I expect I'll be at PrezCon in late February in Charlottesville, VA. I'm scheduled to talk about game design at 9PM Friday evening. This will be an hour of (mostly) me talking, then an hour or more of questions, answers, and discussion.
Another review of Dragon Rage, by Michael Barnes of fortressat. http://www.gameshark.com/features/871/Cracked-LCD-225-Dragon-Rage-Review.htm
Yes, it is expensive, though it will be carried once more by FunAgain and that eliminates the enormous shipping expense.
The old SPI "simulations" weren't games, they were puzzles. Players would "solve" the puzzle, which would cause the result to be just as history dictated. The problem with that is that history is what happened, which often was not what was most *likely* to happen. "History is not merely what happened: it is what happened in the context of what might have happened" — H R Trevor-Roper
I've decided to self-publish in electronic formats three (or more) books that are, for the most part, reprints of material I've written for magazines and the Web.
One will be RPG material, including everything from Dragon and White Dwarf as well as other magazines (I always sold only First World Serial Rights back then; in fact, I stopped writing for Dragon when they required all rights). It will also include character classes I've used in my own First Edition AD&D campaigns since then. I'll have to decide whether to include the "D&D Army" rules that I devised and used, as well.
Another will be Diplomacy material, especially Diplomacy variants.
The third will be other, non-RPG non-Diplomacy, gaming material, especially blog posts and Gamasutra/GamerCareerGuide articles.
I have no idea when these will be available. Getting the old (pre-computer) stuff into publishable shape is a chore, often requiring scanning. Almost certainly they won't be available until after my game design book from McFarland is available, whenever that will be.
I read a story in the book the *Ultimate History of Video Games* the reminds me of a frequent debate in games. That debate is, does it make sense to keep information hidden in a game if that information is in fact trackable. My view is that it does not make sense because somebody will track it. Other people take the position that it's perfectly reasonable and anybody who does track it is a jerk. I'd say the person is just doing what he can to win the game but in any case as soon as somebody does then that's the end of any sense to keeping the information hidden.
So here's the story. Ralph Baer, the inventor of the Magnavox Odyssey that was the first home game playing console, even before the Atari 2600, also invented a camera to use with arcade machines. The idea was that when somebody got a high score the camera would take a photo of them and that photo would be displayed on the machine. When they tested this at an arcade, for the first day it worked well. On the second day some wiseguy got a chair, stood on it, and mooned the camera. And that was the end of the product.
Just as, when somebody actually tracks the information, that should be the end of the notion that you try to hide trackable information.
ALL games have some form of victory points, but in many there is no accumulation during the game. The fundamental reason to have VP accumulate during a game is to end the game before it's really "ended", that is, someone completely dominates. (Points accumulate in Settlers of Catan even though they're not overtly tracked, with the important difference that you can lose points.) (Lots of subsidiary reasons for points, of course.) In the games where there is no accumulation during the game, scoring the point ends the game. Chess, for example (score one point when opposing king is checkmated). If chess clocks were not used then we might want victory points and a time limit for chess, because games could potentially last ridiculous lengths of time. The point values of the pieces would become the points.
Video games are getting more and more into fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience etc.
In Payday: the Heist and Diablo III, I read, you can switch from one character class to another without penalty. I suppose that means you don't have to worry about making a poor decision, so it makes the game easier to play. I understand it continues to get easier and easier to aim, to get your hit points back, and so forth.
More and more it seems that a game needs to have a "Wow factor" to attract attention of players.
Because of the influence of big movies (that often use CGI) and the Internet, people expect a wow factor to be flashy. "Mind blowing" is the phrase I see, and when I see it I think "you must have a weak mind if
Yet chess, Britannia and most other wargames, Tetris, lots of games are not that way at all. And might have more trouble penetrating the market now than in the past.
I've noticed among young people that often a person is given as much credit for an intention, as for what he or she actually does. So if someone intended to do such-and-such, it's OK that they didn't. This is taken to extremes as in "I intended to come to class" but failed to wake up. Someone much older is likely to say, one can have some sympathy, but the fact is you didn't come. And act accordingly.
In a way, equating intentions and actions puts a stamp of approval on incompetence. I remember the phrase "the road to hell is paved with good intentions".
A D&D analogy:
1st and 2nd edition AD&D is like American football in how it requires cooperation of different classes to achieve success.
3rd edition D&D is like basketball, where one person can so easily dominate (though even in basketball, it's usually teams with the best teamwork that win)
4th edition is like soccer, where the range of skill requirements is more circumscribed than in American football, but cooperation is definitely required for success. The character classes in 4th, despite their seemingly infinite differences, all amount to a kind of sameness relative to the differences in character classes in 1st-2nd D&D. At least, that's the way it has seemed to me.
In modern first person shooters, the contrast of photo-realism to "make it seem real", and the ridiculous events that occur (no fear of dying, extraordinarily easy aiming, ammo and miraculous healthpacks just lying around, etc.) could be related to the board wargamers who want games that make them feel like they're "there" even though the games are not in any real sense "realistic" even within the confines of the tabletop.
Most of the people who play board and card games at our college club are also (and often primarily) role-playing gamers. (Heck, even for me, the only game I play strictly for pleasure is Dungeons & Dragons.) I'm not entirely sure why, but I'd speculate that amongst Euro game players, that is, people who primarily play Euro games rather than other types of tabletop games, the proportion who play role-playing games is much smaller. (Probably the proportion who play video games is also smaller.)