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Subject: Could good bad game be better than bad great game? rss

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Hannu Pajula
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I have noticed a phenomenon in certain hobby game designer's behaviour (mostly by looking in the mirror).

Instead of trying to design a simple game, the hobby designer wants to design a complex game. One of the reason must be that the designer has (sometimes justified) negative attitude towards simpler games. For example roll-and-move, simple push-your-luck or maybe memory match variant game is not something that the hobby designer aspires to design.

So the hobby designer decides to make maybe an adventure boardgame or at least a medieval city-state game or to be fashionable: even a steampunk deck building game. Nothing wrong with that.

But would it be still better to start designing very simple games? Simple games are easier to playtest than complex ones. They are usually quicker to play. It is easier to balance simple game if something is wrong. Friends will not hate the hobby designer if a 10-15 minute game is totally non-enjoyable (at least true friends will not). With 2-3 hours of anti-hilarious gaming hobby designer might have lifelong enemies.

Our hero, the hobby designer, might even be able to design a good bad game. But when our hero's aim is greatness, the result rarely is.
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John "Omega" Williams
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There is a certain ebb and flow of game design trends that accumulate from the simplistic to the complex and then back again. It is also very dependent on the designers personal thought processes or the goal at hand that must be achieved.

Sometimes simple works for this need, more oft it may not. Balancing these issues is part of the designers task unless they are certain their target audience wants more complexity. This was the case with SPI for example. Most of their games are convoluted to say the least. And that was the type of game player who purchased their games.

Here is an example:
I am currently working on a new edition of my rather ancient StarField space game. The goal for this version is to work with empire building and empire management as well as dealing with other races, all withing a solitaire format. This requires a-lot of complexity to cover all the little nuances I want to include. But I have left several elements as optional. The player can choose just how much micro-management they want to handle. This allows the game to appeal to various degrees of player want in a game without sacrificing anything. (so far...)
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Scott Westgard
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As Albert Einstien said about mathematics and science...
"It should be as simple as possible, but NOT MORE."
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Scott Nelson
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In my case, I had 3 game designs ready but after a few rejections, the card game was picked up to be puclished. In my case, the publisher was only looking for card games. I haven't designed a card game recently because most of the ideas I can throw into a card game, feel better in a full-blown board game. Now that I have a game published, I am no longer looking just to get published, but to publish one of my board games with some meat. If I do come up with a quick card game, I might try to shop it around, but odds are, I will just work the same mechanisms into a board game. I did have a board game built around the mechanics of Food Fight! card game from T.O.G. Entertainment (not the Crypto. game. I called this game Sherwood Forest (not the published game, but same name before SF was released. The mechanisms for playing cards (adding the values of a 1-4 cards as the cafeteria table) worked in theme for the power of the guards at the gates. But, when TOG grabbed FF, I took SF out of the running.

Another example is The Hog Father boardgame (Hog Haven). This game I took the simple card play and created a card game out of itfor the Davinci card game competition they have each year. This year it was about "10". I themed it around 10 bombs that needed to be diffused before the end of the game. Co-op and not at the same time. Since it did not get picked up, I threw it back into the HH boardgame where it has stayed for a few years now. I feel the mechanics feel better in HH anyways.

So, in my opinion card games can be incorporated into a euro-style game quite easily, and as such, I don't feel the need to create card games. Also, I like to play deep games, so I don't want to test games I don't want to play.
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Kevin B. Smith
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Honestly, I haven't seen that many over-complicated PnP games. So while I agree with the concern behind the OP, I'm not sure I see any effects.

I think it is actually harder to design a really simple game. Well, to be precise, it is very difficult to design a FUN simple game. It is very difficult to find the clever twists that allow a simple game to play deep.

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Nate
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Part of being a good designer is knowing what to cut out as well as what to leave in. Forcing a game to be simple can exercise those priority decision-making skills.
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Jack Neal
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peakhope wrote:
Honestly, I haven't seen that many over-complicated PnP games. So while I agree with the concern behind the OP, I'm not sure I see any effects.


I think PnP is bound to the fact that no one wants to put a huge game together even if it has bells, whistles, etc. This may come down to the fact that it is hard to prototype something with a large number of components, special effects, etc. I can't imagine testing a Dominion style game from one gamer's basement which is how I think a lot of PnP authors come to the hobby.

As for complexity in PnP, I think Freedom For All looks complicated. I don't know of other examples. It would be nice if there were more.
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Freelance Police
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Wow, that's a large paintbrush.

If it's a Euro, the mechanics should be simple and elegant, while the strategy has depth.

OTOH, If it's Ameritrash, the mechanics should thematic. Thematic games tend to be complicated, because they attempt to simulate some aspects of the theme.

If you can create a simple game that's as thematically immersive as Mansions of Madness or Arkham Horror, go for it. But I'm so far unconvinced that a simple set of mechanics will provide the depth of theme these games have. These games need to be complex. (I say this with a bit of irony, as I've written a 1/2 page Call of Cthulhu rules-light RPG, and RPGs have greater thematic depth than their boardgame counterparts.)
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The Elder
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NoodleArtist wrote:
As Albert Einstien said about mathematics and science...
"It should be as simple as possible, but NOT MORE."


Or as the record of that lecture states,
"It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience."

The short version is nice and pithy but not actually something Einstein is known to have said or written.
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Nat Li
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Hane wrote:
I have noticed a phenomenon in certain hobby game designer's behaviour (mostly by looking in the mirror).

Instead of trying to design a simple game, the hobby designer wants to design a complex game. One of the reason must be that the designer has (sometimes justified) negative attitude towards simpler games. For example roll-and-move, simple push-your-luck or maybe memory match variant game is not something that the hobby designer aspires to design.

So the hobby designer decides to make maybe an adventure boardgame or at least a medieval city-state game or to be fashionable: even a steampunk deck building game. Nothing wrong with that.

But would it be still better to start designing very simple games? Simple games are easier to playtest than complex ones. They are usually quicker to play. It is easier to balance simple game if something is wrong. Friends will not hate the hobby designer if a 10-15 minute game is totally non-enjoyable (at least true friends will not). With 2-3 hours of anti-hilarious gaming hobby designer might have lifelong enemies.


I Would just go for designing with love and cut through the layers of inauthentics. I remember when I was a kid and made add on designs to games I loved playing, and that it was out of love. Nowadays I find myself too calculating and unable to return to that state of honesty. If I were to design a game, I would rather return to the bright eyed kid state.

Our hero, the hobby designer, might even be able to design a good bad game. But when our hero's aim is greatness, the result rarely is.
 
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Sam Mercer
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Hane wrote:
Instead of trying to design a simple game, the hobby designer wants to design a complex game. One of the reason must be that the designer has (sometimes justified) negative attitude towards simpler games. For example roll-and-move, simple push-your-luck or maybe memory match variant game is not something that the hobby designer aspires to design.


Well first of all, our hero is a "Hobby Designer" someone who plays games enough to be a full time hobby. If he only played roll and move and similar simple games, I think there is a high chance that he would not play enough as to call them his hobby. You would have to call him a "Snakes & Ladders and solitaire fan", more than a Hobby Gamer. By the vary fact it is his hobby, (s)he has played many many games, knows many systems inside and out, knows if a game is simply depicted in random chance or in fact it is a unnecasry tangle of too many decisions, knows almost all possible mechanics and themes, and knows that this game "uses a dominion-like card engine" whereas this one "uses spy/evil player changes like battlestar galactica".

So one could argue that mr Hobby Gamer is 'beyond' simple games. If I created a simple game (roll dice, each roll = a move around a board, first wins) Our guy would look at the box cover, examine it, work it out instantly and become a master of it straight away. Even before he has played it, where would the challenge be in that - where would the "game" be in that.

That's why we like games that have a set of rules, broad yet simple, that we can exploit and use to our advantage to try and create intricate networks that we solve with changing variables, meaning there's always something to think about at each "go" at the game.

The way that we would solve this need, easily, is to make a crazy big game. Loads of rules, loads of ideas. It is the same as when someone wants to write a short story (without too much experience in writing), and the story almost always turn into an a mess of adjectives and frilly -unnecasary - language. Because that is what we assume needs to happen.

I think it is less that Hobby Designers design complicated games, but Hobby Designers create epic games that they believe will interest them and others.

The real truth of it I believe is that TRULY good mechanics and gameplay are evident when you do not notice them. In the same way, good film score is shown when you do not notice it. A good book is when you finish it, without realising how long you have actually spent reading the damned thing, that you apparantly burned through within 2 days.

So to go back to your question, good games seem simple, and our hero tries to emulate it as best he can. Unfortunately, for him, he is but a game player and beleves that a good game needs complexity. But in order to be a good game designer he needs to remember a few rules:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/693766/best-advice-game-desi...

Quote:
Removal is OK One of the hardest tasks for a game designer (and me particularly) is knowing when to remove parts of a game design. Not because I do not notice the need to remove, but the issue of wanting to keep my rules/mechanics unchanged. BUT REALLY, removing things from a design is OK! You can always add it back later, if needed.



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