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Subject: The complexity of components rss

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Tuomas Korppi
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Usually games are classified by depth, which means strategical complexity, and heaviness, which means the complexity of rules.

However, there is a third kind of complexity, namely the complexity of components. Compare for example the card games Bridge and Race for the Galaxy. Both have cards, which are distinct from each other. However, the Bridge deck can be generated with a simple algorithm ("There are thirteen ranks and four suits, and there is exactly one card for each rank-suit combination"). If you try to describe a generating algorithm for Race for the Galaxy deck, the description becomes much, much longer, since here no simple rule works, but the cards must be described individually. Hence, Race for the Galaxy has much more component complexity than Bridge.

Also game boards differ in complexity. The chess board has a simple generating algorithm, which is absent in, say, Ticket to Ride. Hence, Ticket to Ride has much more component complexity than Chess.

In my personal opinion, a game has elegant simplicity, only if its strategical complexity is high, and both rules complexity and component complexity are low.
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Lanz RafDE
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
In my personal opinion, a game has elegant simplicity, only if its strategical complexity is high, and both rules complexity and component complexity are low.


I agree with everything you said, except for this last sentence. Games with complex components can also be elegant - as is the case in TtR, Stone Age and Mage Knight, just to name a few. The key here is our apparently diverging definition of "elegance".
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Russ Williams
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I like the idea of this measure.

Interestingly, the more complex the components, the harder it is to home-make a set, so it seems the game publishing business is naturally driven toward making and selling games which do not have simple elegant components; in effect part of what they are selling is "data complexity".

This is why many abstract strategy games seem to be web distributed by their authors for people to freely play rather than trying to make money selling a chessboard and disks or whatever.
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Tuomas Korppi
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russ wrote:

This is why many abstract strategy games seem to be web distributed by their authors for people to freely play rather than trying to make money selling a chessboard and disks or whatever.


Selling a game using generic components can be quite difficult if you try to sell mostly cardboard. However, I think that abstract strategy game designers could in principle be selling wooden luxury editions.
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Russ Williams
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
Selling a game using generic components can be quite difficult if you try to sell mostly cardboard. However, I think that abstract strategy game designers could in principle be selling wooden luxury exitions.

Agreed, but that seems in practice easier to do with an established known-to-be-good game (chess, go, shogi, etc) than with a new game.
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Pablo Schulman
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russ wrote:
I like the idea of this measure.

Interestingly, the more complex the components, the harder it is to home-make a set, so it seems the game publishing business is naturally driven toward making and selling games which do not have simple elegant components; in effect part of what they are selling is "data complexity".

This is why many abstract strategy games seem to be web distributed by their authors for people to freely play rather than trying to make money selling a chessboard and disks or whatever.


Interestingly enough, it seems most of the abstract games with commercial sucess (not talking about quality, but on making money) relies on data complexity (I might call this "uniqueness" as well).

Hive: hexagonal pieces (well, I think it's dificult to homemade them lol). Unique concept of no board.

Quoridor: special board required to put walls.

Gipf Series: sold as colection, not separate games. Some games are rather difficult to home made (think Zertz), strange topological boards (like Dvonn)

Reversi: double sided pieces are a pain to do.

Abalone: could be played without that board, but it's what makes interesting on the first place.

Trax, Blokus, etc, etc, etc.
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
Usually games are classified by depth, which means strategical complexity, and heaviness, which means the complexity of rules.

However, there is a third kind of complexity, namely the complexity of components. Compare for example the card games Bridge and Race for the Galaxy. Both have cards, which are distinct from each other. However, the Bridge deck can be generated with a simple algorithm ("There are thirteen ranks and four suits, and there is exactly one card for each rank-suit combination"). If you try to describe a generating algorithm for Race for the Galaxy deck, the description becomes much, much longer, since here no simple rule works, but the cards must be described individually. Hence, Race for the Galaxy has much more component complexity than Bridge.

Also game boards differ in complexity. The chess board has a simple generating algorithm, which is absent in, say, Ticket to Ride. Hence, Ticket to Ride has much more component complexity than Chess.

In my personal opinion, a game has elegant simplicity, only if its strategical complexity is high, and both rules complexity and component complexity are low.


Love Letter is the perfect game for you.
 
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Johan Haglert
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I think it's elegant to do a complex components game which is still balanced.

(Or maybe not, what do I know, totally balanced and it doesn't matter what you do? =P)
 
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Russ Williams
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aliquis wrote:
I think it's elegant to do a complex components game which is still balanced.

I would say it's beautiful but not elegant to do that.
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PSchulman wrote:
russ wrote:
I like the idea of this measure.

Interestingly, the more complex the components, the harder it is to home-make a set, so it seems the game publishing business is naturally driven toward making and selling games which do not have simple elegant components; in effect part of what they are selling is "data complexity".

This is why many abstract strategy games seem to be web distributed by their authors for people to freely play rather than trying to make money selling a chessboard and disks or whatever.


Interestingly enough, it seems most of the abstract games with commercial sucess (not talking about quality, but on making money) relies on data complexity (I might call this "uniqueness" as well).

Hive: hexagonal pieces (well, I think it's dificult to homemade them lol). Unique concept of no board.

Quoridor: special board required to put walls.

Gipf Series: sold as colection, not separate games. Some games are rather difficult to home made (think Zertz), strange topological boards (like Dvonn)

Reversi: double sided pieces are a pain to do.

Abalone: could be played without that board, but it's what makes interesting on the first place.

Trax, Blokus, etc, etc, etc.

Odd; Hive and Blokus are the only ones of those which I'd say have much data complexity. I think you're talking more about "physical construction complexity" than "data complexity" (which is a more abstract/mathematical concept).

E.g. Quoridor is just a square grid with 10 walls and a pawn for each player. Most GIPF games are low data complexity, e.g. GIPF itself is just a hex-hex map and a bunch of disks. (PUNCT is an exception - much higher data complexity there with the various differently shaped pieces.) Reversi is just 8x8 grid and black/white disks. Trax is the ultimate in data simplicity: physically every tile is identical, and mathematically/abstractly there are only 2 types of tile.

PS: Hmm, Blokus might be argued to have less data complexity than it seems at first glance, since its pieces are not so arbitrary/wacky as (e.g.) PUNCT: they are simply described as complete sets of polyominoes of size 5 and less.
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Jonathan Harrison
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PSchulman wrote:
Quoridor: special board required to put walls.

You could easily play this with paper and pencil, fwiw. Sketch a 15-second grid, use a marker to draw walls, with a limit of 10 drawn per player (is it?), and you're in business.

PSchulman wrote:
Reversi: double sided pieces are a pain to do.

Replacing black pieces with white, and vice versa, would be scarcely more difficult than flipping double-sided pieces.
 
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Pablo Schulman
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russ wrote:
PSchulman wrote:
russ wrote:
I like the idea of this measure.

Interestingly, the more complex the components, the harder it is to home-make a set, so it seems the game publishing business is naturally driven toward making and selling games which do not have simple elegant components; in effect part of what they are selling is "data complexity".

This is why many abstract strategy games seem to be web distributed by their authors for people to freely play rather than trying to make money selling a chessboard and disks or whatever.


Interestingly enough, it seems most of the abstract games with commercial sucess (not talking about quality, but on making money) relies on data complexity (I might call this "uniqueness" as well).

Hive: hexagonal pieces (well, I think it's dificult to homemade them lol). Unique concept of no board.

Quoridor: special board required to put walls.

Gipf Series: sold as colection, not separate games. Some games are rather difficult to home made (think Zertz), strange topological boards (like Dvonn)

Reversi: double sided pieces are a pain to do.

Abalone: could be played without that board, but it's what makes interesting on the first place.

Trax, Blokus, etc, etc, etc.

Odd; Hive and Blokus are the only ones of those which I'd say have much data complexity. I think you're talking more about "physical construction complexity" than "data complexity" (which is a more abstract/mathematical concept).

E.g. Quoridor is just a square grid with 10 walls and a pawn for each player. Most GIPF games are low data complexity, e.g. GIPF itself is just a hex-hex map and a bunch of disks. (PUNCT is an exception - much higher data complexity there with the various differently shaped pieces.) Reversi is just 8x8 grid and black/white disks. Trax is the ultimate in data simplicity: physically every tile is identical, and mathematically/abstractly there are only 2 types of tile.

PS: Hmm, Blokus might be argued to have less data complexity than it seems at first glance, since its pieces are not so arbitrary/wacky as (e.g.) PUNCT: they are simply described as complete sets of polyominoes of size 5 and less.


Yup, you're right. Physical construction complexity it is

My point is that abstract strategy games are not atractive as potential commercial products if they have a trivial construction complexity, if they aren't unique.

About data complexity: you mean like how many alghoritms you need to describe the game?
 
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Russ Williams
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PSchulman wrote:
About data complexity: you mean like how many alghoritms you need to describe the game?

Not to describe the game (in the sense of the rules or the strategic depth, which seem the usual measures of a game's "complexity"), but to describe the components (as per the OP), i.e. the data which the game manipulates.

E.g. with a checkers set we could play Lines of Action (quite simple game rule complexity) or various checkers variants (perhaps somewhat more complex, depending on the variant) or some arbitrarily complicated game of high rules complexity (I can't think of a "real world" example, but for the sake of argument say it's a stacking game where stuff depends on whether a stack has a prime number of disks, how many "1" bits are in the binary representation of the row # it's on, and so on and so on), but the data/components used by these very different games are all the same and quite simple (2 colors of indistinguishable disks and an 8x8 square grid).
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
In my personal opinion, a game has elegant simplicity, only if its strategical complexity is high, and both rules complexity and component complexity are low.


I think component complexity is essential in keeping down rule complexity. That's not to say a good game can't have high strategic complexity, but low rule and component complexity. I think Go is a great example. However, I think that those design constraints are far too limiting. It requires a great deal of emergence, which is a very difficult quality to purposely infuse into a game.

One of the most fascinating things I've noticed is rule complexity being offloaded into the components. The most basic example I can think of is a puzzle. Imagine a puzzle where all the sides are perfectly flat so that every piece can fit with every piece. It also gives you an enormous list of "rules" which describe where every piece goes. That is the far end of the complex rules, simple components. The other end is puzzles as we traditionally know them. The "rules" are encoded into the edges of the pieces and they will only fit with the correct neighbor. This could be viewed as simple rules and complex components.

Although personally I think looking at components as being geometrically complex is misguided. What you should focus on is the complexity of interaction between the components and the rules/players.

Some games frontload all the complexity into the rules. Especially wargames. I love Commands & Colors, but there is absolutely nothing about the pieces which really tells you who rolls how many dice and what count as hits or not. Units can roll anywhere from 1 to 5 dice, hit on anything from 1 to 4 faces of the die, and those hits may or may not be ignored by certain units. And the components have no markers to signify any of this. Just a pretty picture of an elephant or a chariot.

Other games backload the complexity. Like Dominion where the turn sequence is extremely simple, however the specific card interactions can be remarkably complex due to the text on the card. All you need to know to play Dominion is ABCD. Action, Buy, Cleanup, Draw. Everything else is following the instructions on the cards. And oh how much complexity is encoded into the truly monstrous array of cards that are available for that game now.

It is the truly rare game, like Go, which manages to have extremely simple rules, simple components, and highly complex strategy. I'd even argue that there are probably a finite number of games like that even possible.
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