Game Design Discussion

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Game Design Discussion

Unread postby Bob Whitely » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:14 pm

I thought it would be interesting to have a place to discuss game design. We've discussed it before in small doses, and I talk about it here and there on my blog—why I made some of the decisions I made, what appeals to me and what I'm shooting for with Cosmothea, but I want to hear your thoughts too!

Like, why do you play the specific games you do? What makes you love a game or hate it? What games do you like, but feel there's something missing—and what is that something you are craving for in that game, or in a game yet to come that would excite you and keep bringing you back for more.

Obviously as a game designer, I'd love to know that sort of stuff as it helps me in my own game design. A couple of considerations (as much for me as you to bear in mind):

• Cosmothea 5.0 isn't finished, so I wasn't intending to discuss it in this thread, since no one has even seen the full playtest document yet. I will probably use it as a point of reference at times, and when I do, I always do so as if the game is already done and how I am intending it to function. Time will tell whether I was successful
• It's impossible to please everyone (and it's not necessary to please everyone)
• No matter how good a game is, you'll always find something you don't care for, and that's okay
• Humans are creatures of habit, so the most popular game may not be the best game
• Sometimes a good/creative GM or good friends can make a bad game seem better than it really is
• Your level of interest in a genre can skew your interpretation of a game's fun factor and value
• Your gaming upbringing, sentimentality, good memories, are all very legit, but they can skew your opinions on what works and what doesn't in games

Did I miss anything? LIkely, but this is just a casual conversation as we have time to participate. Feel free to jump in. :)

Cheers!
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby Bob Whitely » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:42 pm

In this discussion—if it takes place, I'd like to minimize the heated, argumentative, high level complex language and philosophizing surrounding the topic of game design as hashed out loudly in the past over at places like The Forge. I'm not putting The Forge down, I'm just looking for a friendlier, simpler discussion and hopefully hit upon a few key, helpful points we can all take home to hopefully help us have better gaming experiences and know what we really want out of roleplaying.

There are a lot of wrong ways to design a game, but right ways are more elusive—there's no magical formula, though being professional and coherent helps. There's a lot to making a great game and many ideas on what a great game even is, so let's keep it casual and fun and interesting, while at the same time trying to make good use of our time here. Sound good?
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby warp9 » Sat Apr 30, 2016 1:24 pm

I've been thinking about this topic somewhat lately, although more from the perspective of video game design, rather than the more traditional paper and pencil arena.

Here is a somewhat relevant video for that aspect :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQvWMdW ... 6f-WTTzz_A

I'm sure that there are some similarities between game design for both types of game (video and paper-and-pencil), I'll give a bit more thought to the areas of overlap, and hopefully find something useful to say. And perhaps there is also something to be learned from looking at the differences between the design for the two mediums.
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby Bob Whitely » Sat Apr 30, 2016 2:24 pm

Thanks for the link. I'll have to check that out. :D
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby Bob Whitely » Sun May 01, 2016 1:10 pm

Yes, many parallels there. Good stuff. Thanks again for sharing it, Rob!
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby warp9 » Sun May 01, 2016 8:29 pm

Bob Whitely wrote:Yes, many parallels there. Good stuff. Thanks again for sharing it, Rob!

Yes, the main difference is probably the necessity of adding in those technical factors involved in getting a game running on a computer.

Also, since most games try to rely on the computer as the GM, there are a number of limiting factors that you wouldn't see in a traditional paper and pencil game (since the current level of AI is fairly limited). However, I think that games could do a lot more to create settings with better flexibility and also better AI. Unfortunately, this aspect of video game design is not a priority for many companies.


Anyway, on a slightly different note : here is also another video from the same people who made the last one I linked, and this one is also design related, but IMO applies equally to the design of almost any type of game (be it paper-and-pencil or video based). Specifically this one relates to the use and misuse of Cthulhu (or, more generally, any horrific cosmic entities) in games https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DyRxlvM9VM
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby Bob Whitely » Mon May 02, 2016 1:09 pm

I checked out the video and a number of others they did. They had a lot of good comments across the board on a number of their videos. Thanks again for the links!
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby Bob Whitely » Mon May 02, 2016 1:17 pm

Because there is only so much time in the day, when I do have time to play a game, I far prefer to play tabletop. When playing console games, I very quickly get bored of the lack of a sentient behind all the people I talk with in the rpgs. I love the fluidity of a GM, the endlessly original things NPC's can say and ways they can react that is so vastly superior to anything I've seen even in the best console games. All that said, they do have it when it comes to the visuals! It is fun to walk by while my son is playing Fallout 4, Halo, etc.

That's about the only thing missing for me in tabletop games. Tons and tons of cool art, which is one of the reasons why I want to pile on as much art onto my game products as possible. I plan to have loads of art in the orynii book and in as many books as I can. Sadly, cash is a limitation, but if I can manage to start getting a significant fan base for what we make, then I should be able to slowly up the amount of art. Of course, it's not moving art, like in console games.

Working with a mobile game app company has given me a taste of the sorts of decisions that go into making and marketing the digital games, though not as much as if I was at a company doing stuff like Fallout or Skyrim, etc. I'm also a huge fan of board and card games. I've made quite a pile of those over the years and will polish a few and pursue them on Kickstarter one day, if all goes well. The game design choices there also have some overlap with traditional rpgs, but there are many other nuances. Every industry I think can benefit from learning about another and how things are done. Even just learning how to work on a team, whether it's a bunch of lawyers or game designers, can cross over.
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby Bob Whitely » Mon May 02, 2016 10:42 pm

Currently, among other things, I am in the process of reviewing Cosmothea 4.0 rules to see what will make it to the latest edition. It is a time-consuming process. Even things that make it over to 5.0 have to be reviewed for the way they are written to make sure they make sense and the lingo is still correct. But I also look for simplifying areas that are needlessly complex or try to sort out a different way of handling something that I feel will work better. Of course, I also make sure that the ported over goodies are also fully compatible. Yeah, it's time-consuming all right, but faster than writing from scratch. And I like much of what was in 4.0 or I wouldn't have done it. I might even miss a couple things that won't make it over, but overall, I think I'm going in the right direction. A decent amount of what was in 4.0 is targeted for moving over, with plenty of changes, as said. But I've also redesigned a good amount as well, looking to see how I can maximize different areas of the game, making things more efficient/interesting/appropriate, while also more flexible and cleaner, when possible.

I'll continue to refine and when we finally get around to serious playtesting, I'm sure there will continue to be changes as it is polished up. All of that assumes that I'll get that far. If our slowly growing fan base shows way more interest in the Cosmoverse, it will receive more attention. Cosmothea's future will be based on interest. I don't have the luxury of time to work on things that aren't showing a return indefinitely.

Over the years, Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse have fed each other. When working on one, it has revealed things about the other, and that's been very helpful. I don't know what the future holds, but I imagine I'll always be playing Cosmothea. It's still my favorite game, but there are a number of good games out there, I know. It is my intention to finish 5.0. I'm just saying there's only so much time in the day.

I think it's important for a game designer to ask themselves a lot of questions about their game, but also to not be afraid to change something, try a new idea and see if it sticks. I've been experimenting more in 5.0 than I did in 4.0.

In 4.0, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how. It was just a ton of work to get it all done and I was very busy on other projects. I have already made some big changes to 5.0 since the early days of starting it. Enough to jump to a 6.0, but I've resisted. I'm now at a point where many of the tough decisions are out of the way. Of course, as I move along, something could change that I'm not aware of yet. Not because I don't have a battleplan, but because I might get a better idea or realize a better way of doing the same thing. At some point I have to just put my foot down and say, "This is how this version will work." I'm almost ready to do that, as I'm pretty happy with most things. But I'm not closing my eyes and I believe that even a battleplan needs to be adjusted from time to time to ensure it's the best course.

There are no sacred cows. I'm turning over every brick. It just takes quite awhile when it's only one project among many and I'm not doing any of them full-time.
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Re: Game Design Discussion

Unread postby Bob Whitely » Wed May 04, 2016 10:15 pm

Not sure if I've mentioned this before or not, but one thing I like to do is revise my character sheet as I go along in the design process (especially seeing as how we continue to play the game even at the early stages of a given version). I find creating character sheets both therapeutic, a bit like putting a puzzle together, and also helpful design-wise. As I'm trying to sort out where everything should go, I'm constantly thinking also about what everything means, determining if I'm presenting it well—both the game mechanic and visually.

This semi frequent evaluation helps tighten things up—for me at least, and I've come up with some interesting improvements to my rules when doing so. Some designers might think that the only time you come up with good ideas is when down in the trenches with the mechanics, pouring over the math, etc. but I've found that my best ideas usually come when I'm doing something entirely different (like walking the dog) or only peripherally connected (when doing graphic design for laying out the sheets.

And of course, brainstorming is immensely helpful. I spent a solid year just brainstorming (I had no money to invest in QT Games projects that year) and it made a HUGE difference, resulting in the foundation for Cosmothea 5.0 (of course brainstorming is one thing, then you have to actually sit down and flesh it all out which is what I'm doing now). I had brainstormed tons before over the years for each version of Cosmothea, including all the micro versions, but never as much as for this latest one. I mean, who has a year to just sit and ask questions, imagine, wax creative? It was liberating, thrilling, revealing, and now I am putting it all together (as I find time).
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