Sunday, September 3, 2017

Top 5 Reasons I Like it Crunchy

Smart is good.

I mean, I'm trying to say to you that smarter is better.  In many cases, that doesn't mean streamlined.  Needlessly complex is another evil, and another topic all together.  Today, when I say 'Smart is Good', I mean it in relation to design philosophy.

The [Partially Completed Game Syndrome] as a business model has been foisted upon us for a long time with the big publishers.  A ruleset is completed, and it is usually very good.  However, as if they never contemplated that they would be adding to the game and that would affect how it's played, over the next few years the designers proceed to destroy the ruleset the studio has created by banging out books that reek of power-creep and one-upmanship.  Thus we are left with a ruleset that by the nature of it's production has parts that are wildly out of joint.  Then they reset with a new basic ruleset and throw everything out...and start over.

It happens all the time.  We get all sorts of excuses for this, by far the lamest is 'we didn't think about that and nao game r brokin'.  Almost every major company does this, and it's for this simple reason we are locked into the edition grind.  It's time to stomp Partially Completed Game Syndrome out of existence.

Now let me say, I don't mind new editions - when they make sense.  But we never get a really new 'edition' - a completed game, clarified and updated.  Like, say...take 7th Edition and fix the problems.  I dunno, to me that's what a new 'edition' should contain.  Now that is the new 'baseline', you dig me?  We can add new stuff, and the designers could do that by following the matrix they created when creating the game.

I heard GW explain what 'top-down' design meant and they must have learned that somewhere else.  I always thought 'top-down' design meant you started with a vision of the whole, or a 'view from the top'.  In this case, that would be what you wanted the game to be when you were finished, at the end of a publication cycle (for instance).  Then you design the game, working from the macro level to the micro level.

So you have the rules for the game and all the factions.  I just don't get it.  It's such a basic tenet of ... well, designing literally anything.  But we seem to lose our collective sense when we see plastic soldiers.

Think.  Don't just get angry.  That's Iron Seer's job.
Inspirobot is your friend.
You're going to have to have more playtesting.  Playtesting??  Is that a thing?  Oh and I know, small playtesting budgets or whatever.  All I can tell you is I have found it pretty easy to find the bugs in my games.  I hang out with power gamers bent on my humiliation and death, so that might just be something you learn.

I would like to give an internet shout-out to Dr. Lewis Pulsipher, who runs a game design channel on YouTube.  Whatever sort of game he talks about (be it tabletop or video) the tenets probably apply, and I think more game designers should take heed to several precepts that are alarmingly ignored today.

Top 10 'Need to Knows' about Game Design by Game Design Channel.

Games are not stories.  Stories evolve from the game, in my opinion.  Otherwise it's a role-playing game...a story game even?  Not that I have a problem with that.  The RPG section of this site will be it's own blog.  One does stop to think that maybe they should have said Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition actually WAS a skirmish game.

For me, the rules and scenario make the game.  Having hard rules for those will ALLOW a story to unfold on the tabletop, impartially adjudicated by the dice.  I believe this should be the general goal of war gaming systems.  I love games with solid, clear rules that encompass enough situations to allow us to use the system as a 'sandbox' for scenario resolution.

However, you do need your D&D boys and girls.  Don't neglect that either.  Take it from Dr. Pulsipher.

All I Needed to Know About Games and Game Design I Learned from D&D by Game Design Channel.

In summary, in case you can't keep up with my rambling noise, I'd like to just say the trend of streamlining complex systems because you can't figure it out is bad.  Your player base is smart.  Playtest your games, and design them as completely as you can from the beginning.

Now that doesn't mean you publish all the rules and such on launch, you can still stretch it out over the production cycle.  Just finalize the rules through the first cycle, and you can deal with other production concerns such as fluff, layout, art, models and so on in the normal flow of the cycle.  Don't wildly bolt on extra stuff as if you didn't know the Tau existed when you wrote 40k XVth Ed.

That's how you contract Partially Completed Game Syndrome, and it will plague every edition of your game for all time.

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