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Author Topic: Fengshui: Simulationist?  (Read 17425 times)
Ian O'Rourke
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« on: May 08, 2001, 01:50:00 PM »

Okay, I understand why it could be viewed as simulationist (and may be it is), as it puts all its mechanics into simulating an action movie world. What concerns me more is the can of worms this seems to open in terms of what games CAN be considered simulationist?

Heh, lines don't have to finely drawn, but it creates an interesting twist...
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Ian O'Rourke
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2001, 02:30:00 PM »

Hey,

Well, I asked for this thread, so here goes.

First of all, my definition of Simulationism in the thread "a variant phylogeny" is what I'm going by, and although it's rude to give you a reading assignment, I'll just mention that rather than repeating it here. It's really the first time I expressed the definition in an operational fashion, and I think it accounts for the various permutations pretty well.

Feng Shui fits that bill perfectly - there is no Author stance, actions' order is established and carried out in that order, and events are handled chronologically in real-time just as they are in game-time.

Perhaps the problem is that for 20 years, Simulationist priorities were expressed almost 100% by one, standard set of design principles - Harnmaster, RuneQuest, a variety of FGU and SPI games, all of them show that one standard set. So that means that we now tend to mistake this one HIGHLY influential, widespread expression of Simulationism for the whole category.

Gareth Hanrahan, I think, has one of the best understandings of the "new" Simulationism. He and I have kicked around the differences between Narrativist and simulation-of-narrative, and I hope he joins in here.

Best,
Ron
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Mytholder
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2001, 03:18:00 PM »

Er. I still wake up in cold sweats screaming "Feng Shui is narrativist!" sometimes.

Seriously - Feng Shui's a fuzzy borderline case. My new way of describing it is that it simulates being in a story, it doesn't promote the creation of a good story. A fun Feng Shui game can be full of elements from a classic action movie plot, but ensuring that those elements form a cohesive and pleasing story isn't a primary goal of the game.

Games like Blue Planet or Ars Magica are, I think, simulationist without being bogged down in precise mathemathical modelling. The common element in all three games is the creation of an active shared world, in which the players can explore being their characters. Narrativism isn't as concerned with the setting as it is with the story.

(And this is where Feng Shui is wierd, 'cos it's setting *is* a story....)

Oh - Ron? Remember our old arguments about sketchy/rich characters and settings? I suspect rich/rich may be an indication of simulationism, rich/sketchy narrativism, and gamism can be either sketchy/sketchy or sketchy/rich...

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2001, 03:47:00 PM »

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ... Gareth Hanrahan. Everything he said about Simulationism just now? I'm with it.

As far as the sketchy/rich stuff goes (bear with us folks, the Gar and I have been doing this for a long time), my call is as follows:
- rich PC + sketchy setting = strong Narrativist potential
- sketchy PC + rich setting = strong Narrativist potential
- sketchy PC + sketchy setting = low Narrativist potential, or perhaps high potential for fast & shallow story
- rich PC + rich setting = low Narrativist potential, usually requiring severe trimming of one or the other by the individual play group.

I really don't know how these apply to G or S, except that as you rightly point out, many Simulationist game designs end up being rich-rich. I suspect that both that and sketchy-sketchy are probably the way to go for Simulationism ...

Best,
Ron
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Ian O'Rourke
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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2001, 05:14:00 AM »

Quote

As written by Ron:
Perhaps the problem is that for 20 years, Simulationist priorities were expressed almost 100% by one, standard set of design principles - Harnmaster, RuneQuest, a variety of FGU and SPI games, all of them show that one standard set. So that means that we now tend to mistake this one HIGHLY influential, widespread expression of Simulationism for the whole category.


I think your probably right here, I know I've had simulationism pretty much pinned down as about 'simulating reality'. I do think this is because of the prevalence of the games you mention above. After all, RuneQuest and Harnmaster are pretty much legendary.

Quote

As written by Gareth:
Games like Blue Planet or Ars Magica are, I think, simulationist without being bogged down in precise mathemathical modelling. The common element in all three games is the creation of an active shared world, in which the players can explore being their characters. Narrativism isn't as concerned with the setting as it is with the story.


[ This Message was edited by: Ian O'Rourke on 2001-05-09 16:06 ]
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Ian O'Rourke
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2001, 06:40:00 AM »

Hi Ian,

Whew! We are really getting somewhere here.

The whole "Simulationism = realism" thing has been a problem from the beginning. I've repeated my take on it many times - "realism is a historical subset of Simulationism" - but for some reason, possibly because of the incredible influence of RuneQuest (which IS a superior example of THIS TYPE of role-playing design), it really takes a long time to sink in.

I also think that you've stated one of the reasons why some prominent GO contributors insist that they are Narrativist (usually in addition to Simulationist) - they mistake DELIVERING a story to their players for CREATING a story WITH their players.

Best,
Ron
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George Pletz
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2001, 08:07:00 AM »

Could we suppose that cinematics is another subset of simulationist goals?

This would account for the fact that Feng Shui slips under the radar? The general assumption is since it reinforces movie conventions that it is somehow related to narrative.

Feng Shui, I believe, is a good way to break a realist gamer from their bias since it maintains a consistency that is defiantly not reality based.

Interestingly, Feng avoids the balance issue of gamism by favoring named over unnamed which is nearly opposite the impartial physical reality that the realist desires.

This probably where my appreciation of simulation comes from. A straight no chaser world.

George

Aside- Now here's something I'd like to know. Is there any examples of psychological realism in games? Most realism seems to concentrate on nuts & bolts reality. If there is one it would be hard to spot since it could be mistaken for narrative, especially since it would have to be character centered to some degree.

     
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2001, 08:22:00 AM »

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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2001, 09:24:00 AM »

I'm going to have to cast my vote against 'cinematic' as a valid subset of Simulationism. If you want to break it up, I think your best division might be between 'realism' and 'simulation of genre' (or genre-Simulationism).

I'm actually quite divided on trying to decide if Dying Earth is narrativist (my first guess) or simulationist (which is what I've grown to think it is.) It does simulate with frightening detail the world of Jack Vance's books.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2001, 09:45:00 AM »

Interesting, Clinton...'cause I see Dying Earth as being extraordinarily Narrativist.  It emulates the characters and stories from Vance's novels -- but the game mechanics and setting do not appear Simulationist at all.  It's rules-heavy Narrativism!

My take on Simulationism is that it's "the real world + X" where X is magic and a dying sun, or vampires, or superheroes, or megacorps and cybernetics.  A simulationist Dying Earth game would be like any of those other games with one plug-in removed and replaced with the "Dying Earth" plug-in.

IMHO, Simulationism is quickly becoming an invalid design decision because ideally, any simulationist game could conceivably be run under a one system, many plug-ins model -- and if the ideal system was created, you could use that for ANY situation (ie: the GURPS, BESM, Palladium, BRPS model) by plugging in the "+Vampires" or "+post-nuclear survival" add-ons.  So while I don't see a One Perfect System for Gamism or Narrativism because there are so many different ways to approach that goal (what consitites winning?  what kind of story and what issues are we dealing with?), Simulationist games have only one goal (accuracy) and one way to approach that goal (more realism/accuracy!).  Therefore (be it rules heavy or rules light), there would seem to be a theoretical Perfect System that could handle any Simulationist game.
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2001, 09:45:00 AM »

My call on The Dying Earth, without having played it (YET), is this: hard-core Narrativist with strong setting.

Another big danger-pit is mixing up setting-detail, which CAN be an excellent component of Narrativism (usually in conjunction with sketchy starting PCs, as in Dying Earth, god that Robin Laws knows what he is doing), with the attention to physical-detail and consistency found in many Simulationist RPGs. Not the same thing for a minute, in my opinion.

Best,
Ron
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Mytholder
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« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2001, 11:32:00 AM »

Jared -
I don't think you're going to have One Perfect System for simulationism. I agree that it's normally about tweaking one variable, then seeing what happens to the world, but simulationist games want a lot of detail on the areas affected by the tweak, and less detail elsewhere. For example - Ars Magica goes into a great deal of detail on magic and spellcraft, but doesn't have much in the way of personality mechanics, because ars magica is supposed to be "real(ish) history + magic". The End has personality mechanics because it's "the real world + the absence of people".
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Mytholder
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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2001, 11:34:00 AM »

George asked
Quote

Aside- Now here's something I'd like to know. Is there any examples of psychological realism in games?


I'd put forward Unknown Armies' madness meters as an example.
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George Pletz
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« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2001, 12:38:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-05-10 15:34, Mytholder wrote:
George asked
Quote

Aside- Now here's something I'd like to know. Is there any examples of psychological realism in games?


I'd put forward Unknown Armies' madness meters as an example.


Oops. I guess I should have said psycho-realistic games. While the madness meters are great, it is a single component. I was thinking in terms of simulationist games seem to focus heavily on reflecting a physical reality.

Kult comes to mind when I think of failed "heavy" mechanics used to prop up psychological premises. Neat setting, just not a great system as far as I could tell.

George

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George Pletz
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« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2001, 12:47:00 PM »

Sorry my idea was opaque to you, Ron . Abit of lexicon confusion on my part.(Must keep terms straight!)I'll try a recast.

The reason I never though of FS as simulationist was because it did not conform to my previous narrow view of the style. I, and don't think I am alone of this, often think of realism and simulation as being the same thing.  Of course it's not but I guess it has something to do with it being easier to get me head around. ("Is it real?" is easier to get across others than "Is it internally consistent?"

Then there is FS itself. It certainly favors the PCs over the GMCs. A majority of your GMCs are mooks, designated cannon fodder for the PCs' antics.  The game is slanted toward players and named characters. The PCs are also able to "write" things into fights if it makes it more interesting. Locations are more fluid than they are in the realistic version of simulation. Now this doesn't give the pc the ability to be a full blown director but it is a little more than mere author.  FS is very overt in its favoritism.

Looking back to the definition of simulationism as condensed in the original essay has this little bit about  " [it] creates a pocket universe without fudging." FS is so broad in some cases,  fudging is actually part of the simulation! I would not wish for Cinematics to be taken for yet another overlay onto the three fold but a unique subset of a pre-existing fold. Heck, the Simulationist definition implies the existence of subsets.

As someone who tried a long time ago to jam narrativism into simulationism, I know the appeal of the Realist subset. It is a desire for true impartiality. But as is evidenced by all this GNS talk, impartiality is an illusion. It is all about the guidelines one uses to decided what they will be partial to. And "genre simulation", for lack of a better term, offers a more character centered model.  Perhaps not deep but certainly off center from the traditional impartial reality that the realist thinks they need for player "control".

All this grousing about Cinematics and FS has made me think. How much of realistic simulation is just safeguards against "inappropriate" play for indiscriminate gamers?(ie Falling and swimming charts to stop people from leaping insane distances all the time or swimming the Atlantic Ocean on a lark.)

George

   
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