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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Callan S. on July 06, 2009, 03:49:58 PM



Title: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 06, 2009, 03:49:58 PM
Not sure how to start this. I guess I'll just stumble into an example first - take the idea of turns. Turns seem to be a pretty good idea for supporting a group activity - ie, everyone in the group gets a turn. But what if you design to reflect a game world - ie, you inject art into the mechanics. Taking Rifts for example, a juicer several more attacks a round - so once you've finished yours, your just sitting, and waiting on his player to finish up before you can participate again. This is screwing up the idea of a group activity.

Even the idea of 'skill' and 'damage' on a 'sword/weapon' - if someones sitting there, missing over and over, or doing practically nothing when they hit, it's hardly participating (Ah, I remember once only being able to hit on a nat 20 on some monster that was brought to the canvas, so to speak - so I had my monk did flurry of blows because the minus to hit didn't exactly matter and I got two chances...to miss). And not because they made a bad move or whatever - it's just that 'swords' are just 'that way' with 'damage'.

What I'm trying to grope at is when you inject art into mechanic design - the art can effectively be wrong/fail at goals/it was a failure at design goals to bring in this art. This isn't the normal state of art. You can't normally look at a painting of cambells soup or melting clocks and say they are wrong. But if one of your design goals is it being a group activity, and bringing art into the activity effectively removes members participation (and not because they lost or wanted to miss a turn), then that art is failing the design goal.

Or, from the other side of the coin - and this makes me twitch and retch inside somewhere - is the idea to 'water down' the art to bring it in. Ie, the juicer has more attacks - but not too many more, m'kay!? Okay, that example isn't making me retch inside, it's the idea that such a compromise being advocated as an overall good thing does.

Both compromise each other, but not the sort of compromise that mutually benefits. The group game idea is just whittled down and...it's just whittled down. The art is watered down and...well, ones artistic muse doesn't need to express itself through a medium that waters it down. It can go scribble on a page, bang on a drum, whatever. There's no upside to being watered down - there's always another medium to work in that doesn't do that. Both design goals and art are compromising, but with no real benefit to each other. They are just compromised.

I suppose I'm groping at my own writers block in this as well - invent something and instantly a dozen more thoughts go 'OMG, but what if it screws up X, Y or Z in terms of design goals?' and artistic muse just says fuck it. I'm pretty sure that's the cycle. The model of designing mechanics with art embeded in their structure (like, say, a 'combat' sequence, where you get 'attacks' and a whole bunch of other stuff which is artistic ideas layed onto number and procedure) just suddenly seems really awful and something that should not be passed on as wisdom.

On the flip side, I guess the card game 'Lunch Money' and table top wargames like warhammer 40k have alot of art in their mechanics. But it seems more the over the top and silly type. It's not exactly art that's going to matter to you in a deep way on the long term. Although thinking on it now, am I missthinking on how deeply the art in roleplay is supposed to matter/how deeply it's implied that it matters, in general RP culture? I'm not sure - if I wanted to address (or even try and beat) a particular painful issue, I'm not sure I'd actually get to it with space cat girls with bling lasers and a bunch more of happy go lucky shit. Silly fiction always makes me think of happy go lucky stuff - and that isn't anywhere near actual pain. Even 40K's 'in the future there is only war'...I mean, hardly - dudes in these big chunky cool looking power armour and orcs using teleporters to fire goblins into enemy vehicles? Oh yeah, sure, that's really getting into the idea of there only being war!? Hardly! That's just one big, glorious themepark! And I'm not knocking themeparks, but it is a themepark.

In terms of getting at something a bit more deeply than a happy go lucky way, has art in mechanics been an awful idea that's been passed down from generation to generation?


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 09, 2009, 11:05:34 AM
I grappled with what you mean by "art" a bit, and I'm seeing two sides pop up.

1) Art is writing, fiction, setting.

From this angle, you're talking about mechanics failing to match the setting. Or fitting around it in a way that makes play not enjoyable. For example, the writing evokes fast-paced, over-the-top action, but in-game combat is a dragging war of attrition.

I say this is not inevitable. This is simply design without the requirement of making it fit the "art", be one with the "art", and work perfectly with the "art". There are plenty of fields where this is done really well, just look at building construction alone. It is just that for mainstream RPGs (the ones having most of this type of art), so far this isn't a requirement at all. At least, that's how it appears to me.

It's also that designing something to be in tune with another's vision is completely different than only dealing with your own vision. It's far cheaper to just slap d20 on your IP and tie it together with some strings, than to really make an effort. It's also the default risk-averse choice.

Compromising the art to fit the design might make it feel like a better fit, but would indeed be unacceptable from an artistic point of view. Unless the design came before the art, in which case it's a constrain in which to work. I don't know examples of that though. Even Ebberon, writtin specifically to be a D&D 3e setting, to me appears completely out of touch with the mechanics.

2) Art is physical, the drawings, cards, miniatures.

This kind of art is a powerful means to evoke flavor. If they're being silly, it's perhaps reinforcing the inherent idea that the whole thing is silly. If the game isn't supposed to be wacky, then bundling distracting wacky art with it is once again bad design. You just don't smile happily and dress pink on a goth party.

I have little experience with minis, but I've seen a lot of those wargame miniatures, and indeed I couldn't ever take them seriously. I don't know if it's interntional or not, but it was always over the top. If it's not intentional, there's a big disconnect going on somewhere. Aren't there minis for realistic WWII games around? Those shouldn't be silly...

I think MtG cards are a good example where it mostly works, but sometimes not. Usually, I consider the art to be really good and fit what the cards are about. Sometimes though, it's doesn't match and it's jarring. For example, a card depicting a normal bird capable of flight, but the creature doesn't have the flying ability. Another example was a collection of specific creatures, but there was one color missing. In fact, there was art depicting the red creature of the set, but according to the rules it wasn't. It was probably deemed too powerful and discarded, and they recycled the art for something else.

Does this get things moving, or is my contribution a dud?


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 09, 2009, 07:29:31 PM
Thanks for the reply, Jasper.

Welllll, your kind of playing out the 'Mechanics should match the art' arguement. The other side, though, is that mechanics are atleast in part there so everyone gets a turn. If the art - and by that I mean how the fiction goes - says someone sits there for two hours (and I've seen accounts of this and I think been in some games like that and even been the guy to sit out), then it's screwed up the game being a group activity because clearly someones just sitting there. One pat responce is that 'that's a bad GM', but I don't think it is - I think it's something deeper and the GM isn't at fault for producing fiction as he was asked to (it may even be (brain?) damaging if he's repeatedly told he's a bad GM for it, over the course of years).

Basically I'm not arguing for either side - I'm suggesting it's a lose/lose situation. Here's why I suggest that; If you try and build mechanics that are to support a group activity, when you bring art/fiction into them (like the number of attacks example from above), you start to compromise everyone participating. If you try and balance that out, then the art starts to get compromised because you know, so and so class would have more attacks, your artistic muse knows this to be so. All this, because of trying to force art/fiction into the very mechanics themselves. Just for contrasting purposes, a game which doesn't try to force art/fiction into the mechanics, as far as I can tell, is universalis. So a game without art in the mechanics has already been done before.

That's the suggestion - there just seems to be...and maybe this is just me, this conflict where any artistic inspiration is then muted by mechanical/group need, which in turn is then compromised by any further artistic inspiration (if it even comes), etc. So I've come to the point where it just appears this idea of shoving art/fiction into the mechanics, is just a bad idea.

Perhaps I'm a little cynical, but I think many other designers get around this by just not being interested in managing the group activity perse - any group management is taken, it seems, as an artistic suggestion rather than, if someones sitting there doing naught, the group management is screwed up. If pressed on the matter of everyone, like, actually get a turn, there's often a dense multiparagraph responce on how the fiction is a many layered thing and moves in mysterious ways or such and basically basks in the art of it all. I'm not trying to lay into that (well, a little, but just for fun >:) ), but to say it's perhaps a coping mechanism with what is essentially a lose/lose situation in relation to raming art into mechanics? Also I'm saying that, in case this seems an absolute non issue - in case anyones so used to soley dealing in art creation and is wondering what on earth art could compromise to? Since it might appear there is nothing else on the radar but art/fiction creation and thus there's nothing else to compromise with, let alone any need that shows up.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Vulpinoid on July 09, 2009, 11:50:39 PM
Callan,

As a qualified industrial designer, I find it abhorrent that you would believe that art and mechanism may never work in harmony. It sounds to me like you are arguing that the two agendas are completely at odds with one another.

There's an interesting thread over on Story-games (here (http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=9752&page=1#Item_0)), where someone makes the comment that they don't like the Serenity RPG because it feels like a generic game with a "Serenity" coat of paint on it. That's exactly what it feels like, because that's what it is. It's a case of "we got the IP license to make a game out of this" and "We've got this new game engine we want to publish"...screw it if they don't go together properly, we'll just use some Firefly Universe slang in the textbook and hope that people don't notice. Hell, you can't even make a character like "River Tam" in the game because the rules just weren't designed to accomodate that sort of character...pure evidence of a system not matching the fiction and certainly not being appropriate to produce the kind of experience one would hope for.

That's not evidence that "Art" and "Mechanism" can't work together. It's just bad design from people who've been in the industry long enough that they should know better.

If you are treating the development of the art as one stream, then treating the development of the mechanism as another stream; things WILL get messy when you cross the streams. They've existed in isolation and will have diverged in different paths, trying to tie them back together will leave some awkward gaps.

Conversely, if you design a game with a single vision in mind and produce art and mechanisms simultaneously from the core vision, then I don't see a reason why the two halves have to cause issues with one another.If something doesn't feel right with respect to the core vision, then chuck it. If the art and flavour of the world doesn't support the premise then it should have a damned good justification for staying in place. If a mechanism doesn't give the desired results, then the same applies. As soon as you compromise the core vision, your lost...and the problems start.

To go back to your RIFTS example, what do the different types of augmented humans really represent in the game? It's nothing if not a kitchen sink of a game which has totally lost it's focus as far as I'm concerned. Hell, I'd argue that there was no focus in the original game...post apocalyptic world...let's just chuck everything into it. If the game focused on the Coalition and their struggles against the exotic, the alien and the horrific it could have been one thing...if the game focused on the magic users and their ability to step through rifts into alternate realities it could have been something very different. But Palladium just wanted a game that could be everything to everyone.

If that doesn't say lack of focus, I don't know what does.

Take your specific case in point...If one player has a Juicer, and someone else is playing a Vagabond, then really consider what these characters are doing together. The Juicer player obviously wants to play one sort of game (and some might say that this player favours a Gamist agenda), the Vagabond player obviously wants to get a different experience out of their game (perhaps playing a game of survival among vastly overpowered companions and enemies...or perhaps wanting to explore a world while maintaining their hope and humanity).

If the two players are working with different goals in mind, then why are they playing in the same game. Firstly, I think the GM should have indicated to the players what sort of game they were intending to run. Secondly, if the GM did explain their game concept, then any players who created an unsuitable character should shut up and quit their bitching.

As a counter example...If I say I'm running a game that will chronicle the development of a group of friends over the course of 20 years...then the player who shows up to the first session with a Juicer is a moron.

I'll agree with you to a point.

If you develop rigid mechanisms first...then try to slap on a coat of paint to pretty it up, the added artistic embellishments will probably feel out of place. Bad design.

If you develop the art first, creating a rich an elaborate world with no heed for how it works...then decide to place structure and rules to make your world work, the rules will probably seem a bit disjointed and may not reflect what the original vision intended. Also bad design.

If you develop bits and pieces...a bit of art here...a mechanism there...some flavour text later...then try and tie it together into a coherent whole...or worse still, just try to offload it as a generic kitchen-sink game. Awful design.

If you work to a core vision and goal, develop art and mechanisms from that vision and aiming toward your intended goal. Create images that point toward your intentions, develop text that gives a feel for your aim, write rules that show someone how to achieve the type of experience you are trying to share. Good Design.

Just some thoughts (based on years of study in the field of design, and experience with some very bad design in numerous areas, not just gaming)...

V


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Jasper Flick on July 10, 2009, 02:40:31 AM
Callan, I think your definition of art here is too broad. It appears to range from art products, to what emerges during play, to how to make sure everyone has a good time. You're also specifically focusing on a specific mechanic: turn-based combat, but is this just an example, or is it your main point of interest?


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Daniel B on July 10, 2009, 08:44:55 AM
I think of game design like building architecture. The 'art' and the 'design' cannot (and should not) be expressed separately, or either the building collapses or fails to achieve it's artistic goals. You cannot start with a beautiful building, only worrying about the mechanical structure at the end, nor should you start with a neutrally-designed, purely functional building, only to throw art on top of it at the end and expect it still look pretty.

I believe it necessary to work in the intersecting domain of both, in tandem.

Daniel


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Caldis on July 10, 2009, 09:59:19 AM

How does something like Hero Quest fit in with this?  Where attributes can be anything and they're all equal as long as you can find a way to apply them?  So if you were playing Rifts using a Heroquest like system the Juicers "rapid machine gun fire" is equal to the Psi Stalkers "Pack of mutant dogboys"  (sorry it's been awhile since I've seen rifts dont remember the correct terms). 


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 10, 2009, 02:25:24 PM
Hi Michael,

Conversely, if you design a game with a single vision in mind and produce art and mechanisms simultaneously from the core vision, then I don't see a reason why the two halves have to cause issues with one another.If something doesn't feel right with respect to the core vision, then chuck it. If the art and flavour of the world doesn't support the premise then it should have a damned good justification for staying in place. If a mechanism doesn't give the desired results, then the same applies. As soon as you compromise the core vision, your lost...and the problems start.
There doesn't seem to be a reference here to it being a group activity and maintaining an equal number of turns (or certain amount of turns). I mean, "If the art and flavour of the world doesn't support the premise" - the premise is just more art/fiction. Your talking soley in terms of what art supports what art - which is fine if your only looking at art. And a mechanism that doesn't give the desired results - which desired results? The results the artistic muse wants, or the group activity desire wants? Atleast to me, your just addressing what art supports what art - which is something to think about. But atleast to me your haven't addressed the issue of this thread.

Quote
If the two players are working with different goals in mind, then why are they playing in the same game. Firstly, I think the GM should have indicated to the players what sort of game they were intending to run. Secondly, if the GM did explain their game concept, then any players who created an unsuitable character should shut up and quit their bitching.
I think this is defaulting back to 'it's the GM's fault', which I mentioned earlier (with 'it's the players fault' not being much different, as the GM is a player).

How do you take it?
1. The GM and players just play the game, as much as they might play a boardgame without adding/designing anything in mid play. They just follow procedure, even if that procedure (as written by the author) is ass. Eg, it asks the GM to produce some fiction that will also affect turn order - he does so and it drops someone out of play for an hour. Is the GM at fault for following the procedure, or the author for having handed such an option to the GM where he asked him to produce art rather than play human resource management? (Or perhaps no one is at fault - this art in the mechanics situation is always a lose/lose - but I'm spoiling the example now).
2. The GM (and prolly to an extent, players) are acting as designers and simply drawing on the material in the game book, to construct something. It's a design toolbox.
3. Something else?

I'll say I'm not really talking about #2, as I'm talking about taking responsiblity as game author for the entire end experience (not for small, singular parts of it that the group might use). Talking about what the GM should have done but didn't, or what the players should have done, but didn't, is just shifting blame onto them. This thread is about the games (original) author keeping that responsiblity.

Quote
If you work to a core vision and goal, develop art and mechanisms from that vision and aiming toward your intended goal. Create images that point toward your intentions, develop text that gives a feel for your aim, write rules that show someone how to achieve the type of experience you are trying to share. Good Design.
Point toward - instead of the author just implementing it? A feel for my aim - instead of the author just implementing it? I think you are talking about #2 from above? And I think the RPG market is glutted with toolbox 'games'. Indeed, getting off topic for a moment, if they're being the designer, why would they care about the authors intent or aim "Here was my intent or aim - but I didn't bother implementing it - do that for me". Though perhaps in terms of creative denial  (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.msg188019#msg188019) that makes sense. Where the group makes something then says that's exactly how to play the game (even though another group with the exact same book play it in a way that's incompatable and say exactly the same thing - that they play the game exactly as intended).

Okay, semi off topic, semi on - I'll clarify that I'm not talking about supporting creative denial in this thread.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 10, 2009, 02:52:03 PM
Callan, I think your definition of art here is too broad. It appears to range from art products, to what emerges during play, to how to make sure everyone has a good time. You're also specifically focusing on a specific mechanic: turn-based combat, but is this just an example, or is it your main point of interest?
I've probably blured it with that two hour example. The number of attacks/turns per melee is art baked into mechanics. The "attack skill" and "damage" are art baked into mechanics. You might be familiar with the turn order dysfunction of 'whiffing' where essentially your turn comes and you affect absolutely nothing. You effectively didn't have a turn. The idea/design goal of it being a group activity has been compromised. Turn based combat is just one area I'm interested in in terms of this topic. But if you want to focus on it for clarities sake, feel free to focus.

My example of the GM deciding you sit out for an hour isn't such a great example, but it does show the idea of turns/a group activity being compromised. Can I adjust the example? Say your PC is classed as 'unconcious', and your out for an hour of gameplay. That's baking art into the mechanics. Why bake art in and leave turn order integrity up to the end user/GM interpretation of 'unconcious'? I know traditionally we all blame the GM in this case, but he only had the capacity because the author gave it to him. The author was facing a trade off between the fiction as he saw it and turn order. A trade off that I'm suggesting, is always a lose/lose situation.

Actually I'll water that down - if you don't concern yourself with turn order and just sort of make the game as you see the fiction should go, then it's win for art, complete lose for turn order. By chance turn order might be in there, but it's on the monkeys flying out of my butt principle.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 10, 2009, 03:07:50 PM

How does something like Hero Quest fit in with this?  Where attributes can be anything and they're all equal as long as you can find a way to apply them?  So if you were playing Rifts using a Heroquest like system the Juicers "rapid machine gun fire" is equal to the Psi Stalkers "Pack of mutant dogboys"  (sorry it's been awhile since I've seen rifts dont remember the correct terms). 
Well that's an interesting question! Because if attributes, by the book, can be anything, then there's no art prebaked into the mechanic. There's just a blank field (like a spread sheets blank field) where an attribute can go and numerical connections to that (though the idea it's an 'attribute' is some fiction, but that might matter about as much as 'coin' in universalis - ie, not at all). So that's avoiding the fiction in mechanics issue.

In terms of them all being equal as long as you can find a way to apply them? Well, mechanically equal, so again there's no fiction baked into mechanics that makes one/some numerically superior to others.

In terms of actually applying them, this gets into the fictional restraints either of the player or the group and what restraint he/they put on an attributes use. But that's all a result of people in the group/group, it's not that one attribute has better stats because the authors artistic muse says so. So again it avoids fiction in the mechanics issue.

So yeah, good question! It sounds like, atleast in terms of attributes, hero quest is fictionless mechanics like universalis is. Also, atleast in terms of spiritual attributes, riddle of steel has *relatively* fictionless mechanics (they are named stuff like "Love" and "Destiny". But there's no art baked in that says one is more powerful numerically than the others, so it may not matter in terms of this thread)


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Vulpinoid on July 10, 2009, 05:46:46 PM
I mean, "If the art and flavour of the world doesn't support the premise" - the premise is just more art/fiction. Your talking soley in terms of what art supports what art - which is fine if your only looking at art. And a mechanism that doesn't give the desired results - which desired results? The results the artistic muse wants, or the group activity desire wants? Atleast to me, your just addressing what art supports what art - which is something to think about. But atleast to me your haven't addressed the issue of this thread.

No, you're just not thinking outside the box, and certainly not understanding how these issues address the questions.

I'll clarify my definitions.

Design is not art. Design is not mechanisms.

Design is the attempt reach quality. Where quality is the best possible outcome for a desired product (whether that product be architectural, mechanical, industrial, literary or even a game). Some may find quality for a certain design is easier to achieve through artistic expression, really defining their world, carefully crafting their output. Others may find that quality for a design requires intricate mechanical attention to detail, and finely tuned mechanisms. Virtually all designs require a degree of both. That end product is given to a user, and the user puts it to their own purposes. 

There are often mechanisms inherent within art, to give it structure and form. There is often artistry within mechanisms to make them more pleasing to the eye, and graspable by the mind. This may seem overly generic as a statement to you, but that's just an excuse to ignore the statement in context with your question.

Unless a game author is going to run every session of every game, there is going to be some GM latitude in the rules. It's just the "Chinese Whispers" syndrome; I believe that expecting everything to fall back on the responsibility of the GM is just a very naive perspective.

Quote
...I'm talking about taking responsiblity as game author for the entire end experience (not for small, singular parts of it that the group might use). Talking about what the GM should have done but didn't, or what the players should have done, but didn't, is just shifting blame onto them. This thread is about the games (original) author keeping that responsiblity.

Let's push this hyperbole to the next level...If I design a microwave, am I accountable for the idiot who kills kittens by sticking them in that microwave? The opening is the right size...and I didn't specifically say in the instruction manual "DO NOT PUT KITTENS IN MICROWAVES".

Quote from: Callan S.
You might be familiar with the turn order dysfunction of 'whiffing' where essentially your turn comes and you affect absolutely nothing. You effectively didn't have a turn. The idea/design goal of it being a group activity has been compromised.

You claim that the person who 'whiffed' effectively did nothing. You can't state that they did nothing. The player took a futile risk, and knew full well that theye were taking this risk that might not pay off. Again, I refer back to my point that this was the player's decision, if they needed a 20 to hit, and they missed, then it would be immature to complain that "things weren't fair"...the character had plenty of other options available. Perhaps they could have used some other skill to construct traps/obstacles or generally cause their opponent other issues. The character doesn't need to attack directly, and even in a game like Rifts, everyone is either good at something, or has a huge range of options at their disposal.

The group activity hasn't been compromised, it's just that the players aren't playing as a group. The example you cite seems to show one Juicer player who dominates the combat sequence, and the player of a less combat worthy character who just wants to sit around and bitch that they can't do anything rather than thinking for themselves and getting the job done by unconventional means.

If you're going to keep harping on about Rifts, take note of what several people have said after returning from various Palladium "Open House" days. Kevin Simbeida has written most of his games taking a lot of things for granted about his own GM style, I even heard one person state that he basically ignores most of the rules in his own games and plays a very fast freeform style of game (Note: by freeform, I mean the American RPG definition of the term and not the Australian RPG definition of the term). 

It seems that you are holding aloft a poor example of a twenty year old kitchen-sink game, based on a cobbled-together assortment of concepts which were at least a decade old when the game was released. Then you seem to be claiming this to be the pinnacle of game design.

Plenty of games have moved beyond the concept of turns and task resolution, and in my experience games of this ilk allow much better group functionality.

I'm actually working on a 3:16 hack for Rifts. Instead of space commandos fighting against aliens, the game is a very cut-down version of Rifts focusing on teams of Coalition commandos wandering the outskirts of the Coalition states eliminating D-Bees and other threats to humanity. Once someone suggested it to me, it seemed a really nice fit because it blended the background story with the mechanisms reasonably well, with only a couple of gaps that needed some jury-rigged rules (such as the various OCCs and Rifts specific stuff like "Horror Factor").

The game actually seems to be coming together nicely, and I'll send Gregor a copy in homage (I'll do the same to Palladium, but I only expect legal letters back from them, based on previous reports).

If this still doesn't address you're point I have to second the questions of an earlier poster...

Callan, I think your definition of art here is too broad. It appears to range from art products, to what emerges during play, to how to make sure everyone has a good time. You're also specifically focusing on a specific mechanic: turn-based combat, but is this just an example, or is it your main point of interest?

V


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 10, 2009, 07:44:46 PM
Hello,

I think the word "art" is causing more trouble than it solves. Callan, your points in response to HeroQuest were the most interesting to me. You're identifying that design - in which 20 in ability A is equally effective as 20 in ability B, period, no matter what A and B are - as not having the "art in design" problem. I think I see your point quite well and agree with what you're saying there. Yet I can see a perspective, and probably tapped into that perspective myself while playing that game, from which that precise design maximizes the art of play itself. So from that perspective, HeroQuest is arguably vastly more artistic in design than most games.

I raise that point not to argue for "art or not art" in HeroQuest, or in Rifts, but to illustrate how the word "art" is making everyone jump up and down like mechanical monkeys. And it doesn't have to!

To everyone in the thread: c'mon, let it go. You don't have to protect "art" from someone who uses the term differently from the one you cherish and nurture. Let's talk about what Callan is saying and not what his chosen term means to you.

I think we should focus on that precise distinction: HeroQuest abilities in action, and Rifts in action. With real play. Let's talk about what it's like to use the exact rules we are talking about, and let "art" take care of itself. I've got a whole lot of HeroQuest (well, its first form, Hero Wars) to use, and one of the first points I can make is that although 20 (or 15, or 15w, or 1w2, for HeroQuest people) is the same from ability to ability, utility of ability to ability is a very finely-honed in-game and in-play thing. Close, in fact, to the Traits issue that Markus raised a few months ago. I can anticipate that discussion raising points which I for one cannot predict and would like to see.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: JoyWriter on July 11, 2009, 11:42:07 AM
Callan,

You suggest (if I'm correct) that the turn has a defined purpose structuring social interactions. Right? And that using it to mean something, to tell you something about the setting, can interfere with that purpose. If I extend that, perhaps you could say that if people implement turns to give everyone a chance to contribute fiction, then if another game element stops that happening it actually makes turns pointless?

I'm not sure I agree; people re-purpose things all the time, from people using online games as chatrooms to people recycling old tyres into reinforcement for earth walls. So people using turns in a weird way is totally fine so long as they keep account of why they were put there in the first place. Why should people? Because the person who uses his tyres for walls better have another way to get to work, or the person who uses the game as a chatroom may be annoyed when they get PvP killed randomly. Those are two angles on the same idea, either you miss out on a function that it is no longer doing, or extra functions you forgot about jump out of nowhere and kill you!

Now in contrast it may be that it doesn't matter about the functions they are missing; they may not need to drive, or they may be happy to wander about as "ghosts" still chatting. In one case the extra function is unnecessary, and in the other it's additional effects can be compensated for.

Bringing this back round to structuring social interactions, if a rifts game blows up the turn structure, then maybe you never needed it, but if you do, you'll now need a replacement. You've suggested what exactly those turns are supposed to be there doing; insuring each player has an opportunity to contribute within a certain time period, and maybe even that they will contribute equally. Now that is not a universal design constraint; some games actually have an audience! In other games, mario galaxy is specifically designed to have a pretty unimportant but helpful second player role so someone can play with a much lower skilled friend.

Lets not get in a loop; just cause you can do the replacements and fix rifts to make it a better game, doesn't mean you're crap for not doing it, or that it might not be better to start with new rules! Suggesting rules to fix it is actually a step towards that. In case it wasn't clear, V's concrete suggestion was that the setting of rifts seems to contain areas that are compatible with good social dynamics around the table and that he might have a mechanical core to implement that.


Here's what I think is the big secret; it's not about mechanics on the same side as social/competitive concerns, and colour/fluff/art on the other: Mechanics sit slap bang in the middle with these constraints on every side. As an example, imagine mechanics as the blocks in this picture (http://michaelgr.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/godel-escher-bach-geb.jpg); they have to be made so that shining light on them from the different directions still fulfils what you are after.

Now you could get into a monster conflict between two visions of the social interactions you want in a game, I know I've done that, so I had to split the game, with the potential for putting them back together at a later date as a sort of progression from one to the other. It could be a conflict between two parts of the setting tone, that you feel just don't mesh, like the differing tones of orks vs nurgle in 40k. The problem is just the old design-classic of more than one simultaneous constraint, it's just that you find it tricky to get those two particular sets of constraints into one single vision. That is particular division is personal to you, although other people may share it.

The core vision for a game must be centred on people playing, by some phantom mechanics you have not yet designed, and then filling in that blank so that it fits that concept. If you can fit all those constraints in your head as one thing, then you are a good way towards designing the game, if not, then yep, you're going to bounce around from one to another. Getting closer and closer to fulfilling one picture while mucking up the others. You can lessen that by trying to make "Pareto superior" changes, that are better from one angle but the same from all others, but I know of no substitute for getting a design clear in your head as a single potential object.

Hopefully the heroquest examples will show one way to do that. 


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 11, 2009, 09:42:22 PM
I think the word "art" is causing more trouble than it solves. Callan, your points in response to HeroQuest were the most interesting to me. You're identifying that design - in which 20 in ability A is equally effective as 20 in ability B, period, no matter what A and B are - as not having the "art in design" problem. I think I see your point quite well and agree with what you're saying there. Yet I can see a perspective, and probably tapped into that perspective myself while playing that game, from which that precise design maximizes the art of play itself. So from that perspective, HeroQuest is arguably vastly more artistic in design than most games.
I think I understand you, Ron, and agree with you. Take it I wanted to paint an elephant and I have either a paint brush or a small statue of an elephant to paint it. What I'm saying is that the absence of art built in the paint brush makes it better at making art/maximises art creation (or supports it better) than the elephant statue (which has art built into it already). Or is the analogy making you draw a blank, which you've mentioned happening before (I think?). Arguably heroquest is more artistic (as in supporting the creation of art) as it has less art in it(s mechanical components/the attributes are blank, like a paint brush lacks art in it's components).


Michael, does that address anything for you, at all?


Joywriter,
Quote
I'm not sure I agree; people re-purpose things all the time
I'm talking about game authors and their design goals (specifically how a certain pair compromise each other to no benefit) - specifically about making new designs and how drawing from the old idea of baking art into mechanics might be a bad idea to learn and practice. End users taking the product and using it for some other purpose isn't an issue here :)


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on July 11, 2009, 10:04:24 PM
I'm of the opinion these days that a well designed RPG is an incredibly well designed tool, like a good paintbrush and a set of good paints.

The kinds of RPGs I like are tools designed to prompt creativity on the part of the players.

This doesn't mean there is not artistry in an a good RPG design.  Just the the artistry is focused on serving the creative agenda of the Players. 

HeroQuest, as an example, is an elegantly and artfully designed game that let's the players at the table use it as a tool to create memorable moments of fiction and long beats of narrative.  It does its job very, very well.  There is artistry in the design.  But, again, like a well made paintbrush, it's job is not to be the focus of the work, but to be utilized by others.  It focuses options (a paint brush is good for painting, but bad for writing a novel), but serves those focused options well. 

Games like Sorcerer, InSpectres and Dogs in the Vineyard (off the top of my head) are also very good at this, in this regard, though each is designed to serve as an excellent tool for the players in different ways. Each of these games, like HeroQuest, is purposefully designed to serve the needs of players will.  There are games that are artlessly designed -- which impedes the ability of Players to use them successfully.  This implies that as much care need to be put into making a good brush (paints, canvass and so on) as in the act of making a painting itself.  It's just that the focus of the design/art concerns are different.

I don't know if this hijacks the thread, but I have been thinking about this a lot and thought I'd toss it in. 


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: JoyWriter on July 12, 2009, 06:36:04 AM
Quote
I'm not sure I agree; people re-purpose things all the time
I'm talking about game authors and their design goals (specifically how a certain pair compromise each other to no benefit) - specifically about making new designs and how drawing from the old idea of baking art into mechanics might be a bad idea to learn and practice. End users taking the product and using it for some other purpose isn't an issue here :)

"End users" aren't the only people who re-purpose mechanics! Game designers do it, with their own games or other people's, finding elements of old systems that can fulfil new purposes. Reread my comment with that in mind and I suspect you'll find something more in it!


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: otspiii on July 12, 2009, 10:09:20 AM
Huh, the way I see it there are three main topics of interest to me brought up in your initial post: making sure the objective gameplay resembles the fiction, making sure the individual player experience suits the fiction, and the fiction telling you to sit down and shut up because it's not your turn to have fun.

I haven't played Rifts, sadly, but I have experienced the same thing in Shadowrun, so I'll use that as my example.  I remember the first time I played the game with a bunch of more experienced friends.  I was pretty familiar with the rules, but I didn't really understand the consequences of a lot of them; I had book knowledge but no play experience.  I threw together a mage character that was decently effective and everyone started playing.  The problem I had with the game cropped up pretty quickly; whenever a fight broke out everyone else was taking 2-4x more actions than I was and I just kind of sat around for half an hour (there were a bunch of players, too) between every turn.  Everyone else was a fun enough roleplayer that the game stayed fairly engaging even when I was just watching, but it still struck me as a little painful that just having a good initiative made such a gigantic difference in how much of a contribution each person got to make to combat in the game.  Is this pretty much exactly the same as your example in your first post, Callan?

Here's my take on how each of the three topics of interest tie into my experience.

Making the objective gameplay fit the fiction:  I think this is what you mean when you say art in mechanical design?  It's trying to make the rolls and actions in the real world mimic the events going on in the game world as accurately as possible.  It's the idea of 'well, he has all this weird bioware that makes him see the world moving way slower than other people, I guess he should take two turns to represent this'.  It's a desire to make the dice the physics of the game world, to make it so that a 3rd party person watching the game unfold could easily see the connection between the rolling and mechanics being used and the actions going on in the imagined world.  This seemed to me what you were focusing more on in your post, the idea that inserting 'art' (this character punches more times in a second than other characters) into the 'mechanics' (so the player gets to take more turns per combat turn to represent this) is dangerous and can really screw up player enjoyment.

I don't see the point in making this a design goal at all, although this is something I have butted heads with people over this issue in this forum before, such as in the Disabling Pawn Stance and Enforcing Character Beliefs on Action (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27809.0) thread.  That said, I think you're making a mistake in assuming that this is just how the fiction and the mechanics always interact.  It's true that this design goal has no regard for player enjoyment or experience, but there's a really similar way of approaching the mechanics that is entirely built around the player experience.

Making player experience fit the fiction:  On the outside this looks a lot like making the objective gameplay fit the fiction, and when viewed from the outside gameplay designed in this way will probably look very similar to gameplay focused on objective play, but the focus is entirely different.  It should also be made clear that this is a design goal rather than a type of mechanic.  It's designing the rules to make the player feel like the character they're playing.  It's having mechanics that make you really feel nimble and quick when you build a acrobatic character, or really feel like a powerhouse when you roll a gigantic handful of dice for damage when you connect with your gigantic destructive axe.  Delta's D&D Hotspot had an interesting post on "Games Within Games" (http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2009/06/games-within-games.html) that might clarify what I mean a little.

The multiple rounds per combat turn that wired reflexes give a character in Shadowrun fit both objective play design goals (he punches twice;roll twice) and player experience design goals (his speed is overwhelming;take an overwhelming number of turns), and I's day that most rule-sets for games are the same way.  If you approach from an experience rather than action based perspective 90% of the rules you'll write will be the same, but those 10% will really change the tone of your game.  Also, by staying in a player-experience based mindset you become more mindful of avoiding the third issue.

The fiction justifying not having fun:  The thing about designing to make sure player experience mirrors the fiction is that by itself it doesn't assure that the players will have fun.  Even without playing, I know that Rifts is a good example of this.  If everyone comes to the game with glitterboys and you come in with a vagabond it pretty much means that whenever a fight breaks out you can just kind of go lay down on the couch until the fight gets resolved, because you really just do not matter.  To connect it to my Shadowrun experience, my character thought/perceived/acted so much slower in the imagined game world that it made sense that I wasn't getting to do things for half-hours at a time, but that doesn't mean it still wasn't lame.

Actually, I think Exalted is the game that most exemplifies this problem that I've seen, although it has less to do with mechanics and more to do with setting.  It's a game that's all about being an amazing god-like hero who can do anything. . .but the fiction is all about these countless enemies who are all impossibly stronger than you and will smack you down in a second if you draw any attention to yourself.  There's this weird tension between the fact that the whole concept of the game is that you can do anything, and the fact that if the ST runs the game's fiction to the letter the moment you do anything you attract the attention of a bunch of people who can and will kill you effortlessly.  The fiction is telling the players to shut up and keep their heads down in this game of exalted heroic action.

Just mixing mechanics and fiction/art isn't a bad thing, but you can't build them separately and expect them to reinforce each other.  That path does just lead to huge amounts of "shut up, I don't care that you aren't having fun, this is how things REALLY ARE".  Both the fiction and the mechanics need to be built around each other, making sure at every step that both of them raise the other to greater heights, rather than just kind of putting them near each other and hoping they get along.

To bring this back to Shadowrun, for the person taking the 4 rounds a turn the mechanics and the fiction work great together.  He's flying all over the place, getting a ton done, being absolutely terrifying.  Taking a bunch of rounds a turn is great for him and really helps him get in the mindset of a over-the-top killing machine.  The problem is that this experience comes at the cost of the other players' fun.  Rather than having the mechanics tell them that they are competent mercenaries, as the fiction claims, they're just telling the player that they're bored.  The rules didn't properly account for player experience, and although they hit spot on at times they are in no way reliable at doing so.

Interestingly enough, I think this is the big strength and weakness of games with more universal resolution mechanics, like HeroQuest seems to have.  The fiction and the mechanics aren't really related, so they don't get in the way of each other at all.  On the other hand, the fact that they're so disconnected means that they don't re-enforce each other at all, either.  You're guaranteed not to break the player experience, but you don't really do anything with the mechanics themselves to add to it, either.  The Games Within Games blog post I linked to earlier is all about this.  I say it can be made up for to an extent with non-mechanical means of engaging the players, but there are a lot of people who feel like a game that doesn't use its mechanics to reinforce immersion is like a dog with three legs.  It can walk, and even run, but it's still just not as elegant or quick as one with four.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 12, 2009, 04:01:32 PM
Joywriter,

I don't understand? I'm talking about having a design goal of making a group activity. I'm not talking about having that as a design goal and then for some reason repurposing it? That would be giving up the group activity design goal. I think your sort of arguing a point which is based on throwing out(repurposing) a design goal I talked about at the start. If so, no. Atleast for this thread a design goal is that it's a group activity and it doesn't get repurposed into something else. Indeed the very thread is talking about trying to add design goals which then fail/compromise that group activity goal, without granting any actual benefit to either goal in doing so.


Hi Misha,

I think you've looked past the design goal of it being a group activity (people get mostly the same amount of turns) and your looking at forfilling 'player experience' or as you directly put it latter, immersion. It seems to be just ignoring the original design goal of it being a group activity and looking at another goal entirely (player experience) instead, and your point is based on whether player experience is forfilled?


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: otspiii on July 12, 2009, 04:29:54 PM
I think you've looked past the design goal of it being a group activity (people get mostly the same amount of turns) and your looking at forfilling 'player experience' or as you directly put it latter, immersion. It seems to be just ignoring the original design goal of it being a group activity and looking at another goal entirely (player experience) instead, and your point is based on whether player experience is forfilled?

Wouldn't the group aspect be a part of the individual experience?  Multiple individual experiences and the way they interact with each other are the building blocks of any group activity.  I only touched on it briefly and indirectly with the bit about favoring one person's experience over another's by letting one player take a bunch more turns, but it's just one of the uncountable different considerations you have to make when designing a game experience.  You do have a good point in that it's, by far, one of the most important ones, though.

I'd say that it's more than just immersion, though.  It's a sort of mix of immersion and creative agenda.  What emotions/ideas do you want to inspire/explore with your game?  I was confused at first by your use of the word 'art' because that's the definition of art I use in my mind: any form of expression that communicates an emotion or idea through indirect means.  I see things like the fiction just being a tool you use to help that emotion or idea connect to your audience better, not as being the art itself.  I'm not calling your definition wrong, though.  It's one of those horrible words where everyone takes it to mean a different thing.  I had figured out what you meant by the end of your post, so there's no need to worry over semantics.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Danny2050 on July 12, 2009, 09:37:50 PM
I think you've looked past the design goal of it being a group activity (people get mostly the same amount of turns) and your looking at forfilling 'player experience' or as you directly put it latter, immersion. It seems to be just ignoring the original design goal of it being a group activity and looking at another goal entirely (player experience) instead, and your point is based on whether player experience is forfilled?

Wouldn't the group aspect be a part of the individual experience?  Multiple individual experiences and the way they interact with each other are the building blocks of any group activity.  I only touched on it briefly and indirectly with the bit about favoring one person's experience over another's by letting one player take a bunch more turns, but it's just one of the uncountable different considerations you have to make when designing a game experience.  You do have a good point in that it's, by far, one of the most important ones, though.

I'd say that it's more than just immersion, though.  It's a sort of mix of immersion and creative agenda.  What emotions/ideas do you want to inspire/explore with your game?  I was confused at first by your use of the word 'art' because that's the definition of art I use in my mind: any form of expression that communicates an emotion or idea through indirect means.  I see things like the fiction just being a tool you use to help that emotion or idea connect to your audience better, not as being the art itself.  I'm not calling your definition wrong, though.  It's one of those horrible words where everyone takes it to mean a different thing.  I had figured out what you meant by the end of your post, so there's no need to worry over semantics.
I think group experience can be directly built in, rather than have it "emerge" from parallel individual experiences. The best example of that I have seen is not from an RPG but from the board game "Battlestar Galactica". Each person plays an individual with different abilities and opportunities for helping the humans achieve their goals. Many "tasks" are team tasks that each parson may contribute to, by playing cards secretly into a pile that represents group effort. The cards are shuffled and revealed to determine if the group as a whole succeeded. This allows opportunities for the traitors in the group (cylons) to chuck in detrimental effort without revealing who did it.

Anyway, my point is, the mechanic is aimed at group interaction. There are times during play where individual effort and experience is highlighted, but short lived so 80% of the game is group time, with lots of interaction and negotiating.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: JoyWriter on July 13, 2009, 06:27:31 AM
What a mechanic does can be different depending on context, and moving a mechanic from one game to another means repurposing it, even if it is something "obvious" like turns.

I'm talking about having a design goal of making a group activity. I'm not talking about having that as a design goal and then for some reason repurposing it?

I'm going to answer this in a nitpicky way, to show the difference in language, and hopefully jump right on the misunderstanding: You don't repurpose a design goal, a design goal is the purpose! What you repurpose is the old mechanics your game inherits from another game. In shadowrun and rifts, the turn structure (or initiative passes in the case of srun) is being used to show the characters off, not to insure everyone can contribute (if that is what you want, although I'll get to this later). In fact they are using the "you can't talk; it's someone else's turn" thing as part of the point of the mechanic! The mechanic is in that case totally not doing what you expect it to be doing! The same mechanic is being used to do something else, to fit a different design goal, of structuring contributions (in the case of shadowrun) so that that player can play out a fast character, but has to make them work in a certain way (I won't go into how srun does this for now).

So if it's not doing that thing you want it to be doing, what part of the game is? Well to work out that you'll need to explain what it is you want it to be doing. It's not objective or obvious, it's what effect you expect the game to have, and you feel many of these games are missing:

You've repeated the idea of people "getting the same number of turns", but I would suggest that what you actually want is more fundimental than that. Do you just want equal numbers of turns? Or do you want interactive participation? Or do you want equal spotlight time for different players? Or do you just want to insure that shy people get air time to talk at least every __ minutes? Because giving people turns to do unrelated things, and making those turns contain different amount of actions, and different amount of actual time, well that fulfils the narrow criteria, but probably not everything you want!

So please expand your idea of a group activity, you may know something we don't, or just saying it in a way that's not communicating what you feel is so important.

Finally I'm not saying that any random game will necesseraly have that function, some people mistakenly imagine that just cos they put ___ mechanic in they will be able to import some experience or group dynamic from another game:

Say you like other games with ___ in it, but you don't like the new one. I'm suggesting it's because the other games used ___ to do what you want, and the new game doesn't, it uses it for something else or just as pointless dead weight. This is a big reason that people like us need to encourage people not to just grab mechanics just "cos that's what these games have" but because they do what they want, and are proved in testing to fit to their criteria, "artistic" or otherwise.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: otspiii on July 13, 2009, 08:07:11 AM
Anyway, my point is, the mechanic is aimed at group interaction. There are times during play where individual effort and experience is highlighted, but short lived so 80% of the game is group time, with lots of interaction and negotiating.

And I guess my argument is that group time is multiple individual experiences interacting with each other simultaneously.  This is turning into a bit more of a derail than I meant for it to be, my basic point was 'Design for what the players experience, not what a third party auditor would see, because otherwise it's easy to start putting fiction in the mechanics that needlessly brings down the quality of gameplay.'  I said 'individual' experience because in my mind that's breaking the issue down to its component level.  A group experience isn't some mystical melding of the minds, it's a bunch of individual people interacting with each other.  The other players are probably the most engaging tool you have to enhance a person's individual experience, so I'd say it's absolutely important to put a heavy focus on the interactions and negotiations between them.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 14, 2009, 02:42:53 PM
Well, in terms of the title, I've refered to the general idea amongst roleplay culture as a whole. Certainly many traditional games seem to include art in the structure of their mechanics, typically the combat rules.

To me, group activity means everyone just gets a turn. For myself I'm okay with some fluctuation - perhaps someone gets 10% more turns overall, in the game.

The thing is, I've refered to the idea of a group activity, roughly how I've described it here, as if it's one that is pursued in roleplay design culture on a general basis. I've sort of made that assumption because...well, roleplay is a group activity? Am I wrong and no one else carries this as a design goal? That would seem...conflicting? Also if it's the case, it means my thread title doesn't make much of a point given that it's pitting something off against a design goal nobody actually shares.


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: otspiii on July 14, 2009, 03:36:39 PM
Well, in terms of the title, I've refered to the general idea amongst roleplay culture as a whole. Certainly many traditional games seem to include art in the structure of their mechanics, typically the combat rules.

To me, group activity means everyone just gets a turn. For myself I'm okay with some fluctuation - perhaps someone gets 10% more turns overall, in the game.

The thing is, I've refered to the idea of a group activity, roughly how I've described it here, as if it's one that is pursued in roleplay design culture on a general basis. I've sort of made that assumption because...well, roleplay is a group activity? Am I wrong and no one else carries this as a design goal? That would seem...conflicting? Also if it's the case, it means my thread title doesn't make much of a point given that it's pitting something off against a design goal nobody actually shares.

Why would you think it wasn't?  On my side, I only nodded to it on my first post, but my last two posts were largely about how it IS an important design goal, it's just one that should flow naturally out of other broader design goals.  "Have a method for resolving conflict" isn't one of my primary design goals either, but it's absolutely one of the most important parts of any role playing system.  It's just something that naturally gets built in the process of following larger goals.

At this point I'm not really sure what this thread is about.  Is it about the dangers of letting some people dominate the play-time by giving them more 'turns'?  Is it about the importance of factoring group dynamics into your mechanical system?  Is it about the interactions of fiction and mechanics, and the dangers involved?  I feel like everyone's on kind of different pages here, and like we need to sort ourselves out and clarify our intentions before we can really interact in any meaningful way.

I'm also not 100% sure we're on the same page when you say 'art', yet.  You just mean the fiction, right?  Or is it the fiction and some other additional concepts?


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: Callan S. on July 14, 2009, 04:21:23 PM
Misha, I think if it's not a 'larger goal' (as you put it), then you don't have it as a design goal (as I'd put it). Your coming to this thread with an entirely different set of priorities than myself (I say as the original poster and guide of what the thread talks about)

Even on art and fiction, we don't seem to match - how you've divorced fiction as a delivery tool rather than being art delivering yet more art, I don't know. But we don't seem to match here, either.

I'll totally grant perhaps I have some alien set of priorities that I've brought here that I've assumed most other people shared. But this thread is much like the premise of the impossible thing before breakfast idea - that base premise being if you have A as a goal and B as a goal, they just don't go together. In terms of this thread, if you don't have A and B as goals/priorities, then the thread doesn't address you, as far as I can see?


Title: Re: Art in mechanical design - has always been an awful idea?
Post by: otspiii on July 14, 2009, 08:52:24 PM
Misha, I think if it's not a 'larger goal' (as you put it), then you don't have it as a design goal (as I'd put it). Your coming to this thread with an entirely different set of priorities than myself (I say as the original poster and guide of what the thread talks about)

Even on art and fiction, we don't seem to match - how you've divorced fiction as a delivery tool rather than being art delivering yet more art, I don't know. But we don't seem to match here, either.

I'll totally grant perhaps I have some alien set of priorities that I've brought here that I've assumed most other people shared. But this thread is much like the premise of the impossible thing before breakfast idea - that base premise being if you have A as a goal and B as a goal, they just don't go together. In terms of this thread, if you don't have A and B as goals/priorities, then the thread doesn't address you, as far as I can see?

I really think that most of the perceived gap between us is the result of misunderstanding.  Yes, I understand that our working definitions of art are different, and that two people using the same word with different definitions can lead to some big weirdness.  This is why I asked you what your definition was.  I know that it encompasses the fiction at this point, but is that all or is this an even wider issue?

I do not understand why you refuse to believe I care about group interaction.  I see it as something that you naturally need to consider when thinking of individual experience, you think of it as its own design goal, whatever.  It's still important to both of us, however we classify it in our design cosmologies. Just telling me "you don't care about what I'm talking about, get out" doesn't help either of us.  I understand now that the topics I addressed in your first post are not entirely focused on the topics you were hoping to elaborate on in the thread.  That's fine, I think they're still somewhat relevant, but I'll keep my points within the topic as well as I can with my understanding of what you're trying to achieve here.

Okay, so your core idea in the thread that you want to pursue is that if you have both thing A and thing B as design priorities they get in the way of each other.  Err, specifically in this thread you're talking about injecting art/fiction into the mechanics and having a good group dynamic, right?

I came at it from a really weird angle, but I guess my main relevant point was contained in my third section about the fiction justifying not having fun.  Basically, if you have two potentially conflicting design goals like wanting the mechanics to reflect the fiction/art and wanting a good group dynamic you should integrate the two.  Make your design goal to have a fiction that encourages the kind of group dynamic you want, and then use the mechanics to reinforce the art and the group dynamic simultaneously.  D&D's fiction involves the various types of adventurers who join up together to go have adventures and the roles they all fill, and the rules guide you into mirroring that fiction by choosing from a list of synergistic classes.  Shadowrun does more or less the same sort of thing, although the distinction between classes isn't quite as hard-coded in.  As for issues like your example with multiple attacks ruining the group dynamic, it's just a matter of asking yourself "does this reinforce my goal of having my fiction and my group dynamic both resemble each other and be fun?"  If it doesn't, in the way that giving one player more turns/attacks doesn't, then just don't put it in.

Even the stuff I posted before that is semi-relevant, I think, in that the focus of the rules should be on capturing the attitude of the fiction rather than the description of it.  When I posted it I just kind of assumed that the group dynamic was covered under the blanket of individual experience in other people's minds as well as in my own, and that assumption led to a lot of confusion, for which I apologize.  Really, though, what I meant was that you should write out a fiction that would be fun to be a part of, and then make rules that let the player on some level enter the fiction.  Make sure the fiction encourages a fun group dynamic, and then use the mechanics to try to encourage that group dynamic, as opposed to just writing a fiction based solely on concepts you find interesting and then trying to model those concepts in the game without regard for the group dynamic.

I'm sorry, and I assure you that my heart's in the right place, but I didn't completely connect with your topic in my first post due to an incomplete understanding of the core issue you were trying to explore.  Whatever impression I may have given previously, these are issues that are relevant to me and I do think you're moving down an interesting and potentially fruitful path of thought.  I'm desperately trying to connect with you and understand exactly what your goal for the thread is.  I've done my best to connect to your topic with this post, although I won't pretend that I'm 100% confident I fully understand the subtleties of what "A as a goal and B as a goal" mean on a practical level, but I do hope that I've come a little closer with this post than with my first.  If my understanding is still incomplete I apologize and await clarification.