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Subject: What are your methods for making a streamlined game? rss

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Tyler Brownwell
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I am starting to see myself slip into the "add everything until it works!!" hole. I have been pretty good so far and don't want break the game with more "stuff". What techniques do you use to get out of the hole and what signals do you get when you feel your game is slipping?
 
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J C Lawrence
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When confronting a problem, don't add rules or a new mechanism or special cases. Instead move the foundations of the game, change the basic premises it is built on until that problem doesn't exist.
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Gláucio Reis
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There is no magic formula, but I think you are approaching the design from the wrong angle. I think it was Reiner Knizia who said something like this: "A game is ready not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing to subtract."
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Steven Davies
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Every mechanism needs a purpose, and every purpose needs a reason to exist. In short, always see if you can did a problem.by removing or tweaking an existing mechanism or rule before adding extra stuff. I always aim to change something rather than add things. If my mechanism has a purpose, and I can tweak the reason for that purpose without compromising my game, its a winner.
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Russ Williams
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Have a specific focus, rather than trying to represent everything.
 
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Adrian Pillai
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tbonesticks94 wrote:
I am starting to see myself slip into the "add everything until it works!!" hole. I have been pretty good so far and don't want break the game with more "stuff". What techniques do you use to get out of the hole and what signals do you get when you feel your game is slipping?


If adding an action requires adding a rule to your game, you should ask if adding the action is worth it.

In my opinion, you should only add an action to your game if it answers some or all of these criteria: a) naturalness, b) no learning curve, and c) doesn't overpower the game.

a) Naturalness - is the new action natural to the decision process of the existing play?... E.g. I have a weapon to use against the game, can I also use the weapon against other players?

B) No (or little) learning - do existing rules adequately apply to this new action. If yes, then that's great. No new learning. If no... Why not? Do I need this new action that I need new rules? Or why can't I use existing rules to this new action?

C) overpower the game - as in, (I) does this new action remove focus on the existing game, e.g. a war game that places far too importance on maintaining supply lines instead of your original idea of waging all out war. And (II) does this new action become preferable than any other previously introduced actions.

Just my thoughts.
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Eric Brosius
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Stephen The_Geek
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I am unpublished at present, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

1) Playtest, playtest, playtest. Watch not just what players do, but how they do it. Are they confused by a mechanism? Are they regularly doing the opposite of what you expected them to do? In these cases there is probably something counter-intuitive in you game which needs fixing.

2) Look at your rules. Do you use the word "except" in them? If so, they're too complicated. Get rid of it.

3) Do players have to constantly make repetitive calculations? In Ashes of the Ancients, my unpublished 4X game players were having to count up all of their population every round. It turned out that I could save the players a ton of time if I put their population on their play mat and printed numbers so that when they put their population on the board, their total income would be displayed on the playmat. This is basically what Terra Mystica/Eclipse do too.

4) Use as small numbers as you possibly can.

5) Remember that you're not making a simulation. Find out what is fun in your game and then cull everything that isn't.

6) Pay attention to what players choose. If there is an action that constantly gets ignored ask yourself why. Is it too weak? Is it too complicated? Is it redundant? Is there another action which does the same thing but better? Can you remove it entirely?

7) PLAYTEST! PLAYTEST! PLAYTEST! Video your playtesting sessions and watch them again. Go back and watch old playtesting sessions to see if there is anything that you forgot to fix. Watch different people in the videos to see how they interact. Profile players based on the kinds of decisions that they make and ensure that you guide them away from bad decisions where possible.
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Eric Brosius
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stephen_the_geek wrote:
5) Remember that you're not making a simulation. Find out what is fun in your game and then cull everything that isn't.

I'd like to expand on this by saying that if your game tries to simulate everything, you probably haven't figured out what to focus on. Different games on the same subject can focus on different things, so that details one game focuses on are left out in another, and vice-versa. Players will sometimes complain that "Game X omits this critical detail that is in Game Y." Trying to avoid this is folly -- focus.
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Timothy Yordy
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The biggest thing I realized years ago when it comes to game design (and much of life) is this: Limitations foster refinement.

Sometimes less is more.
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Carl Nyberg
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I realize my game is slipping when my playtesters are satisfied with the game but I think "Ooo! If I just add this one more thing!"
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bill437 wrote:
I realize my game is slipping when my playtesters are satisfied with the game but I think "Ooo! If I just add this one more thing!"


Then it's expansion time.
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James Williams
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stephen_the_geek wrote:
2) Look at your rules. Do you use the word "except" in them? If so, they're too complicated. Get rid of it.

"Except" is not always bad. It can be much better than the alternative, when it comes to writing rules.

Example: Here's how 'concept A' works... <half a page of rules>. Here's how 'concept B' works... it's exactly the same as A, except <simple difference>.

That's going to be much easier to learn, easier to remember, and less likely to make silly mistakes in writing the rules, than when there's a lot of duplication.
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patrick mullen
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jlwill wrote:
stephen_the_geek wrote:
2) Look at your rules. Do you use the word "except" in them? If so, they're too complicated. Get rid of it.

"Except" is not always bad. It can be much better than the alternative, when it comes to writing rules.

Example: Here's how 'concept A' works... <half a page of rules>. Here's how 'concept B' works... it's exactly the same as A, except <simple difference>.

That's going to be much easier to learn, easier to remember, and less likely to make silly mistakes in writing the rules, than when there's a lot of duplication.


Yeah a single case of except is not always wrong. And you're right that it may be the best way to write the rules if your game has exceptional cases. However, I think it could be a useful indicator that a game still has room to streamline if there are many of these!
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J C Lawrence
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jlwill wrote:
"Except" is not always bad. It can be much better than the alternative, when it comes to writing rules.

Example: Here's how 'concept A' works... <half a page of rules>. Here's how 'concept B' works... it's exactly the same as A, except <simple difference>.


I prefer:

A basic pattern is: ...details...

SystemA is different from that pattern in this way.

SystemB is different from that pattern in that way.

 
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Freelance Police
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XendoBreckett wrote:
bill437 wrote:
I realize my game is slipping when my playtesters are satisfied with the game but I think "Ooo! If I just add this one more thing!"


Then it's expansion time.


Especially when it's Ameritrash! wow
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Daniel Holz
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stephen_the_geek wrote:
5) Remember that you're not making a simulation. Find out what is fun in your game and then cull everything that isn't.


agree 100%. Players aren't playing your game for the mechanics; they're playing it because it's fun. Youre mechanics should have an out-of-game reason (this is to prevent ties, this is a catch-up mechanism, this starts the end-game), not in-game (this is the fuel lost to evaporation when stored in uncapped fuel cans).

You should be thinking about which decisions are most interesting for your players, and which ones are less, and making the latter take less time/effort/dice rolls+card draws.
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Daniel Holz
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clearclaw wrote:
jlwill wrote:
"Except" is not always bad. It can be much better than the alternative, when it comes to writing rules.

Example: Here's how 'concept A' works... <half a page of rules>. Here's how 'concept B' works... it's exactly the same as A, except <simple difference>.


I prefer:

A basic pattern is: ...details...

SystemA is different from that pattern in this way.

SystemB is different from that pattern in that way.



I prefer:

...details...

and folding two similar mechanisms together, if the overhead of tracking each system is greater than the enjoyment of deciding/planning which one to use.
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falsedan wrote:

I prefer:

...details...

and folding two similar mechanisms together, if the overhead of tracking each system is greater than the enjoyment of deciding/planning which one to use.


This is key. See how much mileage (information) you can get out of one mechanic before you add another.
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