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Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

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Joined: 12/31/1969

The topic for the December 8th, 2003, Monday Night Chat was Analysis Paralysis and working to reduce its likelihood in your designs.

I edited the chat to clump conversations somewhat, and removed the pleasantries (greetings and such).

Please feel free to add additional thoughts!

This is the first hour or so of the chat. I'll add the second portion in the near future.

FastLearner: I define Analysis Paralysis as a player finding that he has so many possible options and/or consequences to analyze before making a move that he becomes nearly "paralyzed," grinding the game to a stop.

FastLearner: Is that what you guys think of when you hear the term?

Scurra: Sounds about right to me

tjgames: That's what I thought it meant

FastLearner: Some players are particularly susceptible to AP, and there's not a lot we can do about the differences in players. We can, though, work to create games that aren't terribly prone to it.

Scurra: I find Chess to be one of the most interesting examples of this.

Scurra: When you start, there are loads of options

FastLearner: So true. Chess is nearly defined by AP.

FastLearner: Hence chess clocks.

Scurra: As you get better, the options decrease, and then suddenly you get good enough that the options open up again

FastLearner: I see two core causes: too many choices to make, and too many consequences to consider. Some AP-prone games suffer from both, but more commonly it's one or the other.

FastLearner: Chess has both, I'd say.

Scurra: Which is why I think AP games suffer from AP

FastLearner: Precisely.

Scurra: (action point vs an.para)

DarkDream: I think you identified well, FL the causes of AP

FastLearner: Which brings me to:

FastLearner: Let's look at the first one, too many choices to make. Are there any games or mechanics that come to mind where this is a problem?

Scurra: One of the worst of these is "Citadels"

Scurra: Although that's a little unfair

DarkDream: Can you elaborate?

DarkDream: Where do you think there is too many choices?

Scurra: Well, one of the central ideas of the game is the "psychology" aspect

DarkDream: agreed

Scurra: You try to guess what others think you think they think you are going to take, which leads to AP


FastLearner: I think Citadels particularly suffers from the "too many consequences" issue.

Scurra: Oh, that too - I was going to mention it again later

DarkDream: FL, where do you see too many consequences?

FastLearner: I'll hit the consequences of Citadels after we talk about choices problems a bit more.

Scurra: But the choices are quite complex, beyond the consequences of those choices

FastLearner: Action Point games in general suffer from AP much of the time.

Scurra: It's one of the reasons I hate Tikal (et al)

FastLearner: It's interesting, though.

Scurra: You have (almost) perfect information at certain points

DarkDream: You think players spend too much time figuring whether or not to purse a certain avenue to get more action points?

Scurra: and that's one of the great AP generators

FastLearner: With those three games -- Tikal, Mexica, and Java -- Mexica doesn't have nearly the same problem, and I think it's a design issue.

Darkehorse: Interesting..

Scurra: Well, I couldn't bring myself to play Mexica - but perhaps I should

FastLearner: In Mexica you still have a wide range of choices and plenty of Action points, but the things you'd likely want to do are generally much more limited each turn.

FastLearner: In Java, on the other hand, nearly all of the actions could well be good.

Darkehorse: Torres doesn't have that problem as well?

FastLearner: Aye, Torres has some of it, too.

Scurra: I'm not so sure about Torres. It certainly has AP issues but the limitations are often clearer

FastLearner: Perfect information, as you mentioned Scurra, seems to open up the "consequences" side of things a lot, too.

Darkehorse: It's a paradox really.. We want multiple paths to victory which means we need more choices which in turn leads to AP

FastLearner: It seems like the best way to allow for mp2v while not having much AP is to help players get on "tracks".

DarkDream: It sounds like a balance of having multiple paths but not too many

Scurra: And the more "perfect" the game information is, the more AP is generated too

Darkehorse: tracks? Like Politics

Scurra: I really really don't like to do that

Scurra: I find that I'd rather let the players figure their own "tracks" out

FastLearner: That is, if every single turn you have multiple paths to victory then AP becomes rampant, but each path requires a bit of "investment" then they're less likely to wander.

FastLearner: I agree that I don't want to shepherd them too much, but I do want to help create... channels, let's say, where for two or three turns you can focus on making a particular thing work.

Scurra: I can see what you mean, but it can backfire sometimes

FastLearner: I certainly agree with that. In fact if you're not careful you'll end up creating a game where there's only one real path to victory.

DarkDream: So position and resources in a game for a particular player can limit the multiple paths of victory and hence AP

FastLearner: That's certainly what I mean, yeah. Great way to put it, DD.

FastLearner: Are there games, Scurra, where you've seen it as a problem? That is, railroading?

DarkDream: Would Settler's be a decent example here

DarkDream: in terms of somewhat limiting the paths of victory based on position and resources?

FastLearner: I think so. I like that if you decide you're going to go for some points via, say, longest road, then you can't realistically also go for largest army, too, at least most of the time.

FastLearner: Aye, too: if you're not producing brick then you're not going to be the longest road guy, probably.

DarkDream: So in this case you are not bombarded every turn with multiple paths only certain turns

FastLearner: That's what I think is a good solution.

Darkehorse: Imperfect information can be just as paralyzing for players who like to calculate odds

FastLearner: So anyway, Darkehorse you mentioned that imperfect info can lead to AP: any examples?

Darkehorse: Well... Let's see

FastLearner: While you ponder, how about the second one everyone, too many consequences to consider. Are there any games or mechanics that come to mind where this is a problem?

FastLearner: Chess is obviously a great example of a game with an incredible number of consequences.

Scurra: Carcassonne

Scurra: when you play it at a "high" level, anyway...

FastLearner: Ah, Carc. Good point. Would you mind elaborating?

sedjtroll: what about this fix for AP... introduce a turn timer

sedjtroll: like a 20 sec hourglass

Darkehorse: Ok can't think of a good example... Usually this happens when a player knows the game backwards and forwards and he knows exactly what can come up (for instance in a card draw). The player could spend a great deal of time weighing every possible conseq.

DarkDream: You have to analyze various moves five moves deep and evaluate the consequences

sedjtroll: happens in Magic...

Scurra: In Carc, when everyone knows all the pieces, the placement options multiply hugely

Scurra: since you start calculating likelihoods and so on

FastLearner: Excellent point.

Scurra: but, of course, played socially, Carc is quite fast and fun

DarkDream: I have only played it socially myself

Scurra: You should try playing Carc "seriously" - it's an education!

Scurra: Good players won't give an inch away, and will complete wreck you...

FastLearner: Does randomizing decrease the likelihood of AP?

Darkehorse: Again, it depends on how well the players know the game... I.E. they know what to expect

Scurra: Randomizing what?

FastLearner: Randomzing anything.

FastLearner: Carcassonne is a good example where the random draws don't solve the problem for players who have memorized the tileset.

Scurra: A good example of removing AP by adding a slight random factor is "Alhambra" if you've seen my review in here

Scurra: Stimmt So had some bad AP because there wasn't anything else you did with the shares

Darkehorse: But again that goes against the point, good/experienced players are SUPPOSED to know what's going to happen

Scurra: And that's why some games just don't work if you mix newbies with experienced players

FastLearner: Anything that makes it less likely that you can truly know how something will come out and so you can't "see" past a certain future point with enough certainty to make it worthwhile.

DarkDream: I think it can help eliminate AP, as with randomizing certain elements there is no way to guess what is coming next. Thus, you cannot calculate and experience AP.

sedjtroll: There was some complaint of A/P in 8/7c

sedjtroll: that may be a good example

sedjtroll: esp. if you know the cards

FastLearner: What was causing it, do you think?

sedjtroll: well, in part the "maximizing $ for ads

FastLearner: Seth: perhaps you could describe that more.

sedjtroll: with the "ad math", people would try and search for the "best" place to put an ad. Also, deciding on the best play based on what cards you might draw... that was also a candidate

sedjtroll: for A/P

sedjtroll: and A/P might be a little bit of a problem in 8/7c

Darkehorse: Seriously though, if you want to have a strategy game, AP is pretty much going to be a fact of life. If you randomize it too much then you risk ruining your game

DarkDream: Agreed, it is really a matter of degree. Randomizing should be done parsimoniously in key places where AP seems to exist.

FastLearner: Well... maybe. Union Pacific is an example of a game imo where there's enough control to make it a strategic game but enough randomness and hidden info to have very little AP.

tjgames: I would agree with DH Too random less strategy

Darkehorse: Balance is the key, as with anything..

Scurra: Actually, I find that having a "methodical" player in my current playtest group helps me spot AP issues early

Scurra: Since he makes the game last a very long time if there is a problem!

FastLearner: That sounds like a very useful playtester!

Scurra: He's a very good player, but sometimes we get a little exasperated!

Darkehorse: LOL.. Doesn't every group have that 'slow' player? In our group, his name is Steve. If you take too long on your turn, you are said to be 'pulling a Steve'

FastLearner: Let's look at the solution side a bit. What can be done to ensure that the number of choices is reasonable?

Scurra: Well the rule is 7 to 9 options at any time, isn't it?

DarkDream: Reduce overall complexity of the game, and try to keep the choices a maximum of 4-5.

Scurra: But they don't have to be the same options each time of course

Darkehorse: Another one of your 'rules'... Where do you derive these rules from?

DarkDream: I read that psychologically we have difficulty keeping more than 7 pieces of information at one time in our head.

tjgames: One Solution is to give players the info the need before their turn

Darkehorse: Excellent point!

FastLearner: Aye, excellent point.

sedjtroll: games like that and Carc are like- you're almost not supposed to consider that stuff too much. but you can't really tell people that

sedjtroll: the only way I see to ELIMINATE it would be to put people on a clock

DarkDream: I just don't think people would put up with that

Darkehorse: Clocks tend to alienate certain personality types, and in truthfulness they change the feel of the game...

FastLearner: Agreed.

Scurra: Have you seen Magna Grecia?

Scurra: That has a nice "here are the options you will have on this turn" device

FastLearner: Yeah, I've played it.

Scurra: which lets you consider what to do

FastLearner: I agree that MG has a clever mechanism for that.

Scurra: I was really impressed with the MG solution

Scurra: (mind you, I like the game a lot too, which surprised me based on a description)

sedjtroll: with Robo Rally we have an interesting solution (talk about AP!)

FastLearner: What's that, Seth?

Scurra: It's the "Ricochet Robot" solution, I would guess

sedjtroll: any player who has finished programming their robot can start the 2-minute timer (if it hasn't already strarted)

sedjtroll: when time is up, you are done programming- period

sedjtroll: so it's not a strict timer

Scurra: Hey, I was right

FastLearner: Interesting. That would speed it up.

Scurra: Because it's pretty similar to the one we use too

sedjtroll: you always get at least as much time as the fastest guy, plus 2 minutes

sedjtroll: is that like an official version? I don't know where it came from

Scurra: Seth, no, I think "great minds think alike"

FastLearner: I've not heard of it, but I like it. Though sometimes the fastest guy might only have two cards.

Darkehorse: seth: still it will tend to alienate certain personality types.. Some people just don't think well under pressure

Darkehorse: This again, is where a computer hybrid board game would come in handy. If the computer could present you with possible actions, it would considerably speed up the process.

FastLearner: True, as long as it didn't give too much of the game away.

Scurra: Oh yeah - like a puzzle game which gave you multiple-choice options!

Scurra: I think that's a bit like what Knizia's King Arthur game does

FastLearner: Do you know anyone that's tried it, Scurra?

Scurra: I haven't spoken to any of them about it, but I know some of the playtesters. They could probably talk now!

FastLearner: I'd like to know more about King Arthur.

Scurra: I'll drop you a PM tomorrow about it.

DarkDream: I think there is no way to eliminate it, the goal is to mitigate it

FastLearner: I think TJ may have been referring to things like "draw a card at the END of your turn instead of the beginning," for example.

DarkDream: I think the important idea presented is that you can reduce AP, by having the player able to think on the opposing players turn

FastLearner: I think that's a big one, DD, agreed.

Darkehorse: Well I think players are supposed to do that anyway.

Scurra: it's not always possible though

Darkehorse: But often times its difficult because the game changes so drastically depending upon the # of players

Scurra: take Tigris & Euphrates for instance

tjgames: At least if you are thinking on other player turns to things are solved

DarkDream: That the key, it only effectively works if the gaming field does not drastically change.

Darkehorse: I can't think of any examples, but I remember playing games where it was IMPOSSIBLE to plan more than 1 turn in advance, and even then it sometimes didn't work out

FastLearner: Sometimes players really can only do so much of it, though. For example in games where you draw a card at the beginning of your turn and the card can dramatically change what you're capable of that turn, it's very difficult to think ahead too much.

FastLearner: In a bad way.

Darkehorse: exactly...

tjgames: 1) you are not bored

tjgames: 2) You have already covered some of the options,

FastLearner: In other games the board (situation) changes so much that anything you figure out before your turn is likely moot.

tjgames: That's true Fl but that just has to happen sometimes

FastLearner: True. It seems to vary by game a lot, though.

tjgames: Example FL

FastLearner: TJ: I'm thinking about it... I remember several games that were like that...

Darkehorse: In my game poker face... there are two general phases to each turn... You draw your cards at the beginning of the turn, but they don't actually affect the first phase.. So you have a good time to think about what you are going to do with your cards

DonovanLoucks: Drawing cards at the end of your turn also indicates to the other players that you're done.

Scurra: I've changed a lot of designs to "draw at end of turn" precisely because of that

DarkDream: great idea

FastLearner: The first game I played that had that mechanism really threw me for a loop, but now I like it.

DonovanLoucks: That's a mechanism I've used in several of my (unfinished) designs.

tjgames: That also a Good reason to draw at the end of turn

Scurra: Oh yes, and now I find it odd to do things the other way around

Scurra: although having been doing a bunch of Rummy-variants lately, "discard at end of turn" is a good signal too!

FastLearner: Anyone have anything else in particular about Analysis Paralysis? Any other good tips or solutions?

tjgames: One that I used is in a current game is player being a sort of timer

FastLearner: Explain, if you will.

Scurra: I have the "do nothing" option (a la PR Prospector) which is a quick get out if they genuinely can't think what to do

Scurra: the pay-back is tricky

Scurra: tho'

FastLearner: That's a good point. One game I have in design now uses that, too (you can just take 2 gold instead of one of the other actions).

FastLearner: What do you mean by "pay back," Scurra?

Scurra: You have to make the return on the "do nothing" option worth taking, but not so much better than taking a "real" action

FastLearner: I agree... not so bad that there's no way you'd consider it, but never so good that it's clearly the best choice.

DonovanLoucks: Ah. I thought of one. In "Apples to Apples", the last player to play doesn't actually get to play.

FastLearner: Great example.

Scurra: We don't like that rule in A2A - it encourages random card throws

FastLearner: We usually play the "slow baked apples" version that eliminates that rule, too, as many players just throw junk. I'm a fast thinker, though, and like the rule.

Scurra: It's not as though A2A is prone to AP though, is it?

FastLearner: It sure is for some people.

DonovanLoucks: Scurra: No, but my point is that some sort of penalty could be foisted on the last player.

FastLearner: I played a nearly-3-hour game of Frank's Zoo the other day, due to two new players with heavy duty AP

Scurra: Urgh!

DonovanLoucks: RoboRally's a good example. The last player makes no moves this turn.

DonovanLoucks: Of course, this penalty mechanism is best when you have a lot of players. It obviously doesn't help much when there are only 2.

FastLearner: Donovan: that's an optional RR rule, right?

DonovanLoucks: Matthew: Not to my knowledge, though it might be.

FastLearner: Donovan: I don't remember that as a rule, which is why I asked.

tjgames: I am working on a game where player take turns being the farmer.

tjgames: It is a real time game but can sometime drag

tjgames: The farmer job is to keep it going, by acting as a count down mech

tjgames: If he fell that game is dragging he counts down. Player can stop him simply by playing a card and then he must start the count down again.

FastLearner: Interesting. Nice idea.

Scurra: TJ, that's rather neat

DonovanLoucks: (Every time I see "AP" I think "Action Points" instead of "Analysis Paralysis"...)

FastLearner: (Donovan: Yeah, we joked about that earlier)

Scurra: BTW, talking of A2A, have you ever played the Christmas Card game?

FastLearner: Christmas card game?

Scurra: Keep the front pictures of your Christmas cards. Deal them out to the players at random

Scurra: Then someone chooses a category - "fattest Santa" or "campest Angel"

Scurra: and you all put a card in, a la A2A

FastLearner: LOL, that sounds like a hoot!

Scurra: It is, I promise you.

Scurra: You have to put some rules in - people can't just throw random cards in like in A2A

Scurra: and if two people put the same picture in (for some reason) they are both out

Scurra: But it's a great New Year's party game

FastLearner: Sounds perfect for New Years, Scurra.

Scurra: We were playing it way before A2A appeared too

tjgames: I think sometimes your stuck with AP

FastLearner: Any other Analysis Paralysis thoughts, y'all?

tjgames: Play with fast players

FastLearner: Heh, good point.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Re: Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

FastLearner: Let's look at the first one, too many choices to make. Are there any games or mechanics that come to mind where this is a problem?

Scurra: One of the worst of these is "Citadels"

FastLearner: I think Citadels particularly suffers from the "too many consequences" issue.

Scurra: Oh, that too - I was going to mention it again later

I don't see this at all. Even in a 2 player variant, where there's a lot more to consider, I haven't seen Citadels suffer much from Analysis Paralysis.

This brings up an interesting point though... where is the line drawn? At what point does "analysis" become "paralysis"?

- Seth

Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

sedjtroll wrote:

I don't see this at all. Even in a 2 player variant, where there's a lot more to consider, I haven't seen Citadels suffer much from Analysis Paralysis.

This brings up an interesting point though... where is the line drawn? At what point does "analysis" become "paralysis"?

When other players start sighing and saying things like "Come on John, pick something... anything!".

I have found that the feel of a game of Citadels varies greatly with different number of players. With 3 players you have more info when picking a card, so you might want to ponder your choice a bit more. However, since there are only two other players the game still goes reasonably quick.

With 6 players the game becomes more chaotic and unpredictable, you have less info when making a choice and therefore there is no need to ponder as long. However, because there are 5 other players there is longer downtime between your turns.

I find that the game drags a bit with 6, but I enjoy it with 3.

- Rene Wiersma

Scurra's picture
Joined: 09/11/2008
Re: Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

sedjtroll wrote:

I don't see this at all. Even in a 2 player variant, where there's a lot more to consider, I haven't seen Citadels suffer much from Analysis Paralysis.

"I know that he knows that I'll pick this. But then he knows that I know that he knows this. So I pick that instead. Except that then I should still pick this..." (cue collapse into sobbing)

And I think it's worse with more players as you have to consider what other people will be able to pick as a result of your choice (and what previous people may have picked.)

But Citadels is a pretty light game in the grand scheme of things. I only mentioned it because it was one of the first ones that came to mind at the time.

Joined: 12/31/1969
AP/downtime -> side events

Evening all,

Just to throw my 2c in, has anyone thought of a game where the down time generated by the active player provokes a 'side-event' for the non-active players?

A crude example is that: While Player A ponders which card to play, Players B, C, and D cycle cards from their hand through the draw deck (either in turn or a free-for-all) :)


Joined: 12/31/1969
Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

Clever idea, I like it! Especially a turn-type system where the other players are taking turns discarding and drawing a new card until the other player plays, at which point he gets in on the discarding and trading. Very clever!

Joined: 08/03/2008
Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

Cute idea Dave, but it depends a lot on the game itself. If it was a serious strategy game, this kind of meta-game effect seems to me (a somewhat slow player) to be a big turn-off. It would work really well in a light, wheeling-and-dealing game, though! It all depends on the game. I can't see it breaking up analysis paralysis, though, since a player prone to that would just try to listen to what kind of deals the others were making and try to plan around that. It would incentivize fast play, though.

Unrelated, the reality, I think, is that some players just play slowly, and it seems that there's almost nothing you can really do about it. I played a game of New England with such a player the other day, and they agonized over which number to take in the very first bidding round. I respect that people want to take games seriously and spend time making decisions, and I usually play on the slower side myself, but even I find that sometimes, decisions take "too long". I don't see a way around it short of asking the player to hurry up (which isn't all that nice) or just not playing games with them (which isn't that nice either). I think the game design problem only goes so far.

I very much agree with Scurra's "wheel of psychology", akin to the Vecini (?) - man-in-black conversation in the Princess Bride (I'm just getting started!) I think those kinds of decisions boil down to Rock-paper-scissors, and you have to give them as much thought as you'd give that game, or maybe a little more, and accept the uncertainty of the outcome as an ingredient in the headgame. Of course, designing a game that doesn't rely on a headgame is also a good aim as a designer. Any game that has big rewards for "guessing correctly" could seem really deep and interactive, but only if a player couldn't do equally well by making the decisions randomly. A good example is Lord of the Rings: the confrontation, which I like. There is definitely an element of "I can play this card or that one; if he plays A, I want to play this card, but if he plays B, I want to play that one" kind of decisions, but over the course of the game, I think skill balances out the randomness of these individual decisions, and certainly so over a "set" of several games.

I like FastLearner's articulation of the crux of the matter: AP can be due to too many choices, or too many consequences. I haven't worked my way through the whole chat yet, but this gives me a useful analysis point from which to evaluate my own games and identify sources of possible paralysis points.

Nice job guys!

Joined: 12/31/1969
My Thoughts

The whole AP issue is very interesting.

I think one of the points in the discussion, is that there are going to be slower players and faster players regardless of the game. Just because a player goes faster does not necessary necessitate that he is a slower thinker or ponderer, he could be calculating really fast.

However, there are other players that are just dang slow no matter what the game is. Is it their fault, no. As a game designer do we have any control over this particular player: can we *force* him to think faster or play faster?

In my opinion, not really. We can come up with various schemes such as have a player act as a counter (like a clock) that the player must move before the annoucer annouces zero! Or during play, the non-active players get to do various things benefiting them more the longer the active player ponders.

We can do this, but why are we designing these extra rules to a game to combat the possibility of slow players? There might not even be any slow players to begin with. Not only that, by designing such rules there is an implicit discrimination against these slower players. This in itself might not only frustrate such a player but make them feel alienated resulting in them quiting.

To me a good game can be played by all audiences and even kids up to the age of nine or ten. Regardless if a person is German or English, dummy or genius, veteran war gamer or an occasional family player, faster player or slower player, if *all* can have fun playing it then that is a good game. To me every game should be designed with this in mind.

A more fruitful approach is to design our game where there are less opportunities or situations where these "slow players" will trip themselves up. Besides mitigating these slower players, it will also speed up the game by allowing for the faster players to even play faster.

Let's face it, regardless of fast or slow players, the more choices presented to a player, the longer he will take regardless of his speed. To me, the main focus should be streamlining the game, while still making it interesting, to reduce analysis paralysis and down time.

For example, if the game has ten phases per turn and each phase has six or seven choices each, then you have a problem and this as a designer you *can* control.

As designer's the focus should instead by reducing AP and downtime for all players instead of the minority of slow ones.


Torrent's picture
Joined: 08/03/2008
Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

Another take on this is making sure players understand their decisions as completely as they are supposed to.

We play games in a little bar here, and it has pretty bad lighting. Not horrible, but at the light we have colors blend somewhat. I have already outlawed playign with both the Blue and Green pieces for Carcassone.
The light just makes them all look alike.

Anyway, we were playing Clans last night and one play consistantly took a long time. It was his first time playing, so I didn't really notice. However come to find out, he is colorblind and was just spending most of his turn trying to distinguish the colors from one another.

So AP can certainly be caused by player confusion. Either through colors, or similar symbols. It is the sort of thing we all experience when we play a game for the first time. It always takes longer to decide when you are learning because you don't completely understand what you need to. So game systems that have some confusing bits/icons/colors could be a potential source of AP.

This should be an easy thing to fix if it seems to be a problem. I think there was even an article on Games Journal about good design practices, which covered color among other aesthetic aspects.


Joined: 12/31/1969
Part 2 of the Chat

Here's part 2 of the edited chat transcript.

tjgames: I think it something that's part of gaming. The trick is to come up with mechs that can speed it up if possible with out hurting the game.

hpox: Does AP always increase as the number of choices / decisions increase or is there another factor ?

tjgames: Seems to

Darkehorse: I would also say that it increases depending upon the # of factors that get affected by each choice

tjgames: But some players can add to it. Read back a little

tjgames: I don't think that it always a big problem as long as down time is not boring

hpox: How can players add AP? Certainly one player can analyze more than another but can they add some? I think yes. I know when I play against a certain opponent, who is a very skilled strategist, I'm always analyzing more.

tjgames: Some players over analyze or are new to the game.

Darkehorse: just by personality.. IE Certain personality types tend to analyze more than others

tjgames: True

tjgames: I have one in my gaming group.

hpox: Yes, I agree they add to the length or boringness of the game but they do not themselves add AP..

Darkehorse: they don't add it, they fall into it

tjgames: LOL

hpox: Playing an existing game with mucho AP, you can reduce it by poking the players asking them to go faster. Or just playing faster yourself hoping others will pick up the pace. Any other ways?

tjgames: But like I said earlier I think it something that's part of gaming. The trick is to come up with mechs that can speed it up if possible with out hurting the game.

hpox: Yep. From the ground up, by design we can reduce AP... any tips? Limiting decisions is obvious. Real-time play. Take-that style.

tjgames: The most common mech is Info. Give players some info before their turn

tjgames: That way they can at least thought of some possible moves

Darkehorse: Seth suggested using timers.. I personally think that some people find timers annoying and won't play games with timers..

tjgames: Timers are sometimes good, but I do feel some player get offended by them.

Darkehorse: Well based upon what we've discussed, you could a) limit the possible moves or b) limit how much impact each move has on the game

hpox: yeah, a constant stream of information (to keep them focused on the game) would be nice. A lot of decisions (but only a handful would be considered good) I think that would empower the player because he will feel "Zen" playing each move.

tjgames: That does work sometimes as long as you are not too limited

Darkehorse: and c) Limit the total # of moves per player per turn

hpox: Yep

DonovanLoucks: There are some games that are nearly multi-player solitaire. On a turn, a player pays for this, gets one of those, draws these, and so on. Limited interaction can result in high AP.

tjgames: One game I mentioned earlier that I am working on has player taking turns as the timer.

DonovanLoucks: This kind of goes back to our previous discussion of levels of interaction. Where the interaction between players is only through their pieces and not through direct player-to-player interaction, I suspect AP is higher.

tjgames: How would you prove this?

Darkehorse: That's funny I would say it would be lower.. You don't have to factor in what the other players may do so it seems like there would be less AP

hpox: If the timer is somehow integrated in the game (like you could buy time, or have more or less for some reason) I think it'd useful and fun

tjgames: That a cool idea hpox

DonovanLoucks: So, for example, if the only way we can interact is through my building a house on a location before you can, I'm going to spend all kinds of time thinking about it.

DonovanLoucks: But, if I can make deals with people about where I'm going to build that house, I've at least got other players involved.

hpox: It should work with the theme too.

DonovanLoucks: AP is a solitary thing, so remove the solitary elements from the game (where possible).

DonovanLoucks: "Pit" is one of the best examples of a game with high player interaction. There's no AP there.

Darkehorse: Good point

tjgames: At least it doesn't seem as boring if you are interacting with other players

hpox: I agree Player involvement is very important to keep the game from being boring while waiting, but I think it has nothing to do with Analysis Paralysis. The only relation I see is that AP makes the game boring while waiting for your turn.

DonovanLoucks: "Chess" is one of the best examples of a game where the only interaction is through the pieces. There's loads of AP there.

Darkehorse: Pit eliminates AP because EVERYTHING about the pretty much relies on player interaction

DonovanLoucks: Precisely.

DonovanLoucks: Is there any sort of direct player interaction in "Puerto Rico"?

DonovanLoucks: That is, is there any bargaining?

hpox: Yeah, I always directly tell what's-his-face that's it's his turn now

hpox: No, j/k. Not that mean.

DonovanLoucks: It's the sort of game that can lead to AP. And, I think it's primarily due to the lack of direct interaction (as opposed to the indirect interaction of taking a role before your opponent does, for example), that can lead to AP.

hpox: But if you add trading (bargaining) it would be even longer. Don't you think?

DonovanLoucks: I wouldn't add anything to improve this -- I'd replace something.

hpox: Ok. fair enough.

DonovanLoucks: "Tikal" is a perfect example. There's no direct interaction between players. The only interaction is through the pieces.

hpox: I'm still not convinced it's the answer to AP, although you raise good points.

DonovanLoucks: So, if you've got 2 guys stationed at a pyramid, I can move in 3 and take control.

DonovanLoucks: I don't bargain with you over where I should or shouldn't move.

DonovanLoucks: In fact, you could leave the room entirely and return once I'm done.

DonovanLoucks: (Of course, this eliminates the time you could spend planning your own turn.)

hpox: I like the topic. What direct *player* interactions mechanics exists?

hpox: There's trading/bargaining/diplomacy

DonovanLoucks: Primarily bidding and bargaining.

Darkehorse: You're assuming 'table talk' has no affect on a player's decision

hpox: Yeah, and bidding.

hpox: Any other? Does playing counter cards (a la Magic) counts?

DonovanLoucks: I also dislike the kind of game (alluded to earlier) where the board can change so much from turn to turn that there's no reason to plan your move.

DonovanLoucks: "RoboRally" is one of the best examples I've ever seen of AP, although I still love the game.

DonovanLoucks: It usually happens when a player gets a wide variety of cards and realizes that they can pull off some amazing feat, if only they plan long enough.

tjgames: I agree. Game where my down time is spent staring at the wall aren't my fav

DonovanLoucks: Generally, you realize you don't have anything special and you just program some straightforward move.

DonovanLoucks: But occasionally, you realize there's SOMETHING in your cards--if only you can see it.

hpox: So, trading, bidding, diplomacy. That's it for direct player involvement?

DonovanLoucks: hpox: I wouldn't consider counters/interrupts to be a type of "direct" interaction. It's still just interaction through the rules and pieces.

Darkehorse: What did we figure out were the different levels of interaction? I lost the log from the chat

DonovanLoucks: I had come up with three levels, but I think you came up with four.

Darkehorse: Don: what were your three?

DonovanLoucks: I think I had no interaction (multiplayer solitaire), indirect/rules interaction, and direct/player interaction.

DonovanLoucks: I think you may have added "social interaction" which were outside of the game itself. "I'll avoid attacking you this turn if you get me a soda."

Darkehorse: ahhh ok..

hpox: Ok, so you're thinking of involvement outside of the "game's theme?"

DonovanLoucks: No, that was Darkehorse's "social interaction".

tjgames: Isn't that diplomacy

Darkehorse: social interaction = table talk

DonovanLoucks: Indirect/rules interaction is where I roll the die, get a 6, and move my stone onto yours, sending it back to start.

hpox: ok

DonovanLoucks: Direct/player interaction is where you pay me $100 in game money to avoid sending your piece back to start.

tjgames: Forced interaction

DonovanLoucks: Social interaction is where you and I discuss that pirate movie we saw last weekend because I drew the "Corporate Pirates" card in the game.

Darkehorse: Would you consider trading to be rules interaction?

Darkehorse: Or I try to talk you out of a move bc I think it would benefit you (and probably me) more if you did a different action

DonovanLoucks: I'd consider that to be direct interaction because it somehow "goes beyond" the specifics of the rules. But, I'm afraid I can't define that very well...

Darkehorse: or you could say direct interaction is interaction where the outcome of the action is decided by interacting with other players

DonovanLoucks: If I roll the die and can land my piece on player A or player B, and decide to land on the latter, that's rules interaction.

DonovanLoucks: If the players have no means by which to convince me otherwise, it ends there.

DonovanLoucks: But, if the players are given the means to coerce me to land on the other, then it steps up to direct interaction.

hpox: Surely there must be a yet to be invented mechanic which fall under direct player interaction.

DonovanLoucks: That is, the players are interacting directly, not just through their pieces.

Darkehorse: I think I split solitaire also..

Darkehorse: But perhaps it was unnecessary

DonovanLoucks: Their pieces usually act as middlemen in rules interaction.

hpox: When bidding you're using your counters/money/chips, no?

DonovanLoucks: Yes, but the bidding process (depending upon the type of bid) is interactive, not static.

DonovanLoucks: I want to make it clear that I don't see indirect interaction as a negative thing. Nor do I see direct interaction as a goal to be achieved over indirect interaction.

Darkehorse: Hmmm I like your classifications..

DonovanLoucks: I see both types as being useful in a game. Heck, "Tikal" is one of my favorite games, and there's NO direct interaction in it.

DonovanLoucks: Anyway, I got off track again. Sorta. I was just laying the ground for my opinion that indirect interaction (and no interaction) can lead to AP.

DonovanLoucks: If we came up with examples of games with high AP, we could probably see a correlation to indirect interaction.

DonovanLoucks: Although, we might not agree on just what indirect interaction is...

Darkehorse: Ok I remember now...

Darkehorse: Strict Solitaire - Nothing you do affects any of the other players, multiplayer solitaire - Changes you make to the game world affect other players, target interaction: you specifically affect other players or manipulate their resources,

Darkehorse: direct interaction: bidding, trading, etc and social interaction

Darkehorse: That was how *I* classified it... Not set in stone of course

DonovanLoucks: I'm not sure I see a clear distinction between your second and third categories, since either one can be calculated to harm your opponents.

Darkehorse: Ok for category 2, suppose I race to a spot and claim something before you.. Category 3, I move to a square and attack you.

Darkehorse: For the second category, I didn't directly affect you or your resources, but I may have forced you to alter your plans

Darkehorse: I'm not saying your wrong, I'm just breaking it down further...

DonovanLoucks: I understand your distinction between the two, but I'm not sure it's necessary to make it. I dunno.

Darkehorse: So for my category 2, I *may* have affected you, but in category 3, I *definitely* did.

DonovanLoucks: I'm not sure that's sufficient distinction. Perhaps in the case of category 3 you roll a bunch of 1s, so you DON'T affect me.

Darkehorse: I agree, a distinction may not be necessary.... But it may be helpful.... A race game (category 2) would be completely different than a war game (cat 3)

hpox: I'm still telling you, there must be more to direct interaction. Surely!!!

DonovanLoucks: How do you mean "more to" it?

hpox: More mechanics

Darkehorse: oh sure.. we're just too lazy to think of them...

DonovanLoucks: Here's another possible way to define it. Indirect interaction is how you affect/influence your opponent through your/his pieces. Direct interaction is how you affect/influence your opponent through your/his brain (mouth, hands, whatever).

Darkehorse: True... but it's more the intent of the interaction than anything...

DonovanLoucks: I think that's a different kind of categorization, based on the type of game, not the type of interaction.

DonovanLoucks: In other words, I think you're mixing the type of interaction too much with the type of game.

Darkehorse: I was hoping to give examples of games that might rely heavily on each category

DonovanLoucks: If we were playing a two-player game of "Napoleon" or a two-player game of "Speed Circuit", I'd consider both to have the same kind of interaction.

Darkehorse: let's not get over analytical

DonovanLoucks: Yes, let's!

DonovanLoucks: AP! AP! AP! AP! AP!

Darkehorse: I'd rather not.

Darkehorse: Especially since we are both saying pretty much the same thing

Darkehorse: But I agree, the distinction between the two isn't entirely necessary

DonovanLoucks: I think direct player interaction is lacking from a LOT of games, but they're still loads of fun.

DonovanLoucks: For what it's worth, all the direct interaction games I can think of have bidding or trading or negotiation in them. "Settlers" is a great example.

Darkehorse: It really is hard to implement direct without falling back on the standard trading, bidding, etc.

hpox: I know that! I'm hard at work trying to find something else...

DonovanLoucks: "Something else" as in other examples?

Darkehorse: and those types of mechanics tend to lend themselves to trading and bidding games.. LOL

hpox: As in other mechanics

hpox: Physical interaction, maybe?

Darkehorse: like slapping games?

hpox: Yes.

DonovanLoucks: That gets out of the realm of a "game", in my opinion. Better not bring that one up around Darkehorse!

DonovanLoucks: By the way, you might find the last section of this article to be of note:


DonovanLoucks: Specifically, the "Other Forms" section at the very bottom.

Darkehorse: Ok thanks

DonovanLoucks: By the way, my opinions on "games", "sports", and "puzzles" were formed years ago, long before I read this article.

Darkehorse: hmmm that guy puts puzzles and sports as subcategories of games

Darkehorse: Which I don't necessarily disagree with

DonovanLoucks: Kind of. He's using the general term "game" the way the public at large uses the term.

DonovanLoucks: That's why he's got quotes around it.

DonovanLoucks: That's all I've ever argued.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Re: Part 2 of the Chat

DonovanLoucks: Specifically, the "Other Forms" section at the very bottom.

I find it hilarious that he listed Ultimate Frisbee in there, under "games more widely viewed as sports".

While I agree with what he's said, I've played Ultimate for 10 years, and I've never thought of it as "widely viewed" :)

Would be nice though. Maybe I should finish Flatball and help that cause! :D (shameless plug- now go read my Flatball journal and comment on it so I can figure out how to finish!)

- Seth

Joined: 12/31/1969
Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

I do not agree that "direct interaction" (as in trading, bargaining, coercing, diplomacy, arguing, etc) reduces AP necessarily. For example, some players take a very long time during the trading phase in Settlers, trying to find out the "best" trade out of a numer of possibilities.

Perhaps this kind of AP is not as bad as the kind of AP where a player is calculating the perfect move in complete and utter silence without interating with other players, because the other players are more involved and so there is less downtime for them.

However, to come back to my Settlers example, when a certain player is not involved in the trading phase there, and it takes a long time, the downtime can be just as bad.

Like I said in the other thread, the real problem is downtime not analysis paralysis, although often analysis paralysis is the root of the problem. If you can somehow circumvent downtime because players are all suffering AP at the same time (simultaneous programming as in RoboRally or Wallenstein, for example) or because the players are still involved in the game (as in direct interaction or a realtime game such as Pit) then you didn't solve AP, but you did solve downtime and that's what it is all about.

- Rene Wiersma

Joined: 12/31/1969
Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis


I think you have helped clarify my thoughts. The whole issue revolves around reducing downtime which to me is reducing the amount of time for *everyone* not doing *anything*.

One of the cheif mechanisms of reducing downtime is a lot of player interaction which I think is key. To me interaction is where two players must do something together within the context of the game or at least consider interacting with each other (a two way street where both players have the opportunity to interact, not just one - real time, trading and son on). This may be rolling dice to see who go firsts, trading cards and so on.

There could be many causes for downtime, lots of things to do on a turn while other players wait, but one of them is analysis paralysis.

If anaylysis paralysis occurs for a player or players, this is an indication that there may be a *downtime* problem.

Most likely AP for downtime is too many descisions or the abiltiy to see many moves down the line that would greatly effect the player.

In other words the key should be removing downtime, where AP is a signal that there a particular problem. The focus should be on downtime and not AP.

Just some more thoughts,


Joined: 12/31/1969
Binary Tree Decision Making


Just to mention that you could artificially 'reduce' the number of choices a player has from a set of actions by presenting them as a binary tree.

For example, 8 actions can be divided into 2 categories of 4 actions each and each of the categories can be divided into sub-categories of 2 actions each. Thus it should take 3 decisions to arrive at a single action instead of having to make 7 'elimation' decisions to arrive at the best action from the initial set of 8 :)

In our current playtesting game 'Sentinel'*, players have a choice of 5 colours to select each communal turn for the purpose of moving their piece onto that colour (one of the five choices isn't major because their piece is already on that coloured square). However, there are typically only 2 colours that will move the piece forwards and 2 colours that will move them backwards, therefore the player first has a binary choice of 'forwards' or 'backwards' (thus eliminating 2 of the remaining 4 colours) and then a choice of 1 of the remaining 2 colours :)

Dave W.

(*see my journal/profile for game details...I noticed our resident AP player played this game relatively quickly on his first experience :) )

Joined: 12/31/1969
Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

Excellent point and excellent idea, DaveMan. I'll definitely be keeping that in mind in future designs.

-- Matthew

Torrent's picture
Joined: 08/03/2008
Chat Transcript: Analysis Paralysis

I kinda referenced an idea like this earlier, but it may have gotten lost right before the second part of the chat. But if you reduce the worth of each decision they should be easier and thus go faster. However, you are increasing the number of decisions required, which could actually Increase the time take for the overall tree to be traversed.

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