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Subject: The Chance to Win rss

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Vince Lupo
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I believe that the most successful, fun and long lasting games are those in which you feel that you could have won (even if you lost that instance). This applies to any kind of game. Vs, coop, solo, video and/or board.


Here's an example of annoying situations:

old school solitaire card games in which the cards are arranged in such a way that you will never win. But you usually won't know at the start. Despite that, there are many variations of solitaire with standard deck card games that are generally fun, mostly because the flexibility in the system usually seems allows for a win if you know what you're doing. Not too bad as it doesn't usually take too long.

Forbidden Island (coop). There are some situations, even in the easiest mode of the game, where you can be practically destined to lose because the water rise cards bunched up near the top and something like the helicopter pad had waters rise early. Again, not too hard to just set it back up, but the idea of it can be obnoxious.

randomly generated quickie flash or ios games that randomly generate the world as you go. Every once in a while, you lose simply because the game presented something randomly that was an insolvable problem given your time and capabilities to react.

in a versus game, video or board/card, consider some situation where one of the players randomly starts out with access to the best stuff sooner than everyone else. Mille Bornes has this problem big time. There are 4 POWER cards in the deck. If you get one you're even more likely to get the others because it gives you another draw from the deck. It's a game I won't play anymore as it feels broken.

Video games can have an unbalancing issue in vs where if one player is very experienced in the game, there isn't much of a chance for anyone else to compete. Mario Kart balances players pretty well with luck and rubber band comebacks. Small World sort of has a comeback system as well. But it could do more to help those who have been downtrodden heavily. But basically, if someone is really good at something, it can feel like you have no chance of winning.
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That's where the "luck" factor of games can come to the rescue. In Dominion, even experienced high percentage winners can lose to beginners when the luck of the shuffle isn't on their side and vice versa. But luck can also stab the game designer in the back when a player who has made all the "best" choices" finds themselves way behind the winner or anybody else has merely lost due to bad luck of cards or dice or random numbers in a computer.


So the challenge in game design is to make all players feel like they had a good chance to win, even until the very end. Dominion does this pretty well too, mostly. In some setups it's unavoidable that someone might discover and implement a great combo way before anyone else can and then run away with the game. That's ok. It's a great game system in general. The hidden vp system can make everyone feel as if they are close even when they might be 20 points behind. And in some cases, 20 points isn't even that far behind.


Another key to fun game design is whether it's fun and rewarding along the way. Does the player get to overcome obstacles creatively and with mini rewards along the way? Do they get to achieve things throughout the game using intelligence? In other words, do the players get mini-victories? "ha ha, you may have won, but I did manage to..." . Basically they may have won mini personal goals while losing the overall game. Example: Agricola is always fun to me because of the challenge of not letting my people starve and the many ways I can accomplish that while trying not to get blocked by other people's competing moves. Doom and GTA 2 deathmatch was always fun because of the funny things that can happen and the random moments of overcoming the odds triumphs throughout.



So, I don't exactly have a point except these things:
1) if possible try to make your games possible to win in every random initial starting state (and possibly later states) of the game (for solo and coop)

2) in vs, give the appearance, at least, of being able to win against experienced players

3) make playing the game fun, challenging and rewarding throughout. Provide achievable bite size victories. Or perhaps interesting avoidable pitfalls that you have motivation to avoid and don't punish the player too much if they do hit them.
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Nate K
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Neo42 wrote:

1) if possible try to make your games possible to win in every random initial starting state (and possibly later states) of the game (for solo and coop)

2) in vs, give the appearance, at least, of being able to win against experienced players

3) make playing the game fun, challenging and rewarding throughout. Provide achievable bite size victories. Or perhaps interesting avoidable pitfalls that you have motivation to avoid and don't punish the player too much if they do hit them.


I agree with all points!

I've recently been considering solitaire games that provide no real decisions. My wife was playing the classic card game Solitaire just now. On the one hand, we could chat because she was expending no real effort. On the other hand, the game was entirely unstimulating. She did not need to use any real brain power--she just had to pay attention and look at the cards. The game then played itself.

Additionally, there was no guarantee that the game could even be won. And in fact, it couldn't.

In my most recent solitaire game design, I'm attempting to provide situations wherein the player makes real tactical decisions. The player has all the information necessary to make decisions, but the correct decision is not always clear and straightforward. Additionally, the player will have to make strategic decisions based on which victory condition they have that game.

Since the player will have to experience a series of battles, there will (hopefully) be bite-size victories throughout the game. Even if the player loses an individual battle and must retreat, they can come away saying, "I may have lost the battle, but I retreated when I needed to and I have enough ships to stand a chance in the next battle!"
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One Armed Bandit
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Neo42 wrote:
1) if possible try to make your games possible to win in every random initial starting state (and possibly later states) of the game (for solo and coop)

2) in vs, give the appearance, at least, of being able to win against experienced players


#1 is not reasonably achievable. If every game state is winnable, then your game can be "solved" and becomes more of a puzzle than a game.

An alternate definition could be that any given setup is winnable... dependent on favorable random outcomes.

For instance, I'm reasonably certain that every setup of Arkham Horror is winnable... but some bad dice rolls can make it unwinnable by draining resources or delaying players.

#2 is really hard to manage. The only way to really maintain that appearance is to make scoring really tight... which penalizes the skilled players, as they exert greater effort for lesser reward.
An alternative method some games use is hidden scoring, where points are kept private until the endgame. Thus you never really know how far behind you are.

However, that one is hard to do properly. Almost every game that does this (Small World, Puerto Rico) actually has the scoring be public, but then the chits are held privately. This turns it into a memory game. If my memory is enough, I will know your score even though it's hidden information.

I've seen several people rant about "public private information" before, with the conclusion that "If it can be tracked with pen and paper, there's no reason to make it secret" which I agree with.

Catan actually manages this properly, though poorly. You can get development cards worth VP... but nobody knows if your card is a VP or not. Its poor because the cards can make the game very swingy. I've won more than a handful of games by getting a lucky pull on a dev card... when the next player was guaranteed to hit 10 on their turn, and I had no way of scoring a point except by getting that VP card.
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Vince Lupo
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palmerkun wrote:
Neo42 wrote:
1) if possible try to make your games possible to win in every random initial starting state (and possibly later states) of the game (for solo and coop)

2) in vs, give the appearance, at least, of being able to win against experienced players


#1 is not reasonably achievable. If every game state is winnable, then your game can be "solved" and becomes more of a puzzle than a game.

An alternate definition could be that any given setup is winnable... dependent on favorable random outcomes.

For instance, I'm reasonably certain that every setup of Arkham Horror is winnable... but some bad dice rolls can make it unwinnable by draining resources or delaying players.

#2 is really hard to manage. The only way to really maintain that appearance is to make scoring really tight... which penalizes the skilled players, as they exert greater effort for lesser reward.
An alternative method some games use is hidden scoring, where points are kept private until the endgame. Thus you never really know how far behind you are.

However, that one is hard to do properly. Almost every game that does this (Small World, Puerto Rico) actually has the scoring be public, but then the chits are held privately. This turns it into a memory game. If my memory is enough, I will know your score even though it's hidden information.

I've seen several people rant about "public private information" before, with the conclusion that "If it can be tracked with pen and paper, there's no reason to make it secret" which I agree with.

Catan actually manages this properly, though poorly. You can get development cards worth VP... but nobody knows if your card is a VP or not. Its poor because the cards can make the game very swingy. I've won more than a handful of games by getting a lucky pull on a dev card... when the next player was guaranteed to hit 10 on their turn, and I had no way of scoring a point except by getting that VP card.




I actually think the dev cards help catan. How fun would it be if you were fully locked out of building any more settlements or cities and you were stuck at 8 points for the rest of the game while everybody else competes to win. At least the dev cards give you a chance to win at that point. My wife got stuck early in a 6 player catan game (correctly expanded) and she felt there was no way out. She couldn't even win via dev cards. She ended up not having much fun. And not even able to do very much. Catan often has that "well this turn was a waste" problem. It's nice how many games since then often give you things to do even when you may not have much of a chance to win left.


I have felt multiple feelings about publicly gained private VP but I think I usually end up agreeing with the game designer's decisions. I don't like it when people track VP in dominion. It's ok if people are counting provinces and thinking they remember that everyone has bought 3 provinces but that guy has 4. But writing it down on paper is a no no to me.


I agree that these design goals are hard or perhaps "impossible". But the closer games get to those goals the more fun I usually have. In terms of coop games. Arkham Horror is pretty good. Flashpoint fire rescue is a great coop game where the outcome isn't predetermined doom from the start (dice help). SemiCoop, I love BSG. Perhaps I prefer dice in my coop games. So far it seems that way. Pandemic and Forbidden Island however can potentially start with impossible deck arrangements, just like Klondike solitaire. Space Alert is a great coop in which your real enemy is time (you have a time limit as you play because of the "soundtrack" providing cues and the eventual 10 minute end). Space Alert might indeed be solvable like a puzzle every time if not for the time limit.


Another way to deal with VP is Agricola style (gain it all at the end as a rating of how you did during the game) or ticket to ride style points gained during the game and points gained at the end via secret vp goals. Or carcassonne style, points during and at the end but all public information. And of course there are other games without VP where it only matters that you meet certain conditions to win. Those can be interesting. Fluxx, 7 Dragons, Uno, Chrononauts. And obviously some of those are more fun than others and it depends on the version of them too. Starr Fluxx is my favorite fluxx game so far as it seems there are plenty of ways to turn the tables in that version. Uno is my least favorite in that list above. In fact, I'd rather play Rummy than Uno even though I am fairly tired of Rummy despite it being an interesting game.
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Vince Lupo
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Here's another thing:

coop video games like New Super Mario Bros Wii are fantastic. The way to succeed is to cooperate properly, keep an eye on each other and try not to do anything that causes your death or theirs.

Replay value is pretty good even though the levels don't change all that much. That's because playing it coop with a different person is a new challenge in cooperation. And the monsters don't move exactly the same way each time and you don't do things exactly the same way each time.


And video games usually have winnable levels/scenarios/games. And when in coop, part of the challenge is to communicate well and share properly and look out for each other. And of course often in video games quick tactical decisions on the fly, good hand eye coordination and reaction times are important.


Yes, some video games have extremely hard situations that become unfun or extremely easy situations that become too easy and boring.


Space Alert (boardgame) therefore is an interesting crossbreed of coop because it uses a timelimit and a soundtrack to provide some elements from video games to a coop board game.


another point or at least a question then?: how do you capture some more of the elements of video games and translate that to coop board games or vs board games? Primarily how do you make the situation always winnable but require different skills than only puzzle solving AND still fun/challenging/interesting/scalable? I'm not sure I know the answer but I guess I know some of them.
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Kevin Nunn
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Neo42 wrote:
1) if possible try to make your games possible to win in every random initial starting state (and possibly later states) of the game (for solo and coop)

2) in vs, give the appearance, at least, of being able to win against experienced players

3) make playing the game fun, challenging and rewarding throughout. Provide achievable bite size victories. Or perhaps interesting avoidable pitfalls that you have motivation to avoid and don't punish the player too much if they do hit them.


Can't Stop achieves all three of these remarkably well.
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Vince Lupo
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kgnunn wrote:
Neo42 wrote:
1) if possible try to make your games possible to win in every random initial starting state (and possibly later states) of the game (for solo and coop)

2) in vs, give the appearance, at least, of being able to win against experienced players

3) make playing the game fun, challenging and rewarding throughout. Provide achievable bite size victories. Or perhaps interesting avoidable pitfalls that you have motivation to avoid and don't punish the player too much if they do hit them.


Can't Stop achieves all three of these remarkably well.



I have yet to play that one. I'll check it out. I have seen others play it but never been at the right point on a game night to have been offered to play it. I usually end up suggesting things I'd like to play or joining a group starting a game of X.
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