2011-01-25 : Social Context and Design Scales
When you design a game, (a) design it for someone, and (b) design it to give them something. The closer the match, the better you fill that design space - that is, your design fits easily into the lives of people who want it, and it gives them something they respond to - the more they'll recognize and the better they'll seize upon your game.
What are we doing right now? What are we doing tonight? What are we doing over the course of the game?
When you design a game, you're not only designing the answers to these questions, but even more importantly you're designing the relationships between the answers to these questions. How does what we're doing right now build into what we're doing over the course of the game?
There are two crucial considerations here. First is: is there an obvious link between my choices right this second and why I'm playing the game? In your game, you want it to be obvious how the most immediate-term play relates to the longest-term play: in Chess, I move my pieces on the board because I have to arrange them so to checkmate your king. The link between which piece should I move? To where? and Ultimately, I want to checkmate your king is plain as day.
At the same time, the second crucial consideration: you want robust and interesting barriers between. In Chess, each of my pieces can move only in its own particular way, and my opponent is also constantly moving HER pieces. There's no single winning move, no easy analysis; it's the barriers that give the game its depth. Long-term play is built of immediate-term choices over time; it doesn't simply collapse to a single choice.
So let's talk some game design, yeah?
Mishandling a game's barriers makes a broken game, that should be pretty clear. If there WERE a single winning move in Chess, or no possible winning move - broken. Roleplaying games with barrier problems don't usually make it out of internal playtesting. We'd have to go look at unplaytested first stabs - contest entries, for instance - to find some. Or, y'know, talk about Travis' partially cybered physical adept with a smartbow in 1st Edition Shadowrun.
But what about mishandling the first crucial consideration, the links between design scales? I propose that THAT is common, wicked common, even in playtested and published games, and that it's the single most common mismatch between a game's design and its presumed target audience.
If you hope to reach a certain target audience with your game, and your game works great in internal playtesting, but your target audience isn't seizing upon your game the way you hoped, then:
(a) You've misjudged the space in their lives for your game, offering them instead a game that doesn't fit into their social context; or...
(b) You've misjudged what they want from your game, offering them instead something they don't respond to; and either way...
(c) The culprit is, most likely, the link between what are my choices right this second? and what am I trying to do here overall? I bet you ten dollars that you've flubbed one, the other, or especially the link between them.
There's my proposal! Examples when I get the chance. Meanwhile, any thoughts or questions?
1. On 2011-01-25, Vincent said:
2. On 2011-01-26, Larry said:
3. On 2011-01-26, Gregor said:
4. On 2011-01-26, Marco said:
5. On 2011-01-26, Vincent said:
6. On 2011-01-26, Vincent said:
7. On 2011-01-26, Marco said:
8. On 2011-01-26, Gregor said:
9. On 2011-01-26, Troy_Costisick said:
10. On 2011-01-27, Vincent said:
11. On 2011-01-27, Alex Abate Biral said:
12. On 2011-01-28, Troy_Costisick said:
13. On 2011-01-28, Gregor said:
14. On 2011-01-31, Josh W said:
15. On 2011-01-31, Vincent said:
16. On 2011-02-01, Steve said:
17. On 2011-02-04, Linnaeus said:
18. On 2011-02-06, Vincent said:
19. On 2011-02-15, David Berg said:
20. On 2011-02-16, Vincent said:
21. On 2011-02-16, David Berg said:
22. On 2011-02-16, Vincent said:
23. On 2011-02-16, David Berg said: