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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 154 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Mike's Standard Rant #1: Designers! Know your hobby!  (Read 36873 times)
Bankuei
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« Reply #30 on: March 15, 2003, 07:33:48 PM »

Hey Mike,  

Do you think that assumptions about design tend to lead toward folks not even investigating "what's out there"?  For instance, 5 years ago, I stopped buying games, and stopped looking at other games, simply because it was all fundamentally the same.  I would occassionally pick up something and skip right to resolution mechanics, but if I didn't see anything neat, I'd put it back down.

Do you think the glut of games that are similar tends to make folks just assume that it's all that's out there?

Chris
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Pramas
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« Reply #31 on: March 15, 2003, 08:33:12 PM »

Quote from: Bankuei
Do you think the glut of games that are similar tends to make folks just assume that it's all that's out there?


I certainly know what you mean. A "standard" method of RPG design certainly developed in the 90s. "Oh, look a game with stat + skill shooting for a target number. Oh look, you can have advantages and disadvantages. Oh look, you can choose from one of ten factions, many of whom are antagonistic. Oh look, I'm falling asleep with my head in the book...."

However, for every person like you or I, there's probably 100 or more who never looked outside of World of Darkness games and/or D&D
anyway.
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Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing
www.greenronin.com
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #32 on: March 15, 2003, 08:40:53 PM »

Chris,

Yes, I think people assume that. And it's a bad assumption. Because, sure there are lots and lots of games that are all doing the same things; but, first, even amongs those many of them have parts that are somehow unique. While the game as a whole might not be great, one small part might be. And, second, there are innovative games out there. You may have to look longer to find them in some cases, but they exist.

Take Arumo, for example. Sure we all cried when it went d20. But that's only because it's such a cool setting. That sort of ingenuity is inspiring. (check out the "pacifism" rule :-)  )

Mike
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Pramas
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« Reply #33 on: March 15, 2003, 11:59:36 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Yes, I think people assume that. And it's a bad assumption. Because, sure there are lots and lots of games that are all doing the same things; but, first, even amongs those many of them have parts that are somehow unique. While the game as a whole might not be great, one small part might be.


Sure, and this is one of many reasons my RPG collection is the size it is.

A lot of times, the reward you get for slogging through a bad game isn't worthwhile though. If I might make a food analogy, it's the difference between crab and lobster. Crab tastes good, but you have to work really hard to get those small bits of sweet meat. I'd rather have a nice lobster, which tastes better and is easier to eat.


Quote
And, second, there are innovative games out there. You may have to look longer to find them in some cases, but they exist.


I wasn't trying to say there weren't innovative games, but that a lot of games since the 90s had a certain sameness to them.
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Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #34 on: March 16, 2003, 01:04:49 AM »

Chris, you and I cross-posted. I wasn't even responding to your comments (the Chris I was responding to is Bankuei). I totally agree that "wading" can be a pain, and most games are wading. Just looing at John Kim's list of free RPGs makes me remember just how many games I've slogged through.

I've tried to develop some scanning skills because of this. Basically, you can tell after you see the first few mechanics or setting details what kind of percentage you can expect to find of good stuff (and whether you'll ever play the game). If it's a heartbreaker, you can usually tell within a couple of minutes, for example. Then once you've determined what the odds are of something good being in there, you peruse at about that level of brevity. I probably miss something good here or there. But it makes the whole thing manageable at least.

Mike
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Stuart DJ Purdie
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Posts: 69


« Reply #35 on: March 16, 2003, 10:43:03 PM »

Can I throw a quick suggestion in here?

Condenstion of all game fiction
Whilst written for humor value, it makes a solid point or two about how writing style matters.  It's also a good reference point about originality, and how to deliver content.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #36 on: March 17, 2003, 08:22:26 AM »

I won't call foul. In addition to reading games, it also helps to read theory like what's found here, and other helpful hints like what Stuart posted.

Besides, that piece is already a classic, and does really bring home the point.

"Purple prose rained down like a bad metaphor." That's genius. The whole thing should be the intro text for GURPS. :-)

Mike
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rdl
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« Reply #37 on: March 18, 2003, 02:38:41 PM »

Quote from: RobMuadib

Nexus:The Infinite City/Feng Shui
=======================
System designed by Robin Laws,


The system for Nexus was in fact designed by Jose Garcia.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #38 on: March 18, 2003, 05:52:26 PM »

I'm sure that Ars Magica has been mentioned somewhere in this massive thread; Atlas Games has just announced that the fourth (current) edition of the game has been converted to PDF and plugged into a zip file, and is available for free download through RPGNow. I downloaded it earlier this evening, but am hesitant to unzip it given my limited harddrive space at the moment. It's 2.8M zipped, not much larger expanded (PDF is a pretty compact format as it is).

There's a press release at http://www.atlas-games.com/arsmagica/free/pressrelease.html">http://www.atlas-games.com/arsmagica/free/pressrelease.html containing the link to the http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=774">RPGNow download page (well, as long as I'm looking, I might as well include that link, too). You have to register an RPGNow account if you don't have one, and they want an inordinate amount of personal information, but given that this is supposed to be one of the must-read games, that's probably cheaper than buying it.

Atlas is hoping that all of us who download the fourth edition will become so enamored by the game that we buy the fifth edition next year. RPGNow is obviously hoping to get new customers from the deal. I'm hoping you'll all use the money you save to go buy Multiverser products--well, probably none of us will get our wish, but it was worth mentioning.

--M. J. Young
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #39 on: March 19, 2003, 02:53:07 PM »

Hey all, sorry if this was said earlier, but there's one thing I felt I had to add:

Surely, the issue that Mike brought up is very valid.  However, on the other hand, I wince inside when I see someone who has an idea of what they want to do and what they are looking for post here, and then immediately get feedback in the form of a laundry list of dozens of games and articles, saying "read this, and this, and this..." or "Your idea is very X-like, so you should check out that game. I also sense a flavor of Y in there, so make sure you buy and read Y as well"...

No offense or anything, it's just something I see a lot.  And surely the spirit there is to get the folks thinking critically in their project and to see what else has been done so that they don't reinvent the wheel...

...but then there's the redneck in me who thinks, "All this hauty-tauty high-falutin' gamespeak is jus' confusing the tyke!"

Comments? Sorry, this may deserve a thread of its own, but I thought it fits as a footnote in Mike's glorious rant. :)

-Andy
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #40 on: March 20, 2003, 01:27:47 PM »

Quote from: Andy Kitkowski
...but then there's the redneck in me who thinks, "All this hauty-tauty high-falutin' gamespeak is jus' confusing the tyke!"

Hey, Andy, if the question is simple, and there's some answer we can give that'll help the person that isn't a reading assignment, then we give it. But when a person says, "Lookee here, I got this nifty new system and I'm looking for some critique," and the system presented turns out to be a modification of D&D that's not as good as Rolemaster, what would you have us do? Suggest a better magic system? Rework his experience point system? Rewrite the entire game for him?  

Show me a case where the answer we could have given was inappropriate. I'm not saying that reading assignments are the only answer to solving game design problems. But they are the most appropriate in certain situations. If all we did was point people to articles and reading lists, I'd agree with you. But we do more than that.

Mike
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Kester Pelagius
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Posts: 508


« Reply #41 on: March 20, 2003, 08:31:49 PM »

Greetings Andy,

Quote from: Andy Kitkowski
Surely, the issue that Mike brought up is very valid.  However, on the other hand, I wince inside when I see someone who has an idea of what they want to do and what they are looking for post here, and then immediately get feedback in the form of a laundry list of dozens of games and articles, saying "read this, and this, and this..." or "Your idea is very X-like, so you should check out that game. I also sense a flavor of Y in there, so make sure you buy and read Y as well"...


It really all depends on the question asked.

There are questions I have posted that, by necessity, were vague.  I say necessity because I just wanted a general opinion but, the folks at The Forge being the wonderful sort they are, they immediately feel that the question asked if probably rooted in something deeper.  Which, as it happens, is usually the case with most questions posted in the forums here.

Then again even a (percieved) snide response is better than no response at all, don't you think?

Too, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that many of the old timers here have probably seen a lot of folks posting about there 'wonderful new idea' only to see nothing more about it.  Which must make a lot of folks rather pensive about posting too much, especially since it's likely that only one out of every ten or so people who post something are likely to actually get to the actual 'have game ready to play test' stage.

Take me, as a example.  When I first came here I had what I thought would be a nifty idea (search my early threads if you really want to know) but what happened with it?  Does anyone remember what it was?

Not likely.  But is that because they don't care?  Of course not.  Just pop over to the design forum.  Look at all the ideas for games and games being developed.  That's a lot of people working on a lot of stuff.
And since most things have parallels in other things, of course if someone comes along with a idea for "great new post-apocalypse RPG" someone is going ot compare it to the post-apocalyptic RPGs that came before it.

Unless, of course, you specify in your post exactly what sort of feedback you are looking for.  Most folks here will suprise you if you ask them directly about what you want to know.  Great fonts of wisdom even.


Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
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"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri
Bruce Baugh
Member

Posts: 143


« Reply #42 on: March 23, 2003, 09:17:50 AM »

Hi, folks, love the show, first-time caller. :)

There are times, I think, when the author is well-served by not reading prior gaming art on a subject, and I have an example at hand here.

One of the authors on the new edition of Gamma World took some early ideas of mine for describing communities in game-mechanical terms and ran with them. He proposed several innovations that wouldn't have occurred to me because I don't know much about neural network design, particularly about handling and recording feedback within a system - he ended up offering sort of a community character sheet/flow chart and really simple but flexible rules for tracking the impact of changes like increase or decrease of resources, external threats, level of leadership, and so forth on community happiness, dissent, and the like.

Now I as developer am aware of previous efforts to portray dynamic communities, starting with Underground and passing on to related matters like Ars Magica chantry design, and have a sense of why I'm not quite satisfied with them. Geoff Skellams hasn't seen any of those. But then I'm not sure his work would have gained anything by it if he were. He's not really trying to improve an existing matter of mechanics, conceptually, but to adapt insights from another field. So he reviewed neural nets and a whole bunch of unfamiliar-to-me literature on the modeling of community dynamics. Example diagrams he sent me covered things like the flow of money and influence in drug dealing networks.

We're about to go playtest now, and I think we've got a winner on our hands with this. As nearly as I can tell from poking so far, the phrasing will need work (examples, examples, examples, praise the example all creatures here below) but the concept very little. There are times when setting aside prior art to reexamine a matter ab initio, or as close as you can get to it, will lead to better rules and presentation than thinking in terms of improvement to existing material. Not always, sure - this is not a general-purpose glorification of ignorance - but at least sometimes. The blank slate can be our friend.
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Writer of Fortune
Gamma World Developer, Feyerabend in Residence
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szilard
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« Reply #43 on: March 23, 2003, 10:52:37 AM »

Quote from: Bruce Baugh


There are times when setting aside prior art to reexamine a matter ab initio, or as close as you can get to it, will lead to better rules and presentation than thinking in terms of improvement to existing material. Not always, sure - this is not a general-purpose glorification of ignorance - but at least sometimes. The blank slate can be our friend.


I think that is certainly the case, particularly when we're dissatisfied with the way something has been done in the past. In those cases, the last thing we want to do is to build upon the ways of the past.

There is, of course, a value in learning what not to do. Occasionally, though, I've been best served by looking at the past disappointments of others only after I've taken a stab at the problem from a blank slate... and then only in order to see that I haven't repeated any mistakes or missed out on something of value. Sometimes, once you see a single solution to a problem, it is difficult to perceive alternate approaches, even if the solution you have been exposed to isn't a particularly good one.

Stuart
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Bruce Baugh
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Posts: 143


« Reply #44 on: March 23, 2003, 11:03:12 AM »

Oh, yeah, true. And this is one of the strengths of collaboration, I think. In the case of Gamma World, I can know prior art and why I'm dissatisfied. Geoff can know his stuff. I can look at it and say "this may be a pitfall" or (more commonly) "this rocks; wish I'd had this back when I started gaming". Solo authorship definitely has its merits, but so does working in partnership.
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Gamma World Developer, Feyerabend in Residence
http://bruceb.livejournal.com/
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