2014-07-24 : The Trouble with RPGs (ii)
Following from Procedure, Components, Object, Strategy, Style; Strategy vs Style; Objects of RPGs; Non-Endstate Objects, Strategy & Style; Aside: Designing a Bell Curve; The Object and Particular Strategy; Reminder: Object Schmobject; and The Trouble with RPGs
Say that you've created a game with an object, and you're considering how best to present it to its audience.
When is it in your interests to give a quick, sharp summary of your game's object? When is it in your interests to give a vague, ambiguous summary? And when is it in your interests to leave it out, so that your audience will have to guess or discover it for themselves?
Remember that you're creating a bell curve. What effect on the bell curve does it have when you include a summary of your game's object, versus when you don't?
Look back at these three games. Why didn't their authors just come out with it? Why did they include vague, ambiguous summaries of their games' objects instead of quick, sharp ones (or did they)? Did they have good reasons, bad reasons, or what? How would you guess it has worked out for them?
These aren't questions with definite answers. I have my opinions and judgments, you have yours. Feel free to tell us all your opinions and judgments if you want, but remember that we're indie! Nobody gets to tell us what's what, we all have to decide for ourselves.
2014-07-23 : The Trouble with RPGs
Following from Procedure, Components, Object, Strategy, Style; Strategy vs Style; Objects of RPGs; Non-Endstate Objects, Strategy & Style; The Object and Particular Strategy; and Reminder: Object Schmobject.
In this game, the object is to __. You might not be able to do it, though, because __.
In Sorcerer, the object is to resolve your kicker somehow, in some measure, in your own favor. You might not be able to do it, though, because your demons are not your friends, and you can't fully control them.
In Apocalypse World, the object is to make something of your world. You might not be able to do it, though, because in your world resources are scarce, allies are rare, and institutions do not stand.
In Burning Wheel, the object is to win what you believe. You might not be able to do it, though, because every fight is a fight you can lose.
In Dogs in the Vineyard, the object is to bring peace and resolution to the people of the towns you visit. You might not be able to do it, though, because there are always bastards and bad luck.
Let's have some more! No quibbling, no squabbling, just choose a game you know and fill in the blanks.
2014-07-21 : Reminder: Object Schmobject
The object of the game is to...
Your goal is to...
The point of the game is to...
Your job is to...
The winner is the player to...
You have to...
You want to...
You need to...
In order to win, as a group you must...
The game ends when...
You're trying to...
Your objective is to...
You lose if the other player manages to...
Don't stop playing until...
The game can continue indefinitely, as long as...
See if you can...
Your agenda is to...
When you write out the object of a game, "object" might not be the right word to best communicate it. That's okay. "Object" might not be the best name for it in this series of posts, either. That's okay too.
Here's me from an earlier comment:
Multiple levels of simultaneous objects, yes, absolutely. Objects that change over the course of play, objects that you create for yourself while groping toward an understanding of how the game works, objects that are mutually incompatible or otherwise defy you to meaningfully pursue them, yes. All kinds.
2014-07-21 : The Object and Particular Strategy
The object of a game of Hearts is to have the lowest score when the game ends. The game ends when any player reaches 100 points.
Therefore, the general strategy of a hand of Hearts is to avoid adding points to your own score, while adding points to your opponents' scores. If you're already winning, you might prefer to shove points onto the player with the highest score, to bring the game to a quicker end, or the player with the next-lowest score, to strengthen your lead. If you aren't already winning, it's important to shove points onto the player with the lowest score, to force them to overtake you.
Suppose that at the deal your hand consists of mostly low cards across the suits. This hand is pretty safe. For this hand, your particular strategy might be to get rid of potentially point-winning cards early, before the hearts come out, so that in the later game you win no tricks.
Suppose that at the deal your hand consists of most of the cards of one suit and a couple cards each of the others. For this hand, your particular strategy might be to use the early game to solidify your domination of your strong suit, so that you can use it in the later game to force others' plays. This is a riskier hand but not a bad one.
Suppose that at the deal your hand consists of generally high cards across the suits, but all in the 8 to queen range, few face cards. This is a pretty poor hand. Your particular strategy here might be to opportunistically throw in with someone who has a strong hand, trying to shift the points you'd otherwise win onto somebody less canny or even less lucky than you.
Summary: Combined with the procedures of play, the object of the game gives you your general strategy. Combined with your general strategy, the changing circumstances of play give you your changing particular strategy.
Super Mario Brothers! Your particular strategy changes from level to level, obviously enough. It also changes when you've grabbed a fire flower vs when you haven't, when you have a lot of lives vs when you don't, when you're big vs when you're little, when you know a level well vs the first time to play it, and others.
In Apocalypse World, your object as MC is to find out what the characters make of their world. The principles are your general strategy. The changing circumstances of play are which characters, in what conditions and situations. It starts with the playbooks the players choose and develops continuously from there. Together, these give you your particular strategy. Same as in Hearts: of all the cards you could legally play, which do you consider playing, and which do you reject as poor play? In Apocalypse World, of all the things you could legally say, right now, when the players turn to look at you because they need to know, which do you consider saying, and which do you reject as inappropriate, counterproductive, or poor play?
How about now! Everybody still with me? Did I lose any of you?
2014-07-19 : Aside: Designing a Bell Curve
When you design a game, you design a bell curve of experiences. Every experience that anyone will ever have playing your game is a point under the curve.
Inevitably, when you create and publish a game, someone's going to come to you and say "hey, we played your game, and we had a bad time. What did we do wrong?"
There is un-fun play under the curve. There are times when the game crashes and the players get mad at each other under the curve. So the answer is probably that they didn't do anything wrong. Probably, they played your game right, and they had a bad time with it.
It's too bad that it happened to them, but it was going to happen to somebody!
2014-07-18 : Non-Endstate Objects, Strategy & Style
2014-07-18 : Objects of RPGs
2014-07-17 : Strategy vs Style
2014-07-16 : When is a game a game?
2014-07-15 : Procedure, Components, Object, Strategy, Style
2014-07-01 : AW:Dark Age: Despair Not!
2014-06-12 : While you're waiting...
2014-05-24 : Games that Take Off, Games that Don't
2014-05-19 : AW:Dark Age: Picking Back Up
2014-04-28 : Midsummer Wood