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Subject: How do you define that a game has depth? rss

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Eric Pietrocupo
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I want to make a geeklist of game where one of the criteria is tho have deep games, the opposite of fluffy games. So how to you define that a game has a good level of depth. So far, I came up with the following criteria:

Play time: A game under 30 minute is much less likely to have depth.

Replayability: If a game is replayable with various factions or scenario, it's more likely to have depth.

More strategy, less book keeping: If the process of the game consist more in thinking and making decisions than updating the status of the game, it should have more depth.

Do you have any other ideas?
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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A game with depth is one where the side of the box measures 2" or higher.
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Derry Salewski
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If repeat plays results in increased skill. Say, king of tokyo. You're not really going to get better at it after a few games. Whereas chess, you're probably going to constantly get better and there will always be someone better.

Really, though, the only thing people use deep or not to mean is 'me and my friends are very smart playing this' vs 'you and your friends must not be that serious about games.' (which is what your VERY vague geeklist will turn into.)
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Russ Williams
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Some formal empirical definitions are based on considering the number of skill levels from e.g. a complete beginner (or a completely random player) to a top player, where "skill level" is defined in some measurable way, e.g. that "Player X is a level higher than Player Y if, when they play each other, Player X wins twice as often as Player Y."

A deep game will have a large number of skill levels from beginner to expert.

An obvious practical problem with this is that for a newer game, you don't have a large enough player database to analyze.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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russ wrote:
Some formal empirical definitions are based on considering the number of skill levels from e.g. a complete beginner (or a completely random player) to a top player, where "skill level" is defined in some measurable way, e.g. that "Player X is a level higher than Player Y if, when they play each other, Player X wins twice as often as Player Y."

A deep game will have a large number of skill levels from beginner to expert.

An obvious practical problem with this is that for a newer game, you don't have a large enough player database to analyze.

Double down on this. In chess ratings, a player rated 200 pts higher is likely to win 76% of the time. Since a beginner is about a 800 and a chess god is 2800 that's 10 levels of depth. I imagine Go has similar number of levels (maybe more?). I doubt if Catan has even 2 levels.
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Derry Salewski
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piman wrote:
russ wrote:
A deep game will have a large number of skill levels from beginner to expert.

This strikes me as something which is neither necessarily nor sufficient to be a deep game. I think overall you've just hand-waved the issue of defining depth onto the issue of defining skill.

For an example that it's not necessary, we can imagine a game that has ten different "tasks" you must master to win, but none of which provide an advantage on its own until you have mastered all ten. There's a a gradation of player understanding leading to a different way the game unfolds which to me implies depth, but not a gradation of outcome for your skill metric.

For an example that it's not sufficient, a game with the condition "X wins if X played the game more than Y" satisfies your example metric and has a wide range of "skill levels", but is obviously not deep.


Uh, how about imagine an example of an actual boardgame for us. Otherwise you're just describing some gibberish activity that doesn't sound like anything we actually play . . .
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Kevin Garnica
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larienna wrote:
I want to make a geeklist of game where one of the criteria is tho have deep games, the opposite of fluffy games. So how to you define that a game has a good level of depth. So far, I came up with the following criteria:

Play time: A game under 30 minute is much less likely to have depth.

Replayability: If a game is replayable with various factions or scenario, it's more likely to have depth.

More strategy, less book keeping: If the process of the game consist more in thinking and making decisions than updating the status of the game, it should have more depth.

Do you have any other ideas?


Well, I disagree with your premise, because - depending on the player count - The King is Dead can be played in 30 minutes or less, has no factions or scenarios, and I believe it to have a good amount of "depth" (which is a subjective term anyway). But good luck with the GL.
 
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Under the paving stones, the beach
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Depth - The amount of investment needed to play a game well.

Weight - The amount of investment needed to start playing a game.
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April W
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Depth, for me, means there is lots to explore about a game. Through repeat plays you will discover more and more. Not unlike exploring a cave (though my cave exploring experience is quite shallow).
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Duncan Russell
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The nature of these replies makes me think the question is too difficult to answer!

By the way, surely the level of luck affects the depth of a game. A game you can win through luck is unlikely to be deep, and a game with zero luck will rely on the player to work out how to win.

Maybe you need to connect someone's brain to a machine that measures brain activity and get them to play your games.
 
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Barmybee wrote:

By the way, surely the level of luck affects the depth of a game. A game you can win through luck is unlikely to be deep, and a game with zero luck will rely on the player to work out how to win.


It really doesn't. A game like Virgin Queen has both a significant level of luck and a lot of depth.
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Thunkd wrote:
A game with depth is one where the side of the box measures 2" or higher.

Wouldn't all games have depth, unless it was somehow a 2-D plane?

russ wrote:
Some formal empirical definitions are based on considering the number of skill levels from e.g. a complete beginner (or a completely random player) to a top player, where "skill level" is defined in some measurable way, e.g. that "Player X is a level higher than Player Y if, when they play each other, Player X wins twice as often as Player Y."

A deep game will have a large number of skill levels from beginner to expert.

An obvious practical problem with this is that for a newer game, you don't have a large enough player database to analyze.

I like this definition myself also. A common webite that gets pulled up a lot is this one:

http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract....

The relevant bit is here:
Quote:
Depth means that human beings are capable of playing at many different levels of expertise. For most board positions, until the last stages of the endgame, the puzzle of finding the best move should not be completely solvable. In a deep game, a player must exercise nice judgment in deciding what is the best move in most situations. Depth gives a game lasting interest because the player continues to learn how to improve his play for a long time. If a game has a large following, its depth can actually be measured by recording the results of games and determining how many distinct "levels" there are: if the players in class 1 all lose regularly to the players in class 2, who lose to players in class 3, etc., up to class n, then the value of n measures the depth of the game. I'm told that Go appears to be the deepest of the world's classical games, though some modern games (such as Star and Poly-Y) are contenders that cannot be measured because they still do not have enough players.



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David Web
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Depth: How many choices a player has during his or her turn. The games with the most depth are the one that involves some form of trading and money and card effects. If you can bargain, then the number of choices depends on how well you speak to the other player, and how your offer is better than other people's.

at the end of the day it has an exponential effect.
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Quote:
Depth - The amount of investment needed to play a game well.

Weight - The amount of investment needed to start playing a game.


I think this nail down the concept pretty well, which in this case depth is directly related to skill as you need to play a lot of game to see the depth emerge. So skill seems like the most important aspect.

Low randomness, could help.

As for the number of choice, yes if there are as much interesting consequences of those choices.

The quoted definition is nice, I could just plug it in my geek list.

Quote:
low Kolmogorov complexity


What is the Kolmogorov complexity, is he a designer?
 
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Juan Valdez
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Soleia wrote:
Depth, for me, means there is lots to explore about a game. Through repeat plays you will discover more and more. Not unlike exploring a cave (though my cave exploring experience is quite shallow).


Ha!

I've explored hundreds of caves. Not a bad analogy at all.
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zetoooo wrote:
Depth: How many choices a player has during his or her turn.


I strongly disagree with this. There are games that provide a plethora of choices, but those choices have little impact on the execution of strategy or otherwise lead to near-meaningless variations on the game state. They're broad, but shallow... something often confused with depth. edit: Or in other words, depth is reflected more in the quality of choice, not the quantity.

~V
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Maurizio De Leo
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Barmybee wrote:
The nature of these replies makes me think the question is too difficult to answer!
By the way, surely the level of luck affects the depth of a game. A game you can win through luck is unlikely to be deep, and a game with zero luck will rely on the player to work out how to win.
Maybe you need to connect someone's brain to a machine that measures brain activity and get them to play your games.

The issue is indeed complex. My best attempt at an answer is this and this forum posts that I will convert in an essay at some time.
Depth is what I define "gameskill" and can not be quantified and compared.


In the same way in which you can not really compare if it's more skillfull to dive or to skydive, to write theorems or poetry, to long-jump or to high-jump, to perfectly play Hive or Blokus.

You can estimate the gameskill by the number of human or entities that achieve a goal: more people play perfect Tic-Tac-Toe than perfect Nim, so you may say that the latter has "more skill". But when a game is so complex that no human play it perfectly (as seems the case with Chess and Backgammon), then this method does not make sense.

 
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piman wrote:
russ wrote:
A deep game will have a large number of skill levels from beginner to expert.

This strikes me as something which is neither necessarily nor sufficient to be a deep game. I think overall you've just hand-waved the issue of defining depth onto the issue of defining skill.

1. In my comment, I already noted that it is imperfect (e.g. requiring a large player community with player ratings, so it won't be useful for brand new games, for example).
2. But it still seems one of the best tools we have, and it seems to work in practice, even if you can imagine constructing some strange games for which it somehow doesn't work, like your example (which I'd argue isn't a real "game" for purposes of this context, e.g. normal games like Chess, Go, etc for which we talk about "depth" do not have any concept of giving you an in-game advantage based on how many times you've played the game previously):

Quote:
For an example that it's not sufficient, a game with the condition "X wins if X played the game more than Y" satisfies your example metric and has a wide range of "skill levels", but is obviously not deep.


But sure, I agree that the definition does not work for this pathological game. For a game this simple/stupid, I don't think we'd have much trouble noting its depth (which is indeed obviously not deep).

If you want some more objective non-empirical definition and calculation method, I doubt such a thing exists. (But of course I'd be happy to see one if someone does come up with one.)

I think that "depth" seem inherently subjective and depends on the brainpower / processing capacity of the players. How far down the game tree can you see? Brute force analysis makes all games trivial, if you have the processing capacity to do it... To an omniscient god, for example, all games would be as trivial as tic-tac-toe seems to us.

You could try to define "depth" objectively/mathematically in terms of how much computation is needed to find the best move in a given position, but then that seems far removed from the practical reality of caring about "real-world depth" when humans play: we don't play perfectly, but often use fuzzy intuition, experience, etc and good players tend to make better moves than bad players, even though the good players are often not making the best moves.

You could try to define it objectively in terms of number of choices (as has been done in this thread), but that clearly doesn't work, if e.g. the choices are all equivalent, or the best choice is usually obvious and easy to see.

You could try to define it objectively in terms of the size of the game tree (as has been done in this thread), but that too clearly doesn't work, for the same reasons. (E.g. the game "You pick an integer, then I pick an integer, and whoever said the higher integer wins" has an infinitely large game tree, but is obviously not deep.)


So what approach really looks more practical for measuring the depth of real-life games than the concept of skill level difference between beginner and master? I've seen zillions of this kind of thread, but never seen anything more useful proposed, as far as I can recall.
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Bryan Thunkd
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s3kt0r wrote:
Thunkd wrote:
A game with depth is one where the side of the box measures 2" or higher.

Wouldn't all games have depth, unless it was somehow a 2-D plane?
Claiming that a game with a 2" side has depth doesn't preclude other games from having depth as well. Although why would you want to play any shallower games is beyond me.
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Depth to me is

* tough choices
* different choices from round to round
* your choices have meaning and impact
* variety
* replayabilty


Played Nations last night for the first time, so I will use that to explain what elements in it give it depth.

1. It has 4 levels of difficultly with handicaps. If I'm an expert and playing with two beginners I could choose to take only 1 resource per turn (Emperor level) while they are able to take 4 per turn (Chieftain level).

2. An Event card is turned over after you select your 1-4 resources (from above), but before you take your turns. It has two events where they might be both good, both bad or one of each if you're the highest or lowest in a particular category. It also has a Famine number that you must pay at the end of the round. This pre information may force you in a direction you didn't intend to go this round to either gain victory points, keep from losing them, gain points in knowledge, etc.

There are 10 different event cards for each of 4 different eras (40 cards). But, you only use 2 in each era. So, there is tremendous variety and replayabilty in what events may come up in future games.

3. The Nations have A and B sides with each of the B sides having different characteristics. There are 5 starting Nations, so you can play at least 6 times without repeating a nation; A side and 5 B sides. All the A sides are the same. (The Dynasties expansion gives you 12 new Nations).

4. The Progress cards have 3 difficulty levels; base, advanced and expert. We only used the base cards, but will add in the advanced cards next time. And there are 18 advanced cards for each of the 4 different eras (72 cards) and the expert level adds 72 more cards. That's a lot of new surprises.

5. Each turn Progress cards are turned over to reveal what options you can buy to build your nation. 15 cards are revealed in a 3 player game. They cost 1, 2 or 3 gold. After the turn any cards that cost 1 or 2 that are left are removed and those cards that cost 3 are moved down to the 1 cost level. Then new cards are added to levels 2 and 3. So, players are given a tough choice. Do I buy a card now at 3 or should I wait until next turn and hopefully buy it for 1? Interesting and tough choices galore.

 
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Depth for me is a factor that describes how often you have to play a game to grasp which good strategies/tactics there are to win the game.
This is something totally different than skill or number of choices.

E.g. Darts: a game of skill but with very little depth
Yahtzee: lots of choices (just many obviously bad), very little depth
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Playing a game multiple time to play it correctly consist in building up your skill with that game.
 
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Complex: Hard to learn. (18xx, Tzolkin, Through the Ages)
Deep: Hard to master. (Chess, Go)
Heavy: Hard to lift. (Gloomhaven)
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David Web
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Veero wrote:
zetoooo wrote:
Depth: How many choices a player has during his or her turn.


I strongly disagree with this. There are games that provide a plethora of choices, but those choices have little impact on the execution of strategy or otherwise lead to near-meaningless variations on the game state. They're broad, but shallow... something often confused with depth. edit: Or in other words, depth is reflected more in the quality of choice, not the quantity.

~V


I didn't explain myself well enough. What i meant is that depth is synonym to the number of RELEVANT choices a player has during his or her turn. Usually, a game is interesting enough if it offers more than 1 set of choices per turn per player. Here is an example of what I mean:

When you make a choice, there is usually a logical following of decisions that you take. For example, you trade your cash for an item; obviously you will use the item. Maybe you have 10 things that you can do in a turn, which translates to many choices, but if there is only 1 that is clearly better than the others, then there is only 1 choice. Basically I group multiple logical decisions into 1 path, which I call a choice (choice of path).

Example of game that mostly has 1 path per turn: Catan. You get your resources, and most of the times, there is 1 logical path that is superior to the others. If you know the game well enough, just following it will give you the best chances to win.

Example of game that may have multiple paths: Should I use a curse against someone, not knowing who he is allied to and what curses he has in hand, or should I simply stay back? Are my opponents in a state of anger where a simple threat would trigger a war? Or is that threat worth taking to get a better deal? or simply force a deal out of someone? Or get into an alliance? Each route is different. You can predict what will happen but unlike the 1path per turn game, it involves a lot of information that you don't know and that you assume, especially opponent's psych.

so basically many choices = multiple paths to success, each with different success rate but different reward as well, and difference between that and 1 choice games are that those success rates have high uncertainty because of hidden information.

anyway that is how i see it.
 
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Well I knew what depth was in a game before reading this thread, now I'm not so sure.

All I'm going to say, is I know how deep a game is when I hit the bottom.
 
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