Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Of Dice Jenga and Poker Chip Architecture

This post will be a bit more of a rambling mess than I usually try to produce, but right on par with what I actually produce.   One of the things I like about Google+ is the ability to play games using its Hangout feature.  To actually play a game with any of the myriad of bloggers gives you a much better idea of what the electrons they type into the ethereal void actually represent when the rubber hits the road.  This is fantastic.

My game design marches to the beat of its own drum, something that I became very aware of when I started formalizing the pile of house notes that was Piecemeal (now Neoclassical Geek Revival) into something remotely usable.

The GNS theory may now be a dusty relic in conversation, but other elements just as alien in game design still trundle along.   Terms like 'Narrative Structure', 'Plot','Spotlight', 'Climactic Sequences', 'Style of Play', 'Reinforced Behaviour' are all alien.  I mean I know what the terms mean, but the usage of those terms is alien (or was, I am becoming more aware of what people mean).

And perhaps I am wrong and simply self-indulgent, but I think my problem is that I am designing based on a different reference frame.   I really am looking at what is going on around the table, not on the table.  For me and my design goals (even if I don't meet them),  the game is just a device to produce desired results around the table.  What happens on the table is of completely secondary concern to what happens around the table.

An epic story line with interesting tactical and strategic challenges fully backed up by intuitive yet deep mechanics is utter trash if I can't keep one person from wandering to the kitchen to have a thirty minute conversation about cupcakes with the spouse, or keep another from trying to use the poker chips to build a sturdy bridge able to balance his ever growing tower of dice.   But if I can get four hours out of trying to steal the grease from a short order cook to sell for pocket change with convoluted mechanics and have an unending stream of laughter, bad puns and vile innuendo then the game has succeeded.

All else being equal, I would love to have the game be nice and interesting all on its own.  But push comes to shove, it is a machine to encourage the actions going on around the table.  In my case that means I want spend less time prepping while getting through more adventure, in a way that keeps everyone paying attention and having a good time (be it frustrated and solving puzzles, laughing with shenanigans, or on the edge of their seats with tense high stakes conflict).  To that end the game should lean to be self-regulating and work to help generate its own adventures based on player desires.   How this forces a narrative or climactic scenes or whatnot is secondary.

Or maybe I am just spouting drivel.

G+ comments here

1 comment:

  1. But Gerry really likes his poker chip bridges. They're getting pretty impressive, with the flying buttresses and all. I heard he has a plan to make a suspension bridge soon.