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Subject: We love strategy games rss

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christian freeling
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This post is a reply to one in another thread.

mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
And that in a Forum where Urbino and Storisende get no response (too deep maybe) but Flippo gets three pages. Gimme a break!

As for your second paragraph, well yes. It's a community which by and large (and for all its undoubted virtues) doesn't seem to have much interest in discussing The Finished Article. Perhaps people just don't know what to say in such cases; perhaps they even think there isn't anything to be said (there always is, of course). But create an opportunity to tinker with a half-assed game idea, or to speculate about the impact of artificial intelligence on abstract strategy, or - best of all! - to contribute to a list of any kind ... do any of those things and just watch the pages accumulate. That's life, I guess.

Nick's point here is that games mean different things to different people and I couldn't agree more. For the majority they seem to be recreational, a means of socialising. The original thread is about 'Square versus Square' and if K.T.M wants to sell it I'd suggest changing the name to 'Flippo' indeed. Great at the coffee table but with the depth of a puddle. On the other hand there's a lot of lip service to strategy games. Loving Go is compulsory, Chess is criticised by some because of its arbitrariness (good point) and nobody loves Draughts because it's boring. You only need one convincingly loud voice to lead the way to get a following. It's always good to have an opinion even if you're basically clueless.

There also seems to be a consensus that games are invented to be recreational and a means of socialising. Look at the box, happy players having lots of fun. Games are presented that way for the market, why else would you invent a game?

I think Nick is better qualified than I am to argue that case. As for me, games aren't recreational and no means of socialising. My aim was to invent 'sport weapons' and I failed 9 out of 10 times. The majority turned out to be nice games, but not tailored to the market and not sport weapons either, in some cases not quite sport weapons.

Meanwhile during my career a division between 'organic' games and 'assembled' ones became more apparent. Assembled games are invented with a purpose, why else would you assemble a game, and more often than not this purpose is to market it. Thus it is molded to fit that jacket. Organic games rely in finding purposeful and finite 'core behaviour'. Starweb is one example that everyone should be able to see. The behaviour of connection games on a hex grid is well known. It may differ slightly depending on the nature of the goal, but Hex, Havannah and *Star all share it. Starweb emerged in two seconds the moment I realised the implications of 'triangular scoring'. Thus it gave a new goal to well-known core behaviour. It's immediately obvious that it works. But I wasn't 'inventing a new connection game', I simply got one.

And that's the main point: organic design is planless and goalless: you find something, now let's see what you found. It's never 'assembled'. In me core behaviour reveals itself as a living entity. That's why I never needed any board or pieces. For a long time I didn't even have boards and pieces. That, too, is why my games seldom needed any modifications. They were never meant to fit a particular jacket, they naturally revealed what they were in the process of materialising. Symple had me fooled for a while (thanks to Luis I finally saw the bug), but Sygo and a lot of others materialised in minutes and never needed any rule change.

So what I'd like to say here is that some inventors care for the game, not for the product. And where Starweb is a nice little strategy game that most posters here immediately understood, due to its well-known core behaviour, Storisende is a lot more than that. Its invention was a life event here at BGG and there was quite some interest, and justifiably so, in the concept. So if players are interested in a true strategy game, a 'layered' game in more than one respect, then Stephen's AI AI will give them value for money. You may not have the means to immediately understand and trust its behaviour but it revealed itself as a living and self-explanatory organism and it never needed any modification. I fear that this may to the 'assembly' supporters be all the more reason to be sceptical. After all I'm at it for forty years and have basically only five games to show for. And now six, actually.

mocko wrote:
On other matters, I was interested to see that snooker appeals to the same bit of your brain that expresses itself in your boardgames. I get that too. Who was it again, who (shrewdly, if crudely) characterised snooker as "chess with balls"?

I don't know but I can fully understand it. I would have been able to be totally immersed in it if I had had the talent.
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Ray R.
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It's really amazing that you can do that. I think it would take me decades of study and practice before I could start to see games the way you do, and even then I may not have the capacity for it.

Your characterization of your games as "sport weapons" brings to mind David Sirlin's notion that all games should be capable of tournament level play and that everyone should always Play To Win. I capitalize it because Play To Win includes techniques like exploitation of rules ambiguities and exclusive use of strategies known to break the game. Those who refuse to take advantage of "cheap" tactics are labeled "scrubs".

For those not familiar with the card game "The Mind", it is a highly entertaining (IMO) cooperative game where players attempt to play their cards in numerical order without communicating the specific absolute or relative values of their cards. Coordination is mostly done through timing and body language. Those who "Play To Win" would argue that if the rules of the game doesn't explicitly forbid the use of a metronome, then a metronome would be the correct way to plan to win and therefore you must play with a metronome and therefore the game is broken and has no value.

I think that's fine. I don't understand people who think that way any more than they understand me, but as long as they don't somehow cause the kinds of games I like to cease to exist, they can Play To Win and I can Play For Recreation and Socializing*

* I was going to say "Play For Fun" but I recognize "fun" is a subjective term and people who Play To Win may consider that fun. It is not my intention to draw a direct parallel between what you like and what Sirlin likes. In fact, I respect and admire your preferences and abilities while I mostly find Sirlin to be obnoxious.
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Russ Williams
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For me, there is no clear dichotomy between Recreation/Socializing on one hand and Playing To Win / Sports Weapons / Competing / whatever on the other hand. Like in a good game, life itself has multi-purpose moves.

(I also don't see Recreation and Socializing as somehow equivalent or automatically lumped together. I do lots of recreation alone, and sometimes social activity is not recreational for me.)
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christian freeling
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rayr wrote:
It's really amazing that you can do that. I think it would take me decades of study and practice before I could start to see games the way you do, and even then I may not have the capacity for it.

Your characterization of your games as "sport weapons" brings to mind David Sirlin's notion that all games should be capable of tournament level play and that everyone should always Play To Win. I capitalize it because Play To Win includes techniques like exploitation of rules ambiguities and exclusive use of strategies known to break the game. Those who refuse to take advantage of "cheap" tactics are labeled "scrubs".

For those not familiar with the card game "The Mind", it is a highly entertaining (IMO) cooperative game where players attempt to play their cards in numerical order without communicating the specific absolute or relative values of their cards. Coordination is mostly done through timing and body language. Those who "Play To Win" would argue that if the rules of the game doesn't explicitly forbid the use of a metronome, then a metronome would be the correct way to plan to win and therefore you must play with a metronome and therefore the game is broken and has no value.

I think that's fine. I don't understand people who think that way any more than they understand me, but as long as they don't somehow cause the kinds of games I like to cease to exist, they can Play To Win and I can Play For Recreation and Socializing*

* I was going to say "Play For Fun" but I recognize "fun" is a subjective term and people who Play To Win may consider that fun. It is not my intention to draw a direct parallel between what you like and what Sirlin likes. In fact, I respect and admire your preferences and abilities while I mostly find Sirlin to be obnoxious.

Hi Ray,

Thanks for your reply. I looked at Sirlin's site and got the impressinon of a televangelist. I'm not, and being able to recognise organic game behaviour is as much a blessing as it is a curse. I for one can't understand why people can't see through a game like Storisende. My only issue with it in the months before it was implemented by Ed and Stephen was that I couldn't quite visualise its behaviour in the endgame because it is rather unusual. Now I finally understand it.
 
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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To me, the Chess family of games proves that organic design is more of a personal preference than a necessary approach for designing interesting abstract games. Rules that may seem arbitrary may also surface strategies that would not be required otherwise.

For games, the goal justifies the means. If the end product is intellectually stimulating and rewarding, then it doesn't really matter if the rules are organic or artificial or arbitrary or whatever - they got the job done.

I support the "whatever works" design approach.
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christian freeling
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Laurentiu wrote:
To me, the Chess family of games proves that organic design is more of a personal preference than a necessary approach for designing interesting abstract games. Rules that may seem arbitrary may also surface strategies that would not be required otherwise.

For games, the goal justifies the means. If the end product is intellectually stimulating and rewarding, then it doesn't really matter if the rules are organic or artificial or arbitrary or whatever - they got the job done.

I support the "whatever works" design approach.

Where did I say that organic design is a necessary design approach? If you check my ouevre you will find five Chess variants in the ArenA and a couple more in the Pit. Hannibal, Pit of Pillars and Inertia are all fairly recent and none of them emergerd 'inside out'.

But you're right that I've shifted gradually to organic design and the main reason is that process is much easier if ideas explain themselves without having to meet a predetermined outcome. And I'm lazy. Wrestling with recalcitrant ideas does sometimes work, but it it takes a lot of energy.
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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christianF wrote:

Where did I say that organic design is a necessary design approach?


You didn't say it (nor did I claim you did), but your preference for it is quite obvious, both in this thread and in your notes on mindsports.nl.
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Richard Moxham
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Laurentiu wrote:
christianF wrote:

Where did I say that organic design is a necessary design approach?


You didn't say it (nor did I claim you did), but your preference for it is quite obvious, both in this thread and in your notes on mindsports.nl.

I'm wondering whether Kronecker's remark (I knew the saying, but had to look up the source) that God made the natural numbers and Man did all the rest in some way corresponds to Christian's feeling about this issue...?

 
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
Laurentiu wrote:
christianF wrote:

Where did I say that organic design is a necessary design approach?


You didn't say it (nor did I claim you did), but your preference for it is quite obvious, both in this thread and in your notes on mindsports.nl.

I'm wondering whether Kronecker's remark (I knew the saying, but had to look up the source) that God made the natural numbers and Man did all the rest in some way corresponds to Christian's feeling about this issue...?


Not that I can tell, but "God' for me is a Question rather than an Answer or Creator of Natural Numbers. But I've often wondered what they are indeed. What is a 'five'?
 
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
Laurentiu wrote:
christianF wrote:

Where did I say that organic design is a necessary design approach?


You didn't say it (nor did I claim you did), but your preference for it is quite obvious, both in this thread and in your notes on mindsports.nl.

I'm wondering whether Kronecker's remark (I knew the saying, but had to look up the source) that God made the natural numbers and Man did all the rest in some way corresponds to Christian's feeling about this issue...?


Not that I can tell, but "God' for me is a Question rather than an Answer or Creator of Natural Numbers. But I've often wondered what they are indeed. What is a 'five'?

Oh dear. I forgot that any mention of the guy upstairs sends you off down that old familiar trsck. Actually, you know, it's perfectly possible (and often fruitful) to work with a certain non-personified concept of God alongside one's atheism. So humour me a bit. Forget the label, but isn't Kronecker's distinction between (on the one hand) the ineluctably, irreducibly simply-out-there-ness of the integers and (on the other) the ingenuity implicit in the rest - isn't that a bit like your distinction between what you call organic and inorganic games?

As for what numbers 'are' - yes, also-bloomin'-lutely. I suppose gamers, of all people, understand perfectly what a five is, but for me what really screwed my mind up was the discovery that grammatically the integers as we employ them in the majority of situations are adjectives!!! I mean, place five hazelnuts (why on earth did I choose hazelnuts?) in the palm of your hand, and gaze at them, and try to understand wherein their property of 'fiveness' consists - and the men in white will soon be leading you gently away to protected accommodation. Left and right pose a similar problem. Are they capable of being defined without reference to themselves?

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Joel Fox
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mocko wrote:

As for what numbers 'are' - yes, also-bloomin'-lutely. I suppose gamers, of all people, understand perfectly what a five is, but for me what really screwed my mind up was the discovery that grammatically the integers as we employ them in the majority of situations are adjectives!!! I mean, place five hazelnuts (why on earth did I choose hazelnuts?) in the palm of your hand, and gaze at them, and try to understand wherein their property of 'fiveness' consists - and the men in white will soon be leading you gently away to protected accommodation. Left and right pose a similar problem. Are they capable of being defined without reference to themselves?


For numbers, maybe what we need at a basic level is the concept of one. Then 4 is what matches one-to-one with our limbs, and 5 is what matches one-to-one with our fingers (or four plus one). Left can be defined as long as we are not in a perfect vacuum - for example look at the north star and left is where the sun sets.
 
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
Oh dear. I forgot that any mention of the guy upstairs sends you off down that old familiar trsck. Actually, you know, it's perfectly possible (and often fruitful) to work with a certain non-personified concept of God alongside one's atheism. So humour me a bit. Forget the label, but isn't Kronecker's distinction between (on the one hand) the ineluctably, irreducibly simply-out-there-ness of the integers and (on the other) the ingenuity implicit in the rest - isn't that a bit like your distinction between what you call organic and inorganic games?

As for what numbers 'are' - yes, also-bloomin'-lutely. I suppose gamers, of all people, understand perfectly what a five is, but for me what really screwed my mind up was the discovery that grammatically the integers as we employ them in the majority of situations are adjectives!!! I mean, place five hazelnuts (why on earth did I choose hazelnuts?) in the palm of your hand, and gaze at them, and try to understand wherein their property of 'fiveness' consists - and the men in white will soon be leading you gently away to protected accommodation. Left and right pose a similar problem. Are they capable of being defined without reference to themselves?


I'm not an atheist, I'm just mystified by 'being there'. Some see this as a Question and in that case, imo., all answers are wrong. Actually, again imo., the attempt is already wrong.

As for Kronecker, some games seem to 'be' indeed, and some are clearly conceived but math is far more mysterious than games. And yes, I've always considered the integers as metaphysical.

 
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Nick Bentley
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Quote:
Nick's point here is that games mean different things to different people and I couldn't agree more. For the majority they seem to be recreational, a means of socialising.


I think there's a key observation to make here.

There are, in fact, HUGE numbers of people for whom games are more than just socializing. There are about 60,000,000 Go players and 600,000,000 Chess players in the world, for example.

The thing is, though: people who like to play games in a sporting way already play Chess or Go or Magic or some other game to which they've become dedicated.

And due to both strong network effects and high switching costs, those people cannot be peeled away to try a new and unproven game.

There's a powerful analogy here:

Trying to build an audience for a new deep combinatorial game is like trying to build a Facebook competitor. You can make a social network that's better than Facebook, even much better, but it's not likely enough. The network effects and switching costs are just too damn high. R.I.P. Google+
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Joe Joyce
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christianF wrote:
...So what I'd like to say here is that some inventors care for the game, not for the product.

Grin, that's why Nick has a job and we don't!*

*Nick obviously cares for both!
 
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Peter Strait
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Really, deep down math is pattern. Interactions of intervals more akin to moire than might be supposed, as we take our nifty grids and through them view the world.
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David Sirlin
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rayr wrote:
Your characterization of your games as "sport weapons" brings to mind David Sirlin's notion that all games should be capable of tournament level play and that everyone should always Play To Win.


Hey, so just stopping by to say that that's not a correct representation of Playing to Win. I have always gone out of my way to say that the whole thing is for people who want to win (like in tournaments) but who are held back by mindset. It is not for other people. And it's *literally* on page 1 of my book, the prologue:

Playing to Win -- Prologue wrote:
A lot of people get rubbed the wrong way by this stuff because they think I want to apply “playing to win” to everyone. I don’t. It’s not that I think everyone should be on this particular peak or that everyone would even want to be. There are other peaks in life, probably better ones. But those who are stuck in the chasm really should know their positions and how to reach a happier place.


(Link to the rest is here)

It's been a really useful resource to people looking to be competitive, though it has sadly been misused and strawmanned a lot, so I can understand not knowing what it really says.

Also while I'm here, I'm not sure what Christian meant by my site seeming like I'm a "televangelist." I put at lot of effort into sincerely trying to share game design knowledge with others, such as through this collection of articles. That's quite alarming if these articles somehow give you the impression of a con-man or something. The are intended to be serious essays on the subject.

Sorry to disrupt you all, carry on!

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David Sirlin
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Uh, what?
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Alexandre Santos
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I don't know David, but I find these contemptuous comments disappointing. Can't we just proceed with the discussion without personally targeted unpleasantness?
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Alexandre Santos
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I don't feel like I am a frequent enough dweller of the Abstract forum to know its mores, but I do believe that increasing the conversation about games could be achieved by having some kind of Game of the Week action, where some game is proposed for the week, perhaps with a link to an AI app, so that people can try the game, play it on some online platform, or with friends, and share a conversation during one week.

Basically a Bookclub-like activity for abstracts. I I would enjoy that. At the moment this happens mostly during the Abstract of the year competition, but then you need to test a lot of games, and the format does not foster much discussion.
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Matthew M
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