Sometimes you’ve got a game that’s a fair way through testing and further refinements aren’t bringing any significant improvement. At this point you may be approaching the best game possible within the limitations set by the major decisions that you’ve made. This is a good place to be, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to rest on your laurels – it’s time to slash and burn.
Around mid July I wrote about the Artiste project that I’m undertaking with The People’s Orchestra. It’s been a month and a half so it feels like a good time to offer another update and perhaps tie some of the previous blog posts to their actual impact on game development.
Working for a charity is giving me a fascinating glimpse into how organisations of this nature deal with their duality. On the one hand we’re fundamentally about doing something to make the world better, but on the other we’re embedded in a system which obliges us to pay the bills if we want to keep using the office in which I now type. There’s always a tension between generating revenue (whether directly or through grants) and achieving our actual goals. None of this is really my part of the operation, I’m just supposed to make a game that can be added to the post-performance merchandise stand, but eavesdropping on these conversations has refined some of my thoughts on educational games.
This article is about Kickstarter, but I’d like to open by talking about the role of luck in games – trust me, it’ll all make sense in the end. Suppose you’re in a game with two strategies, one will give 2 points, the other gives a 50/50 chance of getting 3 points or nothing. Which is the best option? Clearly the reliable strategy averages two points and the unreliable strategy averages one and a half, so the reliable strategy is the one to play. Nobody likes random numbers.
There are a variety of ways to win the artiste game, as each card has its own win condition. While there is always a manager who wins by catching the artiste and an artiste who wins by escaping, the other players could be up to anything. They could be trying to get a specific other player to win or to lose. They might be trying to make their suggestion influential or to make incorrect suggestions but have the artiste caught despite them. In today’s post I’d like to discuss different approaches to adding a variety of victory conditions to games.
Now that I’m a fair way in to developing a social deduction game I find myself trying to work out how to analyse social deduction game states. A competitive game should be winnable by either side, depending on their skilful choices and decision making, I want to get more into how social deduction games achieve this goal as a means to working out what to include in the people’s orchestra game.
Today we had a meeting with an artist and graphic designer who we may hire to work on the Artiste project. I’ve previously advocated placing a great deal of trust in artists – on the basis that there’s no sense in hiring an expert and then having a non-expert (i.e. me) telling them how to do their job. However in this case our prospective artist isn’t a gamer, so while I can trust her on the art, I need to be careful to indicate artistic and graphic elements that have specific meaning in the context of board games.
I’m aware that the information that I’ve put out about the artiste game has been somewhat disjointed, so this week’s people’s project post will bring everything that’s happened over the past month and a half together to give a coherent account of what the game is, where it’s at and where it’s going. If you’ve been following the project closely then skip the second paragraph after the second image to get into things that are not being discussed for a second time.
My parents were both gamers, pretty much as soon as we were able to handle it me and my sister were stripped of our copy of Monopoly (which I guess must still be gathering dust somewhere) and put on to gamers games. I remember getting blacklisted by a childminder’s service because we asked the minder if she wanted to play a game and devastated her with some 80s bookcase game with a million components, a 6 hour playtime and a rulebook sufficient to club a rhinoceros to death with.
In game design I often make concious efforts to avoid the use of stereotypes. Games are a form of media and a lot of harm is done in the world because various forms of media use their influence to reinforce stereotypes that cause people to treat each other badly. In theory they can be an excellent tool. People can learn rules more easily when they key into things that they already know. Also theme (the part of a game that describes what it represents in story terms rather than the mechanics and mathematics that determine how to play and win) is much stronger when it can anchor itself in familiar things within a players thoughts or memories. It has been my opinion that these advantages are nowhere near desirable enough to outweigh contributing to supporting the beliefs of individuals that condone pain, suffering and death on the grounds of gender, orientation or race. However today I’m working on a game that keys heavily into a very specific set of stereotypes and it is glorious.