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Intentions versus Actions (in Game Design): a warning for new game designers

“[The road to] hell is paved with good intentions.” Traditional proverb

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." Henry Ford

One reason why so many aspiring game designers “never get anywhere” is the confusion between intention and action. Different generations view this quite differently. Older people recognize that it’s what you do that is most important, not what you intend or what you say you’ll do or what you wanted to do. They're in tune with Henry Ford. Young people tend to believe that intention is so important that it can excuse a lack of action.

Maintenance based economies vs. “accumulation” economies OR, Economic “Limits”

“War” games are fundamentally different from “battle” games, although most people would call both wargames. In the former there’s an economy and the war is essentially about controlling a better economy that ultimately gives you the preponderance of force. The focus tends to be strategic rather than tactical with maneuver contributing to gaining or keeping control of economic locations.

In a battle game you have an order of appearance that rarely changes, and no economy. Then the focus tends to become tactical, finding better ways to butcher the enemy before they butcher you. There may be objectives that are locations on a map, but if you slaughter enough of the enemy you’re likely to take those objectives. Maneuver then contributes to killing the enemy (or scaring them off) not to capturing/controlling economic resource/production locations.

“Is this game like Britannia?”

At the NC State Tabletop Game Club I attend five people were playing my prototype “The Rise and Fall of Assyria”. Someone came by and asked if the game was like Britannia. I answered no, because this game is much more fluid, is designed for 3 to 5 players, has less randomness in the combat though still using dice, has simpler scoring, and involves the rise and decline of empires rather than ones that can in some cases play through the entire game (as with the Welsh and Picts in Britannia).

But later I thought that compared with the other games that were being played in the room – we had over 50 people that day – the game is much like Britannia. Because they are both games that require “strategic thinking” (strategic in contrast with tactical, though also in the sense of having to make difficult choices about the best play) that are also games of maneuver and location. And they are both wargames. In contrast most of the games that are played at this game club do not involve maneuver and location nor are they wargames.

Review: Atlas of World Military History

Atlas of World Military History: the art of war from ancient times to the present day. By Richard Brooks and others. Hardcover, 256 pages, large (“coffee-table”) format . Originally published by HarperCollins in England in 2000, this edition by Barnes & Noble in the same year.

Although this book is out-of-print I was able to get a pristine “used” copy very inexpensively through a used bookseller on Amazon.

Six words about game sequels

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, and innovation and plagiarism in games.

This time the challenge is this: say six words about game sequels.

Abstractions and plans for new edition(s) of Britannia

As you probably know, the Fantasy Flight version of Britannia has sold out its second printing and all rights have reverted to me.

September 2012 Miscellany

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

Since I got back from WBC and GenCon, I've posted several articles at my "home" blog. Not all are posted on other blogs (e.g., ones heavily video-game-related aren't posted on BGDF and F:AT). Here's a list with links:

Observations about changes in game distribution (and publishing)

At GenCon I attended several seminars about game publishing and game distribution. I’m not intending to self publish games, though I will self-publish some books, but I am interested in distribution in connection with selecting a publisher for the new edition of Britannia. A designer negotiating contracts needs to know how games are sold. So I’m not an expert about this compared with an experienced publisher. But I think I can tell you enough to make this interesting. I knew most of this before I went to GenCon but still we can call it “what I learned about game distribution and publishing at GenCon”.

How to be taken seriously by publishers (more cautionary advice)

After “Seven Years and a Million Dollars” I want to talk about how you, as an aspiring hobby tabletop game publisher, can help yourself to be taken seriously by game publishers. While you’re important to your self, your family, and your friends, to a game publisher you’re no different than hundreds of other people who think they have games worth publishing, most of whom are wrong.

Comparing this year’s game conventions

This is not a “convention report,” because I don’t care about many of the events at conventions such as the Origins Awards, and I didn’t bother to attend the really big D&D Next event at GenCon, and I don’t much care about the latest new games. I’m interested in certain aspects of things and that’s what I’m going to talk about.

Generalization about four conventions: GenCon is a story convention - not just story in games. WBC and PrezCon are wargame cons. Origins is a non-story, mostly non-wargame, game con.

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by Dr. Radut