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Author Topic: Mike's Standard Rant #1: Designers! Know your hobby!  (Read 36782 times)
RobMuadib
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« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2003, 09:51:32 AM »

Hey all

Forgot one that is interesting to look at

Everway - design by Jonathan Tweet.

Hmm, lets see established idea of D/F/K, interesting use of visual elements for character design, Tarot for resolution.

Oh, and duh

Over The Edge - Also by Tweet
Very nice "free-form" character creation, light system design, funky
background ideas. pretty singular in it's genre coverage.

Best

Rob
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Rob Muadib --  Kwisatz Haderach Of Wild Muse Games
kwisatzhaderach@wildmusegames.com --   
"But How Can This Be? For He Is the Kwisatz Haderach!" --Alyia - Dune (The Movie - 1980)
Valamir
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« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2003, 10:00:16 AM »

I think the fact that in a brief period of brainstorming that a handful of gamers posting games they've found to be definitive, revolutionary, or at least contained an approach worth being familiar with have come up with a list that is now about 4 dozen games long proves Mikes Rant #1.

Too many times (even here on the Indie Design forum) an eager designer lists his influences as being D&D and WoD.  Several times I'd like to say "Thats a good start.  Now go read Mike's Standard Rant #1, pick a bunch of the few dozen other games already written that aren't anything like D&D or WoD, and then come back and ask for commentary."
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clehrich
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« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2003, 01:33:30 PM »

Let me second the request for an article, but perhaps I can suggest a way to go about it that wouldn't be too painful.

Start with a brief explanation of the rant itself -- you've got this, just polish it up a bit.

Now group the games you want to talk about (deciding on a list and a grouping would be a great way to continue this thread, or start a new one) by what it is we ought to learn from them.  Good, bad, indifferent, the question is what we learn, Dorothy.

Now for each group, briefly explain the point, then summarize the best example from the group.  That is, actually explain (1) what the rule or whatever is, (2) what it's in the game for, and (3) what we should learn from this.  This will also tell you what the best examples are: the ones for which you can answer all three of these clearly and succinctly.

Avoid the really bad examples, games that are simply incoherent and there's nothing more to say.  You could come up with a general classification (Ron already has: "heartbreaker") and provide a short list of titles, but don't bother discussing them.

So you'd have an article with, say 10 or 15 major points.  For each point, you'd have a classic example, briefly summarized and explained.  You'd also have a very short bibliography of other titles from which we could learn the same point, perhaps with a remark like, "See the X mechanic and the way it Y."

That article, for my money, would be one of the most valuable things on the Forge for a game designer.  I mean, how many of us are going to go out and buy all these games (the ones we don't already have, I mean) just to see someone do something badly?  If you can give us a jump-start, we can borrow an appropriate game, read the material in question, and get a more concrete sense of what we should already have learned.

So.... whaddya say, Mike?
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Chris Lehrich
RobMuadib
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« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2003, 01:39:53 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: RobMuadib

Senzar
=========================
As an adjunct to World of Synnibar, there is Senzar, another great example of how not to make or market your game. State of the art Fantasy heartbreaker, heck with heartbreaker, it puts the merciless smack down on your heart like it ownz0rs ju.
Yeah, exactly. SenZar doesn't make it into the dysfunctional game category because there's every evidence that it represents a quite functional Powergamer's wet dream. Might not be for everyone, but, OTOH, there are some gems of Gamist design in there. EXP for catching the GM not applying the rules correctly? Wow. That's different at least. Beat Hackmaster to the punch by years, and out-Rifts Rifts.


Oh, and how could I forget, it has what is widely regarded as the WORST introductory/game fiction in an RPG EVER. It was so bad, someone MST3k'd, but apperantly suffered a nervous breakdown before he could finish it, or some such.

THink I'll throw out some other other notable/interesting ones while I'm at it. Consider this an extra-credit extended reading list, and to help inform people of the vast number of RPG's that AREN't WW or D&D, I mean these are all commercialy published RPG's here.

Rob Muadib's Super Extra Credit Ad Nauseum Optional RPG Reading List

[added title so as not to overshadow Mikes more informative and important rant]


Immortal:The Invisible War -
==============================
This game is interesting, first it had a truly fantastic setting concept, pretty damn original. Problem was that it was so damn original, most people had a hard time understanding it, due the wealth of material you had to digest to understand it. Second it was wedded to complex obfuscated mechanics system that made the game twice as hard to pick up. Case study in how to make what could have been a great game unaccesible.

HeavyGear/JovianChronicles/Gearkrieg
=============================
DP9 makes great games. The silhoutte system is an excellent model for how to make a low-handling time mechanic with just a taste of crunch, it's medling with the Board war-game of the gear fighting is awesome. Great presentation and artwork in their books, solid writing.

Cyberpunk2020/Mekton
===============================
RTG's workable base mechanics welded into lots of genre evoking game structure advice. Interesting life path mechanic, decent fiction, and good artwork evoke game style well. One part of the basis for the Fuzion game system.

Castle Falkenstein
=========================
RTG's very cool Steampunk game system, lots of flavor and notable use of card based resolution system. Lots of cool ideas.

Fading Suns
=============================
Notable use of setting, marred by generic mechanics base.
Kind of fell into the so-so system wedded to great setting problem
of Witchcraft/AFMBE, and other unisystem games.

Kult
===========================
Truly atmospheric horror game with unique background, and interesting
balance system, evoked supernatural dread.

The Riddle Of Steel
============================
Very solid Fantasy game with engaging combat system, interesting Spiritual Attribute advancement system, novel magic system, cool
semi-historical fantasy setting.

Ergo - Ian Miller
=========================
Meta-system to structure collaborative role-playing, lots of good thought on an underdeveloped area.

Skyrealms Of Jorune
============================
A very interesting take on high-concept simulationism, excellent art and
setting work on a genericish crunchy system.

Waste World: Roleplaying In a Savage Future -
By Bill King - Manticore productions
=======================
A personal Fave, a very well drawn Kik aysh post-apocalyptic setting, with lots of Kewl setting bits, rather entertaining game fiction, with a decent workable mechanics base. Good art, and it is like eastern european, which makes it interesting too.

anyway, hope I didn't defuse your thread too much mike. But I am definitely a supporter of the concept.

best
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Rob Muadib --  Kwisatz Haderach Of Wild Muse Games
kwisatzhaderach@wildmusegames.com --   
"But How Can This Be? For He Is the Kwisatz Haderach!" --Alyia - Dune (The Movie - 1980)
Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2003, 01:51:30 PM »

It's cynical day here, so I'll just add some negative features that really stuck with me.

Hero: 'for hard to read'.
Points out what kind of dry read you'll be creating with chapters full of system, no matter how good a writer you are.  (This isn't me stating purist for system games are bad).

Over the Edge: 'for talking down to the reader'
It's subtle enough you may miss yourself doing the same - something to consider.  (Despite all its spiffy ideas I cannot seem to make it all the way through Chapter 1 because of the tone - it's pontific.  You may not feel the same, but trust me it grates on some of us.)  Contrast with the 'cooperate with the reader' tone found in 7th Sea - excellent tone.

Editted because my initial wording sounded a bit more like reviews than points about a game's design.
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- Cruciel
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #20 on: March 14, 2003, 01:55:04 PM »

Cool. But let's not get carried away, now. With lots of those games you list Rob, you're adding examples of things that we've already covered. Like Fading Suns. Nothing new there that hasn't been introduces into the list in a number of other assignments already presented.

I like the game. It's just not required reading if you already have the list above.

Like I said, this isn't meant to be a list that will make you a master of the compete knowledge of all things gaming. Just enough knowledge so that you can confidently make a game without making errors that have already been made. What will reading Jorune get you that reading GURPS and Hero Wars will not?

In fact, I left OTE off the list specifically because I already have Hero Wars on the list. Knowing the state of the art games is important because they show you the bar that you have to exceed. No need to look at old errors, just see how high you need to go.

Quote from: clehrich
Let me second the request for an article, but perhaps I can suggest a way to go about it that wouldn't be too painful.

...

So.... whaddya say, Mike?


Oh, jeez. What kinda hole have I dug for myself now.

Fine, I'll write the damn article. Actually sounds kinda interesting. Don't expect it next week, however!  :-)

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: March 14, 2003, 02:08:07 PM »

Hi folks,

Ha! Did he commit to writing the article? Good work, everyone.

More seriously, people, bear in mind that this thread isn't an opportunity to pound in short-blurb reviews of games. I can see that trend just trembling at the edge of reality, so if you feel the urge to write ...

GAME TITLE
what I think what I think what I think clever snipe what I think what I think

... just open up Wordpad and do it there, OK?

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #22 on: March 14, 2003, 02:15:17 PM »

Thanks, Ron.

That said, I should have mentioned stuff like Falkenstien and Rune. The additions we've had so far do suffice to say that one can't read enough of one's subject to know it well.

Mike "off to hunt down Waste World" Holmes
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RobMuadib
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« Reply #23 on: March 14, 2003, 03:09:25 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Cool. But let's not get carried away, now. With lots of those games you list Rob, you're adding examples of things that we've already covered. Like Fading Suns. Nothing new there that hasn't been introduces into the list in a number of other assignments already presented.

I like the game. It's just not required reading if you already have the list above.

Like I said, this isn't meant to be a list that will make you a master of the compete knowledge of all things gaming. Just enough knowledge so that you can confidently make a game without making errors that have already been made. What will reading Jorune get you that reading GURPS and Hero Wars will not?

In fact, I left OTE off the list specifically because I already have Hero Wars on the list. Knowing the state of the art games is important because they show you the bar that you have to exceed. No need to look at old errors, just see how high you need to go.



Mike

Doh, sorry I got carried away there, I added a specific label that lists them super extra credit ad infinitum to ad nauseum rpg' reading list. Just in case any overachievers are still thirsty after your important list.

Best
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Rob Muadib --  Kwisatz Haderach Of Wild Muse Games
kwisatzhaderach@wildmusegames.com --   
"But How Can This Be? For He Is the Kwisatz Haderach!" --Alyia - Dune (The Movie - 1980)
Walt Freitag
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« Reply #24 on: March 14, 2003, 03:49:26 PM »

Um, didn't anybody include...?

(Hmm, Mike mentioned it, but only as an almost parenthetical example of "system first" coherence, along with Hero System.)

SORCERER
Just put it on the main reading list. Sheesh.

- Walt

PS Apologies for disobeying a direct moderator request.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #25 on: March 14, 2003, 08:45:20 PM »

Walt, like I already don't seem to pander to the authorities around here? The last thing I needed to do was to put Sorcerer on the list and make the whole thing suspect.

But, yeah. Seminal for coherent non-setting non-director-stance-nonsense Narrativism. Whatever that is. Oh, and a some supplementary material that may reshape RPGs as we know them. So what.

;-)

Mike
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #26 on: March 14, 2003, 11:08:22 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: RobMuadib
Aftermath
=========================
This game is the ultimate example of why consistent unified mechanics are better than individual mechanics.
Along with Multiverser (>looks out for MJ and ducks<). I loved playing Aftermath in some ways. But, yes, definitely one end of the detail spectrum. Can't get enough of the rules for making ethanol.

Well, you brought it up.

I'm confused. I infer from this statement that you think Multiverser is a game of multitudinous individual mechanics (which I take to be the opposite of "consistent unified mechanics"); I am surprised by this assertion. One of the features of the game is the unity of the mechanics overall--the same resolution system is used for technological skills, magic, psionics, physical/body abilities, and combat; the bias system provides a coherent framework for all skills, with only minor variation between the broadest of categories; core concepts such as relative success and relative failure are broadly applied and illustrated; most differences between skill categories come down to game descriptions of intuitively obvious distinctions (e.g., the difference in time values between a continuing action in which part of the action is being completed through the elapsed time (running), a preparatory action in which the time represents things done before the action occurs (starting an engine or complex machine), and a reset time (reloading or resetting a weapon after firing)).

I think you're confused by the fact that the game has over five hundred pages of text. The mechanics themselves are rather unified; the bulk of the text is an effort to show how every conceivable and imaginable action or object in any possible universe fits into play, and to provide referee support particularly for fringe areas (e.g., time travel, insanity).

Have you read the game, or were you drawing conclusions from the size of the book? If the former, I apologize for questioning your statement--the line between "consistent unified mechanics" and "individual mechanics" will be different for everyone (I count 1-skill performance roll; 2-skill acquisition roll; 3-general effects roll; 4 & 5-two distinct rolls for attribute checks based on difficulty; bias could be called a separate mechanic, although it's fully integrated into skill performance and acquisition, and you could say that the quirks about scriff (dying and coming to a new world) are another mechanic, although they're really more the setting concept). I can't say that five kinds of rolls for every conceivable action is not too many, if that's what you think. If it's the latter, however, I hope that you will reserve judgment and not criticize a game based on uninformed assumption or hearsay.

I certainly think the game is innovative in numerous ways, and well worth reading; I wasn't going to bring it up here, but I really couldn't let that kind of vague criticism go unchallenged.

--M. J. Young
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Kester Pelagius
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Posts: 508


« Reply #27 on: March 14, 2003, 11:08:40 PM »

Greetings Valamir,

Quote from: Valamir
Too many times (even here on the Indie Design forum) an eager designer lists his influences as being D&D and WoD.  Several times I'd like to say "Thats a good start.  Now go read Mike's Standard Rant #1, pick a bunch of the few dozen other games already written that aren't anything like D&D or WoD, and then come back and ask for commentary."


Ok.


Lords of Creation.

Never really played it.  Can't say much about it's mechanics.  (It was put out by Avalon Hill, should tell you something.)  But if you want a game that provided ideas to influence campaigns I can think of few others.  Great starting worlds to play in, too.


Skull & Crossbones.

Swashbuckling pirate game in which the resolution was to have the players write their moves in advance on a slip of paper and compare.  Did I mention it was a swashbuckling pirate game, from the early 1980s?  'nuff said.
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"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #28 on: March 15, 2003, 08:58:25 AM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
I wasn't going to bring it up here, but I really couldn't let that kind of vague criticism go unchallenged.

I was being facetious to an extent. And I haven't read Multiverser. I was actually going off information given to me by the designer from a post to the Gaming Outpost a while back in which he informed me that there were "rules for everything" including things like how long it takes to make a sword, and that sort of detail.

Aftermath! has a "unified system" in that all rolls are made similarly from talents and stats and whatnot. But the book then goes on to take this general application, and state how it applies to all sorts of particular applications. Such as brewing and distilling. So much success produces so muuch liquid per week of work. Etc. Which is what your description sounded like to me MJ.

What else could be in five-hundred pages?

Besides, as I said the comment was meant to be sarcastic. I played Aftermath a lot, and I think I could probably have lots of fun with Multiverser. Which is what the post was meant to convey.  It's just a choice to place such additional information in a game. As such (and if true) your game stands as a testiment to what can be done in that direction.

So, if that guy on GO gave me the wrong impression, I apollogize. Please feel free to correct me.

Mike
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efindel
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« Reply #29 on: March 15, 2003, 07:24:41 PM »

While we're on the subject of games to look at, a related topic would be games to compare and contrast.  Some random thoughts here:

Games with similar settings, but different approaches.  Examples:

HarnMaster vs. Riddle of Steel

Champions vs. Marvel SuperHeroes (either version)

Theatrix vs. GURPS (both "generic", but with very different goals)

NightLife vs. Vampire

D&D 3e vs. Tunnels & Trolls

A second kind of comparison that I find interesting is when something that's implicit in one game (or in many games) is made explicit in another.  For example, I was describing Story Engine's "Quick Take" mechanic to a friend of mine, and he pointed out that it's very similar in essence to the way Tunnel & Trolls suggests handling magic and missile fire in combat with its two-minute combat rounds.  Theatrix's explicit encouragement of players taking "Director Stance" to manipulate the "scenery" of the setting is another, with Donjon's "using successes to establish facts" being a different development of the same sort of idea (to me, at least).  The explicit author-stance vs. actor-stance mechanics in Elfs is a third example.  From a more mechanical point of view, DC Heroes made the logarithmic scale, which had been used previously in Champions, much more explicit.

--Travis
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