Sunday, November 12, 2006

Weekly Review Nov. 5th to Nov. 11th

This is Matthew George, temporarily filling in for Mendel on this week's Weekly Review.

All Quiet on the Theory Front

A general absence of commentary settled over the game-design blogsphere this week, but some activity continued.

More Resolution and Intention

In the same Story-Games thread discussed last week, Mike Holmes points out that the distinction between a 'scene' and a 'task' is often an arbitrary one in many systems. A key issue is that the level of detail desired by players and permitted by mechanics can vary widely. Commenters offered examples of systems that provided different mechanics for the resolution of common problems designed for different kinds of player intention. Consensus on the precise distinctions between different kinds of resolution types proved elusive.

Ideal vs. Actual Play

Malcolm Sheppard posted a follow-up to his earlier statements about immersion in which it is considered that the theoretical emphasis on play may be misplaced. He postulates that some game consumers are far more interested in planning and imagining a campaign than participating in its implementation, which they find to be the least interesting aspect. He suggests that certain traits make some RPGs of particular interest to this group, especially high concept designs and intricately-detailed settings, and that the subset of players for whom playing isn't the focus of RPG enjoyment is significant enough to possibly represent an untapped niche market.

In a related but unconnected post, James McChesney's Primeval Games examines some of the essential features of successful games: specifically, that they induce players to imagine virtual worlds. Good rules actively assist players in constructing these worlds and filling them with both things and events. Few rule systems provide /everything/ needed, necessitating that players fill-in-the-blanks themselves; in the process of doing so, they make certain assumptions about how such worlds should be constructed. Designers can influence the nature of the content that players use to flesh out a world by anticipating common assumptions and adjusting their own design assumptions to either reinforce or counter them. It is interesting to note that none of the essential goals McChesney discusses require that the rulesets be imagined in a social context or that a 'game' ever be played with them, particularly in the light of Sheppard's observations.

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