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How do you define that a game has depth?

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larienna
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I want to make a geeklist of game where one of the criteria is tho have deep games, the opposite of fluffy games. So how to you define that a game has a good level of depth. So far, I came up with the following criteria:

Play time: A game under 30 minute is much less likely to have depth.

Replayability: If a game is replayable with various factions or scenario, it's more likely to have depth.

More strategy, less book keeping: If the process of the game consist more in thinking and making decisions than updating the status of the game, it should have more depth.

Do you have any other ideas?

X3M
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When choices can be combined

When choices can be combined or done simultaneously? For synergy or several paths to victory.

The Professor
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Evolution of Game State

Larienna,

For me, does the board or area look fundamentally different from its starting state. Can you track evolution over time. I'll use my own game and that of another 4X game, Twilight Imperium 3 (TI3), as examples.

In TAU CETI, not only does each player have greater wealth and energy reserves, but they've built Orbitals, resolved Crises, improved their Command Ships, and have increased their crew size to handle myriad issues across the systems.

In TI3, the player has expanded his area of control by seizing other planets, increasing the size of his fleets, and pursuing tech tree advancements.

In short, an hour into TAU CETI or 2-3 hours into TI3, the state of play is visibly different. Additionally, the decisions, as stated earlier, have changed from mere tactical decisions ("What do I do on this immediate turn?) to a much greater strategic line of questioning ("How will this assist me a few turns from now?")

Cheers,
Joe

larienna
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On board game geek, there

On board game geek, there seems to be a tendency to associate depth with skills.

It's a game you would need to play repetitively to increase your skill level and explore various facets of the game.

I kind of agree with that definition. A bit like chess, when you are a newbie, you play more on the tactical level, but when you are a master, you play more on the strategic level.

The Professor
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Interesting point

larienna,

Interesting point...I'm a 40+ year Chess player and while I couldn't describe to you about one of Spassky's opening moves or the Berlin-Zweiger counter attack (this actually doesn't exist), playing the game hundreds of times simply informs decisions you make during subsequent games. In some board games, this is done through the memorization of cards...most notably a game I love and a game I'll never play again.

The game I love is Twilight Struggle. Yes, if you're a newbie, you are going to have your posterior handed to you...it's inevitable. Why? Because the seasoned individual simply knows the deck of cards better than you and he knows not to put all of the Influence in an area which can be stripped away by the playing of a card...you simply don;t know that. It's hidden information in the beginning, later it's good card play.

On the other side of the fence is Through the ages...first, it's fiddly as all get-out, and this is coming from a person who absolutely adores Arkham Horror. But moreover, every card is seen, so those who have played the game more often have an advantage in waiting until the right combination of cards are presented for "purchase" despite whatever clever things you've done tactically-cum-strategically on your tableau.

To your point about strategic versus tactical...in these cases, you can plan strategically because you have information completely foreign to the newbie and unless you're willing to invest the time and energy to get better, you'll remain a newbie.

Cheers,
Joe

questccg
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Hmm...

Like playing Chess... I don't get the impression that playing MORE games of Chess is going to improve my level of strategy. It may make me more defensive to try to see what the opponent is up to... But am I REALLY learning how to play "better" Chess by playing more games, or is it something else?

My guess Chess is a game where you can SEE or should I say FOR-SEE what moves your opponent is planning on making. And again it's all about probabilities and "guessing" which is his most likely move. The more experienced the player, the better the odds of "understanding" his game play. While newbie or people who play more "Tactically" (as you put it) ... might surprise a player who is trying to predict their moves - because newbies tend to do things differently and not according to the odds of which is the best likely move.

I personally have "no preference" when it comes to Chess. I neither like nor dislike the game. I'll play a game or two ... but it's not something I really enjoy doing. As I said it before, I am fascinated by Card Games, the collectible or trade-able type... And when I design, I also like to see if there is the possibility of design a GOOD "Card Game"... I know "Tradewars - Homeworld" is pretty good game... But it's a Deck-Builder. Still have not designed a good CCG that people might want to collect... so...

Cheers.

radioactivemouse
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I'm confused...

larienna wrote:
I want to make a geeklist of game where one of the criteria is tho have deep games, the opposite of fluffy games. So how to you define that a game has a good level of depth. So far, I came up with the following criteria:

Play time: A game under 30 minute is much less likely to have depth.

Replayability: If a game is replayable with various factions or scenario, it's more likely to have depth.

More strategy, less book keeping: If the process of the game consist more in thinking and making decisions than updating the status of the game, it should have more depth.

Do you have any other ideas?

What defines "depth"?

Is it the amount of decision making during your turn or during the game as a whole? Does a game with a lot of bookkeeping make the game have less or no depth in it?

Also, at some point, you're going to have to pinpoint at which time a game "without depth" becomes a game "with depth".

Then there's the issue of time. Certainly a game can have a lot of depth if it's longer than 30 mnutes, but what about the players? Is the player a novice or an expert at the game? If the players are highly familiar with a game, they can run through a game faster (say, under 30 minutes)...so does doing that automatically render the game "no depth"?

I know you said "less likely", but what does that even mean? Some people have only played games like Sorry, The Game Of Life, and Candyland...these games can run well over 30 minutes, but (at least in my opinion) they certainly have less depth than, say, chess which can be played in under 30 minutes with the right players.

There's too many factors in determining "depth".

But how do I define "level of depth"? To, me I define level of depth by individual game. A game like Love Letter has more depth than a CandyLand, but has less cards, plays in less time, and has less components. If I were to set generalizations, I'd always find exceptions.

The Professor
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Decisions...and consequences

radioactivemouse,

So, it sounds, based on reading your last description, that you would underscore "depth" by the decisions made. Candyland has virtually none, while Love Letter has several during the course of the game.

Cheers,
Joe

radioactivemouse
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I suppose.

The Professor wrote:
radioactivemouse,

So, it sounds, based on reading your last description, that you would underscore "depth" by the decisions made. Candyland has virtually none, while Love Letter has several during the course of the game.

Cheers,
Joe

I think there are more things involved than just decisions such as immersion of theme, interaction of players (if there are more than one), and level of complexity involved, however I do teach my students that "fun" derives from "cool decisions".

I guess my whole issue is that the term "depth" has different meanings to different people, so trying to define it may be a bit harder than it initially appears.

I'd stick to more general terms instead of time restrictions and logistic limitations.

GameKnight
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I feel deep games tend to

I feel deep games tend to have the following characteristics:

1) Takes some time to learn all the actions/moves/options/strategies (unlike Uno).

2) There are many layers of strategy - one can play a basic/ beginner strategy, or multiple tiers of more complex strategies that require more knowledge, subtlety, interpretation, misdirection, negotiation, or other advanced techniques.

3) You must employ different strategies at different times/conditions, and each strategy has strengths and weaknesses. There is no one strategy that will win most of the time if employed for the entire game.

4) Elements of chance do not outweigh elements of skill - good players can overcome bad luck and still win.

5) The game shines the brightest when played by a table of highly accomplished players.

larienna
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Quote:But am I REALLY

Quote:
But am I REALLY learning how to play "better" Chess by playing more games, or is it something else?

You can get better at practicing, but for chess, after a certain point, you need to be taught how to see things from a different angle to pass to the next step. Else you will be capped at a certain milestone.

It's like my friend who explained me how "Street Fighter" players knew the amount of frames each move cost so that you can plan ahead moves that are faster than what your opponent can pull off in a specific situation to make sure you are not going to be countered. If you just play the game a lot and do not learn about frame count of moves, you'll never reach that level.

The amount of decisions and various path to victory was my initial thoughts of depth, but the concept of skill is also interesting.

questccg
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OMG!

larienna wrote:
You can get better at practicing, but for chess, after a certain point, you need to be taught how to see things from a different angle to pass to the next step. Else you will be capped at a certain milestone.

It's like my friend who explained me how "Street Fighter" players knew the amount of frames each move cost so that you can plan ahead moves that are faster than what your opponent can pull off in a specific situation to make sure you are not going to be countered. If you just play the game a lot and do not learn about frame count of moves, you'll never reach that level.

The amount of decisions and various path to victory was my initial thoughts of depth, but the concept of skill is also interesting.

Wow that is pretty deep @Eric. And I totally agree with you... Not just about "Chess" - but probably about "everything" IRL! You can try to learn something on your own, but if you really want to do well at - you probably would do much better if someone was "coaching" you. Like you say "at some point".

Very true and very sage advice.

The Professor
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Well stated larienna!

I have found over the years that by playing individuals at my level (or below) didn't do anything to enhance my skills), but playing against somewhat slightly higher pushes me to try new strategies. I have found that over the past few months, having played Castles of Burgundy on-line against dozens of players and nearly 100 games, I'm a much better player, because I have to raise my game in order to win.

JamJam52
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interesting topic

I agree with a lot of the comments on what gives a game depth but the closest to how I feel was mentioned by GameKnight:

GameKnight wrote:
2) There are many layers of strategy - one can play a basic/ beginner strategy, or multiple tiers of more complex strategies that require more knowledge, subtlety, interpretation, misdirection, negotiation, or other advanced techniques.

To go a little further Mark Rosewater (mtg) talked about what he calls lenticular design. A concept where a game is simple to learn for beginners so they can play and enjoy but the more you play more subtlety or advanced strategies can be found.

I think this is where I would draw a difference between a deep game and a complex game. But perhaps I'm just splitting hairs! lol

lewpuls
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Very hard to define

[I'm going to quote from my blog a few years ago. I was discussing how wargames needed to change to appeal to a broader market]:

Fewer Significant Decisions

The fundamental experiences people want in games have changed, too. People are much more interested in variety than in gameplay depth. They like lots of choices but they don’t like many difficult/significant choices. They tend to rely more on intuition than logic, a reliance that’s often encouraged in the schools and society (“use the Force, Luke”, don’t depend on the computer to aim that torpedo). So a game with lots of choices but few decisions that make a significant difference tends to be preferred to the older kind of game, where there is not only lots of choices but lots of decisions, and decisions within decisions. (I’m sorry if that’s not entirely clear but my spiel about gameplay depth and other kinds of depth in games is something like 10,000 words. This will have to do.)

[And that spiel is still not finished/published]

The Professor
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Interesting decisions

One of the games that I encountered during Origins last year, and have now clocked more than 100 games is Castles of Burgundy. At it's core, you can do four, and only four things per turn.

1. Move something from the main board to your own board
2. Move something from your own holding area to the colored tableau
3. Sell Goods
4. Hire Workers

But, it's in the subtlety of choices and how they interweave to make a good choice a truly great choice.

Cheers,
Joe

X3M
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While I still have a long way

While I still have a long way to go in designing. I find Lewpuls statement a valid one. I experienced it myself how some players reacted to my game and its depth.

In return, I changed some build up. Making it easier for starting players to learn.

I still offer many choices. But the most important one are obvious. And very deterministic.
Then there is a sub layer of choices for the experienced players.

Perhaps having sublayers of choices is a form of depth definition?

(Lewpuls, I am curious about your next wargame. Somewhere a sneek preview to find?)

Willem Verheij
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Replayability is certainly

Replayability is certainly important, and I feel that a game with depth does not show all there is to it in a single playthrough.
It's a game you can play countless times and still learn new strategies.

I do feel that there needs to be a small random/luck factor too for a game to have depth. This mixes things up and creates the surprise element, forcing players to adapt to something they did not foresee and this also tends to keep things more interesting when players have different skill levels.

Otherwise it can cause players to come up with a winning set of moves and then they just go through the motions of their sure way of winning. Which would just get boring.

Personally I strongly favor theme as well and to those who look for theme, depth certainly applies to that as well.

Not just in how the game looks, but how the theme is translated into gameplay to make it truly feel immersive.

Upcoming game Mythic Battles: Phanteon which is now in the latepledge fase on kickstarter is a good example.
It has very beautifull miniatures of greek mythology, but the abilities and personality of the monsters, heroes and gods reflects what they are known for in their mythology. Through that it truly helps to get the feeling across that you as the players are controlling these mythological figures and bringing them to life instead of just toying with some cool miniatures that by chance look like characters of greek mythology.

Also appears to have plenty of strategy in the game, seeing how it starts with a draft phase and players drafting from the same pool.
That leads to some nice mind games, and all kinds of counter drafting which means your setup won't ever be ideal.

You draft Medusa and other monsters with powerfull special abilities? I'll draft perseus who is immune to monster abilities.
You draft Paris who deals extra damage to my hero Perseus safely behind those earlier mentioned monsters?
I could draft something that flies to get past those monsters, or the satyr who can lure Paris to me with his panpipes.

There's always multible counters possible, and it fits well with the theme at the same time.

jvallerand
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I had a discussion recently

I had a discussion recently where I defined depth and complexity as the amount of brain power playing the game requires. Complexity is the amount required to play the game correctly (remembering and understanding all the rules), and depth the amount required to play the game well. It's linked to the concept of heuristic trees, and probably represents how dense the game's tree is.

And while I would agree that a 30 minute game is less likely to have depth, length is definitely not a criteria for depth. There are very shallow long games, and very deep shorter one. I personally look at decision/minute (not only in numbers of decision, but difficulty, and as such, something totally incalculable) as the unit of depth.

Willem Verheij
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A game should not be

A game should not be needlessly complex either though. It's fine to have complexity, but I feel that with more complex systems it has to feel natural how its resolved. That makes it easier to remember.

JamJam52
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I totally agree needless

I totally agree needless complication does not create depth just frustration! lol

Ive actually been thinking about this question quite a bit (its a great question, thanks larienna)

The Professor wrote:

But, it's in the subtlety of choices and how they interweave to make a good choice a truly great choice.

Cheers,
Joe

This jumped out at me, particularly "how they interweave", Almost all games I consider to have depth have mechanics or strategies that overlap and can be combined to create a high variety of choices and variables.

lewpuls
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Screencast

I see that I've discussed depth vs variety in a two part screencast:

Gameplay Depth and Variety (Breadth) part 1 http://youtu.be/AM31HXkdLDo
Gameplay Depth and Variety (Breadth) part 2 http://youtu.be/7Ky99m2WwRs)

The Professor
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Thanks!

Thank you, Doctor!

larienna
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My geek list is
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