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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

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FastLearner
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Now that some core ideas are out, let's spend some time discussing them and pseudo-brainstorming about them.

It would be great if you'd take a moment to at least:

  • Mention something you like about the idea,
  • Mention something that you don't care for or are concerned about regarding the idea, and
  • Put out anything else about the idea you'd like, including any basic implementation ideas.
Please don't go into great detail about how you think such a game would work, trying to refine a bunch of mechanics or anything. Rather please keep it pretty basic. Once we pick one to move forward on then more details would make sense. Note, too, that whatever we go with we can still work on some of the other ideas later, of course.

Here's jwarrend's thought:

Quote:
The idea is that players are heads of charitable organizations, charged with distributing huminitarian aid to various disaster locations. I envision each player having a pool of "volunteers" (like in Carcassonne), and each turn, some "disasters" are revealed, and you send your volunteers out to the various disasters. Then, you use them as a "conduit" for relief supplies, which you acquire through various means. The catch is, well, there are two catches. One is that all the volunteers are frozen at the disaster until the situation has fully been resolved. (So, for example, let's say the situation requires 2 points of Food and 1 point of Medicine -- if you have one Volunteer, and he distributes 1 point of Food, you need to wait until he, or someone else, has distributed an additional point of Food and one of Medicine until you get him pack into your pool). The other catch is that when the needs of the situation have been met, EVERYONE who participated in the relief effort scores equal points for it, regardless of how much or how little they helped. But, there are enough disasters that you can't send your people everywhere all at once, so you have to pick and choose which ones to participate in.

I have some other ideas in mind; maybe there's some way in which certain actions/conditions net you more volunteers, and others net you more donations, etc. I also envision a mechanic where you bid for donations from the big aid agencies (perhaps using your volunteers as lobbyists), or perhaps one person is appointed the "director" for each continent and chooses how its aid is allocated, or something...

Anyway, you can see that the idea has some focus to it already, but it's far from fleshed out, and there's plenty of room for modification/alteration. I think the core concepts that should remain (if I had my way) are "everyone who helps at a location scores the same", and "you must balance having enough volunteers and having supplies to give them to distribute". I think you could build a simple, tight, and well-themed game out of this system.

I suggest it for this project because humanitarian aid is a theme that has never, to my knowledge, been explored in game design, thus, it's original. It also has a collaborative feel, which fits well with what we're trying to do. It would be a card game, which would be simple to make (you'd probably need a set of Carcassonne pieces to symbolize your volunteers).

I do, unfortunately, have one proviso, and that is that if the game ever makes any money, all of it will be given to humanitarian aid organizations (but that also is in the spirit of this project).
(Note that there is existing discussion of it in the CGD1: Core Game Ideas thread.)

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FastLearner
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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

I like the idea of this game -- I especially like it when one of my passions (game design) can overlap with another (making the world a better place). The semi-resource management idea sounds good, too, because it would emulate some of the difficulties of providing relief in the real world.

In the other thread a concern about the tastefulness of this idea came up. I'm sure we can handle it well so that it's tasteful. I do have a slight concern about how "depressing" the game might be, though -- if at end game it's clear that there's just no way all of the need can be met the it could be a real downer. If that's not a problem then the other side could be an issue: it may seem like it's too easy to solve this major world problem.

I think the basic mechanics you've layed out, Jeff, make good sense and fit the theme well. Overall I'm pretty excited about this possibility and I really dig the idea of creating a game that, if published somehow, would also directly help the world.

phpbbadmin
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Thoughts

Pros:

Actually I see this as being one of the ideas that would be most realistic for us to actually do for the initial project. It seems simple enough. It seems like there is inherent conflict which is good.

I don't really see it as being tasteless. Now if it was a humorous Beer & Pretzel game then it WOULD be tastless. I think a lot of attention must be paid to a point system to see who actually 'wins' the game.
I.E. it can be somewhat tasteless to award points for rescuing some people when other people go unrescued. Perhaps we can implement a system where if people don't get aid within a certain time period, a larger, non player organization (such as the Red Cross) automatically aids the victims and no one scores points for that particular disaster.

Cons:
What cons? I see none to speak of. Of all the ideas I've read over, this seems the most likely candidate to work on.

-Darke

jwarrend
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Re: Thoughts

Darkehorse wrote:
Pros:
I.E. it can be somewhat tasteless to award points for rescuing some people when other people go unrescued. Perhaps we can implement a system where if people don't get aid within a certain time period, a larger, non player organization (such as the Red Cross) automatically aids the victims and no one scores points for that particular disaster.

For what it's worth, my idea was originally to prevent a "rescue some rather than all people" approach by simply locking your Volunteers in place, Carcassonne-style, until the full Aid has been provided to a given location. Of course, a time-based mechanism such as you outline would work just fine too, and I agree that some such sort of mechanics will need to be implemented to make sure the game is as positive and uplifting as possible.

-Jeff

FastLearner
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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

Some questions to consider:

Would we use real world locations for the aid? Do they become "out of date" as those places become more stable (years after the game is released)?

Would we include industrialized places as well, for things like hurricanes and toronados and such?

How about the idea of a "world distress" meter that encourages cooperation? As the amount of unmet need goes up, so too does the "world distress" meter -- if it reaches a certain point then everyone loses.

Are there other thoughts for making the game somewhat "coopetitive"?

Anonymous
CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

Pros: I like the resource management aspects, and I like how volunteers are resources. I like how you have to carefully allocate your workers and whatnot. I like the idea of everyone who participates getting equal points. Helps to reinforce the theme behind the game that you're in it to help people.

Cons: However... that same theme also raises a question to me. How can you possibly declare a winner with good concience? There shouldn't be a "winner" or "loser" when it comes to helping people. One of my biggest philosphies in life is that if you're going to help people, and do something nice for someone, it shouldn't matter one ounce about any recognition you get. To me there can't possibly be a winner or loser because the defeats the idea of selflessness.

On that note, if you worked in a everyone wins or nobody wins aspect cooperativeness to the game, then it would fit better themeatically.

Gameplay dynamics wise though (all thematics and ideals aside) it seems pretty solid. Simply, yet strategic at the same time.

A game that could be sold for charity for sure.

jwarrend
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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

FastLearner wrote:
Some questions to consider:
Are there other thoughts for making the game somewhat "coopetitive"?

I assume you're coining this as a word for "both coooperative and competitive", kind of like Republic of Rome where we're all trying to win, but it's possible for us all to lose.

My proposal had a couple of aspects that I think accomplish this a little, the main one being "everyone who helps at a given location scores equal points for that location". What I have in mind here is something whereby if you want to be "possessive" of a given location, and try to solve the problem all by yourself, you are going to invest mucho volunteers and resources, whereas if several people tackle a problem, they both score the same, yet were able to also provide assistance at other locations. I have in mind the Web of Power concept of "trying to run up your score by establishing a 'kingdom' is a losing battle, and in fact will score someone else almost as many points as it scores you". The design challenge for this game will be to make sure that everyone can't possibly act at every location (or else everyone's score would be equal).

I also have a rough "turn structure" mechanic, and I might as well toss it out now. I'm envisioning an action point allowance system, like Tikal, kind of; each player would have 3 turns per game Turn, and each turn becomes more "valuable". So in turn 1, you can take one "level 1" action. In turn 2, you can take 2 "level 1" actions, or 1 "level 2" action, and similar for turn 3. This was just a rough idea that could work its way into this (or some other) game. It breaks up the "long" turns in Tikal where you have to spend 10 action points, and also gives a better way for assigning a relative value for the different levels of actions, and also gives people the challenge of choosing when to take an action, and when to bide their time.

Just another thought to throw on the pile.

-Jeff

Scurra
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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

jwarrend wrote:

I assume you're coining this as a word for "both coooperative and competitive", kind of like Republic of Rome where we're all trying to win, but it's possible for us all to lose.

That seems to capture the essence of it for me if the central concept can be made serious enough to work whilst still keeping the game element vibrant.

For an interesting take on "disaster relief", look at the TV show Thunderbirds (I don't know how well known it is outside the UK, except that a big-budget movie is, even now, in production!)
In that, "International Rescue" act as a sort of global front-line disaster relief organisation, basically providing cover until the "proper" agencies can get their operations sorted out. Of course, being a television show, the disasters can be nicely corny (and no-one ever gets killed) and it never had to deal with more things happening than it could cope with, but it seems an interesting stepping stone.

Anonymous
CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

If we're talking about the same Thunderbirds... it's really well known in the U.S. to my father's generation (I'm 22). From what I understand there is a new adaption of the show.

You're talking about the show with the puppets right?

Scurra
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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

Bandecko wrote:
If we're talking about the same Thunderbirds... it's really well known in the U.S. to my father's generation (I'm 22).

You're talking about the show with the puppets right?

Yeah. Although here in the UK it's known to practically everyone - it's one of the rare shows here that has been repeated frequently. And please don't make me feel old :)

phpbbadmin
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My thoughts

I would have to say real disasters but with fictitious places would be in order.

Ok we need to decide basically if the game is going to be cooperative, competitive, or some mix of the two.

Also someone made reference that it would be tasteless for one person to win over the others. I don't see this as being the case. Suppose the point scored represent how well your organization is known, or prestige points. The 'winner' would be the one with the most prestige points at the end of the game; I.E. the organization with the most popularity.

I like FL's idea about 'World Distress' counter too. If it reached a certain level, the game would end and everyone would lose. This would definitely promote cooperation among the players. I envision a disaster counter being turned over each turn. Each counter could have a disaster rating, (or it could just be one disaster point). When the rating reached a certain level, the game would end. This would encourage players to race around the board meeting the needs of the people as quickly as possible.

As far as scoring goes, I don't think each person should score equally. Suppose player A spends a lot of resources dealing with the volcano eruption at Pompeii. What's to stop player B from sending a single volunteer with one unit of money at the very last moment and scoring equally as much as player A? I think there needs to be some sort of mechanism that prevents that from happening. Otherwise everyone's strategy will be to place one guy at every disaster and no more.

-Darke

jwarrend
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Re: My thoughts

Darkehorse wrote:

As far as scoring goes, I don't think each person should score equally. Suppose player A spends a lot of resources dealing with the volcano eruption at Pompeii. What's to stop player B from sending a single volunteer with one unit of money at the very last moment and scoring equally as much as player A? I think there needs to be some sort of mechanism that prevents that from happening. Otherwise everyone's strategy will be to place one guy at every disaster and no more.
-Darke

This would obviously be the subject of much discussion. I think that there are more ways than proportional scoring to prevent B from winning by doing what you say. Alternatively, it could just as easily be viewed as "A spent too many of his own resources to come out even with B" as "B did less than A, yet scored the same". I agree, though, that there's a lot of room for debate as to how to implement this idea. My proposed solutions may not be the best!

Perhaps more than worrying about specific mechanics and strategies (and this goes for whatever game is chosen), we first need to worry about "where is tension going to come from? what decisions is a player supposed to be agonizing over?" Knowing the answer to those questions will guide the way the mechanics and scoring mechanisms will be chosen.

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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An idea...

For those following my blabbering about the "coopetetive" everyone-invests-in-other-peoples'-plays tile laying ideas (see my latest game journal entry), that could work allright in this disaster relief thing...

A disaster is 'revealed', and each player in turn 'invests' volunteers. Too many cooks spoil the broth, so perhaps each disaster can only handle so many volutneers. Furthermore, perhaps the volunteers could belong to different groups... and a given disaster requires a certain number of volunteers from each group.

So on your turn you somehow reveal a new disaster (maybe it's optional, maybe mandatory). Then you place one or some Volunteers at it. Then each player (in turn) contributes Volunteers, as long as they are still needed.

At the end of the round you score points for disasters at which yuo are providing aid. Disasterd need not be valued the same, and you only have so many Volunteers, so you must decide how best to use them. Presumably the scoring would reflect the relative threat of the disaster, so choosing this one over that one either means this disaster is worse than that one 9more of a threat), or else it's less of a threat but the bigger threat already has people aiding it and this lesser threat doesn't.

Another thing you might do during your turn, perhaps instead of revealing a new disaster, is somehow relocate your volunteers. However I liked the idea that they are locked in until the disaster is fully releived.

How about when a disaster is revealed, there's a big penalty for everyone if nobody sends any volunteers. And/or, if you Revealed (drew/played) the new disaster, you MUST contribute at least 1 Volunteer even if noone else does.

So how to determine when the disaster is relieved? Perhaps at the end of the round when scoring happens the disaster is considered relieved if the 'volunteer slots' are full... where there are enough extra slots that it doesn't fill up right away (except maybe in the case of a small emergency).

these are all just thoughts. Let me know if you like them!

- Seth

Anonymous
CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

Perhaps one thing that isn't quite sitting right with me on this game is the scale.

Perhaps a global scale, send volunteers here, then here, disasters popping up all over the place type scale is the problem (as I'm seeing it).

What if the game centered on ONE disaster. Say an earthquake.

There could be a more global level that is kind of in the background.

Say there was a global phase, where players had to try and get funding or donations, and allocate that money to provide medicine, food, shelter, etc, and provide money to get the volunteers to the disaster site.

So volunteers trickle in throughout the game, and you have to allocate. Perhaps there are different types of volunteers, First Aid, Engineer, and Unskilled.

Unskilled laborers man food stations and supply stations, Engineers can tackle special tasks that come along and helps dig for survivors, and first aid helps to heal them.

Say the game constantly threw out events, and the faster the events were handled the more points are scored.

I'm afraid this is where I hit a brick wall, because I'm not sure how to balance that all out and keep the cooperative selfless spirit intact. Now am I exactly sure about the mechancis, but there would be plenty of oportunity for events (aftershocks, collapsing buildings, exploding gas mains, etc.).

I don't know, just a thought I guess.

hpox
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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

I can't say I'm very fond with the theme. Personally, I think it never was explored because it is a "kind of dull" theme. Of course that makes the challenge even bigger! :) But I can appreciate the original intent of not making "another" fantasy game.

The mechanic however, I find very interesting. Already I can see how it could somewhat play (with the time/condition limit suggested by Darke) and it sounds fun.

sedjtroll
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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

Bandecko wrote:
Perhaps one thing that isn't quite sitting right with me on this game is the scale.

I disagree... I would rather see it as say America, in the not-too-distant future when the overpopulation of man and the raping of the environment has taken it's toll on the planet and it's starting to show... not all of it has to be the fault of humans- like there could be floods from the global warming thing and stuff like that- but also just more earthquakes and hurricanes and such as the Earth has become unstable.

That's how I picture it anyway.

- Seth

sedjtroll
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Interesting article in The Games Journal

This month's Games Journal doesn't have much, but the thing it DOES have is interesting to those who participated in this Humanitarian Aid game idea discussion...

http://www.thegamesjournal.com/letters/Feb2004.shtml

- Seth

Scurra
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CGD1 Brainstorm: Humanitarian Aid

I hadn't seen that piece before I posted my comment in the other thread :)

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