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Subject: Criticism and originality rss

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Richard Moxham
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Since there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening just now, I thought I'd toss an idea or two into the ring.

Recent exchanges around these parts have raised two issues in particular that I've found to be of interest: (1) the nature of "abstract" games, and, by extension, what it is that's attractive (potentially even immortal) about them; and (2) when things get muscular, what are the limits of acceptability regarding what one writes to or about other contributors?

To get (2) out of the way first, Mark Steere's ad hominem response to Christian Freeling's reservations about Redstone in the 2-Player Combinatorial thread provided a useful illustration of the sort of thing which should never be thought appropriate in any company. By contrast, the bizarre storm in a teacup over Abouricha Hazen's Exasott raised all over again the question of why it should be that online correspondence is so prone to arousing indignation. It can't - or rather can't just – be the absence of non-verbal clues (facial expression, tone of voice, etc), since many comments held to constitute 'flaming' when posted in an internet forum would scarcely ruffle a feather in the letters column of a broadsheet newspaper. Anyway, whether or not M. Hazen is himself a fiction, he can hardly claim to be ill-used. Rey Alicea gave an assurance that reference to similarities between Exasott and other existing games had not been intended as criticism, but there would have been nothing to complain of even if it had. Criticism (in the sense of analytical judgement) is indispensable to the production of worthwhile ideas, and should be welcomed even where the judgement is unfavourable. There’s always a right of reasoned reply.

As far as (1) is concerned, the virtues which I myself look for in a new game are (apart from depth) simplicity and originality. Simplicity may mean different things to different people, but an absence of originality usually sticks out like a sore thumb. It seems to me that most of the abstract games we see introduced in this forum are minimal variations on well-worn themes, and although there are times when spotting the right minimal variation can be a stroke of genius (Nick Bentley’s claim for Slither, if I understand aright), most of the time one will find oneself serving up derivative stuff which it should be an embarrassment to make public.

It certainly looked as if this was true of Exasott – in which case it was an act of elementary intellectual hygiene on someone’s part to point it out. But it seems equally true almost anywhere you turn. Rey Alicea’s own Lords and Vassals cites Dai Hashami Shogi and Ludus Latrunculorum amongst its design influences, but what I couldn’t help noticing about it was above all the trope of sixteen pieces arranged ad hoc on the first two ranks of an 8x8 board. That, and the right to make four moves on each turn. Now where …?

But then the spotlight passes to Arimaa itself. When I first read the rules I felt a stab of mingled admiration and envy. The fact that it was a reworking of Chess in different terms bothered me not at all – that was its very reason for being. What I didn’t know, never having at the time read R C Bell’s Board and Table Games, was that the neat reversal whereby pieces were distinguished by their hierarchical powers of capture rather than their way of moving had been present (along with the idea of traps) in the earlier Jungle Game – and that that in turn was derived from something older still called Dou Shou Qi. Suddenly I wasn’t sure what it was that Omar Syed could be said to have invented. Very disappointing.

Does anyone else know the William Brown story of Richmal Crompton’s in which William comes home with his clothes muddy and torn after a morning with his friends, and, questioned by his despairing mother, explains that he’s been playing “Lions an’ Tamers”. The pastime is promptly banned. Next day he returns in similar condition and is accused of having violated orders. Earnestly and repeatedly he protests his innocence. Well, what has he been playing, she demands. “Tigers an’ Tamers,” says he.
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Rey Alicea
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mocko wrote:
Since there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening just now, I thought I'd toss an idea or two into the ring.

Recent exchanges around these parts have raised two issues in particular that I've found to be of interest: (1) the nature of "abstract" games, and, by extension, what it is that's attractive (potentially even immortal) about them; and (2) when things get muscular, what are the limits of acceptability regarding what one writes to or about other contributors?

To get (2) out of the way first, Mark Steere's ad hominem response to Christian Freeling's reservations about Redstone in the 2-Player Combinatorial thread provided a useful illustration of the sort of thing which should never be thought appropriate in any company. By contrast, the bizarre storm in a teacup over Abouricha Hazen's Exasott raised all over again the question of why it should be that online correspondence is so prone to arousing indignation. It can't - or rather can't just – be the absence of non-verbal clues (facial expression, tone of voice, etc), since many comments held to constitute 'flaming' when posted in an internet forum would scarcely ruffle a feather in the letters column of a broadsheet newspaper. Anyway, whether or not M. Hazen is himself a fiction, he can hardly claim to be ill-used. Rey Alicea gave an assurance that reference to similarities between Exasott and other existing games had not been intended as criticism, but there would have been nothing to complain of even if it had. Criticism (in the sense of analytical judgement) is indispensable to the production of worthwhile ideas, and should be welcomed even where the judgement is unfavourable. There’s always a right of reasoned reply.

As far as (1) is concerned, the virtues which I myself look for in a new game are (apart from depth) simplicity and originality. Simplicity may mean different things to different people, but an absence of originality usually sticks out like a sore thumb. It seems to me that most of the abstract games we see introduced in this forum are minimal variations on well-worn themes, and although there are times when spotting the right minimal variation can be a stroke of genius (Nick Bentley’s claim for Slither, if I understand aright), most of the time one will find oneself serving up derivative stuff which it should be an embarrassment to make public.

It certainly looked as if this was true of Exasott – in which case it was an act of elementary intellectual hygiene on someone’s part to point it out. But it seems equally true almost anywhere you turn. Rey Alicea’s own Lords and Vassals cites Dai Hashami Shogi and Ludus Latrunculorum amongst its design influences, but what I couldn’t help noticing about it was above all the trope of sixteen pieces arranged ad hoc on the first two ranks of an 8x8 board. That, and the right to make four moves on each turn. Now where …?

But then the spotlight passes to Arimaa itself. When I first read the rules I felt a stab of mingled admiration and envy. The fact that it was a reworking of Chess in different terms bothered me not at all – that was its very reason for being. What I didn’t know, never having at the time read R C Bell’s Board and Table Games, was that the neat reversal whereby pieces were distinguished by their hierarchical powers of capture rather than their way of moving had been present (along with the idea of traps) in the earlier Jungle Game – and that that in turn was derived from something older still called Dou Shou Qi. Suddenly I wasn’t sure what it was that Omar Syed could be said to have invented. Very disappointing.

Does anyone else know the William Brown story of Richmal Crompton’s in which William comes home with his clothes muddy and torn after a morning with his friends, and, questioned by his despairing mother, explains that he’s been playing “Lions an’ Tamers”. The pastime is promptly banned. Next day he returns in similar condition and is accused of having violated orders. Earnestly and repeatedly he protests his innocence. Well, what has he been playing, she demands. “Tigers an’ Tamers,” says he.


The 12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury said:

"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours."


All designs more or less arise from changes made upon the original.

Take for example the design of the automobile, Mr. Benz could not have foreseen the changes made on his 1886 Benz Motorwagen. Some changes are uniquely his, others redesigned modifications of existing parts, perhaps even from his competition. Obviously looking at his Motorwagen you can see clearly that it is in fact a horseless carriage, thus being another derivative.


So don't be so overly disappointed sir, because once in a while, someone will have that eureka moment and amaze us all.




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Rey Alicea
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Quote:
Does anyone else know the William Brown story of Richmal Crompton’s in which William comes home with his clothes muddy and torn after a morning with his friends, and, questioned by his despairing mother, explains that he’s been playing “Lions an’ Tamers”. The pastime is promptly banned. Next day he returns in similar condition and is accused of having violated orders. Earnestly and repeatedly he protests his innocence. Well, what has he been playing, she demands. “Tigers an’ Tamers,” says he.





Now the question you should be asking is, did William Brown change the rules in "Tigers an Tamers" and if so, he is indeed innocent.
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Testy Testerson
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If you are looking for an explanation on why Mark Steere acts like a silly goose, you will be here for a very, VERY, long time.
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Richard Moxham
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reyalicea wrote:

The 12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury said:

"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more..."


Who was it, again, who replied to that argument that the same would not be true of a flea on the head of an astronomer?
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Rey Alicea
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mocko wrote:
reyalicea wrote:

The 12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury said:

"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more..."


Who was it, again, who replied to that argument that the same would not be true of a flea on the head of an astronomer?




"Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on."

"The Siphonaptera" 
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Richard Moxham
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[q="reyalicea"]
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Now the question you should be asking is, did William Brown change the rules in "Tigers an Tamers" and if so, he is indeed innocent.


I think everyone who reads (even this summary of) the original story understands that the key question is more like: How much did William change the rules?
 
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Richard Moxham
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reyalicea wrote:
mocko wrote:
It seems to me that most of the abstract games we see introduced in this forum are minimal variations on well-worn themes, and although there are times when spotting the right minimal variation can be a stroke of genius (Nick Bentley’s claim for Slither, if I understand aright), most of the time one will find oneself serving up derivative stuff which it should be an embarrassment to make public.


All designs more or less arise from changes made upon the original.

Take for example the design of the automobile, Mr. Benz could not have foreseen the changes made on his 1886 Benz Motorwagen. Some changes are uniquely his, others redesigned modifications of existing parts, perhaps even from his competition. Obviously looking at his Motorwagen you can see clearly that it is in fact a horseless carriage, thus being another derivative.


Hm. How would you feel about making public a poem which was Keats's Ode to Autumn with your own modifications?
 
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mocko wrote:
Hm. How would you feel about making public a poem which was Keats's Ode to Autumn with your own modifications?

It obviously depends on the modifications. This is not a black-and-white binary sort of thing.

Surely you're not saying any kind of modification of existing work is wrong/lazy/uninspired/etc... right? Shakespeare modified many existing stories, after all. James Joyce's Ulysses is a modification of the Odyssey. Etc.

Of possible relevance and interest or at least amusement are these short video documentary films:
http://www.everythingisaremix.info/
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Rey Alicea
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mocko wrote:
reyalicea wrote:
mocko wrote:
It seems to me that most of the abstract games we see introduced in this forum are minimal variations on well-worn themes, and although there are times when spotting the right minimal variation can be a stroke of genius (Nick Bentley’s claim for Slither, if I understand aright), most of the time one will find oneself serving up derivative stuff which it should be an embarrassment to make public.


All designs more or less arise from changes made upon the original.

Take for example the design of the automobile, Mr. Benz could not have foreseen the changes made on his 1886 Benz Motorwagen. Some changes are uniquely his, others redesigned modifications of existing parts, perhaps even from his competition. Obviously looking at his Motorwagen you can see clearly that it is in fact a horseless carriage, thus being another derivative.


Hm. How would you feel about making public a poem which was Keats's Ode to Autumn with your own modifications?




This argument really is about perspective.

Let's take your game Morelli as an example. Superficially at first glance this game reminds me of the Tafl games (custodian capture, central important figure) then again it may remind others of the Blue and the Gray or maybe even Jeson Mor or vestiges Alex Randolph's Castile and countless others. The point is we are subject 1) to the constraint of the boards geometry and 2) because of this we are forced in many situations to use game mechanics found in games prior to our own. Now the question is, is your game any good, is it better in some ways to those games who's mechanics you have just borrowed and are their any abstract constructs inherent in the game uniquely yours?

I am an artist and as an artist I have no allusions that my skills in drawing have been shaped by the masters I've studied. I realize that I can only hope that some glimmer of me shine through my work.





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Nick Bentley
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Quote:
Let's take your game Morelli as an example. Superficially at first glance this game reminds me of the Tafl games (custodian capture, central important figure) then again it may remind others of the Blue and the Gray or maybe even Jeson Mor or vestiges Alex Randolph's Castile and countless others. The point is we are subject 1) to the constraint of the boards geometry and 2) because of this we are forced in many situations to use game mechanics found in games prior to our own. Now the question is, is your game any good, is it better in some ways to those games who's mechanics you have just borrowed and are their any abstract constructs inherent in the game uniquely yours?


Another, related point to be made here about incrementalism vs originality is that in the realm of games with tiny rulesets, a single "minor" variation can utterly transform the character of a game.

So, when we dismiss a game as "unoriginal", we're sometimes just making a shortcut assumption because we don't want to bother to investigate.

Sometimes the accusation is true, but sometimes it's not. I wish that those of us who pontificate on the intertubes were less prone to judge games we haven't studied. Intellectual humility is a good thing, maybe the best of things...
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Nick Bentley
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Experience tells me that the best way to make progress is often to create an environment where everybody is encouraged to steal from everyone else and make minor modifications.

The power of this was brought home to me when I competed for a while in Matlab programming contests (Matlab is a popular scientific computing platform).

In those contests, you're encouraged to steal the leaders' code and modify however you want, even if it means just moving a semi-colon from one place to another. If your version with the moved semicolon performs better in the challenge than the original code you took, you become the leader.

I've never seen more amazing programming feats, or anything close, than I have in those contests. It allows everybody to start from the best possible position and to move forward from there.

Not only that, but it gave me a real appreciation for small variations. Some of the most genius moments are when someone changes some small thing in a snippet of code that 50 people have been staring at for days, and it makes that code (that everybody thought was optimal) perform 50% better/faster. There's real genius in that.

Not only that, but this intense scrutiny on the minutia of code cultivates a depth of understanding that you just can't achieve any other way. It often happens that some tiny variation that someone makes to a bit of code completely transforms how all the contestants think about the problem. In those cases, periods of incrementalism lay the groundwork for major leaps in understanding. Watching this happen over and over again lead me to an important conclusion: incrementalism vs originality is something of a false dichotomy.
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russ wrote:
mocko wrote:
Hm. How would you feel about making public a poem which was Keats's Ode to Autumn with your own modifications?

It obviously depends on the modifications. This is not a black-and-white binary sort of thing.

Surely you're not saying any kind of modification of existing work is wrong/lazy/uninspired/etc... right? Shakespeare modified many existing stories, after all. James Joyce's Ulysses is a modification of the Odyssey. Etc.


No, indeed. I'm not saying anything as indiscriminate as that. As a matter of fact, though, the cases of Shakespeare and Joyce are not quite the same. Shakespeare was able to remodel the stories he did because they were in the public domain (or, more precisely, because there was at that time no private domain). And he always left them fundamentally changed - not just changed in the detail. Joyce's reworking of the Odyssey depended precisely upon the reader's constant awareness of the debt, as would be the case with a parody (of which works like Ulysses, or those movies that recontextualise Jane Austen novels, form a kind of subset). Both of these - the Shakespeare and the Joyce - seem to me perfectly legitimate. But if someone 'republished' Ode to Autumn, with just two lines altered on the grounds that he considered them an improvement, what would you really and truly think about that? Especially if you were Keats.

To return to the Ulysses thing for a moment: the avowed genesis of Arimaa was a desire to devise a game playable with the chess board and pieces, but with, at one and the same time, greater immediacy (for kids, say) and greater complexity. I think I declared already that the debt to chess seemed to me no problem at all - that that was simply a challenge taken up by the inventor, like seeing if you could successfully set what was still recognisably Othello in an American high school. In other words, chess is simply the framework which Arimaa inhabits. But the debt to The Jungle Game - that's an entirely different matter. I presume that Omar Syed (assuming he was aware of them, and it's possible that he wasn't) weighed the borrowings from that earlier game against what he was introducing that was new, and was satisfied in his own mind that the latter elements were more influential than the former in determining the character of his game. Which is just as it should be. Because if he had been aware but hadn't done that (or hadn't so concluded), then it would have been what I would call a good old-fashioned rip-off.
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[q="milomilo122"]
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Another, related point to be made here about incrementalism vs originality is that in the realm of games with tiny rulesets, a single "minor" variation can utterly transform the character of a game.

So, when we dismiss a game as "unoriginal", we're sometimes just making a shortcut assumption because we don't want to bother to investigate.

Sometimes the accusation is true, but sometimes it's not. I wish that those of us who pontificate on the intertubes were less prone to judge games we haven't studied. Intellectual humility is a good thing, maybe the best of things...


Obviously you're right about this, Nick - and if you noticed I acknowledged your view of Slither as a case in point.

I suppose there are two things I want to say here, however. The first is that, if I were one of the two parallel authors of Hex, I'd be pretty fed up at the number of people who've taken it upon themselves to put forward games some of which are very slight variations on the theme. I would want to claim the right to develop my own discovery - or, if I preferred, to leave it undeveloped.

But if we assume for the sake of argument that it's okay for a variant to be put forward by someone else as his own game, it seems to me that he has a kind of decent obligation to explain why the difference makes a significant difference (as, I say again, you're claiming on behalf of Slither). If it doesn't - or it might but he himself has no idea whether or not - I think he should keep out.
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mocko wrote:
But if someone 'republished' Ode to Autumn, with just two lines altered on the grounds that he considered them an improvement, what would you really and truly think about that? Especially if you were Keats.

I have no idea how Keats would have felt.

I do know that this modern idea of authorial possession is not some universal constant that's always existed; there were periods where people told stories and others retold them, and no one would chide the reteller as you're doing now. E.g. Homer is now called the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but we know that of course he didn't make them all up, but was repeating and putting his own additions onto existing stories.

Maybe a change in attitude came when the written record appeared? I don't know. I think it's more than that, though, since even now plenty of people are happy to put stuff in the public domain or under various very broad licenses for others to use and build on (Free Software, Open Source, Creative Commons, etc).


Also: as has been mentioned in this thread, a single change in game rules can make a radical change in game play. I would say comparing poems to games is like the proverbial apples to oranges. Taking an existing poem by Keats and modifying two lines leaves most of the poem unchanged. Changing 2 rules of a game can be a far more radical change.

This is of course my personal impression; YMMV.


In any case, there are so many examples of parallel discovery and back-and-forth influence (especially in the case of abstract games, where there are a lot of necessarily common concepts and properties among games, and to a large degree it's all about finding interesting combinations of placement, movement, grid topologies, capture mechanisms, connection mechanisms, etc which produce cool games), that I find myself rather saddened by the "ownership wars" and accusations of theft and reproaches about not being "original enough" etc which I see thrown about in the abstract games community with seemingly increasing frequency. I think progress in any field gets stifled in such an accusatory possessive atmosphere. Nick gave a nice example from the context of programming. I think progress will happen better if people are creating with a sense of community and sharing than if people jealously guard their "secrets" and attack anyone who makes something similar or inspired by them.

mocko wrote:
if I were one of the two parallel authors of Hex, I'd be pretty fed up at the number of people who've taken it upon themselves to put forward games some of which are very slight variations on the theme. I would want to claim the right to develop my own discovery - or, if I preferred, to leave it undeveloped.

I guess you're talking about all the various other connection games (Twixt, Slither, Vimbre, etc etc etc?) If I were one of the authors of Hex, it honestly wouldn't even occur to me to be "fed up" by such later games. I think my reaction would be excitement and a sense of "cool" at all the abstract strategy games (connection and otherwise) being made today, and a sense of pleasure if others found Hex to be a worthy inspiration for further game ideas.
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Quote:
I guess you're talking about all the various other connection games (Twixt, Slither, Vimbre, etc etc etc?) If I were one of the authors of Hex, it honestly wouldn't even occur to me to be "fed up" by such later games. I think my reaction would be excitement and a sense of "cool" at all the abstract strategy games (connection and otherwise) being made today, and a sense of pleasure if others found Hex to be a worthy inspiration for further game ideas.


Ditto here. To me, the degree to which variations follow on an invention is a key measure of a game's impact. It seems like it would be a huge honor to have created something from which so much Darwinian variation spilled forth. Ultimately, that's really how we make our marks on the world: inspiring other people's work.

A game can have huge value to the games community by this process even if the game itself has lots of flaws. I think of Dominion in this regard. I don't think much of Dominion, but without Dominion, there would be no Puzzle Strike Third Edition, which I think is incredible. The guy who invented Dominion is in a real way responsible for the existence of Puzzle Strike. I would be totally jazzed if I had invented Dominion, even if I grew dissatisfied with it as a game, per se, because I could revel in the satisfaction of knowing that I spawned a whole new genre.



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milomilo122 wrote:
Quote:
I guess you're talking about all the various other connection games (Twixt, Slither, Vimbre, etc etc etc?) If I were one of the authors of Hex, it honestly wouldn't even occur to me to be "fed up" by such later games. I think my reaction would be excitement and a sense of "cool" at all the abstract strategy games (connection and otherwise) being made today, and a sense of pleasure if others found Hex to be a worthy inspiration for further game ideas.


Ditto here. To me, the degree to which variations follow on an invention is a key measure of a game's impact. It seems like it would be a huge honor to have created something from which so much Darwinian variation spilled forth. Ultimately, that's really how we make our marks on the world: inspiring other people's work.

A game can have huge value to the games community by this process even if the game itself has lots of flaws. I think of Dominion in this regard. I don't think much of Dominion, but without Dominion, there would be no Puzzle Strike Third Edition, which I think is incredible. The guy who invented Dominion is in a real way responsible for the existence of Puzzle Strike. I would be totally jazzed if I had invented Dominion, even if I grew dissatisfied with it as a game, per se, because I could revel in the satisfaction of knowing that I spawned a whole new genre.





Nick at first I thought you were talking about this interesting Dominion abstract game. A mix of Reversi and Ataxx. Seems at first glance to be a very cool game.

http://homepages.di.fc.ul.pt/~jpn/gv/dominion.htm
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Quote:

Nick at first I thought you were talking about this interesting Dominion abstract game. A mix of Reversi and Ataxx. Seems at first glance to be a very cool game.

http://homepages.di.fc.ul.pt/~jpn/gv/dominion.htm


I guess I shouldn't use non-abstracts as examples in abstract threads. In any case, that does look spiffy.
 
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mocko wrote:
reyalicea wrote:
mocko wrote:
It seems to me that most of the abstract games we see introduced in this forum are minimal variations on well-worn themes, and although there are times when spotting the right minimal variation can be a stroke of genius (Nick Bentley’s claim for Slither, if I understand aright), most of the time one will find oneself serving up derivative stuff which it should be an embarrassment to make public.


All designs more or less arise from changes made upon the original.

Take for example the design of the automobile, Mr. Benz could not have foreseen the changes made on his 1886 Benz Motorwagen. Some changes are uniquely his, others redesigned modifications of existing parts, perhaps even from his competition. Obviously looking at his Motorwagen you can see clearly that it is in fact a horseless carriage, thus being another derivative.


Hm. How would you feel about making public a poem which was Keats's Ode to Autumn with your own modifications?
If I was to read a version of Keats's Ode to Autumn with your own modifications, and enjoyed it I'd be grateful to you for having brought it to my notice.

If you had declared that it was a totally original, absolutely non-derivative poem I'd be wondering in what language you'd written it and how I would ever understand it.

I can see a publisher of games might need "originality" so as to not mislead their regular customers as to the underlying mechanics. But even then if they have 2 separate groups of customers then releasing Candyland for the kids and a grown-up themed adaptation for the big people seems commercially sensible to me.

For my uses of games I don't find originality an even moderately desirable feature.
I'd much rather a game that was a slight modification of another that evoked a pleasurable playing experience for the players than a more original game that was too much for one player or a bore for both.

Finally I don't see why a game designer should be lumbered with any responsibility to search for similar games and then self censor. I'd much rather they put their time into producing more games and fine tuning the ones they have invented/discovered and let players discover and discuss the similarities at their leisure.
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I can see that there is a valid and probably very exciting meta-game of trying to find/appreciate/judge and create games that are as unique and original as possible, that cover a vast range of the possibilities, that push boundaries.

And if a designer is claiming to be part of that meta-game then yes public floggings are entirely criticism of their lack of knowledge of similar games and of their public paradings in Emperor cloth are valid.

I would much prefer to see that meta-game being played with more restraint and decorum.
However the players of a game get to create the rules and ambiance.
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Robert Stuart
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milomilo122 wrote:
Experience tells me that the best way to make progress is often to create an environment where everybody is encouraged to steal from everyone else and make minor modifications.

The power of this was brought home to me when I competed for a while in Matlab programming contests (Matlab is a popular scientific computing platform).

In those contests, you're encouraged to steal the leaders' code and modify however you want, even if it means just moving a semi-colon from one place to another. If your version with the moved semicolon performs better in the challenge than the original code you took, you become the leader.

I've never seen more amazing programming feats, or anything close, than I have in those contests. It allows everybody to start from the best possible position and to move forward from there.

Not only that, but it gave me a real appreciation for small variations. Some of the most genius moments are when someone changes some small thing in a snippet of code that 50 people have been staring at for days, and it makes that code (that everybody thought was optimal) perform 50% better/faster. There's real genius in that.

Not only that, but this intense scrutiny on the minutia of code cultivates a depth of understanding that you just can't achieve any other way. It often happens that some tiny variation that someone makes to a bit of code completely transforms how all the contestants think about the problem. In those cases, periods of incrementalism lay the groundwork for major leaps in understanding. Watching this happen over and over again lead me to an important conclusion: incrementalism vs originality is something of a false dichotomy.


This has to be one of the most fascinating things I've read in a very long time. It presents a dramatically different paradigm to the ultra-individualistic, "It's mine; I did it all by myself".
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Rey Alicea
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bob_santafe wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
Experience tells me that the best way to make progress is often to create an environment where everybody is encouraged to steal from everyone else and make minor modifications.

The power of this was brought home to me when I competed for a while in Matlab programming contests (Matlab is a popular scientific computing platform).

In those contests, you're encouraged to steal the leaders' code and modify however you want, even if it means just moving a semi-colon from one place to another. If your version with the moved semicolon performs better in the challenge than the original code you took, you become the leader.

I've never seen more amazing programming feats, or anything close, than I have in those contests. It allows everybody to start from the best possible position and to move forward from there.

Not only that, but it gave me a real appreciation for small variations. Some of the most genius moments are when someone changes some small thing in a snippet of code that 50 people have been staring at for days, and it makes that code (that everybody thought was optimal) perform 50% better/faster. There's real genius in that.

Not only that, but this intense scrutiny on the minutia of code cultivates a depth of understanding that you just can't achieve any other way. It often happens that some tiny variation that someone makes to a bit of code completely transforms how all the contestants think about the problem. In those cases, periods of incrementalism lay the groundwork for major leaps in understanding. Watching this happen over and over again lead me to an important conclusion: incrementalism vs originality is something of a false dichotomy.


This has to be one of the most fascinating things I've read in a very long time. It presents a dramatically different paradigm to the ultra-individualistic, "It's mine; I did it all by myself".



To further re-iterate what Mr. Bentley has stated simply ask yourselves what is the most selling and popular board game of all time?

Come on you should all know this...


Monopoly!

The history of Monopoly can be traced back to 1903, when an American woman named Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie Phillips created a game through which she hoped to be able to explain the single tax theory of Henry George (it was intended to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies). Her game, The Landlord's Game, was commercially published in 1923. A series of variant board games based on her concept were developed from 1906 through the 1930s that involved the buying and selling of land and the development of that land. By 1934, a board game called Monopoly had been created which formed the basis of the game sold by Parker Brothers and its parent companies through the rest of the 20th century, and into the 21st. Several people, mostly in the Midwestern United States and near the East Coast, contributed to the game's design and evolution. By the 1970s, the idea that the game had been created solely by Charles Darrow had become popular folklore: it was printed in the game's instructions and even in the 1974 book The Monopoly Book: Strategy and Tactics of the World's Most Popular Game by Maxine Brady.


By the way in Wikipedia both Lizzie and Darrow are credited as designers of Monopoly.

The key difference between Monopoly and Arimaa is that Lizzie sold her game to Parker Brothers (she held a patent) and Dou Shou Qi is in public domain.


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Russ Williams
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I'm not sure where this idea that Arimaa is being reduced to a mere Dou Shou Qi variant is coming from. I have no idea whether Omar Syed was aware of or inspired by Dou Shou Qi, but I'm quite surprised at the idea that anyone might consider it improbable that someone could independently come up with the idea of a total ordering on the pieces.

The concept of a total ordering seems pretty fundamental and ubiquitous to me (e.g. look at how ranks are used in many card games), and a perfect example of the sort of elementary concept which tends to appear in the sort of short minimalist game rules which abstract games tend to have.

E.g. in Pikemen standing pieces cannot be killed by smaller pieces. I can certainly imagine that Pikemen's creator was not merely varying Dou Shou Qi but thought of the total ordering independently. And even if not, Pikemen is certainly a quite different game.

And the way the total ordering is actually used is quite different in Arimaa (pushing and pulling) and Dou Shou Qi (capturing, with additional special case of weakest being able to kill largest, and a distinguished piece which can move over impassible terrain). I've played both games and they don't seem similar to me, except in the rather vague general way that "chess-like games moving pieces around" are similar.


FWIW a related obvious natural concept would be whether the ordering is hard-coded (as in Arimaa and Dou Shou Qi) or dynamically determined (e.g. in stacking games where higher stacks cannot be killed by lower stacks - TZAAR for example, which I'm sure is neither the first nor the last to use the concept which has surely been independently thought of many times.)
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russ wrote:
I'm not sure where this idea that Arimaa is being reduced to a mere Dou Shou Qi variant is coming from. I have no idea whether Omar Syed was aware of or inspired by Dou Shou Qi, but I'm quite surprised at the idea that anyone might consider it improbable that someone could independently come up with the idea of a total ordering on the pieces.

The concept of a total ordering seems pretty fundamental and ubiquitous to me (e.g. look at how ranks are used in many card games), and a perfect example of the sort of elementary concept which tends to appear in the sort of short minimalist game rules which abstract games tend to have


Obviously it's possible for anyone to come up independently with anything at all. The question in a given instance is whether that's likely, and specially whether it's likely in the case of a combination of features. If we confine ourselves to considering just the one concept then I think you're absolutely right. If, on the other hand, we assemble

(1) pieces are animals
(2) hierarchy of pieces for capture purposes
(3) presence of trap squares
(4) victory by reaching the far rank

then it becomes harder to accept the plausibility of a scenario where neither the Jungle Game nor Dou Shou Qi was even on the radar. Maybe we could try to agree on that in the first instance, before proceeding to the separate question of whether or not it matters.
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Rey Alicea
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mocko wrote:
russ wrote:
I'm not sure where this idea that Arimaa is being reduced to a mere Dou Shou Qi variant is coming from. I have no idea whether Omar Syed was aware of or inspired by Dou Shou Qi, but I'm quite surprised at the idea that anyone might consider it improbable that someone could independently come up with the idea of a total ordering on the pieces.

The concept of a total ordering seems pretty fundamental and ubiquitous to me (e.g. look at how ranks are used in many card games), and a perfect example of the sort of elementary concept which tends to appear in the sort of short minimalist game rules which abstract games tend to have


Obviously it's possible for anyone to come up independently with anything at all. The question in a given instance is whether that's likely, and specially whether it's likely in the case of a combination of features. If we confine ourselves to considering just the one concept then I think you're absolutely right. If, on the other hand, we assemble

(1) pieces are animals
(2) hierarchy of pieces for capture purposes
(3) presence of trap squares
(4) victory by reaching the far rank

then it becomes harder to accept the plausibility of a scenario where neither the Jungle Game nor Dou Shou Qi was even on the radar. Maybe we could try to agree on that in the first instance, before proceeding to the separate question of whether or not it matters.



So Richard I guess you would have a problem with this game:Barca

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