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March 2013 Miscellany

Thoughts about some game-related topics that are not long enough for separate blog posts.

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You know how to do something because you've done it, or because you've read about/seen how to do it, which is much more "iffy". There is too much of the latter and not enough of the former in modern education, too much talking about how to do something and not enough doing it.

Tutorials, in video games, are examples of having players "do it" rather than read about it.
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People play games for many reasons. I play either (in cooperative games such as D&D) to "succeed in the mission" and keep everyone on my side "whole", or (in competitive games) to win the game. I like to know the rules of a game thoroughly; I much prefer to read a set of rules rather than have someone teach me, probably because I want to thoroughly know what’s going on. I recognize that the rules-reading preference, in particular, is a minority view! Nonetheless, I tend to design games that I like to play.
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Some people like to have music playing in the background all the time, though they aren't very particular about which music (liking many genres). I call most of these people "sound bathers". Gamers are often "game bathers," not caring greatly about which game they're playing as long as they play a game.
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One "genius" of tabletop RPGs: there's intelligent opposition, but the referee doesn't "lose", and players don't so much "win" as survive.

2nd "genius" of tabletop RPGs: a good referee can react intelligently and creatively to what the players want to try, a computer cannot.

A 3rd "genius" of tabletop RPGs: it's in-person social (met my wife thru D&D) in a way computer RPGs/MMOs cannot be.
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Allan B. Calhamer, designer (I'm tempted to say, inventor) of the game Diplomacy, passed away recently. He published the original 500 copy run of Diplomacy in 1959 (also the year of the American edition of Risk, and of Tactics II, unless I misrecall the dates). I met him a few times at a Diplomacy convention. An unusual man.
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The Power of Branding at Wal-mart: board games Angry Birds, Lego Harry Potter (Lego seems to be very strong), Star Wars R2D2 in Trouble.
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I know "wargamers" who think you must have hexes and cardboard counters with numbers on them. But more fundamentally, I think many "wargamers" are people who don't like games that can involve negotiations, that is, games where talking with other players can give you an advantage (or disadvantage); or perhaps more specifically, they don't like games where you're clearly at a disadvantage if you don't talk to other players. Many wargamers are accustomed to playing solo, and I think some (who have probably gone into computer wargames) really don't want to deal with other people. Fair enough, but that doesn't mean all wargames must be this way.

These wargamers tend to play battle games, games without production economies, whereas the wargames for more than two players not only feature talking, but frequently have production economies. (Axis & Allies is one of the exceptions, a two player wargame with production economies.) The object in a battle game is usually to destroy (though not necessarily kill) the enemy force; the object in a war game (notice the space between war and game) is to take economic capability from the enemy and improve your own, because the best economy will usually win in the end. Which is quite often true in Britannia, for example, and always true in computer Civilization, Diplomacy, and Risk (except for the kludge of the cards). It is *not* true in History of the World, which despite the title is a battle game, not a war game, with a variable order of battle and no production economy.
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Many schools (secondary and college) think they're in the business of disseminating certain information and confirming that the individual has imbibed that information. They don't think they're in the business of preparing people for life and work. Which is one reason why so many high schoolers are so clueless when they get to college. And a reason why so many college graduates are so clueless about career jobs.
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"My thing is that most scripts aren't bad scripts, they're just not finished yet." Michael Arndt (scriptwriter for Star Wars VII, Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story III, etc.)

This applies to games as well, including many that are published.
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"You wouldn't expect to be able to run a marathon without training. Why do new devs think they can make the ultimate game without experience?" werezompire (twitter)
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I recall 40 years ago hearing the idea that K12 education was designed to get people used to the idea of sitting quietly and doing something they didn't want to do for long periods of time, because that's what their adult work would be like. But now it doesn't even do that.
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I don't like the idea of Steam, because if owner-company Valve goes belly up, or just decides to discontinue Steam, then I've lost every game I've bought there. Unfortunately, many PC games are only available through Steam. That's because the publishers get something like 70% of the revenue, far higher than for other distribution methods, and because it pretty much prevents piracy, which is rampant in PC games.

Fortunately for players, games are often cheaper on Steam, and discounted heavily during sales. I just bought Fallen Enchantress, for example, at 66% off (and the list is $40, not $60).

END

Comments

Steam is the greatest thing

Steam is the greatest thing to happen to PC gaming since the PC.

As long as Valve keeps being Valve, they won't go belly up.

Uggg...Steam

Procylon wrote:
Steam is the greatest thing to happen to PC gaming since the PC.

As long as Valve keeps being Valve, they won't go belly up.

I remember when Steam first came out...they were worse than EA. They had the WORST customer support, and you as a customer were frequently screwed over. I have since looked at steam now and I see a lot of those negatives that once existed have been taken away. Now if I get a new computer I don't need to buy a new version of the game. The original versions of Steam either didn't let you switch to new computers or the system was bugged so bad it wouldn't let me do it anyways...either way their customer support back then was non-existent and so it sent me into a Steam enduced rage that lasted about five years.

Now...I don't mind them at all and I can see your point about bringing down the price in games. I don't know how their customer support is now though, hopefully it exists now. :P

I wouldn't use Steam in its

I wouldn't use Steam in its early days because I didn't know long-term reliability etc. Now, I've succumbed (and of course, now they're quite dominant, AND sell games at *big* discounts if you're patient).

BIG Discounts is right

I just got all of the expansions for Civ V for 66% off all of them. It was like total of $15-20...and the original I had gotten for free for voting in an awards dealio. Yup, deep discounts for sure.

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