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Subject: Explorers and inventors rss

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Richard Moxham
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In another thread (Rey Alicea's unveiling of MultiShot), this...

luigi87 wrote:
christianF wrote:
But there's a game in there somewhere

Indeed, there's Santorini in there, but surely something else yet to be found as well.


Italics mine. Interesting, this implied perspective on games as discoveries rather than creations. As a Humanities person, I ask myself whether it has anything to do with what, perhaps unwarrantedly, I perceive as the preponderance on this forum of colleagues with a background in mathematics and adjoining specialisms.

After all (please correct me if I'm wrong), not many of us would genuinely think of literature or music in those terms, would we? Or dance, or architecture, for that matter? I know Borges plays with the idea in his short story 'The Library of Babel', but that, however delightful, is essentially just a jeu d'esprit. And then there are all the Michelangelo quotations about the figure within the block, into which it's always seemed to me dangerous to read too literal a world-view. "Back in those times..." etc.

The thing is, if you follow the 'discovery' line far enough, it's easy to end up concluding that there's no such thing as an invention at all. In any field. Do we really want to say that? Although of course the issue is further complicated by the fact that the root Latin verb invenire means "to find"...

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Andreas Last
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And in German 'finden' means 'to find' and 'erfinden' means 'to invent'. Probably it's the same in many other languages. So I guess those 2 things are actually very close together. Does it really make a difference then? Ultimately you could say findings and inventions are the same thing just differently labeled.

In the end you had to find a way to result in your invention
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
In another thread (Rey Alicea's unveiling of MultiShot), this...

luigi87 wrote:
christianF wrote:
But there's a game in there somewhere

Indeed, there's Santorini in there, but surely something else yet to be found as well.


Italics mine. Interesting, this implied perspective on games as discoveries rather than creations. As a Humanities person, I ask myself whether it has anything to do with what, perhaps unwarrantedly, I perceive as the preponderance on this forum of colleagues with a background in mathematics and adjoining specialisms.

I don't know any statistics, but it applies to me.

mocko wrote:
After all (please correct me if I'm wrong), not many of us would genuinely think of literature or music in those terms, would we? Or dance, or architecture, for that matter? I know Borges plays with the idea in his short story 'The Library of Babel', but that, however delightful, is essentially just a jeu d'esprit. And then there are all the Michelangelo quotations about the figure within the block, into which it's always seemed to me dangerous to read too literal a world-view. "Back in those times..." etc.

The thing is, if you follow the 'discovery' line far enough, it's easy to end up concluding that there's no such thing as an invention at all. In any field. Do we really want to say that? Although of course the issue is further complicated by the fact that the root Latin verb invenire means "to find"...

Some games, but not all games, are assembled. These games tend to be 'mechanical' rather than 'organic'. It's often quite easy to 'invent' a mechanical game by arranging known parts into a fitting framework.

On the other hand of the spectrum there are games that, once the core idea has been found (for lack of a better description), are more or less self explanatory. Symple may serve as an example. You can find the story of its discovery here. This is the content of Benedikt Rosenau's first mail regarding the subject:

Quote:
You are among the most cluesome abstract gamers/designers I know. I have been thinking a lot about a certain class of games recently and I want to share my thoughts with you, hoping for feedback.
There is the family that got started with Star, moved on to Superstar, *Star, and YvY. The games of this family share a pattern, namely:
a) you score by taking certain fields and
b) imposing a tax: the more groups one has in the end, the more is subtracted from the score.
I have three issues with these games ...

The issues boiled down to having the feeling that all previous games failed to capture the essence of a generalized connection-counting game. I happened to share that feeling, but I was otherwise occupied at the time and said so. Then, a week later:

Quote:
In other words, I am at the limit of design without heavy playtesting. I cannot achieve what I want. A telling experience.

How to accumulate points with connections in a natural way, that was the question, and despite the 'otherwise occupied' it stuck. The answer revealed itself a few days later, in a split second before drifting of to sleep. I feel you can't invent a game in a split second, but you can find a game in a split second. The implied move protocol was generic enough to be applied to other games, and featured an embedded and highly sophisticated turn order balancing mechanism. It was better than I could have anticipated.

Of course there are many games that fit neither category. But the difference between 'inventing' and 'discovering' exists. As for the truth about it, I'm not all that interested. Hunting for something that 'already exists' was a nice way to approach inventing. I won't claim it's necessary and it certainly is not sufficient. But in my case it worked well enough.

P.S. For the not so symple minded, Hex may be a better example. Was Hex invented or discovered?
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Carlos Luna
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Here it comes an opinion from a member of the mathematical guild:

When you start learning mathematics you feel like someone who is being guided through a dense rainforest path, stopping from time to time in some interesting viewpoint. Reality is just like that, and others have discovered its laws for you.

But as you go deeper into higher mathematics you start to perceive how the human culture, the human necessities and the human aesthetics are guiding the search, tracing the path and selecting the viewpoints.

Mathematics is an incredible discipline. Once you fix a tiny set of initial rules (axioms) the rest comes logically from them* and, in that sense, you discover these facts rather than invent them.

But it is extraordinary important to don't forget that all of these discovered facts are the result of 2 decisions: what we choose as initial set of axioms and what we find interesting. We are choosing the territory to explore and we are the ones that say if a given place is interesting enough to be considered a viewpoint worth putting into the map.

Therefore, as these 2 decisions are what ultimately determine what mathematics are, I conclude that mathematics is just another branch of humanities, just like literature, and, as such, they are driven by our nature and necessities more than by any other force.

In that sense, the fact that mathematical laws are often aligned with how the reality works can be explained by our necessity to use them as a tool to understand the world, in the same way that we designed and perfected the axe following our needs of cutting wood. Note that other disciplines have no such freedom. Natural sciences are tied to the real world and cannot diverge from it and still be called natural sciences.

Applying all of these reflections to abstract board games (which is a field close enough to mathematics) lead to the following conclusions:

1.- We, as humans, determine the basic territory of rules to explore in base of our necessities and aesthetic tastes. This is a creative act.
2.- Once we fixed a territory to explore, there is a large amount of possible games to discover. They are already there, we only discover them.
3.- We, as humans, determine the main points of interest (games) upon this territory in base of our necessities and aesthetic tastes. This is also a creative act.

As a designer, you are being creative when you fix the framework and when you select a candidate between many possible options but you are only exploring the rest of the time (discovering what is inside the framework).

One may argue that point 2, tracing the exploring path through a given territory, is also a creative act or that point 3, selecting the best game among the many ones discovered in step 2, is in fact automatic since we have precise metrics that let us decide what game is better among a given set of them.

Both points heavily depend on the design process followed by each designer. Some designers select territories that are so narrow that they are able to explore them systematically, an hence they perceive clearly that they are just trying to discover games in a given territory. Some other designers select territories so vast that they feel that the exploration process is in fact a creative act and, therefore, they are creating, rather than discovering, new games. In a similar fashion, some designers use automatic game selection tools (as LUDI) to determine the quality of a given game whereas others prefer to follow their guts.

In any case, the first step, choosing the territory to explore, is unquestionably a creative act driven by the human necessities and aesthetics and determines the rest of the process, therefore, we should consider that games are created rather than discovered.


* Of course, determining what does it mean "to come logically from" is part of the rules that we may set up at the beginning.
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christian freeling
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CarlosLuna wrote:
As a designer, you are being creative when you fix the framework and when you select a candidate between many possible options but you are only exploring the rest of the time (discovering what is inside the framework).

Choosing the field or setting the framework may be a creative act, but in my case I just tumbled into it. And isn't the true creativeness of say a painter to be found in what he/she paints, rather than in him or her becoming a painter? As for 'discovering what is inside the framework', that is imho. not all fit to be labeled 'discovery'. Within the framework of abstract strategy games there is a sub-set of chess variants. You really don't 'discover' a chess variant. But you might have discovered Hex if Hein and Nash hadn't beaten you to it. Which leads me back to an as yet unanswered and very simple question that to me seems at the heart of the matter (not to mention rhetorical): is Hex a discovery or an invention?
 
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christianF wrote:
Choosing the field or setting the framework may be a creative act, but in my case I just tumbled into it.


No one says that it may be a solitary act... I didn't choose the axioms of mathematics that I use every day, but they are a human creation anyway.

christianF wrote:
You really don't 'discover' a chess variant.


Yes, you can do it. You are playing with a relatively small set of movement rules, objectives, boards and, more in general, mutators. You can explore this (combinatorialy vast) space looking for the games that are in between and then select the ones you find more remarcable.

That doesn't mean that all chess variants are created in that way, it just means that you can "discover" a chess variant.

christianF wrote:
Which leads me back to an as yet unanswered and very simple question that to me seems at the heart of the matter (not to mention rhetorical): is Hex a discovery or an invention?


There is nothing fundamental in putting black & white pieces in a rhombus made of hexes until 2 opposite sides are connected. Hex was invented.

However, once we fix the framework of stone-placement games and play a little bit with mathematical features like connection, liberties or group size it is inevitable for someone to discover a brilliant gem like Hex buried in the sand.

It all depends on the point of history you took as a reference. In absolute terms all games are invented. In relative terms most abstract games are discovered by someone exploring an already known territory.
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Nick Bentley
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I don't think I believe in a platonic realm of pure forms, or at least any such realm that would include stuff like Hex. Ergo, I have to believe it's all invention.

However, I too have the "discovery" feeling sometimes and I'm at a loss to explain it. Then again, the human psyche is riddled with provably illusory experiences which are nonetheless very powerful and hard to ignore (probably owing to the fact that Evolution selects for survival, not truthful understanding)

As an aside, I think accepting it's all invention is making me a better game designer. I didn't always think that way.

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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
Then again, the human psyche is riddled with provably illusory experiences which are nonetheless very powerful and hard to ignore.

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

(A.Einstein)

milomilo122 wrote:
As an aside, I think accepting it's all invention is making me a better game designer. I didn't always think that way.

Ah, there's still hope for me then.
 
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Nick Bentley
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christianF wrote:

milomilo122 wrote:
As an aside, I think accepting it's all invention is making me a better game designer. I didn't always think that way.

Ah, there's still hope for me then.


I think you're doing just fine with your current approach
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Russ Williams
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milomilo122 wrote:
I don't think I believe in a platonic realm of pure forms, or at least any such realm that would include stuff like Hex. Ergo, I have to believe it's all invention.

However, I too have the "discovery" feeling sometimes and I'm at a loss to explain it. Then again, the human psyche is riddled with provably illusory experiences which are nonetheless very powerful and hard to ignore (probably owing to the fact that Evolution selects for survival, not truthful understanding)

To me "discovery" and "invention" are ultimately just 2 sides of the same coin, 2 different models or lenses for viewing the same thing. (And discussions about whether things like numbers, games, novels, etc "exist" platonically or are "created" by human mental activity is a futile unsolvable philosophical rabbit hole, albeit certainly sometimes interesting/amusing.)

In practice, things like abstract games are more likely to be created/invented/discovered in parallel by different people than novels are simply because the rules for an abstract game are much simpler than the long text of a novel, and because there is much more fuzzy subjectivity and thus scope for "personal expression" in "art" like fiction/music/painting/etc than there is in more "dry/technical" fields like math and game rules. You can see a higher degree of parallel creation/discovery in realms of "smaller" & more structured written creation like rhyming poems, where many different authors may all use the same rhyme, for example. The more detailed rules/restrictions there are, the more parallel creation/discovery happens, it seems to me, with one end of the spectrum being things like formal logic and mathematics (where millions of people have all independently discovered that 2+2=4, etc) and a different extreme being e.g. visual art, where an artist could put any arbitrary or even random arrangement of colors onto a rectangle and in principle that can be a painting. (Most such arrangements will seem to be unappealing chaotic visual noise to others, of course...)

Quote:
As an aside, I think accepting it's all invention is making me a better game designer. I didn't always think that way.

I'm somehow reminded of Alan Moore (the author of many fine comics) who (as far as I recall reading) was/is a skeptical secularist intellectually, but from curiosity tried dabbling in some traditional magic rituals in which he did not believe. He found that acting as if magic were real made him a more produtive and effective author, so he kept doing it.

Similarly I can imagine some game designers being more motivated and effective etc by feeling that they "invent" while others by feeling that they "discover". A sort of useful placebo effect, either way.
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Richard Moxham
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russ wrote:
And discussions about whether things like numbers, games, novels, etc "exist" platonically or are "created" by human mental activity is a futile unsolvable philosophical rabbit hole, albeit certainly sometimes interesting/amusing.


Discussions is, eh?

Solving rabbit-holes, huh?

No, but ill-mannered pedantry aside, you seem awfully close here to dismissing philosophy in general as futile. Is that in fact your position?


 
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
russ wrote:
And discussions about whether things like numbers, games, novels, etc "exist" platonically or are "created" by human mental activity is a futile unsolvable philosophical rabbit hole, albeit certainly sometimes interesting/amusing.


Discussions is, eh?

Solving rabbit-holes, huh?

No, but ill-mannered pedantry aside, you seem awfully close here to dismissing philosophy in general as futile. Is that in fact your position?

I like those kind of questions.
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
russ wrote:
And discussions about whether things like numbers, games, novels, etc "exist" platonically or are "created" by human mental activity is a futile unsolvable philosophical rabbit hole, albeit certainly sometimes interesting/amusing.


Discussions is, eh?

Solving rabbit-holes, huh?

No, but ill-mannered pedantry aside, you seem awfully close here to dismissing philosophy in general as futile. Is that in fact your position?

I like those kind of questions.


Which kind - philosophical one's?

 
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mocko wrote:
russ wrote:
And discussions about whether things like numbers, games, novels, etc "exist" platonically or are "created" by human mental activity is a futile unsolvable philosophical rabbit hole, albeit certainly sometimes interesting/amusing.


Discussions is, eh?

Solving rabbit-holes, huh?

No, but ill-mannered pedantry aside, you seem awfully close here to dismissing philosophy in general as futile. Is that in fact your position?

Hmm? Sorry, but you seem to have completely misunderstood my intent if my post came off as anything at all like "ill-mannered pedantry". Please reread my comment and imagine it being said in a spirit of quick friendly response which gives my quick take on the subject of invention vs discovery. I'm sincerely rather unsure what else to say to your unexpectedly harsh reaction, other than that as the US/British joke goes, we often seem divided by a common language... :/
 
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
russ wrote:
And discussions about whether things like numbers, games, novels, etc "exist" platonically or are "created" by human mental activity is a futile unsolvable philosophical rabbit hole, albeit certainly sometimes interesting/amusing.


Discussions is, eh?

Solving rabbit-holes, huh?

No, but ill-mannered pedantry aside, you seem awfully close here to dismissing philosophy in general as futile. Is that in fact your position?

I like those kind of questions.


Which kind - philosophical one's?


Not all of them (their number must be finite, no?) but those about futility or lack thereof have my enduring interest.
 
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christian freeling
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russ wrote:
mocko wrote:
russ wrote:
And discussions about whether things like numbers, games, novels, etc "exist" platonically or are "created" by human mental activity is a futile unsolvable philosophical rabbit hole, albeit certainly sometimes interesting/amusing.


Discussions is, eh?

Solving rabbit-holes, huh?

No, but ill-mannered pedantry aside, you seem awfully close here to dismissing philosophy in general as futile. Is that in fact your position?

Hmm? Sorry, but you seem to have completely misunderstood my intent if my post came off as anything at all like "ill-mannered pedantry". Please reread my comment and imagine it being said in a spirit of quick friendly response which gives my quick take on the subject of invention vs discovery. I'm sincerely rather unsure what else to say to your unexpectedly harsh reaction, other than that as the US/British joke goes, we often seem divided by a common language... :/

I understood it as a 'tongue in cheek' reference by Richard to his own two observations in the same post.
 
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christianF wrote:
russ wrote:
mocko wrote:
russ wrote:
And discussions about whether things like numbers, games, novels, etc "exist" platonically or are "created" by human mental activity is a futile unsolvable philosophical rabbit hole, albeit certainly sometimes interesting/amusing.


Discussions is, eh?

Solving rabbit-holes, huh?

No, but ill-mannered pedantry aside, you seem awfully close here to dismissing philosophy in general as futile. Is that in fact your position?

Hmm? Sorry, but you seem to have completely misunderstood my intent if my post came off as anything at all like "ill-mannered pedantry". Please reread my comment and imagine it being said in a spirit of quick friendly response which gives my quick take on the subject of invention vs discovery. I'm sincerely rather unsure what else to say to your unexpectedly harsh reaction, other than that as the US/British joke goes, we often seem divided by a common language... :/

I understood it as a 'tongue in cheek' reference by Richard to his own two observations in the same post.


Absolutely! And, Russ, I'm mortified that you were led to take it the other way. Ain't room in this town for more than the one ill-mannered pedant.


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Ooops! I plead brain exhaustion from travelling in 4 different trains all day yesterday, returning from a sleep-deprived vacation week.
 
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russ wrote:

Similarly I can imagine some game designers being more motivated and effective etc by feeling that they "invent" while others by feeling that they "discover". A sort of useful placebo effect, either way.


I don't know if it should be filed under 'placebo' or not, but for me, the focus on invention rather than discovery allows me to focus more closely on the psychology of each design, which often doesn't correlate with aesthetic beauty.

That is, there are aesthetically ugly (to me) designs that players enjoy immensely and vice-versa; ideally I want both beauty AND joy, but I think I used to focus so much on the former that it was hard to arrive at designs that harbor both.
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
russ wrote:

Similarly I can imagine some game designers being more motivated and effective etc by feeling that they "invent" while others by feeling that they "discover". A sort of useful placebo effect, either way.


I don't know if it should be filed under 'placebo' or not, but for me, the focus on invention rather than discovery allows me to focus more closely on the psychology of each design, which often doesn't correlate with aesthetic beauty.

Interesting; if I understand you correctly, you seem to be implying that "discovered" things are inherently beautiful, while "invented" things are not necessarily beautiful. But to me, the spectrums of "invented-discovered" and "beautiful-ugly" are 2 completely different unrelated things. I think it's quite possible to discover ugly things, to discover beautiful things, to invent ugly things, and to invent beautiful things. Am I missing something?


(As to beauty vs joy in playing: I agree they are 2 different things. Still, the best case is when a great game is also aesthetically beautiful!)
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
That is, there are aesthetically ugly (to me) designs that players enjoy immensely and vice-versa; ideally I want both beauty AND joy, but I think I used to focus so much on the former that it was hard to arrive at designs that harbor both.

Strange isn't it? My favourite example is Bashni. Having your king buried under his own men, though implicit in the concept, has the unrelenting smell of self hampering. I ridiculed Bashni in the pride of my youth. I've not entirely quit the habit either. But I enjoy the game tremendously and so do … well, millions would probably be an exaggeration, but tens of thousands is a save guess.
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russ wrote:
if I understand you correctly, you seem to be implying that "discovered" things are inherently beautiful, while "invented" things are not necessarily beautiful.


Not quite. It's easier to create an ugly game than a beautiful one whether it feels discovered or invented! Rather, the most beautiful games tend to feel discovered to me (not all, but most) - they also tend to be very simple, which probably contributes to the discovered feeling.
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Fascinating conversation, sorry I came late to the party. A comment about mathematicians and programmers makes me wonder what the abstract designers do/did to make money, and if abstracts attract a (very) specific type of personality. Fwiw, while I was never a practicing scientist, my degree's in chemistry, and I seem to prefer more complex games than most here. And that seems to reflect the difference between the math/(theoretical) physics/programming end of things and the rather messier chemistry(/biology?) end of things. Probably nothing to it...

I prefer "design" to "invent". Most of what I do in getting a game playable is development, working toward the goal of a good, interesting game from a specific starting point. The starting point, on the other hand, has been everything from "I could do that better" to inspirations from nowhere to actual visions where I all but literally see the game set up in front of me. That last feels like walking down the street along a wall, finding a door, opening it and walking into a garden where the games are spread out in front of you on the ground, set up and ready to play. I think the act of creativity in game design is inventing the world in which you can metaphorically "literally" stumble over the game you're designing, although it's rarely that intense.

And I see another similar thread has developed on this general topic, so I'll stop here for now, and start reading again.
 
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