Archive for September 29th, 2008

They Will Play Your Game Wrong

2008 Sep 29

I’m stealing a quote from the excellent gameplaywright blog, as a counterpoint to the stuff I quoted from Vincent earlier:

“Players will incentivise themselves to death. If the optimum path is boring, they will do it, then blame you, then quit.” —Dave Williams

In many folks’ perspective, you don’t worry about those players. A game is a tool and if they use the tool to poke themselves in the eye with over and over, it’s not your responsibility. However, I would argue that it’s not always obvious what you’re supposed to do with a tool. Maybe they assumed it was, y’know, eyedrops. But I do think that there is definitely danger in, as many traditional games do, overcompensating for people who may or may not be 1) idiots and, more importantly, 2) not part of your target audience.

So the truth, I suspect, lies somewhere between Vincent and Dave here. I’m just not sure what that means. Can you design a game assuming people will play it “wrong”? And if so, how? Mo and Brand have been talking a lot about building flexibility and local player/group decisions into the mechanics. I think there’s something to that, but I’m not sure I’ve got enough experience to do that in a sophisticated fashion yet.

What Lies Beneath

2008 Sep 29

For Agonia, I decided I needed the equivalent of Wormwood’s crawling towers and Engel’s traveling pillars of fire. The idea is basically to have a “fantasy aircraft carrier” for the bag guys that moves around and serves as a mobile base for their assault on all things good and holy.

As I recently discussed in another thread, there’s something really disturbing about really huge architectural constructs, things that are way too massive for humans to have built in one or even several generations. Once a piece of architecture becomes timeless and unnatural, it hits right at the “civilization is the work of the devil” meme that’s pretty powerful. Lovecraft certainly understood that. Also, you can see its power in Brueghel’s painting of the Tower of Babel…

… as well as Stradano’s diagram of Dante’s vision of hell.

So I’m imagining areas where the ground has collapsed, revealing the secret buildings and passages that exist under the earth, where all the demons and other foul creatures have lurked unknown for millenia. I imagine that looking down into one looks something like this:

Characters’ efforts, then, are to close such openings or drive creatures back down into them or even venture down into them and destroy demons in their homes. And the players would collectively decide where these holes had opened up when the game began, with one of the default ones being right on (or next to) Jerusalem, due to the dark mystical workings of the Templars.

Normalizing What’s Cool

2008 Sep 29

I’m not sure I agree with Vincent’s recent comments, but I do know that they are important. They’re definitely part of a larger reaction to the fallacy that everybody should be able to play / enjoy every game and an extreme diagnosis for the problem of dysfunction (stop playing with these people or play something else).

I’m talking about what I think is cool. I design games to get you to say things that I think are cool. So should you, if you design games.

My supposition is that you and your friends all agree with me about what’s cool. If you don’t, you won’t pick up my games in the first place. (Which is fine. If you don’t think is cool what I think is cool, you won’t like my games, please don’t bother.)

If you don’t even agree with each other about what’s cool, I’ve got absolutely nothing for you. Are you sure you should be playing games together in the first place?

Seriously. I’m categorically uninterested in roleplaying, theory or practice, when the players’ agreement about what’s interesting isn’t a rock-solid given. Any theorizing where you have to attend to “the speaker thinks it’s cool but the listener doesn’t,” no thanks. I’m out, good luck and god bless.