Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Realism, Playability, Experience, and Playtester Comments

The Traveller Effect (The Rhetorical Gamer) The Captain and the Witch and What Happens Next — “There is one placement on my map that the players have already shown interest in that I’m super-stoked for the time they get there and it all evolved out of rolling a ridiculous treasure hoard for a set of monsters I didn’t really have an explanation for and then it all came together. And it was pretty much the result of me needing to explain this set of random stuff in a way that made sense.”

New School (Fear of a Geek Planet) The Time For Experience Points Has Come And Gone — “XP for monsters (I’m not sure adding ‘for gp’ really helps that) drives a playstyle where you confront everything head-on, grinding like it’s WoW.”

Counterinsurgency (PAXsims) COIN in Afghanistan: A Distant Plain — “There are four player factions, but they actually form two pairs of antagonists, each in a very uneasy alliance of alternating convenience and necessity…. Just as in the actual conflict, the four player factions have dissimilar abilities, vulnerabilities and war aims.”

D&D (The Rhetorical Gamer) Experience is a Strange Teacher — “I’d forgotten, playing 3rd ed, 4th ed, and Pathfinder, how much fun it is to have PCs leveling at different rates. My party right now has a 1st level fighter, a 2nd level wizard, and a thief and bladedancer (cleric variant) at 3rd level and it’s working out great. Their henchmen are also at different levels and their adventures are shaped somewhat (in a good way, in my opinion) by the oddity of having characters of different levels in the party.”

Design For Effect (Defense Linguistics Research) Diminishing Returns of Tactical Fidelity — “There’s a reason that super-detailed planning is left to lower echelons, a reason why infantry scouts and commander’s reconnaissance are so important. Battalion commanders and above care about key terrain, terrain that has a decisive effect on planning. Showing relief in tactical games is a tough problem. For verisimilitude’s sake a designer has to account for it, especially if your design touches on those lower echelons.”

Game Design (Steve Jackson) Realism Versus Playability in Simulation Game Design — “Although there is no absolute law that says that realism and playability must be in conflict, the designer usually finds himself choosing between the two at some point. For the most effective presentation, the particular balance that should be chosen depends largely on the game’s desired audience.”

CRPGS (IGN) The Top 11 Dungeons & Dragons Games of All-Time — “Only a few small differences separated its first-person views and overhead maps from existing RPGs like Ultima and Wizardry, but it was the stuff under the hood that mattered. For the first time, we knew that a game could have all the rules of the pen-and-paper RPG while losing none of the fun. As hard as it may be to believe today, players worried that the actual D&D ruleset would prove too tedious for a video game–a worry that evaporated the moment most players got their hands on it.”

Playtesting (Google+) So, this thread has been making the rounds…  — “Specifically, I want to call out the most important thing – the real value of playtesters is in finding problems, not solving them.  By and large, you are going to discard a lot of feedback with solutions because the simple reality is that the playtester is not a position to see the whole of the context.”

Space Combat (RPG Snob) First Look at Squadron Strike — “I want to stress this point a million times – The game reads many times more complex than it works out in play. I’m not sure I’d have figured it out, even from the half-dozen examples in the rulebook, without an expert to pass along the information and to assist in translating my mistakes into teachable moments.”

Player Skill (The Dragon’s Flagon) Weapons are more than their stats — “If you want to emphasize exploration over combat, it makes all the sense in the world to play up the differences between weapons as tools.  You can drive iron spikes with a war hammer in a pinch, or perhaps with the back side of your battle axe, if it doesn’t have another blade or a spike there.  You want to pry the gemstones out of that throne?  I hope you have a dagger handy, because your fingers aren’t going to do the job.  Forgot your ten-foot pole?  No problem, if somebody’s got a spear, staff, or polearm to hand.  Heavy wooden door blocking your way?  Better have an axe, because you’re not going to do more than mess up its finish with a sword or club.  The odd little hooks and flanges on many polearms make them great for retrieving items out of arm’s reach.”

Ogre (Fallout Shelter) Why do I like OGRE and GEV? — “One guy spray painted his balsa wood rod and that was it, we all had a different color rod to point at units and used a small piece of doubled over tape on one end to ‘collect’ expired units without disturbing other units or to retrieve units in order to flip them over from active to disabled status and back again when required.”

Dungeon Design (The Adventurer’s Tomb) M is for Megadungeon — “Most dungeons are small enough that when a party wipes out a room, nothing happens if they come back to it later on. But a megadungeon is so massive and has so many creatures and factions within it, that a party might permanently change the political tide or ecological situation in an area.”

Role Playing (Tenkar’s Tavern) Thoughts on Why Old School Is So Good — “They had to plan, conserve their resources, and carefully seek allies. Half of the second game session was spent planning how to get one of the constable’s men alone and ambush him. And the plan worked! It was like watching a light turn on as I saw the players find an amazing new way to enjoy the game. At that moment, I knew they were sold.”

Relics of the Past (Dungeon of Signs) B2 Keep on the Borderlands Review — “Monsters have strategy in the text. Keep Guards, Lizardmen, the Mad Hermit and the denizens of the caves all have battle plans (some aren’t very good – but then some of these opponents are pretty stupid), and this is excellent – giving the DM an idea of how monsters will react is very helpful. Also the Caves have actual factions! The monsters will ransom captive characters and accept surrenders! Restocking the caves is encouraged! These are great suggestions, and while the notes about them are simple, I can’t understand why this sort of thing was dropped from many later products.”

Role Playing (Hack & Slash) On Heroism — “People doing a sure, safe, smart thing aren’t heroic. They are just being rational.”

Ogre (Winchell Chung) This is going to take a while — “Even though the miniatures are quite nice, they keep irking me as being not quite correct. Even though to most Ogre players they are canon.”

Game Design (Defense Linguistics Research) First Playtest — “Live playtests with players in the room is very much like revising a full length play. I had many good ideas for rules revisions while watching actual play that will cascade through my design. The cascade effect is exhausting because it generates generate a load of work, but at least it makes the plan of work come clear.”

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One response to “Blog Watch: Realism, Playability, Experience, and Playtester Comments

  1. Pingback: The “Learning Game Design” Online Course from Lewis Pulsipher | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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