gm or game participants) is passive?  What would a system look like that does it?  

    I have an example of a GM using this technique to discourage egregiously non-sim decision-making.  My friend Oli, had a player who could not be dissuaded from killing every npc that contacted the party.  Many gms came up with responses to this, but I like Oli's the best. There was a half-Troll that the tweaky player's character had fought and lost to named Blorg.  Blorg kicked his ass. So, whenever  that player tried his shenanigans, Oli would say "Hey, wait a minute, you know, you didn't realize it at first, but the person you're talking to is actually Blorg..."  Eventually the player cut it out.

    This actually brings up old issues of pre-play-prep vs. in-play development, and player accusations of gm's "cheating".  Since a lot of what a gm does need not be set in stone before the game, there is probably a lot of latitude for response to be molded in this way. But it wouldn't work for all contracts of play. Although there are many levels at which a scene may be described.  Players who prioritize sim could be rewarded with greater or more salient detail.

    --Emily Care
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    Black & Green Games
    Mike Holmes
    Acts of Evil Playtesters
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    « Reply #37 on: February 11, 2003, 02:56:11 PM »

    First, I don't think your advocating it, but obviously the "Blorg" method of enforcement is nagative reinforcement, and not what we're looking for.

    But then, the method where you only give out salient stuff for rewards seems sorta negative, too. That is, it's only possible by lowering the bar some for what normally happens. So I turn the corner and see miles of corn. Well, OK, what about the next corner? More corn? Well, the standard assumption in Sim GMing is that the GMwill throw something at you if you look hard enough. Or even if you don't.

    So, are we advocating that the GM only give out boring information about what the player's find? Until they spend some reward point or something? What about logical extension? The PC is in front of the armorer's shop. He has his character enter, but does not spend a reward point. So, there's...nothing in the shop? Or the GM glosses it over? I could maybe see the latter. Basically, the use of the points would be to break into a scene where the GM would be forced to give scene-level details. Until then, all he's required to do is to give "strategic" level detail.

    That might work. Still, it means that the GM can do no pre-planning for scenes, as he can never be sure which scenes are going to be at what level. Unless, perhaps he has the ability to say that certain scenes are automatically detailed? But it we're talking Illusionist play, won't the players end up disapointed with their scenes as they aren't integral to the plot? So can this only be used in completely Open Sim (no GM control of plot)?

    Sounds exhausting for the GM, potentially.

    Or are we talking about something else, and I'm just missing it?

    Mike
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    Emily Care
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    « Reply #38 on: February 12, 2003, 07:23:34 AM »

    I see Blorg as being a fix for a broken player-gm dynamic, so I wouldn't really advocate it.  It may have quite been off from what Walt was talking about. Or represent a far end of the continuum.

    The whole question of rewards seems kind of Pavlovian to me.  If it's just about getting a cookie, that undercuts what we're trying to encourage in players.  

    What kind of behaviour are we trying to promote? "In character" behaviour? Interaction with world as a more complex system? Letting go of metagame issues such as character level or "winning"? What worked really well to bring me to this point was indoctrination and ongoing discussion. I was involved in world elements, and helped flesh out the world by my questions.  Not everybody has that kind of time to invest, but I guess if I was writing a system that would try to encourage more complex sim playing, I'd start by investing all participants in the world and it's workings.  

    Have we talked about the many different types of sim gaming and how needs would vary?

    --Emily
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    Black & Green Games
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