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George Phillies
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I teach a college-level class on Design of Tabletop Strategy Games, based on my two books with Tom Vasel. The syllabus with be up soon at http://wpi.edu/~phillies. I plan if things work to videotape that classes and put them up on youtube. The focus will be actually designing and playtesting a game through to reasonable quality. Because I am under severe time constraints (7 week terms) we do Eurogames. The course is part of a computer game degree program with an art track, a tech track, all students being required to do some of each, and most students having never played a legitimate board war game. The rules on the design project are

Each game must:

1) have an exploration element;

2) have a multi-level economic element;

3) be suitable for three or four
players;

4) have an explicit cooperative element, a major victory condition that must be jointly satisfied by the players or all players lose;

5) have an explicit competitive element, so that one or more players win, but only if a cooperative victory has occurred;

6) have at least a simple 'tech tree', where 'tech' is interpreted very broadly.

Also, games may not use combat. If your ideas on games stop with first-person shooters and Risk, you are about to have your consciousness elevated.devil
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Oliver Kiley
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What are your two books out of curiosity?

As for the assignment, I think you've created quite a challenge for your students to accomplish in 7-weeks!

The task appears to be asking for a euro-style 4x game coupled with particularly intricte victory conditions (I'm playing with a similar idea on a design of mine, and quite like it). Doing a half-reasonable execution would require some pre-existing experience with eurogames and the mechanics they employ (in my mind) to even know where to start. Tall order!

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Travis Worthington
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I agree with the post above - the design goals for the game are particularly challenging. I am hard pressed to think of any good published game that has both coop & competitive scoring mechanics of the "must coop to win, but there can be only one winner" variety.

Asking a class of college kids that already have a heavy course load to design something that is playable within 7 weeks is likely to lead to the same level of frustrations that those types of games do - lots of people quitting and causing the whole group (ie, your class) to fail because they can't win.
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George Ramos
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Ambitious, but classes at this level need to be hard. It's a great idea, and I definitely want to see the videos when you post them. Good luck!
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Sam Mercer
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Hello George!

I have never seen you on here before, with that in mind : Hello!

I agree with Oliver, it is quite a challenge to come up with a game that satisifies all of those condiditions. And one could postulate (bam: words) that in having such a rigid skeleton to adhear to could stifle some other creative ideas.

I wouldn't be (too) suprised if all of your students came back with very very similar games, to which I am not sure what good would come of it.

I can say though that the "no combat" rule is bloody brilliant. Lovely demilitarized zone place to throw them CoD4 / Halo younguns into ^^

I would also remark that perhaps an addition to a multi-level economic element could be a multi-leveld "resource" element - as I am sure economy would be very easily translated into "Money" or "Space Bucks" (especially for these kids) but might be a little tricker to have an economy of "wind production" or "sheep" - but this is only a minor comment

My only required distinction in what you have given would be having a bit more definition on the "required cooperative win condition" and also the (what sounds like) "required competitive win condition" in a single game.

Otherwise, it all sounds very interesting george, I wold very much look forward to reading the syllabus, watching the videos, and ideally watching a video of one of the games play at the end of your 7 week course

All the best luck to you, hope it goes great!

Sam
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Nate K
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What is meant by an "exploration element?" Because a game like 7 Wonders seems like it would largely fit the other requirements, but I don't know if it necessarily includes "exploration," beyond the sense of exploring different strategies.
 
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Sen-Foong Lim
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Wondering if it might be a good idea to give them a few more restrictions to work around (e.g. length of game play).

And possibly state that no marks are given for prettiness of the prototype

Just trying to think of ways to help focus the students rather than giving them too broad of a scope / too big of a sandbox...

Are they working in groups or alone?



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Sam Phillips Beckerman
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phillies wrote:
I teach a college-level class on Design of Tabletop Strategy Games, based on my two books with Tom Vasel. The syllabus with be up soon at http://wpi.edu/~phillies. I plan if things work to videotape that classes and put them up on youtube. :


Thank you, sounds like a good opportunity to up my game.
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Paulo Augusto
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phillies wrote:
[...]
The focus will be actually designing and playtesting a game through to reasonable quality.
[...]
Each game must:
1) have an exploration element;
2) have a multi-level economic element;
3) be suitable for three or four
players;
4) have an explicit cooperative element, a major victory condition that must be jointly satisfied by the players or all players lose;
5) have an explicit competitive element, so that one or more players win, but only if a cooperative victory has occurred;
6) have at least a simple 'tech tree', where 'tech' is interpreted very broadly.
Also, games may not use combat. [...]

I am an amateur developer and i'm developing (really strongly) a "Civilization" game for around 1 year of on and off time. A game that has:
- exploration;
- maybe multi-level economic element (don't understand fully it's meaning);
- support for 2~4 players;
- only competitive objectives (players are not forced to cooperate);
- a tech tree;
- uses combat.

I think that a finished product like my game is expected to be achieveable within 7 weeks but i doubt they will be anywhere near "reasonable quality", at least not to my perception of what that means in a board game. And my game doesn't even meets all the requirements that you propose.

So, i have to agree to the opinion of other posters, that it sounds too hard.

On the other hand, if i saw that happening within 7 weeks, that would certainly be an eye opener.

This sounds like a generally good idea, though, and i am really looking forward to seeing those videotapes (i would even want to frequent that course if i had the time and the money).
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Oliver Kiley
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I am in a non-game related design profession (professionally). One thing that I've found in design, be it games or otherwise, is that the process is generally characterized by intense bouts of inspiration and "design" followed by prolonged periods of reflection and assessment, until the next bout of inspiration kicks in.

I can see doing this intensity of a project in a studio format (i.e. think art or architecture design studio) where there are long blocks of class time spent on the project and an even greater out of class time spent. Art/desgin studios are "the" main activity for art/design students and the studios tend to be all consuming in order to get enough "bouts of design" to make a strong and compelling work.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is hard to force the kind of focus and attention this assignment would command, regardless of your expectations on their performance.

As a possible alternative ... how above focusing each week on 1 or 2 of the above items, having students create multiple but much more simple games that exemplify a particular concept or relationship. Students will get to try out many more ideas/concepts rather than stuggle trying to make one monster game work (let alone be fun enough to struggle though playtesting!).
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Zack Boatman
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You might try making either #4 or #5 implicit instead of explicit. This will allow for a design with more depth and allow for these two instructions/parameters to come together more easily.

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Drew Dallas
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Honestly I think with those restrictions and requirements you are going to be disappointed in the results. A few of my professor friends use a general guideline for assignment difficulty and time is if you (the teacher) can't do the assignment in 1/4th the time that you are going to give the students then you need to redesign the assignment or test. So if you can't complete the assignment in 1.75 weeks (spending the amount of time per day you'd expect your student to spend) then you are likely setting unreasonable goals for them.
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Oliver Kiley
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Darksbane wrote:
Honestly I think with those restrictions and requirements you are going to be disappointed in the results. A few of my professor friends use a general guideline for assignment difficulty and time is if you (the teacher) can't do the assignment in 1/4th the time that you are going to give the students then you need to redesign the assignment or test. So if you can't complete the assignment in 1.75 weeks (spending the amount of time per day you'd expect your student to spend) then you are likely setting unreasonable goals for them.


Nice tip!

My primary project (Hegemonic) fits much of the assignments crtieria (although it has war + non-coop finish) but it took about 4 months to get the basics ironed out and to a point where a prototype was playable. I guess I spentprobably 10-12 hours a week in the evening working on the initial design and concepts.
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Ethan Larson
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T Worthington wrote:
I agree with the post above - the design goals for the game are particularly challenging. I am hard pressed to think of any good published game that has both coop & competitive scoring mechanics of the "must coop to win, but there can be only one winner" variety.


Container. You must not allow the economy to stagnate, or the bank takes everything and you all lose. It's not explicitly stated that way in the rules, but that's what happens.
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Freelance Police
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Too restrictive.

On top of this, I'm sure many of your students *already have a game they are designing* and will want the class to help them improve it. You can even have the dreaded group projects center around students who already have a game they are designing.

One other random thought is to have the class only *playtest* games, with playtest feedback based on principals taught in class. I'm sure many game companies will work with you on this.

Personally, I'd rather see a class produce a few good quality games that may be published than a classful of shoddy hastily produced ones that go nowhere.

I'd also like to see the class relate better to computer game design. I taught a class that was required for a specialization that had *nothing* to do with the class. Nothing worse than a class of unmotivated students.
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David Fisher
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phillies wrote:
I teach a college-level class on Design of Tabletop Strategy Games, based on my two books with Tom Vasel.

Just out of curiosity, what are the differences between your book Design Elements of Contemporary Strategy Games and the other one, Contemporary Perspectives on Game Design?
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Abdul Rahman Ibrahim
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It may just be me, but I discovered the utmost importance of mathematics while creating a board game, as well as building algorithms.

Being college students, having them aware and fleshing out this aspect as well would be invaluable to them in the future.

Just my two cents as a fellow educator
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Isaac Shalev
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Just thinking about some published games that fall into this category just to try and get a sense for the complexity of the task, and not too many come to mind.

The co-op part, at least as you've defined it, seems most restrictive - there aren't too many games that are co-op in that all players can lose as one, but in which one or more players are the overall winner(s) once a player victory is achieved. I think the whole project would be more achievable if you defined cooperative as having explicit non-zero-sum exchanges between players.

So for example, any game with trading, or sharing, or different alliance types or goals that can only be achieved in concert would qualify, even if those things weren't ties directly to a major victory condition.


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Philip Migas
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George - Good luck

This totally brings me back to my days as an architectural student trying to design a 4000 sf house in a 10' x 100' lot. Unrealistic but interesting.

If you need any free online articles about design see my groups website at https://sites.google.com/site/bogadesignandprototype/links-2

Philip Migas
www.bogadap.com
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Joe Mucchiello
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phillies wrote:

4) have an explicit cooperative element, a major victory condition that must be jointly satisfied by the players or all players lose;

5) have an explicit competitive element, so that one or more players win, but only if a cooperative victory has occurred;

I think this is the killer. Doing these two things together is hard. Adding a exploration and a multilevel economy on top of that is over the top. Heck, creating a fun and balanced multi-level economy can take 7 weeks. I'd be surprised if experienced game designers could do this within the time constraint. And these are people who have never "played a legitimate board war game". Madness.
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Jesse Olejnicak
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By multi-level economics, do you mean a macro and micro economy? Do you mean multipule goods? That each players coices will effect the market and/or other players?

Not 100% clear on the concept.
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The Joker
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phillies wrote:
Because I am under severe time constraints (7 week terms) we do Eurogames.

Each game must:

1) have an exploration element;

2) have a multi-level economic element;

3) be suitable for three or four
players;

4) have an explicit cooperative element, a major victory condition that must be jointly satisfied by the players or all players lose;

5) have an explicit competitive element, so that one or more players win, but only if a cooperative victory has occurred;

6) have at least a simple 'tech tree', where 'tech' is interpreted very broadly.



Well, i never saw a Euro game that tried to accomplish all of that (Even if I try to interpret all of this very broadly). Just made me laugh. Well, i guess it's a group of highly motivated students … most of them creative and awesome.

On the other hand you said, most of your "students having never played a legitimate board war game." Good luck to elevate their consciousness in 7 weeks!

Quote:

If your ideas on games stop with first-person shooters and Risk, you are about to have your consciousness elevated.devil


Or did you mean OUR mind (forum posters)? I'd love that. Greetings & gl
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The Joker
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I would set the following task: They should take a game they already have (Monopoly, Risk, Settlers of Catan … ) and they would have to make a »completely different« game out of it. So, you would spare them making, drawing and glueing any fancy stuff and on the other hand, they could just jump into designing.

If they chose a game they liked, they will be encouraged. If they didn't like their pre-existing game, they will be glad to have a different version (which is hopefully better).

gl hf

Instead of prescripting their work in form of a catalog I made, i would want them to make up their own agenda in the second lesson (after groups are made up)? You could give them (re-)marks on how well they achieved their goal.
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Oliver Kiley
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jkrenner wrote:
I would set the following task: They should take a game they already have (Monopoly, Risk, Settlers of Catan … ) and they would have to make a »completely different« game out of it. So, you would spare them making, drawing and glueing any fancy stuff and on the other hand, they could just jump into designing.

If they chose a game they liked, they will be encouraged. If they didn't like their pre-existing game, they will be glad to have a different version (which is hopefully better).

gl hf

Instead of prescripting their work in form of a catalog I made, i would want them to make up their own agenda in the second lesson (after groups are made up)? You could give them (re-)marks on how well they achieved their goal.


I thought the same thing would be cool. I.E., take monopoly and the basic realestate theme, but research other euro mechanics to turn it into a game with a controlable playtime, more strategic decisions via acutioning, etc...
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