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The 400 Project

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doho123
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I know that some people here like to use various metrics and classifications for digesting their (and others) designs, so I thought I'd pass this along.

The 400 Project is a growing list of "rules to consider about game design" being put together by some video game guys. The number 400 is purely a random number just to have a target goal.

While there is some amount "video game"-centric rules, there are quite a bit of general, higher level game design concepts at play also, that can be looked at and considered.

Julius
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The 400 Project

I like this one:
"You should be able to explain all the rules to a casual game in three sentences."

I use this sort of rule for different parts of my game. If part of the game cannot be explained simply, it needs to be simplified. I've completely gutted a core mechanic out of one of my games because describing it was too long winded.

jedevangelion
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The 400 Project

Was the end result better for gutting it though, Julius?

It IS a videogame orientated list (I'm a videogame designer by trade), but I'm very interested in the crossover between the disciplines. The three sentence rule is a valid mantra in videogame design, but there's plenty of boardgame mechanics that work really well and yet take more explanation than that, so I'm curious as to how it worked out for you. :)

TLEberle
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The 400 Project

Didn't Einstein say something like "Make things as simple as possible, but not too simple"? Just because you can explain it in three sentences doesn't mean it's good? You can describe Risk as "Players try to conquer the world," and that's all fine and good, but that doesn't get at the heart of the game.

My parents ask me what games I play at game night, and I hesitate to name games like "Puerto Rico," because they can't be explained in a sentence or two, and it would just baffle them.

doho123
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The 400 Project

Quote:
My parents ask me what games I play at game night, and I hesitate to name games like "Puerto Rico," because they can't be explained in a sentence or two, and it would just baffle them.

It can't be that hard. I'm sure they aren't interested the nuances or a rules explanation, just a basic idea of what the game is. In it's most simplest form...

"Puerto Rico is a game where you build a plantation, grow and harvest goods, and then ship them for points, or sell them for money."

Additionally, you could add "You spend money to buy buildings which give you special bonuses throughout the game."

There's no need to go into the whole "choose your role" thing, as that's not really what the game is about; even though it's a primary focal point of the rules and how the game works.

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The 400 Project

Just a note that the rule, "You should be able to explain all the rules to a casual game in three sentences," was in the category of Casual Games.

Casual Games are the games that you play on Yahoo Games and places like that, the little arcade mini-games (a huge market, btw, and hugely popular among women). In the case of actual Casual Games, you probably should in fact be able to explain all the rules, including their details, in three sentences, because people are picking up new ones casually, and any lengthy rules explanation requires commitment.

-- Matthew

Julius
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The 400 Project

jedevangelion wrote:
Was the end result better for gutting it though, Julius?

It IS a videogame orientated list (I'm a videogame designer by trade), but I'm very interested in the crossover between the disciplines. The three sentence rule is a valid mantra in videogame design, but there's plenty of boardgame mechanics that work really well and yet take more explanation than that, so I'm curious as to how it worked out for you. :)

Actually, yes... by forcing myself to simplify the game I found that game speed became much, much faster, and consequently, more fun.

It was a tactical war game where units were represented by cards. Every time you need to do something, be it an attack, heal, repair, use a special ability, etc. - you needed to roll a dice for that unit. The check is simple - Roll a d6, add the ability (which would be +0, +1, +2, or +3 ... with few rare '4's'), and if you get a target number (or better) you succeed.

Furthermore, for a unit to be able to act, they had to have the right piece of gear equipped (another card). To attack you needed a weapon. To heal you needed a medkit. To repair a vehicle, you needed a toolkit. There are other special items (night vision goggles, etc) that come into play as well, and to use them, the unit must be equipped.

For example, you want your soldier to attack another. He must be armed with a weapon and the enemy must be within line of sight. To attack, roll a d6, add his attack score (say, +2), plus any modifiers for the weapon (laser sight, +1 to attack), and if you beat the target number (light armor is a base 4, +2 for cover, he's at long range so another +1), you hit! Roll damage, and deal that amount.

After playtesting, I found that, well, it sucked.

Due to the number of units, calculating up all of the variables for every given attack slowed gameplay to a crawl. After a few sessions, I scrapped it and started fresh.

Now, there are no separate equipment cards, weapons, or otherwise. Your soldier no longer has stats, just final values. I.E. - Everyone is armed with some sort of weapon (some have more), and next to that weapon are the attack stats for it (range, and attack bonus). Medkits (cross icon) are given to a few units who can heal, and next to that is a score for healing (healing bonus). Toolkits (screwdriver icon) work like medkits. Special abilities and special equipment have sort of blurred into a single 'special' category, and are explained in the flavor text of those units.

Also, instead of calculating a final 'to hit' number, I set it to '6' - everything (attacks, repairs, healing) need a 6 or better to hit.

So now, when you soldier wants to attack another, he rolls the attack, adds the bonus next to the weapon. 6 or better hits. I also simplified damage - instead of rolling damage, you now just inflict a fixed amount, also next to the weapon.

You'd think this was better. It wasn't. There was still the complexity of having to roll for each unit, which (though faster because there aren't as many calculations), was still tedious.

Version three was where I gutted skill checks/attack rolls. Now, when a unit attacks, it is an automatic hit. Repairs are automatic, Healing is automatic, speical abilities are automatic. No rolling whatsoever.

Continuing the attack example - When your solder attacks another, the other guy takes whatever damage is listed next to the weapon. That's it.

When I playtested this version, smiles spread around the game table. Play was lightning fast, and still had the same strategic feel as the original, without the slowdowns associated with all of that rolling. By throwing out checks, I turned it into a very, very playable game.

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
The 400 Project

You cannot make 400 universal rules to make a video game because the video game industry currently works like fashion, it changes every 5 years. So you'll end up with some rules that are not necesarily universal.

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