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Re: [gamedesign-l] {C, S, N} focus

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  • David Lamb
    ... There is some game design theory for tabletop RPGs that includes elements of Game (contest), World (similation), and Story (narrative). It would take a
    Message 1 of 9 , May 1, 2009
      On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 3:06 PM, Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...> wrote:
      > I have been thinking about how {Contest, Simulation, Narrative}
      > focuses game design in different directions:
      >
      > - Contest: focuses on what the player will be doing
      > - Simulation: focuses on what the world will be doing
      > - Narrative: focuses on what the author will be doing

      There is some "game design theory" for tabletop RPGs that includes
      elements of Game (contest), World (similation), and Story (narrative).
      It would take a while to summarize and involves some flammable
      topics, and might not be particularly relevant to computer game
      design, but it's some support for your basic idea.

      > I find that when I don't know what the Contest should be, I go into
      > Simulationist mode to find answers. I usually don't get any.

      I have no inspiration, but wanted to acknowledge you've raised a
      potentially interesting issue.

      > The modern city of Los
      > Angeles exists only because it sucks water supplies from sources
      > hundreds of miles away, to the detriment of communities between the
      > sources and LA ...
      > And so, I contemplated the question, "At what distance will a
      > population bother to exploit some resource?" Related: "When will a
      > population move closer to a resource?"

      I've been reading "Collapse" by Jared Diamond. It's a potentially
      interesting intellectual exercise to think about using his 5-factor
      model in designing a game, but I can't immediately see why it would be
      fun to play. It does have the advantage, for me, that "hostile
      outsiders" is only one of the four and often a minor one. The other
      factors included resource depletion, climate change (such as prolonged
      drought), and loss of trading partners; can't recall the fifth at the
      moment.

      I think Gandhi may
      > have been interviewed as to how he would confront and overcome an
      > enemy such as Hitler. At least, such an interview was dramatized in
      > the movie "Gandhi." The response was something like, it would take a
      > very long time.

      IIRC in the movie the interviewer asked, wouldn't it involve many
      deaths, and he said, yes, but doesn't your way also involve many
      deaths?

      > My personal pet peeve is people who invent
      > programming languages, compilers, and interpreters for game projects.
      > I think it's usually driven by some language guy convincing someone
      > that it's a good idea, when really it's because he just wants to do
      > it, and has found a way to get paid to do it.

      There *could* be good reasons, but I expect they're rare. Two I can
      think of from my own programming experience are
      (a) it can be easier to keep proprietary if you own the only legal compilers
      (b) if it's a "micro-language" that makes it easier to express some
      specialized sub-functions, it might save time and make it easier for
      less-than-expert-programmers to create things.

      > For instance, if you watch the "making of" parts of the Lord Of The
      > Rings movie DVDs, you'll see that they crafted their weapons,
      > costumes, and sets to an extremely high standard. Much higher than is
      > typical for film production. Their justification was that, well, if
      > we happened to take some impromptu close-up shots of some orc combat
      > or something, then the detail will be there, it will hold up.

      They had the money, and it kept them "honest" about simulating a
      "real" world? Even if the probability of having the audience notice
      was low, it might encourage a certain positive attitude about making
      the film world "work".
    • Brandon Van Every
      ... Yes I have attributed {G, N, S} theory ala Ron Edwards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNS_Theory The difference is I m applying it to all games, and
      Message 2 of 9 , May 1, 2009
        On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 11:34 AM, David Lamb <david.alex.lamb@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        > On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 3:06 PM, Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...>
        > wrote:
        >> I have been thinking about how {Contest, Simulation, Narrative}
        >> focuses game design in different directions:
        >>
        >> - Contest: focuses on what the player will be doing
        >> - Simulation: focuses on what the world will be doing
        >> - Narrative: focuses on what the author will be doing
        >
        > There is some "game design theory" for tabletop RPGs that includes
        > elements of Game (contest), World (similation), and Story (narrative).
        > It would take a while to summarize and involves some flammable
        > topics, and might not be particularly relevant to computer game
        > design, but it's some support for your basic idea.

        Yes I have attributed {G, N, S} theory ala Ron Edwards.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNS_Theory The difference is I'm
        applying it to all games, and emphasizing the formal rules of the
        Contest. The Contest has no meaning if the players don't know and
        don't follow the rules. I think this is not obvious in a RPG centric
        theory, because arguably, in RPG one is supposed to be "role playing"
        somehow. Since that can be done in the complete absence of rules, it
        may not be clear to a RPG centric thinker why formal rules are
        important to games.

        >> I find that when I don't know what the Contest should be, I go into
        >> Simulationist mode to find answers. I usually don't get any.
        >
        > I have no inspiration, but wanted to acknowledge you've raised a
        > potentially interesting issue.

        This time I ducked the game design issue entirely. Since I'm still
        frustrated about how cities "should grow," I decided to work on
        terrain visualization instead. This is more of a visual art and
        programming implementation problem, although there is some impact upon
        the Contest if it's not easy to see what's going on.

        >> The modern city of Los
        >> Angeles exists only because it sucks water supplies from sources
        >> hundreds of miles away, to the detriment of communities between the
        >> sources and LA ...
        >> And so, I contemplated the question, "At what distance will a
        >> population bother to exploit some resource?" Related: "When will a
        >> population move closer to a resource?"
        >
        > I've been reading "Collapse" by Jared Diamond. It's a potentially
        > interesting intellectual exercise to think about using his 5-factor
        > model in designing a game, but I can't immediately see why it would be
        > fun to play. It does have the advantage, for me, that "hostile
        > outsiders" is only one of the four and often a minor one. The other
        > factors included resource depletion, climate change (such as prolonged
        > drought), and loss of trading partners; can't recall the fifth at the
        > moment.

        I've read "Collapse" as well, and the previous book "Guns, Germs, and
        Steel." When designing a Civ-like game, it speaks to the heart of the
        Simulationist conundrum. How can getting 90% of your population wiped
        out by disease be fun? I figure, only if you can recover quickly, or
        only if you're doing it to everyone else.

        In single player it may be fun to torture the computer with such
        plagues, but in multiplayer, one human's fun is another human's
        misery. The Contest has to be perceived as "fair" or "balanced"
        somehow, that everyone has an equal possibility to unleash the great
        game winning Plague in their favor. If the game isn't solely about
        Plagues and has several other valid strategies for victory, this will
        actually make the Plague mechanic look unfair. My evidence is the
        "Warclient" offshoot of Freeciv development: they've banned Wonders
        entirely. They don't think they're "fair." Nevermind that everyone
        at game start has an equal chance to research various techs and build
        the various Wonders. Nevermind that the random map generator
        typically gives all the players a similarly sized, similarly
        resourced, similarly boring island to start on, because someone
        thought random positions on continents were unfair. The reality is,
        all those Warclient players use a Republic + Celebration + Caravan
        growth strategy, because Caravans provide an exceptionally quick way
        to almost cheat your way through the tech tree. Players commonly
        achieve Miniaturization and Offshore Platforms in the BC era! Sure BC
        vs. AD is just a number, but by anyone's measure that's damn early in
        the game, like within 100 turns. This phenomenal tech path is low on
        shield productivity for building Wonders, so getting Wonders is
        perceived as unfair. That is, players do not take responsibility for
        the choices they make within the complexity of a game space. They
        just think that they themselves are supposed to get everything, and
        that other players aren't supposed to get greatly ahead of them. Yet
        Destroyers showing up in BC doesn't bother them because everyone's
        playing the same way. The Contest is mainly about getting the
        Destroyers first - often accompanied by Phalanxes as ground troops to
        actually take the cities!!!

        >> I think Gandhi may
        >> have been interviewed as to how he would confront and overcome an
        >> enemy such as Hitler. At least, such an interview was dramatized in
        >> the movie "Gandhi." The response was something like, it would take a
        >> very long time.
        >
        > IIRC in the movie the interviewer asked, wouldn't it involve many
        > deaths, and he said, yes, but doesn't your way also involve many
        > deaths?

        [off-topic] Reminds me of when I tried to beancount the potential Iraq
        war casualties. I think I may have lost the beancount. Fewer people
        may have died overall if Saddam had been left alone. Assuming he was
        just left to kill his own people every so often and didn't start a war
        with some other country. Which is a big "if." X number of people are
        already "dead to history," one way or another... do you kill 'em now
        or later?

        >> For instance, if you watch the "making of" parts of the Lord Of The
        >> Rings movie DVDs, you'll see that they crafted their weapons,
        >> costumes, and sets to an extremely high standard. Much higher than is
        >> typical for film production. Their justification was that, well, if
        >> we happened to take some impromptu close-up shots of some orc combat
        >> or something, then the detail will be there, it will hold up.
        >
        > They had the money, and it kept them "honest" about simulating a
        > "real" world? Even if the probability of having the audience notice
        > was low, it might encourage a certain positive attitude about making
        > the film world "work".

        Gosh if we could only teach Microsoft that! I guess film production
        is inherently smaller than OS production, no matter how much money is
        being dumped into the film, so one wouldn't expect M$ to stay focused.
        Anyways how does it help us? Why do I get the feeling that, given an
        unlimited budget, the current game industry would never pull off
        anything at the quality level of The Lord Of The Rings movies?
        Perhaps because the game industry is still a pile of amateurs at
        {Narrative} ?


        Cheers,
        Brandon Van Every
      • David Lamb
        ... The big deal about the Germs part was that big old-world cities were disease-incubators, and when the old world contacted the new, diseases the old had
        Message 3 of 9 , May 1, 2009
          On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 12:53 PM, Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...> wrote:
          > On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 11:34 AM, David Lamb <david.alex.lamb@...>
          > wrote:
          >> I've been reading "Collapse" by Jared Diamond. It's a potentially
          >> interesting intellectual exercise to think about using his 5-factor
          >> model in designing a game, but I can't immediately see why it would be
          >> fun to play. It does have the advantage, for me, that "hostile
          >> outsiders" is only one of the four and often a minor one. The other
          >> factors included resource depletion, climate change (such as prolonged
          >> drought), and loss of trading partners; can't recall the fifth at the
          >> moment.
          >
          > I've read "Collapse" as well, and the previous book "Guns, Germs, and
          > Steel." When designing a Civ-like game, it speaks to the heart of the
          > Simulationist conundrum. How can getting 90% of your population wiped
          > out by disease be fun? I figure, only if you can recover quickly, or
          > only if you're doing it to everyone else.

          The big deal about the Germs part was that big old-world cities were
          disease-incubators, and when the old world contacted the new, diseases
          the old had adapted to were extremely virulent in the new -- and there
          were lots more of them, so reverse-infection was rarer.

          I can imagine a "plague" mechanic, sort of like random events in Civ
          IV, where a city of a certain size gets a plague, loses a lot of
          population, has a chance of infecting nearby cities, but becomes more
          resistant, so it loses less "next time" and might eventually become
          immune. Then if your units moves next to an enemy city, the enemy
          might catch that plague, too, back at the original highly virulent
          level if they'd never been exposed. If you have military units nearby
          they'd obviously have a much better chance of winning a war.

          There might be several types of plague.

          I don't think it would be a lot of fun, but it has strategic
          influences that could be interesting -- large cities would have
          near-term disadvantages that give your civ a longer-term expansion
          advantage.
        • Brandon Van Every
          ÿ ... And, uuh, *that* became depressing because I really didn t feel like I was advancing with any kind of a concrete goal in mind. So I decided I must
          Message 4 of 9 , May 2, 2009
            ÿ

            On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 12:53 PM, Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...> wrote:
            > On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 11:34 AM, David Lamb <david.alex.lamb@...> wrote:
            >> On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 3:06 PM, Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...>
            >> wrote:
            >
            >>> I find that when I don't know what the Contest should be, I go into
            >>> Simulationist mode to find answers. I usually don't get any.
            >>
            >> I have no inspiration, but wanted to acknowledge you've raised a
            >> potentially interesting issue.
            >
            > This time I ducked the game design issue entirely.  Since I'm still
            > frustrated about how cities "should grow," I decided to work on
            > terrain visualization instead.  This is more of a visual art and
            > programming implementation problem, although there is some impact upon
            > the Contest if it's not easy to see what's going on.

            And, uuh, *that* became depressing because I really didn't feel like I
            was advancing with any kind of a concrete goal in mind. So I decided
            I must actually deal with the question "how do cities grow?" instead
            of ducking it. I thought about real cities and how detailed they are.
            That seemed overwhelming. Then I thought, "How did cities grow in
            Zeus and SimCity?" This is more of a Contest question rather than a
            Simulation question. Unfortunately, whatever the answer is, it
            indicates that one can write a game just about trying to grow 1 city.
            So how or why do cities grow in Civ games? What's bugging me about
            it? I came to realize that from the standpoint of a Contest, the game
            is about growth, not cities per se. Any kind of growth would work.
            Player wants his empire to grow, empire gets more powerful when it
            grows. I still haven't decided on a mechanism for growth, but at
            least I'm chasing the right abstract category: growth. Maybe I'll
            write whatever game is easiest to implement growth. Could be a game
            about abstract geometry, reminiscent of a coral reef.

            A problem with Simulations that provide lotsa options for how you
            could proceed, is that some growth paths are unsatisfying. For
            instance, I played Freeciv today and noticed that the computer had
            grown waaaaaay faster than I had. I was just trying to do what was
            easiest to do. The fewest mouseclicks in the UI. Often this resulted
            in suboptimal growth. Whereas the computer never gets bored and will
            do weird tweaky algorithmic things to grow faster. It becomes
            annoying. Even if the computer isn't cheating per se, it has far more
            patience to do tedious micromanagement than I do. I looked at the
            AI's empire and thought, WTF, how did it cough out 100 cities and how
            would I ever possibly bother to do that?


            Cheers,
            Brandon Van Every
          • LingMac
            ... Brandon, I love you! :D
            Message 5 of 9 , May 3, 2009
              Brandon Van Every wrote:

              > Perhaps because the game industry is still a pile of amateurs at
              > {Narrative} ?


              Brandon, I love you! :D
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