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Subject: Does Minimal Player Interaction Automatically Make a Game Bad? rss

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Justin Gamer Person
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This is a question that's been on my mind a bit lately. I've run into a college play-testing group who seem to think Yes. They've literally said that games like Splendor aren't that good. Now I love the game Splendor. I also enjoy Dominion and Euro games that don't have a ton of interaction. Personally, I think it's really subjective opinion based on what one's preferences are. One of the things I like about the Board Game community is the diversity and variation of preferences that different players have. I just need an outside opinion on this, because this game I've been designing has a little bit of player interaction, but not a huge amount. Does that automatically make a game bad, or is it just me over-thinking about what one group of people think?
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Christian K
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Of course that does not make it bad there are plenty of well regarded games with little interaction.

Some people prefer games with more interaction, some prefer games with less.
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Stephen Rochelle
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No.

(Splendor is just barely outside of the top 100 games on BGG)
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Laura Creighton
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Some people prefer minimal interaction. Some people hate it. Know your audience and design for them.
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JPotter - Bits77
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"Game is good/bad" is a comment about the total experience. Player interaction is only 1 aspect. Current hotness Azul has limited player interaction. Beyond the central drafting pool, no interaction, really. And the interaction in the draft is indirect. Century: Spice Road, also a drafting game, same deal.

Sounds like your group may prefer more head-to-head experiences. A group I play with lives these games, because they can talk about other things, and also trash talk, with no chance of actual confrontation. They allow and almost ensure more relaxed and casual companionship. We are also twice your college students ages....
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Jeremy Lennert
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There's a sizable group of BGG users dedicated specifically to games with NO player interaction...

1 Player guild
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Josh Zscheile
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Nope. Typical phenomenon of group think it seems.
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April W
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Certainly not. It's a matter of personal taste. Splendor is ranked 106 on BGG, so obviously there are a lot of people who disagree with your friends.
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JPotter - Bits77
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Antistone wrote:
There's a sizable group of BGG users dedicated specifically to games with NO player interaction...

1 Player guild


Speak for yourself! The other players in my head are constantly rearranging the furniture in there ... violently! Ow.
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Brian M
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Minimal player interaction automatically makes a game bad for people that really like lots of player interaction.

Its entirely a matter of taste and preference. When I play with a group, I tend to enjoy a lot of interaction. When my main gaming partner and I play to relax, often we'd mostly rather just each try to build our "engine" better than the other player and are quite happy to have a game without much interaction.
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maf man
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well to answer your question, Quit overthinking!
Its your game, if you think its the right amount of interaction for what your going for your probably right. What is more useful to know is why they feel that way and how it pertains to your game.

I don't like the player interaction in splendor, but its more about me not liking splendor in that case. So you need to know the difference when talking about your game.

You also need to know if your game fits the room.
One of my groups of friends, we love high player interaction. Yet that same group, when we switch to dominion, shy away from attack cards. Our mood and opinion shift, it becomes a puzzle/race of efficiency.
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Jo Bartok
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Interaction leads to Immersion.
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lomn wrote:
No.

(Splendor is just barely outside of the top 100 games on BGG)


Yes, one can say popularity/taste has nothing to do with good/bad, see Monopoly or the dude with H in front of his name or Mc-Donalds, or the dude with T in front of his name.

No but, honestly: Personally I consider multiplayer-solitaire games (in the form of "coop-but-really-solitaire" (instead of coordinative/collaborative games, such as great Hanabi) or "parallel-unaffected-play") really really bad... but obviously people that do not like confrontation may enjoy the "sit-together" to play their own game while affecting the other only very little. Machi Koro is another such example.

Personally I considered euros trash for long time until I found some decent euros with heavy interaction beyond simple denial/resource-control/separated-engine-building. I was literally burned by denial+build-your-own-engine-dead-boring-euros. So I do enjoy Eurogames such as Puerto Rico, Lancaster, Kemet, Infamy, Francis Drake, even Terra Mystica.

However games like Splendor give me the trashy-shivers. I can see some non-gamers who do not prefer confrontation and/or coordination to really love it though.

I'd go about it like this: If your game can almost be played alone, maybe make it a solitaire game that can scale to 4-5 people. No (as you can imagine) I am not into solitaire games but I know some peeps who are. I am pretty sure if you created a great solitaire game and made sure it was not TOO AP-prone in a "multiplayer"-session, and then add a tad of interaction that you will have a large enough audience.
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Jo Bartok
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Obviously if you / your play-testers prefer interaction, maybe you should build your game up from theme/victory conditions and play interaction?
 
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Crazed Survivor
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It makes it bad for some players, and great for others.
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Jeff Warrender
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Just to be contrarian, I will say, yes, minimal interaction makes a game less objectively good than significant substantive interaction.

Now let me qualify this and say that I believe this to be true from a design perspective, and not a game evaluation perspective. There's no point to me in debating whether low-interaction games like Splendor are good or not. They're out there, you can play them, and you either like them or you don't.

But at the design stage, for a new game, you have a choice of diverging paths: you can steer a game down a path where you present your players interesting ways to interact, or you can steer it down a path where they have to wrestle with the game system itself.

One practical advantage of the former in your case is simply that that seems to be what the playtest group you have available likes, and so designing a game that fits their sensibilities is more likely to get table time and enthusiastic engagement from them. That's not a bad thing. If your heart is set on designing a kids' game, you simply aren't going to make much progress if your group consists only of grognards; likewise if you want to design a detailed simulation of some esoteric battle and your wife and kids are your only available testers, and they have no interest in such games, it's not going anywhere. Designing around the playtest group you have is prudent.

But I think more important than that is that the time you spend with them playtesting the game will be more enjoyable the more interactive the game is. I don't necessarily mean that the game has to have lots of table talk, nor that the game has to have combat or take that cards -- there are lots of forms of player interaction. My point is more a statement about what kind of player experience the game provides and the role that the playtesters play in testing out that experience. If we're mostly just doing our own thing and don't affect one another too much, playtesters could justifiably feel that they're doing balance testing that the designer could have equally well have done with a spreadsheet, and/or may be helping the designer to observe how quickly the learning curve can be surmounted. This is well and good but may feel more like testing a product than testing a game, and (some) playtesters may not enjoy it as much. In any case it sounds like your group might not...
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Mark T
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This seems to be a highly subjective issue. That is, it depends entirely upon each player's preferences. That should be fairly obvious since the assessment is itself subjective I.e. This design element makes a game 'good' or 'bad'. Those terms are, generally speaking, subjective value terms. There's really no way to evaluate good and bad objectively - separated from ones personal preferences.
 
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Dave Bailey
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They're neither good nor bad, however I'm not driving 6 hrs to play games all weekend that I could have played on my own.

They do seem to be the trend atm but that's not for me, I really wish games would have a solo/interactive rating so I can sift through the 1000's in the db without wasting my time and money. Let's face it, they're expensive now. I'm so glad I didn't buy Terra-forming Mars, great theme but a group solo experience.

Play what you like and to hell with right and wrong!
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Chris Smith
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jdrodi wrote:
Does that automatically make a game bad, or is it just me over-thinking about what one group of people think?
It's subjective.
I dislike most games without direct, punishing player interaction, others may not.

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Jonathan Challis
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No I'm just as happy with zero interaction as lots. In fact, I tend to prefer games like that, although I don't dislike the interaction itself.
 
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Jonathan Challis
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jwarrend wrote:

But at the design stage, for a new game, you have a choice of diverging paths: you can steer a game down a path where you present your players interesting ways to interact, or you can steer it down a path where they have to wrestle with the game system itself.


I couldn't disagree more - I very much am interested in the latter case.
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Taylor
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I don't mind playing games with minimal player interaction but I would prefer to go head to head against other people. I'm competitive so it suits me. Minimal interaction works but it caters to a different audience.

-taylor
 
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John Burt
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Like everyone above said: of course not, the importance of interaction is entirely subjective to individual players. Furthermore, the range of preferences is very wide, and even the definition of "interaction" varies from person to person. So, instead of worrying about whether your game is interactive enough, you should think about how it fits with a defined target demographic. For example, if you only mean to play this game with your friends, then it seems clear the game needs more interaction (by whatever their definition is). If, however, you want to publish the game and intend it to appeal to modern gaming demographics, the kind of people who love Splendor, then low interaction could be attractive and therefore a superior design choice.
 
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Hedyn Brand
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If competing against the game rather than directly against other players, I think lack of direct player interaction is fine. But if a game pretends to be a co-op game without having actual interaction I'll be very disappointed. Looking at you, Thunderstone!
 
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patrick mullen
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This is a cool example of how to process testing feedback. Do you know what kind of game you are trying to make?

Is limiting player interaction and having players focus more on doing their part better than the other players rather than directly contributing to their downfall or profitting from their efforts, you might disregard feedback from a group that really is trying to steer you away from your vision. You still may be able to take some of their advice, but know that it is coming through a filter.

If that's not the case, perhaps there are ways to add interaction that will make your specific game better. You might not want to push it as far as this specific college group wants you to push, but maybe something cool will fall out by tweaking with your base gameplay a bit more. Hopefully you can also find some more diverse groups to introduce new perspectives to your feedback.

Stormkahn wrote:
They're neither good nor bad, however I'm not driving 6 hrs to play games all weekend that I could have played on my own.

They do seem to be the trend atm but that's not for me, I really wish games would have a solo/interactive rating so I can sift through the 1000's in the db without wasting my time and money. Let's face it, they're expensive now. I'm so glad I didn't buy Terra-forming Mars, great theme but a group solo experience.

Play what you like and to hell with right and wrong!


But you CAN'T play many of these games alone. While the interaction may be light, the competition against the other players is what drives the tension. Low interaction competitive games are like Nascar (insert any othe race sport here). Sure, the drivers could just go to the track and race on their own and time themselves. (And they do).

But that's not where the excitement is and misses the point.

Edit: oh, one more thing to note. If the college kids are not feeling the tension in your game, it may be missing. Them saying "there is not enough interaction" might be read as "the game is missing something". It may be interaction, but there may be other things in your design that aren't providing enough enjoyment to make up for the fact that it is a low interaction game.
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Jo Bartok
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Note that if you design a game and you are afraid of direct player interaction, there is always other ways. Take that or "real time negotiation" is not the only way to deal with things.

Try for instance great Ponzi Scheme. While you CAN talk a lot because the game invites you to, it is not like you have to. You do not have to say a word, like in a quite Poker round. But as with Poker, the interaction is immense.

Whereas in Dominion? Not so much .

Lesson to take away: Some people do not like backstabbing, or loud real time discussions, or take that effects, or even player elimination (through interaction).

There is not necessarily a need to do any of those though. Heavy interaction can be created by other means, too.

A great recent heavy-interaction mid-weight game is Senators
 
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