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I love it when...

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Desprez
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I love it when I fix one mechanic, and it also fixes a completely different problem as well. I'm sure you can relate.
That is all.

Lucas.Castro
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Details, Details...

Is this at all related to your retro space-opera game? If so, I certainly hope that is not all, because I am now quite interested in hearing more about it! :-)

NativeTexan
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I do too

Desprez wrote:
I love it when I fix one mechanic, and it also fixes a completely different problem as well. I'm sure you can relate.
That is all.

The exact thing happened to me last weekend. I was play testing with a couple friends and one of them suggested a way to ratchet up the tension/suspense. It made the game much more interesting. All of a sudden, we then realized that this new element also simplified the previously awkward play order. It was boggling. We ADDED something new and it made the game both more fun and less complicated. It was fantastically elegant.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Me too

I love when these things happen too.

Can you please describe it? I'm interested.

InvisibleJon
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Iconification and "rebus" syntax...

I'm improving an adventure game for kids that I'm going to be pitching pretty hard at GTS 2009. The game has a problem that many of my games have: The cards are very wordy. I've been working on it with my wife, and we simultaneously came to the conclusion to condense oft-repeated phrases into icons. I was very worried that this would increase the complexity of the game (by obscuring the messages) instead of reducing it, and it did – when I iconified the cards my way. When I iconified the cards Sharon's way, it was great!

Y'see, I was condensing entire concepts like, "Roll a die and compare it to your health. If the result is less than your health, discard a card," into one icon. Sharon wanted to condense just nouns or verbs to transform the lengthy instructions into rebus-like phrases: "[picture of die rolling] < [picture of health heart] (new line) [picture of card being discarded]." That worked a lot better.

The end result is cards that are just as mechanically rich, but a lot less intimidating. Not exactly the same as a mechanical revision leading to game improvement, but similar.

Desprez
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Ok

Quote:
Is this at all related to your retro space-opera game? If so, I certainly hope that is not all, because I am now quite interested in hearing more about it! :-)

It is. And it happened a couple of times now, though I forget what the first one was.
But recently, while I was doing some rough solo testing, I noticed that players didn't have to spend much time in between planets, because they often were placed close to each other, or because it was too easy to obtain fast engines. This made life very easy for the trader, and very hard for the pirate. There weren't too many open spaces, and didn't feel very 'spacey'. (Oh yeah, systems are placed randomly. They are hex-shaped and arranged in a roughly 7x7 arrangement. Adding more empty areas - making the board bigger was going to have a table-space/complexity issue.)

So I ended up chopping a lot of the inhabited systems. This fixed the distribution, and also greatly lessened the chances of both: getting the three major planet types right at your starting area, or getting a "locked-in" starting area, which would have required me making some sort of "mulligan" rules.
In addition, it has also simplified my mission cards. There are cards ideal for all the different roles, but they should be divided equally to get the same chance of drawing a given type. And the trader missions were causing problems. To get a good sampling of different 'pick-up cargo here, deliver it there' there were going to have to be quite a few, and I'd either have to increase the others types to match, (making a lot of cards) or skip a lot of possible routes. (leaving gaps in which planets could have pick-up or drop-off.) By cutting the number of inhabited systems, it also fixed the number of trade cards needed.

In all, simply reducing the number of inhabited systems, I managed to fix 5 problems.

brisingre
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Nifty

Yeah, I do love it when that happens. It doesn't happen nearly enough to me. Of course, I'm one of those odd gamers that pretty much worships complexity (a bad thing if you aren't targeting other people like you, but whatever,) so simplifying the game isn't a priority. However, I do love it when I change one thing and it fixes a bunch of problems.

Lucas.Castro
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Complexity of the Designer's Mind

I can only speak from my experience, but I often find that when I starting to develop an idea, I tend toward throwing everything and the kitchen sink into it. I get all the ideas and mechanics that fit into it, and find that I trim down the game as I go along.

Do you guys find that you tend to go from complexity toward simplicity, or are some of you more adept at starting from relative simplicity to begin with?

InvisibleJon
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Complex to Simple

Lucas.Castro wrote:
Do you guys find that you tend to go from complexity toward simplicity, or are some of you more adept at starting from relative simplicity to begin with?
My games start complex, and get trimmed, and trimmed, and trimmed. It is rare that I have a game that stays simple all the way from start to end.

The Magician
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InvisibleJon

InvisibleJon wrote:
Lucas.Castro wrote:
Do you guys find that you tend to go from complexity toward simplicity, or are some of you more adept at starting from relative simplicity to begin with?
My games start complex, and get trimmed, and trimmed, and trimmed. It is rare that I have a game that stays simple all the way from start to end.

It's good to know I'm not the only one who does this! lol

simons
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Advice I once got...

I got this piece of advice once on complexity, that I always try to follow:

-Keep your game as simple as possible (or as reasonably possible, the wargame I’m working on right now is 60+ pages, though that seems somewhat appropriate for the genre, and only about 10 or so are the core rules). Each time you add a new rule (and thus add to the work required to learn a game, and the chance that someone will misunderstand or forget it), it needs to be worth it.
-When a problem arises during playtesting, do not add a new rule. See if you can tweak your current rules so that it becomes less of a problem. If that doesn’t work, do not add a new rule. Often, it is a result of a combination of other rules, and can be fixed by removing other parts of the rules. If that doesn’t work, then maybe, maybe it’s time to consider adding a new rule.
-Occasionally you will want to add some kind of flavor rule, something which doesn’t do a whole lot to affect gameplay, but adds an interesting twist. Try not to add more than one of these. And, when possible, try to avoid this all together by making the flavor come out of your other rules (his example: lets say you have a combat game, and you want to add a “Bleeding” rule; it is often better to alter your other rules in a way that it is obvious that bleeding is occurring, rather than clip and extra rule on the side).

That said, depending on the scope of the game, sometimes I try to build up. For example, in my current wargame, my original playtest did not have magic, summoned creatures, animated creatures, or most special abilities. I only wanted to test the core game idea. When I saw that this worked, I really tried to get the melee combat system down. Once I had a functioning and roughly balanced melee system, I added in summoned creatures. Once I could see that they were at least roughly balanced, I added in magic, and so on. This is similar to how I was taught to write computer code, make sure the first part works before adding the second part, and so on.

However, as stated before, this is a rather complicated game, and I wanted to have a game that could work, even if someone decided not to have a wizard, or a summoner. Some games simply would not work without all of their elements present, in which case you couldn't do this.

Also, on advice from my roommate, whenever possible I look for places where I can get 80% of the gameplay for 20% of the rules.

Simon

InvisibleJon
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Rules for specific situations are broken.

simons wrote:
-When a problem arises during playtesting, do not add a new rule.
This is good advice. It's one of the most useful things I learned, and it's so intrinsic to how I operate now that I'd forgotten that I didn't always know it. Any rule that exists for a specific, select case or set of cases should not exist. Instead, find a way to make it work, or rework the game so the select case does not become an issue.

Gamebot
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InvisibleJon wrote:simons

InvisibleJon wrote:
simons wrote:
-When a problem arises during playtesting, do not add a new rule.
This is good advice. It's one of the most useful things I learned, and it's so intrinsic to how I operate now that I'd forgotten that I didn't always know it. Any rule that exists for a specific, select case or set of cases should not exist. Instead, find a way to make it work, or rework the game so the select case does not become an issue.

However, sometimes after you exhaust all tweaking and still find that it doesn't solve the problem, adding a rule is sometimes the best option. When you do need to tack on that rule try to make it flow well with the rest of the game, cause interesting interactions, and above all be simple. It should look like its been there from the beginning.

The Magician
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Gamebot wrote:InvisibleJon

Gamebot wrote:
InvisibleJon wrote:
simons wrote:
-When a problem arises during playtesting, do not add a new rule.
This is good advice. It's one of the most useful things I learned, and it's so intrinsic to how I operate now that I'd forgotten that I didn't always know it. Any rule that exists for a specific, select case or set of cases should not exist. Instead, find a way to make it work, or rework the game so the select case does not become an issue.

However, sometimes after you exhaust all tweaking and still find that it doesn't solve the problem, adding a rule is sometimes the best option. When you do need to tack on that rule try to make it flow well with the rest of the game, cause interesting interactions, and above all be simple. It should look like its been there from the beginning.


Otherwise the rule apears too patchy, the problem doesn't really go away, and you end up with a messy game.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
And sometimes

And sometimes the players say 'Let's play again, please!'. And you say 'Ok, but we can change this a little bit...'. And they say 'DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING! Can we play again this afternoon, too?'

...and then you feel you're the next Knizia for a few minutes. ;-)

FurbyFubar
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Desprez wrote:I love it when

Desprez wrote:
I love it when I fix one mechanic, and it also fixes a completely different problem as well. I'm sure you can relate.
That is all.

I had this happen to a game I'm working on recently. The game deals with variable phase orders, with the phases that end up last not being played at all. Before the phases are played the players "vote" by placing three "phase order cards" face down and showing then simultaneously in order to decide how to move the phases. Each card played (that wasn't a "move nothing") cost more money than the one before it, making for some interesting decitions. Playtesting showed that this part worked nicely. However, it was annoying to have eight or so phase order cards that were always in the hand, even before factoring in production costs. After some more playtesting I started questioning if money was really needed in the game. The cards needed research cards to be played and it was a little bit too hard to get to play the cards. But then, if money was removed, how to solve the issue that playing phase cards needs to cost some resource? Well, cards are resources, so lets just make you have to discard a card for each phase moving card played?

Evreka! Make the game cards act as phase moving cards.

Instead of "phase moving cards", all game cards now can move a phase as if played for this reason. The top 10% of the card says "move phase B earlier" and the bottom 10% says "ƃuıɥʇou ǝʌoɯ". What you do is apparent from what way you play the card. Playing the "move nothing" side gets you the card back to your hand.

And yes, I also love it when this happens and yes I can relate.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Removing money

It is not the first time this happens to me. Removing money from the game actually improves it and solves a lot of problems.

Money causing problems? Sounds familiar? ;-)

InvisibleJon
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A theory about game design and money...

coco wrote:
Removing money from the game actually improves it and solves a lot of problems.
I think that we're very used to thinking of the world in terms of money, so it's avery useful initial design tool for us. However, money is not a primary need, but a secondary one – you can't eat, drink, clothe yourself in, or find shelter in money. Instead, it's the symbol that you exchange for these things. Consequently, we may start with designs that involve money, but we come to realize that it's just an intermediate step between commodity phases, or actions, or other effects in the game. Then we strip out the intermediate step (the money), simplify the game, and everything is happy.

The Magician
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InvisibleJon wrote:coco

InvisibleJon wrote:
coco wrote:
Removing money from the game actually improves it and solves a lot of problems.
I think that we're very used to thinking of the world in terms of money, so it's avery useful initial design tool for us. However, money is not a primary need, but a secondary one – you can't eat, drink, clothe yourself in, or find shelter in money. Instead, it's the symbol that you exchange for these things. Consequently, we may start with designs that involve money, but we come to realize that it's just an intermediate step between commodity phases, or actions, or other effects in the game. Then we strip out the intermediate step (the money), simplify the game, and everything is happy.

This is an excelent point. I think it stands on it's own on multiple levels.

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