Author Topic: Game design  (Read 2372 times)

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Offline Lepanto

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No offense meant to Lorric, but if you run another forum game, it'd probably be more fun for most of the players if you somehow made it harder for one player to come up with a mathematically-optimized ideal plan for each turn. The game was still nice, but it's less fun for the people involved if one person makes all the strategic decisions for everybody. Maybe have the different factions sorta work at cross-purposes, with their own political sub-objectives that only they will be interested in fulfilling?
"We have now reached the point where every goon with a grievance, every bitter bigot, merely has to place the prefix, 'I know this is not politically correct, but...' in front of the usual string of insults in order to be not just safe from criticism, but actually a card, a lad, even a hero. Conversely, to talk about poverty and inequality, to draw attention to the reality that discrimination and injustice are still facts of life, is to commit the sin of political correctness. Anti-PC has become the latest cover for creeps. It is a godsend for every curmudgeon and crank, from fascists to the merely smug."
Finian O'Toole, The Irish Times, 5 May 1994

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Offline Lorric

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No offense meant to Lorric, but if you run another forum game, it'd probably be more fun for most of the players if you somehow made it harder for one player to come up with a mathematically-optimized ideal plan for each turn. The game was still nice, but it's less fun for the people involved if one person makes all the strategic decisions for everybody. Maybe have the different factions sorta work at cross-purposes, with their own political sub-objectives that only they will be interested in fulfilling?

No offence taken. I wouldn't advise pitting the players against each other though. I think it was the fact it wasn't competitive that way that made it work so well and become greater than the sum of it's parts.

I pondered it myself when this came up in the early going, was there a way to make it so that everyone would take their turn individually, which I think is what Spoon had wanted. I couldn't think of anything though. But I'd be happy enough if a way could be found for it to work that way. The thing is you need to make it so that either planning like I have done is not going to be useful, or make it so that individual players get more involved in their fleets actions somehow, or that the planning phase is but just a part of the game instead of how big of a deal it was in this one, so that even if I (or anyone) ended up in the kind of role I ended up in this one, it wouldn't be such a big deal and only a mere part of the game. I don't know how you'd do it. It's potentially a good topic though and we may have an opportunity to pursue new ideas.

In this game we had the planning, and we also had the role play. And the role play was in the hands of the individual at all times, so if we could have more things involved in the hands of the individual that would be great.

I don't know if anyone would have predicted there'd end up being a kind of de-facto leader/strategist in the planning phase at all, certainly I wouldn't have. I would have thought we'd all end up discussing it and all end up coming up with different ideas and strategies and such and different people would be having different impacts on the turn every turn. And I really wouldn't have thought if there was going to be a de-facto leader/strategist type it would end up being me. But now we know, and Spoon knows too, so we can potentially all work together to ensure each individual gets a stronger individual role in the next game.

You know, I always hoped that someone would come up with a better plan than me each turn. :)

Do you have anything to say about this Spoon?

 

Offline General Battuta

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No offense meant to Lorric, but if you run another forum game, it'd probably be more fun for most of the players if you somehow made it harder for one player to come up with a mathematically-optimized ideal plan for each turn. The game was still nice, but it's less fun for the people involved if one person makes all the strategic decisions for everybody. Maybe have the different factions sorta work at cross-purposes, with their own political sub-objectives that only they will be interested in fulfilling?

This is something called the quarterbacking problem, and it's a fundamental issue with pure co-op game design, particularly in deterministic games with transparent information. Pandemic is an example of a popular game that suffers very strongly from it.

There are two broad approaches to solving it: giving individual players secret antagonistic sub-objectives within the context of the overall game (as in the superb Battlestar Galactica board game), or restricting players' ability to pool information (as in Hanabi). A third, more radical approach comes from restricting players' time to make decisions, forcing local instead of global judgments. This is the approach used by the hilarious Space Alert.

There other interesting co-op and semicoop examples to look at, like Flash Point: Fire Rescue. It's a very interesting design problem that's seen a ton of work in the last ten years of game design.

 

Offline swashmebuckle

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No offense meant to Lorric, but if you run another forum game, it'd probably be more fun for most of the players if you somehow made it harder for one player to come up with a mathematically-optimized ideal plan for each turn. The game was still nice, but it's less fun for the people involved if one person makes all the strategic decisions for everybody. Maybe have the different factions sorta work at cross-purposes, with their own political sub-objectives that only they will be interested in fulfilling?

This is something called the quarterbacking problem, and it's a fundamental issue with pure co-op game design, particularly in deterministic games with transparent information. Pandemic is an example of a popular game that suffers very strongly from it.

There are two broad approaches to solving it: giving individual players secret antagonistic sub-objectives within the context of the overall game (as in the superb Battlestar Galactica board game), or restricting players' ability to pool information (as in Hanabi). A third, more radical approach comes from restricting players' time to make decisions, forcing local instead of global judgments. This is the approach used by the hilarious Space Alert.

There other interesting co-op and semicoop examples to look at, like Flash Point: Fire Rescue. It's a very interesting design problem that's seen a ton of work in the last ten years of game design.
Injecting a bit of light competition really livens things up in these sorts of games.  I assumed it was going to happen here (maybe with forced political alliances) because the players were split into teams from the outset.

I think that trying to restrict information sharing while staying competition-free would be kind of against the spirit of the game in this case (and pretty impractical here on the forums with a system in place specifically for the purpose of secret information sharing).  Effective time pressure is also pretty unworkable given time zones.  Randomization in risks/rewards/objectives/capabilities like in Flash Point might be a good way to go if the group is truly against competition, though it doesn't eliminate quarterbacking (just means the quarterback uses probabilities in their arguments).

In a potential sequel I'd like to see something like the players/teams all having to work towards the same goal of defeating the external threat, but each also wanting to come out of the game in the best possible circumstances (fleets/territory/wealth expanded).  Teams currently in the lead might have to submit their orders first so that losing teams could see which way the wind is blowing and play that to their advantage.  Might wanna eliminate perma-death too to keep things from getting ugly.

 

Offline Spoon

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Split this into its own seperate thread because its interesting.
My thoughts will follow later
Urutorahappī!!

[02:42] <@Axem> spoon somethings wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> critically wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> im happy with these missions now
[02:44] <@Axem> well
[02:44] <@Axem> with 2 of them

 

Offline Lorric

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Spoon, one idea, if you can think of a way, would be for players to have to fight their own battles. I don't know how you could do it, but some sort of game within the game, so even if there is a planman in the planning phase in the end each player is fighting their own battles and involved in their own fate.

 

Offline Spoon

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The quarterbacking problem, as Battuta coined it, has definitely been on my mind throughout the whole game. That it might spoil the fun of the players 'getting managed' is a legitimate concern. I also wasn't really big on the fact that the person with the biggest mathhammer could determine the best course of action instead of the battlefield being more of a dynamic thing.

One of the things I intend on doing for whatever sequel might or might not follow is to have all the information required be available on a glance from the starmap itself, rather than the players (and myself for that matter) needing to dredge through a whole bunch of logs with numbers and text. However I had very little of this actually worked out, its mostly just vague ideas in my head. Been busy working on WoD and all that.

Designing a good game that works on a forum is quite a challenge though. There's a whole bunch of restrictions that you don't have with a board or video game. I'm trying to figure out how to add depth to the game without adding complexity and calculation overhead. I like the idea of adding some degree of competition within the game, (I did had some plans for that originally but was quite frankly, a tad overwhelmed) but as already mentioned, there is the issue of all information being transparant. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something I need to keep in mind to either work around or work with. 

I'm personally really kind of a big opponent to games that work mostly on randomness. I get angry and frustrated playing a few games of hearthstone and knowing I could have won that game, but the cards I needed were randomly shuffled down in the deep pits of my deck. Or my opening hand continues to be rubbish even after a mulligan. One of the primary reasons why beams don't pierce shields in WoD is because I absolutely loathe the anti fighter beams in freespace. Wether you get hit and directly lose hull integerity that you cannot replenish is completely up to a random dice throw. In short, if a game comes down to 'you lose because you were skilled but just unlucky' I will probably hate it.
However that's when games mostly work on randomness. I can always appreciate a small amount of randomness. Like a battlefield operation will never go 100% as planned, there will always be random factors that you cannot control having their influence.

For the forum game I have considered adding in a small amount of randomness but ultimately decided not to. I am now again considering it, if only to make the mathhammers smaller... And to add in that 'battlefield randomness' effect. An other thing I considered but ended up not using (but am considering the possibilities of again) is having people be assigned roles different from just admiral. Like being in charge of supplies and reinforcements and such.
Urutorahappī!!

[02:42] <@Axem> spoon somethings wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> critically wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> im happy with these missions now
[02:44] <@Axem> well
[02:44] <@Axem> with 2 of them

 

Online Enioch

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Hey, Spoon,

You cannot eliminate the 'quarterbacking problem' in a pure co-op game, where all information is available. A single player 'dominating' the others is not the problem: the problem is that, in such games, there is a clear and optimal path to victory (mathhammer, as you so aptly put it). The 'quarterback's' suggestions must be listened to, because they are actually the best way for the players to win the game. Introducing new player roles will  not help you, nor will simplifying the way the information is presented to the players (although I grant you that it will make the game easier to play).

You can 'beat' this by working on the above definition and 'knocking off' particular parts of it, e.g. 'pure co-op', 'all information is available'.

Competition: The problem with making an asymmetric strategy game (i.e. one in which every player has different 'units') competitive is balance. As a hypothetical example, if there is a competitive edge to the game, the fleets of a certain faction might have a slight but telling advantage, that will snowball throughout the game (i.e. better early-game performance). If you choose this path, you will need to be very careful about the stats/skills of the fleets.

Information: There is no way to restrict information sharing between players in a forum community (PMs and all), without their explicit agreement. What about using their capability to exchange information 'under the radar?' Use secret goals: give one secret goal to each player and one to each faction (shared between all players of the faction). Allow them to share information via PMs. See the game explode with misinformation and misdirection. There is nothing that can stop a player from claiming that he needs to follow goal A, but how can you trust him? What if a player betrays his faction goal to the others? What if...

Then, on game end, award points on successes and see who the winner is (if we've managed to defeat the Hierarchy).

'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline Lorric

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Would we even work against each other at all with a common enemy that's going to be harder to defeat than before? The Hierarchy was difficult enough the first time. I know we basically shut the Hierarchy down at the outermost systems for the entire game, but there were times when I felt just a little more pressure from the Hierarchy would have seen it all collapse like a dam with a hole in it which gets wider until the whole thing is destroyed.

Also, we all I'm sure want to poke our noses around in Hierarchy space. For me personally I would have no interest in personal and faction goals with such a powerful common enemy and motivation to defeat that enemy. What good is jockeying against the other players if the Hierarchy just steamrolls everyone?

As Enioch says you can't eliminate the quarterback problem, so why not instead try to find ways to make individual players have more individual impact on the game? If we had a strategy phase and then a battle phase (where before we only had a strategy phase) and the battle phase involves each player having to do something to determine the outcome of their individual battles, that would mean each player made a meaningful individual contribution.

The more roleplay the better. Roleplay is solely in the hands of the players, but Spoon can also create roleplay. Speaking of which, the thing with Enioch getting his super fleet was a roleplay exercise. If it was possible to create more things like that, that would involve individual players more in the game.

 

Online Enioch

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As Enioch says you can't eliminate the quarterback problem, so why not instead try to find ways to make individual players have more individual impact on the game? If we had a strategy phase and then a battle phase (where before we only had a strategy phase) and the battle phase involves each player having to do something to determine the outcome of their individual battles, that would mean each player made a meaningful individual contribution.

Because, if the problem that the player has to deal with is open to the other players as well, the optimal solution to the problem will be 'obvious' to everybody (or mathematically provable to be the best option), and there is going to be interference by the other players anyway. To eliminate the quarterback problem, you need to restrict the information available to the players as a whole in some way, and make the players who possess that information want to keep it secret.

And RP is 'soft' and time consuming; while it is very fun, you cannot base a game like this around RP, because there are no rules regarding how RP interacts with the game. And people might not have time for RP. No player should be forced to submit more than 4-5 lines of 'actions' each turn.
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent'  -Salvor Hardin, "Foundation"

So don't take a hammer to your computer. ;-)

 

Offline Lorric

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Oh sure, RP should be entirely optional. Things like what Spoon did with you would be directed towards players with an obvious interest in the RP side of things.

The battle thing, while I still don't know how you would do it, what I imagine is a case where Spoon deals with players individually then and there. So it happens on the spot, without the other players interfering. It could even be done via PMs somehow. Of course, I don't know how you would do it! :lol:

I wouldn't be too worried about players bending the rules. This isn't a proper competitive game after all, it's meant to be fun.

 

Offline Flak

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Spoon bent the rules many times, it is part of the difficulty (read: The Computer is a cheating basterd).

  

Offline Lorric

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Spoon bent the rules many times, it is part of the difficulty (read: The Computer is a cheating basterd).
Yeah, with that stunt he pulled to let the Special Fleet roll into Sol by making it so you can just pass through empty but hostile systems when you couldn't before. And I've been to that page on TV Tropes before. :D

Still though, I think Spoon's rule changes benefited us more than him, the Blitz one especially.