Thursday, November 24, 2005

I've spent Thanksgiving evening putting together the first issue of Sweep of History Games Magazine. The software has behaved itself (as well as can be expected), and I've got 14,000 words in 38 pages! Thanks to Torben and David it is much larger than I'd hoped. I still have to create the feedback survey and reference that, then (I hope) be done with it.

I've taped together the very long and narrow Hellenia (TM) map. But I don't know when I'll be able to play.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

FFG's Britannia Web site is up, but it is still not orderable. I wrote to the person who is supposed to be in charge of the site a couple weeks ago, but have not had a reply.
Lst Friday I went to Rick Steeves' monthly game night, and managed to have Seas of Gold(TM) (2 players) and Enchanted Labyrinth(TM) (3 players) tried. The "simultaneous" (mostly) method worked well in SoG, but Rick, who is the most experienced player after myself, preferred five rounds of five cards to the shorter four rounds of six. More PT required; I think I'll try reducing the island trade values by one and increase the initial value of trading to the North.

EL worked fine. The problem with that game is marketing, as the idea sounds too much like other things, even though it is in fact unusual.

Otherwise, the Hellenia (TM), Barbaria (TM), and even a Middle Eastern version of Brit have been taking what little time I have.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I'm not a denizen of Consimworld (I think my games are representations rather than simulations, though some people disagree). It has been recommended to me as a place to publicize Brit 2 and so forth. I've nosed around a few times, and a few weeks ago, noticing that magazines have areas in the forum, I wrote to John Kranz about "Sweep of History" magazine. Haven't got a reply, however, not even a "you're not a real magazine". I had thought about coughing up $18 for the privilege of posting at CSW, but that put me off a bit, and so did the (non) reaction to a "news" item I submitted--one I thought might not be regarded as suficiently worthy, but OTOH I'd think it might warrant the courtesy of a response.

Somehow I'm not impressed so far.

I publicized the Brit survey on Boardgamegeek and immediately got about one third of the total respondents (now at 39) coming in, I assume from that notice. So I posted my "Fundamental Structures of Games" there, and got some useful comments.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The seven (or eight) structural subsystems of any game (video or non-video):

A game can be thought of as a system (as in "systems analysis", for the computationally inclined). What I'm trying to achieve is a list of the fundamental sub-systems that are necessarily a part of any game. This list may help novice designers, because if they think about all seven of these systems as they rough out their game, this will help them conceptualize and arrive at a playable idea.

I want a framework that will help a novice designer think about games. There are other ways to analyze the fundamentals of games, e.g. in terms of states and changing state, but I don't believe that point of view helps new designers much.

This scheme is related to games that are models of something (often, of some reality); I have not tried to include sports, such as football or basketball, in which people participate bodily. The systems should apply to a tabletop sports game, but perhaps not to the sport itself.

If one of these systems is completely missing, you might have a toy or puzzle, but not a game. For example, in Katamari Dimachy (sp?) there are no victory conditions, and you have a toy. Sometimes the system is assumed, but still a decision has been made about the category. For example, in Tic-Tac-Toe there is no acquisition of resources, but it still has an economy of "none"--it could have a way to gain resources, and there may be variations where you do.

I've tried to list these subsystems in an apparently-logical order, but every one is just as necessary as every other one.

Objective/victory conditions. In other words, what causes one player to win, (and what causes the game to end)? Role-playing games have no end, but do have objectives: usually to acquire experience points and (magic) items. The game ending can be arbitrary ("play five rounds", yet there will still be a way to determine the winner at that point.

“Data storage”. (Information Management?) Something has to record the current state of the game. This is often a board/map. In Tic-Tac-Toe, it's the nine-box layout. In card games, the layout of the cards on the table, and the cards themselves, store data. Pieces can store data, in particular the traditional cardboard pieces of wargames that contain movement, attack, and defense values. A detailed map stores LOTS of data.

Sequencing. In what order do things happen? "Simultaneously" can be the answer, but taking turns is the norm in non-video games. Even in video games that appear to be simultaneous, there is usually a hidden non-simultaneous sequence (as that is the nature of most computing).

Movement/Placement. Players generally manipulate something, most often pieces on a board or cards in their hand or on the table. Chess and checkers have movement rules, the Asiatic game Go has placement rules. Movement/placement one at a time is the norm. Even paper-rock-scissors has movement (as well as sequencing) rules.

Information availability. What information about the game available to all players? In traditional boardgames all information is available, but in card games information is largely hidden. Five-card draw poker has a lower level of information availability than Texas Hold 'Em, because in the latter you see some of the cards "held" by the other players.

Conflict resolution/interaction of player-controlled entities. What happens when an action of a player leads to a conflict? This can be as simple as in Tic-Tac-Toe (conflict is not allowed, you can't place your mark where the other player already has one), or it can be simple as in chess (when a conflict occurs, the moving player always wins). In checkers you jump a man in a conflict. In Go you surround stones to capture them.

You can argue that Tic-Tac-Toe has no conflict rules, that movement rules govern where markers can be placed; but in this view a choice has still been made, that there will be no conflict. It is possible to have a game without conflict, such as a race game or many card games. There's no conflict in Solitaire, either.

"Economy" (Resources). How are new pieces/capabilities acquired? Some games have no way to acquire these, but that is still a decision made about the game. Even games that don't appear to have an Economy have some elements, for example, in chess you can promote ("queen") a pawn, and in checkers you can make a king. Many modern games, especially many computer games, are economic/resource management games.

Originally that was the extent of my list. I may want to include an eighth:
Player Interaction rules. What governs how the players interact with one another. For example, in a multi-player game, are negotiations allowed? Physical intimidation? (The answer to that is almost always "No", but it is a decision, and I have seen games that involved physical intimidation...) Some people might include this in Conflict resolution/interaction.

This is an "ongoing" work. Any comments?

Lew Pulsipher

Friday, November 04, 2005

Owing to the results thus far of my poll about Brit subjects, I've started a Roman-Empire game, and I've resurrected my notes about "Diadochi" and turned it more toward Brit.

No playtesting going on locally lately, unfortunately. I've been tied up with domstic things, too. I am not finding time to play any of the new games.