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TOPIC: Game Design

Game Design 06 May 2018 14:35 #272739

How about a discussion about the elements and philosophies of game design?
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Game Design 06 May 2018 16:00 #272740

I'll start. The exploding die is the best mechanic ever.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 16:14 #272741

hotseatgames wrote:
I'll start. The exploding die is the best mechanic ever.

It taps into that slot machine part of my brain and spews endorphins everywhere. Presumably it skews the odds in the game though, so a good design would have to account for this.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 16:35 #272742

I've been thinking about how I approach game design and came up with the following influence diagram. The arrows are influence, not causation (i.e., "A->B" means "my belief about B depends on what I know about A" not "A causes B"). Rectangles are things under the designer's controls; ovals are things out of the designer's control; the double rounded-cornered rectangle is the value node (in this case, to be maximized). The red rectangles are interesting in that no other elements influence them. The diagram still needs work, but I wanted to create it as a basis for more clear communication (on my part) when I discuss or write about games. I'm delighted to entertain your thoughts and opinions.

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Game Design 06 May 2018 17:03 #272744

Play duration is at least somewhat under the designer's control, isn't it? You test the game, see how long it takes, and hack away / change it until you get the time down to what you want.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 17:29 #272746

hotseatgames wrote:
Play duration is at least somewhat under the designer's control, isn't it? You test the game, see how long it takes, and hack away / change it until you get the time down to what you want.
I think that the designer can influence the play duration by streamlining story and reducing complexity, but once it gets out into the wild there is no telling how long a playgroup will take with out.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 17:30 #272747

Here's something I've thought about lately: There's a lot of unexplored ground when it comes to victory conditions. That is, it's not necessary for games to have a binary win or lose condition, perhaps you can have different kinds of winners and losers and not just based on the amount of victory points they have.

For example, I've been thinking lately about a game set in Feudal Japan which I imagine to be a kind of multiplayer wargame or civ-like. And like all games in the genre it has that flaw where players gang up on someone and it stops being fun or turns into a slugfest or someone is eliminated. And I thought, well, that generally didn't happen, what happened is that the losing clan submitted as a vassal. Why not add that into a game? Winning as a vassal would not be as much of a big victory as winning normally, but it could be fun and worth pursuing on a strategic level.

It could also lead to the creation of two historical scenarios through natural play: The betrayal of Oda Nobunaga by one of his vassals and the East vs West coalitions that clashed in Sekigahara.

Or it would lead to a snowball where players just gang with the leader.
xthexlo wrote:
The diagram still needs work, but I wanted to create it as a basis for more clear communication (on my part) when I discuss or write about games. I'm delighted to entertain your thoughts and opinions.
I would say that if you need a diagram to explain yourself, clear communication is no longer a possibility. I think it's always better to try to use a more coloquial, perhaps less precise language than argue about semantics and how things should be defined for eternity.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 17:48 #272748

Erik Twice wrote:
Here's something I've thought about lately: There's a lot of unexplored ground when it comes to victory conditions. That is, it's not necessary for games to have a binary win or lose condition, perhaps you can have different kinds of winners and losers and not just based on the amount of victory points they have.
I wholeheartedly agree with your comments on this topic.

Erik Twice wrote:
I would say that if you need a diagram to explain yourself, clear communication is no longer a possibility. I think it's always better to try to use a more coloquial, perhaps less precise language than argue about semantics and how things should be defined for eternity.
I disagree with your first sentence and agree with your second. I think well-constructed diagrams are exquisitely clear forms of communication. My intent is to use the diagram as an organizational framework, not an explanatory vehicle.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 18:19 #272751

Obscuring at least part of the player's progress is the best way (in my opinion) of preventing a gang up on the leader situation; people can only guesstimate who is winning.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 20:23 #272757

Recently, the most interesting question I ask about a game to other people, is what kind of decisions are you making and see if that appeals to me.

For example, a lot of figures on a dungeon map is about resource management, with positioning important, but takes a back seat. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (I love Descent), but not what I'm currently looking for in such a game.

I just had a discussion with a friend about the new Battletech pc game. I commented about how multi-targeting attack is basically calculating on how much shot to kill a wounded mech, not to waste the rest of the attack and spend it on another (most of the time healthy) mech. This is *not* the kind of decision making I want. Especially that if you don't kill the wounded mech it would be soooo suck, not worth the success of pulling it off. On paper it looks good, make sense thematically when you are loaded with multiple weapons, but resulting in a boring/awful decision making.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 21:00 #272760

I think that both concepts (obscuring the leader and creating "partial" victory conditions) are actually done pretty well by Alchemists. Since the essence of the game is solving a group of formulae and the actual answers aren't revealed until the game is ending, you're often not entirely sure who is winning, although there are signs based on player actions and the number of publications that occur. Also, it's possible to score points by signing on to others' theories and publications, which is similar to the vassal status that Erik mentioned.

Both of these conditions are created by the fact that the game has a unique set of formulae which are hidden to ALL players. In other words, it's a game of imperfect information for everyone involved; even those who think they have perfect information (i.e. believe that they've solved one of the formulae.) I'm not sure that that's feasible in most strategic wargames, for example.
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Game Design 06 May 2018 21:08 #272763

^that one has been sitting in my wishlist for ages.
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Game Design 07 May 2018 02:53 #272770

hotseatgames wrote:
Obscuring at least part of the player's progress is the best way (in my opinion) of preventing a gang up on the leader situation; people can only guesstimate who is winning.
I don't think hidden scoring prevents ganging on the leader, it just means that instead of attacking the leader you might gang up on another guy.

It's one of the reasons I dislike Smallworld. The game puts you into this position where you have to attack either player A or player B and who you decide to attack will decide the game. Making it hidden doesn't make that choice go away, it just makes it so you have less information to make that choice.

In general, I think "out of sight, out of mind" is terrible advice in game design.
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Game Design 07 May 2018 06:26 #272773

xthexlo wrote:
hotseatgames wrote:
Play duration is at least somewhat under the designer's control, isn't it? You test the game, see how long it takes, and hack away / change it until you get the time down to what you want.
I think that the designer can influence the play duration by streamlining story and reducing complexity, but once it gets out into the wild there is no telling how long a playgroup will take with out.

Depends. The mechanics ultimately rule the length; if you want a short game, limit turns with arbitrary (or not so arbitrary) timing mechanisms.
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Game Design 07 May 2018 09:22 #272789

Philosophies of game design - I touched on my views on this briefly over in the Experience topic, but I"ll reiterate it here.

For me, starting with the player Experience in mind, rather than mechanics, usually works best. That gives me a clear vision for what I want the game play to feel like, and is my guiding light in the inevitable dark and tangled forest I end up in later on.

In terms of game duration - that is very much under designer control, although players can lengthen it dramatically beyond what you thought it would be. I've NEVER played a game of The Expanse that was more than 90-120 minutes, even with new players. But then I hear reports of 3-4 hour games, which just shocks me. And it lessens the experience because the game wasn't designed to handle that.

But I often see prototypes, particularly from new designers, where that really isn't considered early on. Particularly because early in the design process you tend to just play partial games, and don't understand the full duration. Developing a play time budget is really important early in the design, and can drive your decisions.

For example, let's say I'm working on a game that I think should last 60-90 minutes with 4 players. Let's say that for the experience you want you think there should be around 15 rounds. That means that each round will need to last 4-6 minutes. With four players, that's 60-90 seconds per player if it's sequential! That's obviously really unlikely to work, even with simple card play mechanics.

So right off the bat you know that either you need to increase the play time expectations, reduce the number of rounds, or design mechanics that will have four players complete everything all of them need to do in four minutes.

No matter which way you go, at least you're doing it with your eyes open.
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