Author Topic: My Holy Trinity of Game Design  (Read 2146 times)

Offline Nytemare3701

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My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« on: March 12, 2013, 04:00:36 PM »
I've had these floating in my head for years and I apply them to every job I do, but I feel that it would be good to get them on paper and potentially challenged by the community. (Written in chronological order, as I use them during development)

1. Cross Reference EVERYTHING
    When you make a polymorph spell, it needs to be checked against all the monsters. All of them. When a new book is in development, every creature needs to be added to the polymorph pool or removed from it (like the sharn)
2. Modular Design is GOOD.
    This is sort of an extension of #1, but it deserves its own place. A game that has clearly defined terms and keywords can be easily cross referenced and added to without breaking things.
3. Iterative Design is GOOD.
    If #2 is an extension of #1, then this is an extension of #2. A hardcopy RPG can't go through iterations after release without clunky errata, so all iteration must be during the development phase. The developers of 3.5 weren't testing the game, they were just playing it, and making assumptions that everyone else would be playing it their way. This led to things like the Druid's animal companion being a combat monster, while they assumed a druid would never let his pet get in harm's way.  :banghead

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Offline Amechra

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2013, 11:56:18 AM »
I especially agree with number 2; whenever I look at a system, I look for "hooks" that I can attach new mechanics to.
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Offline Necrosnoop110

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2013, 12:37:36 PM »
3. Iterative Design is GOOD.
    If #2 is an extension of #1, then this is an extension of #2. A hardcopy RPG can't go through iterations after release without clunky errata, so all iteration must be during the development phase. The developers of 3.5 weren't testing the game, they were just playing it, and making assumptions that everyone else would be playing it their way. This led to things like the Druid's animal companion being a combat monster, while they assumed a druid would never let his pet get in harm's way.  :banghead
One and two I couldn't agree with enough. But I'm not sure I fully understand point #3, could you expand on that point a little bit. Do you mean you should never have errata or revisions? Do you mean they shouldn't have gone from 3.0 to 3.5? What about just plain old oversight or mistakes - surely there is no game system that does not have at least a little of those? I'm confused. 

Thanks,
Necro
« Last Edit: March 13, 2013, 10:13:57 PM by Necrosnoop110 »

Offline ariasderros

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2013, 01:14:01 PM »
(click to show/hide)
One and two I couldn't agree with enough. But I'm not sure I fully understand point #3, could you expand on that point a little bit. Do you mean you should never have errata or revisions? Do you mean they shouldn't have gone from 3.0 to 3.5? What about just plain old oversight or mistakes - surely there is no game system that does not have at least little of those? I'm confused. 
He means "Iterative Design" as in making it balanced no matter the play style it is used with. The Devs of D&D played the game under certain assumptions, and assumed that all others would play it the same way. They didn't test it under other play-styles. Basically, some if the Ivory Tower was intentional, some wasn't. Polymorph and the Druid class are good examples of things that weren't intentional.
You should have errata and revisions when needed, but properly beta-testing the hell out of something can really cut down on how much is needed.
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Online oslecamo

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2013, 01:55:47 PM »
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One and two I couldn't agree with enough. But I'm not sure I fully understand point #3, could you expand on that point a little bit. Do you mean you should never have errata or revisions? Do you mean they shouldn't have gone from 3.0 to 3.5? What about just plain old oversight or mistakes - surely there is no game system that does not have at least little of those? I'm confused. 
He means "Iterative Design" as in making it balanced no matter the play style it is used with. The Devs of D&D played the game under certain assumptions, and assumed that all others would play it the same way. They didn't test it under other play-styles. Basically, some if the Ivory Tower was intentional, some wasn't. Polymorph and the Druid class are good examples of things that weren't intentional.
Actually, polymorph and druid uberpower were extremely intentional.

You just have to compare the 3.5 version with the 3.0 one. They were both significantly weaker. I started playing in 3.0, so I quite well remember players complaining about how polymorph didn't gave any actual abilities of the monster besides base stats and actually carried a penalty to rolls, or how you had to go out there search for your own animal companion, and if you used it as an expendable minion, it would turn on you by RAW.

There's also stuff like how Black Tentacles didn't auto-hit and you could actually slash them away, or how magic immunity actually meant that.

But caster players wanted to blast golems and fight as good as monsters and have armies of efficient expendable minions that will never turn on you(all at the same time), and the designers simply gave them what they were asking for.

Offline Amechra

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2013, 02:01:16 PM »
Note to self: Pillage 3.0 for stuff for 3.5.

Honestly, those comments are giving me warm memories of my 1e days.
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Offline Necrosnoop110

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2013, 04:28:10 PM »
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One and two I couldn't agree with enough. But I'm not sure I fully understand point #3, could you expand on that point a little bit. Do you mean you should never have errata or revisions? Do you mean they shouldn't have gone from 3.0 to 3.5? What about just plain old oversight or mistakes - surely there is no game system that does not have at least little of those? I'm confused. 
He means "Iterative Design" as in making it balanced no matter the play style it is used with. The Devs of D&D played the game under certain assumptions, and assumed that all others would play it the same way. They didn't test it under other play-styles. Basically, some if the Ivory Tower was intentional, some wasn't. Polymorph and the Druid class are good examples of things that weren't intentional.
You should have errata and revisions when needed, but properly beta-testing the hell out of something can really cut down on how much is needed.
Ok, thanks. I was just confused by the title I suspect. (I know what the word iterative means but I just didn't get the phrasing) If it had said "proper beta-testing" or something like that I would have gotten it right away. In any case, I agree with all three points of the OP.

Cheers,
Necro

Offline Amechra

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2013, 06:28:57 PM »
I just got the 3rd one because I code; you can tell most things weren't written by programmers!


Actually, I think most people should have to get some experience coding, since it teaches you to check your work in a hardcore way.
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Offline Raineh Daze

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2013, 06:34:06 PM »
I do programming, and I'm not sure what number three is getting at. Unclear use of 'iteration'? :huh
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Offline Nytemare3701

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2013, 07:01:54 PM »
I do programming, and I'm not sure what number three is getting at. Unclear use of 'iteration'? :huh

Make a product. Then go over it from the beginning again, challenging all assumptions. If it passes scrutiny, add another feature and repeat. Continue this process until you either run out of time or money.
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Offline Chrononaut

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2013, 08:13:05 AM »
Or reach your stated design goals. :P

I think #3 is what the devs behind Fantasy Craft did, with the enviable result that their d20 game is completely playable without any sort of magic system whatsoever, if that's what you're after.

Offline Nytemare3701

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2013, 08:30:45 AM »
Or reach your stated design goals. :P

I think #3 is what the devs behind Fantasy Craft did, with the enviable result that their d20 game is completely playable without any sort of magic system whatsoever, if that's what you're after.

I just bought their Mistborn book actually, and I'll be picking up Fantasy Craft when I get a chance. The only problem is getting other people on board for it in my area.
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Offline DavidWL

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Re: My Holy Trinity of Game Design
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2013, 11:08:52 PM »
Interesting.  I like the whole meta-design conversation.

Thoughts.

Everway - I love everway's system (except magic ... replace that with powers)
1)  4 attributes:  Passive/Active * Physical/Mental.  Nice and easy to understand
2)  It's about story.
  • Dice rolls are replaced by draws from Tarot like cards
  • Skills become the story of your background combined with your attributes

Having an elegant and repeatable system is nice.  Why have 1 resolution for combat, and a different one for skills and a different one for magic?  Bah.

Having attributes that encourage fun story, a conflict resolution mechanic that encourages story.  I like this.

Best,
David