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[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

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jwarrend
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Time for a new series in the TiGD! I propose a series about "player goals". It's easy to come up with mechanics, but what exactly are the players supposed to be attempting to do in our games? What kinds of things can be set before our players as ways to "win" the game?

Here are some rough ideas for topics we could consider, and people should chime in with other ideas if they have any!

--Defining goals vs. designing mechanics: Which comes first? Is one "easier" than the other? Do they flow together naturally?

--"Race"-oriented games: The game ends when one player completes a specific goal. Obviously includes "racing" games like Hare&Tortoise, but also games like Settlers of Catan or Citadels. Or, for that matter, games like Illuminati, where not all players have the same goal.

--"VP acquisition" games: Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, etc. The game system gives one or more ways to earn "victory points", which typically come in small increments and add up to "big" final scores.

--"Cash acquisition" games: Acquire, Monopoly, Chinatown, etc. Games where the goal is to make the most money; analogous to VP acquisition games, but with the added effect that money is also a resource in the game.

--"Territorial conquest" games: Risk, Axis and Allies, Vinci, etc. The game is won (in whole or in part) by acquiring territory or "space on the board", often involving combat.

--"Deduction" games: Clue, Mystery of the Abbey, etc. The players are trying to solve a "mystery", typically through process of elimination.

Note that the distinctions between these aren't always hard and fast; Settlers, for example, could be considered a "race", a "vp acquisition", and a "cash acquisition" game; "deduction" games are in some sense a subset of "race" games, since players are trying to be the first to solve the mystery; one could probably subdivide "VP acquisition" into several categories. I'm not necessarily seeking compartmentalization of games so much as understanding of the different ways that goals can motivate mechanics and player experience. But if you feel any of the categories could stand further subdivision, let's hear about it!

I welcome comments and suggestions about this series!

-Jeff

Johan
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[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

Hello

I can see one more type of goals and that is when you should achieve the goal itself and you have one winner (typical game is Talisman).
In this category we have also games where we shall achieve the goals together (still one goal) as Kniza's "Lord of the ring" and Warhammerquest/Heroquest.

// Johan

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
Last man standing

There are also a few "last man standing" type games out there (*cough* Ice Lake *cough*) that are pretty fun...

How would you characterize something like Illuminati? It's sort of a cross between a wealth acquisition and a territorial conquest, I suppose.

jwarrend
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Re: Last man standing

OrlandoPat wrote:
There are also a few "last man standing" type games out there (*cough* Ice Lake *cough*) that are pretty fun...

Good suggestion, thanks! My guess is that most of these games probably also fit into one of the other models (e.g., Risk = territorial expansion, Monopoly = cash acquisition, etc), but they may legitimately comprise a subclass unto themselves. And it's certainly worth discussing as a possible way to define victory conditions in our own games.

Quote:

How would you characterize something like Illuminati? It's sort of a cross between a wealth acquisition and a territorial conquest, I suppose.

I would say Illuminati is first and foremost a race game, because it ends when someone acquires his tenth group or when he meets his individual goal. But I would say it also could be described as what I called a "cash acquisition" game, in the sense that the commodities that advance you toward the victory condition, the groups, also provide functional benefits in trying to acquire other groups (most have power, or transferable power, or alignments that can modify the required roll, etc).

Anonymous
[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

Great topic (and intro to kick things off)!

I would add the concept of theme to the consideration of goals, being that the goals (often more so than the mechanics of the game) are closely tied to the theme of a game. Are mechanics developed first? Theme? Goals? Is it a synergy of these three pieces that intertwine throughout the design process?

I generally develop a strong theme first and then work to abstract the mechanics from that theme. The goals are initially a direct product of the theme (in a horse race themed game, obviously the main goal is to win the race). Then, as the game progesses I decide if the main goal is enough or if there needs to be alternative victory conditions. This is where goals and mechanics can vie for dominance in the design of the game. I will consider goals that fit in with the theme of the game and design mechanics to allow for that goal to be achieved. I also have had mechanics that clearly result in a specific goal or goals that are then worked into the victory conditions. Both of these design conditions are a direct byproduct of the theme of the game.

As for specific goals, I would suggest set collection as an addition to the list.

Anonymous
[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

There is a GeekList on Boardgamegeek.com that might help you figure out or dicover other categories for this topic. It is Victory Conditions - Standard and Unusual

Also Alternate Victory Conditions might have some useful information.

Zzzzz
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[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

Coming from a different direction(as usual, after reading a few things on the net, mainly thegamesjournal pages), Agonizing Decisions come to mind. Part of what players might be doing during our games could involve overcoming or even attempting to caculate seemingly impossible choices. Some might consider this to be along the same idea as Deduction, but it has a different twist. The players are faced with making decisions that can influence the true goals of the game, in their favor or worse against.

Players goals also serve as a set of measureable objectives that players can seek to accompish(or attempt to accomplish). It introduces a reason and a motivation for playing the game. A really simple example, win the longest road(Settlers). This is not the final goal, but it introduces a goal to the players, get the longest road. This same goal also introduces an agonizing decision to go after the longest road or not, do I need it to win, do I let someone else keep building roads, so on.... And these types of goals interact with the players emotions, happiness when the accomplish a goal, pain when they fail a goal or make a choice that might allow opponents to achieve a goal, gut wreching decisions, etc. I think this is why people play games, to feel that rush of being the winner, to overcome the challanges needed to achieve the games goals.

Now based on the ramblings stated above, I will have to go out on a limb here and say defining a goal would tend to come before defining the mechanics that achieve that goal during gameplay.

I am sure there are some designers that create abstract mechanics, and then define a goal that could use the mechanic, but I dont think I personally take this route.

I would think about designing goals vs designing mechanics, in the same way I think about designing mechanics vs theme. I tend to create from a theme first. Then attempt to create mechanics that support the flavor and feel of the theme.

Scurra
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[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

Zzzzz wrote:
I will have to go out on a limb here and say defining a goal would tend to come before defining the mechanics that achieve that goal during gameplay.

I think I may join you on that limb (hmm, hope it's fairly robust :-)). It seems to me that you really do need a goal defined before you work out how you get there. Now admittedly, sometimes the goal changes as a result of the development process, but in general I think that you have an idea of your victory conditions first when you try to turn your nebulous idea into a concrete game. That's not to say that theme doesn't drive this, of course.

(Then again, if someone presents you with some mechanics first, then generally the goal will follow from them. So that doesn't really get us anywhere. ;-)

GeminiWeb
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[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

jwarrend wrote:

Quote:
--Defining goals vs. designing mechanics: Which comes first? Is one "easier" than the other? Do they flow together naturally?

Well, in my limited experience, I've gone along the lines of ...

Theme -> mechanic -> theme adjust -> mechanic adjust -> ....

... -> so how am I going to work out who wins? Hmmm ... what does the theme suggest?

.. and my games to date have been more VP acquisition, possibly because I feel like I can have more control in the balance of the game by adjusting VP returns ... ith the main idea being a race to a predetermined total (like Settlers of Catan).

However, I'm feeling the need to try some different things, including hidden player objectives for bonus VPs (like Jeff's disciples or the destination cards in Ticket to Ride to paint a broad spectrum).

That said, I like the player goal to revolve around 'achieving something' that the player can feel proud of ... like contributing to building a town in my GDW'd 'High Counciil of Evensford'.

Also, in the context of agonizing decisions, my latest distraction (yet to be named and still a bit week in theme) is also looking at the trade off between building capacity versus investing in VPs ... for example, using goods to build wagons, markets and the like (which provide game bonuses), or offering them as tribute for VPs.

hmmm ....

jwarrend
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[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

Hey guys,

Just to clarify a bit, this thread is meant to be more procedural than anything else -- kind of like "Hey, is this topic something we all want to talk about for a few weeks?" The actual series of discussions won't start until a week from Monday. Of course, you're welcome to continue discussing, if you want, but save some of it for the actual discussion so we have something to talk about!

-Jeff

Zzzzz
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[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

Oops.... ok..., well..., since I posted this time, I will have to vote for YES I think it is a topic I would like to have covered.

8^)

Anonymous
[TiGD] New series: "player goals"

Count me in as another who would like to see this topic expanded into a full series.

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