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December 2012 Miscellany

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

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I said in my book Game Design that I thought video and tabletop games are converging, but sometimes I'm not so sure when I look at games like Farmville on one hand, and worse, the all-rewards-all-the-time games like Diablo III and many others, where anything that interferes with getting direct pleasure is regarded as a "fail".

The virtues (and sins) of using dice in game designs

In the very oldest traditional board and card games, dice are rarely used. (Backgammon and Parcheesi are the most notable exceptions.) Most of those boardgames have perfect information and the only uncertainty comes from the intentions of the other player, except where dice are used. There are always just two players. Think of checkers, go, chess, tic-tac-toe, Nine Men's Morris, mancala, and so forth.

Modifying chess conflict rules

I set myself the task of modifying chess in just one of the nine fundamental sub-systems of games: interaction of assets/conflict. Chess has a very simple conflict system: the attacker always wins via “displacement capture”. What happens if we change that?

Looking at game design as ways of introducing asymmetry

In many “natural” games, such as sports, and in many traditional board and card games, every participant begins with an equal position and prospects to every other. This is symmetry. We can look at game design as devising interesting ways to break up symmetry, to introduce asymmetry. Some of these are achieved through player choice, some through randomness, some through uncertainty, and some through choice or caveat of the designer.

How many dice (to include with a game)?

Those who like dice games are going to answer this question with “lots”! But game designers can’t think that way. Every item added to a game increases the retail price of the game very roughly six times the actual cost. So if you put in some extra dice that cost $.15 altogether the price of the game rises by at least a dollar. If you add a dollars’ worth of dice the price of the game increases by roughly six dollars.

Two military (more or less) problems for historical game designers: pushing barbarians, and tribute

Two military/political aspects of the ancient world hold a fascination for me, because I've not found or seen a really satisfactory way to represent them in games. These are the problems of "the bump" and of tribute.

Six words about role-playing games

According to tweetdeck, one of the trending:worldwide topics on twitter not so long ago was 6 word stories. In the past few months I've asked people to say 6 words about game design, programming, wargames, stories in games, casual games, zombie games, chance/randomness in games, innovation and plagiarism in games, and game sequels.

This time the challenge is this: say six words about role-playing games.

The economic production cycle in games

This is a discussion of how some games include a cycle of converting resources through some means of production such as factories or agricultural facilities into assets that are usable to help succeed in the game. These assets are often physical things but can be capabilities or even victory points themselves.

November 2012 Miscellany

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

Can we characterize tabletop game publishers? Hard to say.

This post was precipitated by a question from a reader regarding how often or how persistent he should be in trying to get an email response from a publisher, after initial contact.

What it has become is an attempt to describe, up to the point of my limited knowledge, what tabletop hobby game publishers are like and how they work. I don’t know all the publishers, of course, and in particular I’ve never had any contact with German publishers. Yet I think I can tell new game designers some things that might help them understand how the industry works.

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by Dr. Radut