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Variety in Games

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larienna
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This post does not focus on a specific question, I just want the opinion of everybody about variety in games. Now What do I mean by variety?

For example, Chess is the game that on my point of view lack of variety. Why?, all players always have the same pieces, that always start at the same place all the time. The only thing tha make each game unique is that the combination of moves played by both players will never be the same.

Another example is Axis and Allies, or Bells of War. Since it is a world war 2 simulation, the countires which oppose each other will always be the same and the strategies at the begginning of the game will be chosen from a limited number of possibilities.

On the other hand, settlers of catan is a game with variety. The maps is always different, the ressource levels are different and the starting position are different. This is why the game is always fun to play even 3 times in a row.

You can always test the lack of variety in settlers by using always the same map ( the one in the instruction book ) but still select the settlement placement. Play the game many time in a row, and check if you like it.

The lack of variety in games makes people analyse the game in greater details by caculating many possibilities. For example, the oppening books in chess. I know that some people would like to find the optimal pattern to invade USSR, for example.

I have played chess many time in the past, now I have few interest in this game. I think one of the many reason is the lack of variety. Being able to customise an army or having different board shapes would probably incide me to play chess ( I have tile chess and I have heard about nightmare chess ).

What do you think?
Do you like games that lack of variety?
Can you find a replay value in these kind of games?
Do you like designing games that lack of variety or do you make sure that there is always variety?
Maybe adding variety as an optional rule could be a good solution?
Do you consider the lack of variety to be a bug in game design?

Johan
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Variety in Games

Hi

With this definition poker and Bridge is a game with a lot of variation (it’s a new set-up each time). Games like ASL are without variations because each scenario is fixed. (did I get it wrong?)

// Johan

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Re: Variety in Games

Larienna wrote:
Do you like games that lack of variety?
Can you find a replay value in these kind of games?
Do you like designing games that lack of variety or do you make sure that there is always variety?
Maybe adding variety as an optional rule could be a good solution?
Do you consider the lack of variety to be a bug in game design?

I've probably played more games of chess in my life than any other game. I don't play it much these days for several reasons, but few of them have anything to do with "variety." To play chess well requires study and intense concentration, and I no longer feel like working that hard when I play. (I've gotten lazy in my old age!) Also I enjoy games that are a bit more social, and that allow for more than two players.

Larienna seems to be using the word "variety" to mean two things: "varied starting setups and random influences within a game", and "novelty which keeps people from getting bored". (Larienna, please correct me if I've misinterpreted you!) But I don't think these two things are closely related.

Certainly there is something to be said for novelty, but I get that from playing different games, not from playing Catan over and over again. I don't feel that Catan offers more novelty than chess; Catan is a much shallower game and the only surprises come from the dice and the shuffled cards and tiles. Interesting variety does not come from randomness; it comes from creative moves made by your opponents. El Grande (to choose a favorite of mine) is a much more interesting game than Catan. It does have randomness but its deep interest arises from the incredibly creative moves that the players can find in the opportunities that the game presents.

I want to design games that have the kind of replay value that both chess and El Grande have: lots of opportunities that offer significant choices and the chance to surprise an opponent with a brilliant move. Some games like that have "variety" in the setup-and-randomness sense; others, like chess and go, do not. I think that kind of variety is just another tool to use in game design. It's not a good or bad thing in itself.

larienna
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Variety in Games

Quote:
With this definition poker and Bridge is a game with a lot of variation

No, this is simply a random game.

Quote:
Larienna seems to be using the word "variety" to mean two things: "varied starting setups and random influences within a game", and "novelty which keeps people from getting bored"

- Varied setup is a solution but not necesarily THE solution.
- Random influence has nothing to do with variety. A completely deterministic game can have variety.

Quote:
Games like ASL are without variations because each scenario is fixed

I don't know what is ASL, but since you are speaking of scenarios, playing different scenario each time indicates that there is variety. Of course, if you do not want the play the same scenario twice, you will need a large supplies of scenarios. Having only 1 possible scenario would mean lack of variety.

For example, chess only have 1 scenario :

- the pieces are placed at the same location
- the army composition is the same
- the objectives of the game are the same ( capture the king )
- the terrain is always the same (8x8 board)

To create variety in chess, you could for example :

- Make a different army setup
- change the shape of the board ( triangle, hexagon, etc)
- change the goal : capture the king and queen, or move one of your pieces in a specific region of the board.
- new rules: pawn can now move in any direction.

Variety does not necesarily mean randomness. Sure, using random elements can be a tool to create variety. Variety can be introduced by:

- Player decision : For example, the player customize an army has he wishes. Or players agree each other to play on a triangular board instead of square one.

- Game decision : A scenario clearly indicate what are the troops of each player and what is the terrain configuration. It also indicated the objectives of the game for each player.

- Random decision : for example, A scenario goal is determined randomly . Or some event, like weather, influence the rest of the game. The map is generated randomly (ex: settlers of catan).

The target elements that can be affected by variety can be the following(there might be other ones too):

- Game setup : Unit and map setup at the beginning of the game.
- Goals : Objectives are different. Or now takes more or less time.
- Rules : Some rules are removed or added for this game only.

Johan
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Variety in Games

Actually I don’t get this...

Larienna wrote:
Quote:
With this definition poker and Bridge is a game with a lot of variation

No, this is simply a random game.

Quote:
On the other hand, settlers of catan is a game with variety. The maps is always different, the ressource levels are different and the starting position are different. This is why the game is always fun to play even 3 times in a row.

If you want to make a definition, then you can not treat games differently because of how much you like the game. There are similarities between Poker, Bridge and Settlers. All 3 have a random setup, and after the setup there is a static game where you try to outsmart your opponents. It does not matter if a game of poker takes about 2 minutes, Bridge takes 7 minutes and Settlers around 1 hour.
Actually Settlers are after the random setup, a more random game then both Poker and Bridge.
So random setup can not be your definition on variety!

Quote:
For example, Chess is the game that on my point of view lack of variety. Why?, all players always have the same pieces, that always start at the same place all the time. The only thing tha make each game unique is that the combination of moves played by both players will never be the same.

In this case you set that variety is equal with different setup and randomness in the game. Everything depends on the players.
Now a game of Diplomacy has even less variety then chess or... You have a fix setup and when you get the new units you can only chose from 2 different (in chess there are 4 different upgrades for a pawn).
The classical game Go have an even lower level of variety since you have a fixed setup (none on the game-board (if you don’t have handicap)), and you have only one type of playing pieces. But... each turn you have so many variants to place your stone.
Even so, in Chess, Diplomacy and Go, you have more options per turn then in Settlers. Number of options can not be your definition on variety!

Quote:
The lack of variety in games makes people analyse the game in greater details by caculating many possibilities. For example, the oppening books in chess. I know that some people would like to find the optimal pattern to invade USSR, for example.

I don’t get this sentence at all... If we disregards from the not random setup, Monopoly would be a game with a variety because the players can not calculate and analyze there moves. I have not seen any book in how to win in Monopoly (or opening dice rolls in Monopoly).
A game where you cut out the road where the playing pieces moves during game of Monopoly, and then you randomly make a new path, you get a random setup that you still can't analyze and calculate. Perfect match!!!

Quote:
Having only 1 possible scenario would mean lack of variety.

For example, chess only have 1 scenario :

- the pieces are placed at the same location
- the army composition is the same
- the objectives of the game are the same ( capture the king )
- the terrain is always the same (8x8 board)

To create variety in chess, you could for example :

- Make a different army setup
- change the shape of the board ( triangle, hexagon, etc)
- change the goal : capture the king and queen, or move one of your pieces in a specific region of the board.
- new rules: pawn can now move in any direction.

There are hundreds of variants of chess (I don’t remember the homepage right now where you can find a huge collection of them). I have played more then a dozen variants that are interesting.

A game that are build on scenarios can also be a static game but and the replayability can be low after a scenario is done.

Quote:
Variety does not necesarily mean randomness. Sure, using random elements can be a tool to create variety. Variety can be introduced by:

- Player decision : For example, the player customize an army has he wishes. Or players agree each other to play on a triangular board instead of square one.

- Game decision : A scenario clearly indicate what are the troops of each player and what is the terrain configuration. It also indicated the objectives of the game for each player.

- Random decision : for example, A scenario goal is determined randomly . Or some event, like weather, influence the rest of the game. The map is generated randomly (ex: settlers of catan).

The target elements that can be affected by variety can be the following(there might be other ones too):

- Game setup : Unit and map setup at the beginning of the game.
- Goals : Objectives are different. Or now takes more or less time.
- Rules : Some rules are removed or added for this game only.

This is the part I can agree with you about. With variety you mean that there are build in variants of the game (by random, by player decision or by scenarios). The variants can be created in different ways (as stated above). That was the actual question.
What I did not like in your argument was that you took a concept, included some games that you liked and dismissed other games on the same grounds.

// Johan

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