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Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

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Anonymous

A little pondering on my part led me to the conclusion that each game has at its heart a primary element. I'm sure this is all known and understood by many here, but I'm still in the topic set-up. :)

What I determined was that a lot of games I played were war or conflict based. With this in mind I found all my ideas revolved around war or conflicting forces of this nature. So I had to determine the other primary elements for other games. I broke it down into this catagories:

Conflict
Strategy (related to the conflict catagory but differnent because strategic
play can be applied to other game types)
Action
Adventure
Race
Puzzle
Chance

I probably missed some catagories, so if anyone thinks I should include something in my list, please let me know.

Now, many of these cores can cross into others. Like action/adventure, strategic war-games, etc. You may be asking yourself "What's the point of this...?" Well, to clear my thinking I had to break down these catagories and see what came of it. Let alone the fact that some games may at first appear to be one type, but actually be another at its core. Backgammon is a great example because at first glance I thought of it as strategy with chance. Actually, it seems to me to be a Race at its core with a touch of strategy and a lot of chance. :)

Anyways...This is the way I look at games in the design process. Others may see it differently. Well, in thinking about my ideas, and design goals, I would pick a primary core and from there I could determine my objectives and then obstacles and each players' role.

I guess as for this discussion I will ask, what are your methods on this aspect of game design? Do you see it similarly or completely differently?
Do you come up with your core, like a Race game, and shape the game around that strongly, loosely, or just go with a premise as "That might be cool!" I try that too. :)

Anyways...I'm not sure I'm making any sense right now.

Must...get...sleep... :)

Good Day to all!

-Vexx

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

I think a game is either tactical or strategic. Tactical games require a lot of short-term planning and "seizing the opportunity". Strategic games require a lot of long term planning. Tactical games often feature more luck than strategic games, but this is not necessarily always true.

A race game can be strategic or tactical, it can feature a lot of luck or none at all! Most race games are tactical with quite a bit of luck, but that doesn't necessarily mean that that always should be true.

I also think that genre is not the same as theme. I'd call "race game" a genre, while I'd label "adventure" as a theme. For example, you might have game where the theme is adventuring through a jungle, but the objective is to be the first to collect 5 treasures, essentially a race. This game could be strategic or tactical, with a lot of luck or very little depending on the mechanics and execution. The mechanics could be set-collecting, blind bidding, auctioning, finger flicking, routeplanning, etcetera, etcetera.

Finally, the execution of a game can be very different. To continue the example above, the adventure racing game could be a cardgame, a boardgame, a dicegame, a tile-laying game or a combination of these things.

Usually, before I start prototyping a game, I have a pretty good idea of how I want to implement these things. For example, my "Treasure Digging" could be classified as:

Theme: Jungle/Exploration
Genre: Memory game
T/S: Tactical
Luck: Quite a bit
Mechanics: routeplanning, set collecting
Execution: cards, variable board
Length (another important game factor): short, 15 minutes

Another game I'm currently working on could be classified as:

Theme: None
Genre: Bluffing game
T/S: Tactical
Luck: Quite a bit
Mechanics: set collecting
Execution: cards
Length: short, 20 minutes

It is my opinion that tactical games with a lot of luck should be fairly short. There are probably more factors (player interaction or bits for example) and there's a bit of overlap in the factors (genre, mechanics and execution are often strongly tied to eachother), but I think categorizing a game this way could be valuable.

IngredientX
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Joined: 07/26/2008
Re: Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

Hi Vexx...

Be sure to keep an eye out for both theme and mechanics when you categorize. Theme is important for some games, as it can help pull gamers into a game with a touch of atmosphere. It's not vital, though. Many games, especially some eurogames, have very flimsy themes that seem bolted onto the game. They can still be great games if they have good mechanics.

I will argue that while a good theme is helpful but not necessary, good mechanics are vital. You can have a great theme, but the game will not keep getting played if the mechanics don't work.

Jake Davenport has a great web site on game design. He writes...

Quote:
Many games have a plot, with roles for players to take and goals that make sense in the plot. Some game plots are really neat, and make me anxious to open the box and read the rules. However, this is all just "color", and if the game mechanics are not interesting, the game is a failure. I once played a game where players were famous criminals vying for control of a city. However, it was a card game with lots of luck and very little strategy. Once I read the names of all of the criminals, the game lost all appeal. Chess and bridge have practically no color at all, and yet many people devote their lives to improving their skills at these games.

(The rest of this article is available here).

Also, I have a post here that talks about a game with a great theme, but not-so-good mechanics.

Finally, if you haven't already, look at the games of Reiner Knizia as an example of games with flimsy themes, but scintillating mechanics. Lost Cities, Medici, Battle Line, and Ra don't have particularly good themes, but they keep getting played because their mechanics make the game.

So when you categorize your games, pay plenty of attention to mechanics. You can have two games with Egyptian themes, but if one game's an auction game and the other is a bluffing game, they're going to be very different.

Anonymous
Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

zaiga wrote:
I think a game is either tactical or strategic. Tactical games require a lot of short-term planning and "seizing the opportunity". Strategic games require a lot of long term planning. Tactical games often feature more luck than strategic games, but this is not necessarily always true.

I would have to agree. I think perhaps I use the type list because whichever type I choose is the primary aspect of the game. Such as, if I choose Adventure, then I am focusing on a design that emphasizes "an adventure" and actually hadn't even thought about Adventure as the theme but the goal of the game design.

Quote:
="zaiga"]I also think that genre is not the same as theme. I'd call "race game" a genre, while I'd label "adventure" as a theme. For example, you might have game where the theme is adventuring through a jungle, but the objective is to be the first to collect 5 treasures, essentially a race.

See, I wouldn't have even thought of the design that way. :) As I mentioned earlier, if I chose Adventure as my genre, then my focus is to make a game that conveys an adventure. My point of view would be something along the lines of a kind of co-op game, where the players are actually a team playing against the obstactles set by the game. Instead of Player vs Player, its Players vs Game. Now, I have to admit, this may not actually be a workable idea, the fun factor of competing against an opponent being lost. And I am in part thinking of this from the perspective of computer games I've played labled "adventure". I can't say if its a bad idea to take a concept of gameplay from computer games and try to put it into a boardgame/tabletop game to be bad or good, workable or not. I can say I've had some interesting ideas mechanics-wise trying to though. :)

I do understand what you are getting at though. In some of my attempts, I've mixed up themes for types and this may be why I've had some unnecessary frustrations in creating objectives and mechanics.

zaiga wrote:
It is my opinion that tactical games with a lot of luck should be fairly short. There are probably more factors (player interaction or bits for example) and there's a bit of overlap in the factors (genre, mechanics and execution are often strongly tied to eachother), but I think categorizing a game this way could be valuable.

Well, if not short, at least fast paced. I do think your perspective of marking a game strategic or tactical quite useful. It ehlps to clear some of the "color" out of the way that may cause design frustrations.

Thanx,

-Vexx

Anonymous
Re: Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

IngredientX wrote:

Be sure to keep an eye out for both theme and mechanics when you categorize. Theme is important for some games, as it can help pull gamers into a game with a touch of atmosphere. It's not vital, though. Many games, especially some eurogames, have very flimsy themes that seem bolted onto the game. They can still be great games if they have good mechanics.

Thanx. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the points about the gameplay mechanics. A number of my early design attempts had miserable mechanics...but then again, the game idea may not have been all that great either. :) But I did learn just what the mechanics are all about when working out a design.

As far as themes go thouugh, I tend to think of themes as being sci-fi, fantansy, mystery, etc. I might be thinking of it incorrectly when it comes to game design though.

Have Fun!

-Vexx

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
Re: Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

Vexx_Paradox wrote:
As I mentioned earlier, if I chose Adventure as my genre, then my focus is to make a game that conveys an adventure. My point of view would be something along the lines of a kind of co-op game, where the players are actually a team playing against the obstactles set by the game. Instead of Player vs Player, its Players vs Game. Now, I have to admit, this may not actually be a workable idea, the fun factor of competing against an opponent being lost. And I am in part thinking of this from the perspective of computer games I've played labled "adventure".

I posted an comment regarding this issue (but it got eaten :) in which I cited Knizia's "The Lord of the Rings" game as a rare example of a players vs the system game, which just shows how dfficult it must be to design a co-op game that works.
(The original message was mostly about the fact that all games are "conflict" based, by their very nature of being "games".)

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

There's a reason why I think that tactical games should be short. You want that every move in the game matters. For example, Mammoth Hunters is a very tactical game that lasts 4 rounds and around 90 minutes. Many people believe that the first two rounds don't really matter and that the outcome of the game solely depends on the last two rounds. Now, what is the point of playing 2 rounds when, in the end, they didn't matter? In this case, it probably would have been better to let the game last 2 rounds and 45 minutes. This would have fit better with the tactical nature of the game and the "tension curve".

About theme and mechanics.... Most beginning designers often start gamedesign with a "top down" approach, which means: theme first, mechanics later. This is understandable, since the whole fun of creating a game is coming up with a little world of your own and giving players the opportunity to interact with eachother in this imaginary world.

However, this approach is also much more difficult than the "bottom up" approach (mechanics before theme). Often beginning designers lose themselves in a game with complex and fiddly rules and tons of components, which may be in tune with the theme, but do not create a great game experience.

Coming up with an interesting and original mechanic isn't very easy either, but once you have a cool mechanic it is usually not that very hard to come up with an appropriate theme for it.

I always urge people to keep their games as simple as possible. Once the core mechanics work, you can add stuff on top of it to make it more thematic or deeper or more interesting.

Anonymous
Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

You are right Scurra. The very nature of a game is conflict. There is the tendency to think of conflict to mean war or fighting of some kind. Actually, conflict is simply the "struggle against" any sort of obstactle to attain one's goal. This applies to any solitaire game, player vs player, or player vs game. Now that I think about it, this little conversation may have helped me with a project of mine I put on the back burner. :)

Zaiga, I understand your point on keeping a tactical game short, and I like the way you put it when you said, "making every move count". It would seem that in one's design it is best to realize when something isn't needed, which could effect length of play. Though I can't say I would mind a long game as long as that length was due to involving gameplay that does have an impact on the outcome.

About what you said regarding top-down vs bottom-up approach. I agree that going from a theme and trying to figure out a mechanic is more difficult which leads to total frustration and possibly even giving up on the design. I would have to say though, that every now and then it is the theme which provides inspiration and can help in the development of the mechanics...required...to make the design good. However, that isn't usually the case. :)

In regards to keeping games as simple as possible; I look to the elements that make games such as chess, backgammon, checkers, othello, pente, and others for insight into simplicity. I also look to those games for those qualities that make them such lasting games. One quality to their continued appreciation has got to be their simplicity.

Thanx for the good conversation all.

Have Fun!

-Vexx

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

Just because it's interesting, here's how the BoardGameGeek breaks down Categories, and games can have many of these:

  • Abstract Strategy
  • Action/Dexterity
  • Adventure
  • American Civil War
  • American Indian Wars
  • American Revolutionary War
  • Ancient
  • Animals
  • Arabian
  • Bluffing
  • Card Game
  • Children's Game
  • City Building
  • Civil War
  • Civilization
  • Collectible Components
  • Comic Book
  • Computer/Internet
  • Deduction
  • Dice
  • Economic
  • Educational
  • Electronic
  • Environmental
  • Expansion for Base-game
  • Exploration
  • Fantasy
  • Farming
  • Fighting
  • Horror
  • Humor
  • Industry / Manufacturing
  • Korean War
  • Mafia
  • Math
  • Maze
  • Medieval
  • Memory
  • Miniatures
  • Modern Warfare
  • Movies/TV theme
  • Murder/Mystery
  • Music
  • Mythology
  • Napoleonic
  • Nautical
  • Negotiation
  • Novel-based
  • Number
  • Party Game
  • Pirates
  • Political
  • Prehistoric
  • Puzzle
  • Racing
  • Real-time
  • Religious
  • Renaissance
  • Science Fiction
  • Space Exploration
  • Spies/Secret Agents
  • Sports
  • Territory Building
  • Trains
  • Transportation
  • Travel
  • Trivia
  • Video Game Theme
  • Vietnam War
  • Wargame
  • Western
  • Word
  • World War I
  • World War II
And here's how the BoardGameGeek breaks down Mechanics, and games can also have many of these:
  • Acting
  • Action Point Allowance System
  • Area Enclosure
  • Area Movement
  • Area-Impulse
  • Auction/Bidding
  • Betting/Wagering
  • Campaign/Battle Card Driven
  • Card Drafting
  • Chit-Pull System
  • Co-operative Play
  • Commodity Speculation
  • Crayon Rail System
  • Dice Rolling
  • Hand Management
  • Hex-and-Counter
  • Line Drawing
  • Memory
  • Modular Board
  • Paper-and-Pencil
  • Partnerships
  • Pattern Building
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Pick-up and Deliver
  • Point to Point Movement
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors
  • Role Playing
  • Roll and Move
  • Secret Unit Deployment
  • Set Collection
  • Simulation
  • Simultaneous Action
  • Selection Singing
  • Stock Holding
  • Storytelling
  • Tile Placement
  • Trading
  • Trick-taking
  • Unit Deployment
  • Variable Phase Order
  • Variable Player Powers
  • Voting
The "Categories" list could probably be broken down into two lists, maybe "Theme" and "Type" or something, but they're still interesting lists.

[/][/]
Anonymous
Game Genre, Style, and/or Objectives

Hey Fastlearner,

Thanx for puttting up that list. It is interesting. And its cool to see for ideas. There are a number of things under both lists that I hadn't even thought of. Anyone else see anything on the lists you might not have thought of? I plan on keeping the list to look back on for ideas on things I may overlook.

Sweetness. Have fun all!

-Vexx

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