Today I’ve been murdering a lot of darlings, or at least I think I have. What’s perhaps more interesting than the details is a question I posed myself after a bit of pondering:
How can you tell the difference between murdering a darling and editing out anything else? Do darlings squeal more?
Well I suppose the difference is that a ‘darling’ is a mechanic that you really like and want to keep. So when you push the backspace key, there’s a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes.
Such is the cold ruthless life of games design.
Strangely that’s not so far from the truth.
True but how much is destroyed and how much just ticks over in the back of the mind to be resurrected in something new in a variant.
As I said a while back, https://quirkworthy.com/2011/11/07/design-theory-keep-a-notebook/
Don’t let any good ideas escape, even if this time they aren’t in the right place. You never know when you’ll find their home.
I agree for the most part with Murdering Darlings but I am not sure if I agree with the current trend in game design, which is too simplify mechanics as much as possible. I am of the hopeful opinion that this will, like all trends eventually pass and that games mechanics will head in a different direction.
While I agree that rules/games gain no benefit from overly complex or unused rules, what tends to happen currently IMO is gaming systems are Dumbed down too far at the cost of player Choice/Options. Also as a side effect of gaming systems cutting out Stats or so called over complexities these games when expanded need whole sections of special rules because the basic mechanics lack the options to cover a wide enough spectrum but the inclusion of special rule, after special rule, new skill after new skill has too massive issues. Firstly these come at the cost of game balance, since it is impossible to keep balanced all the options when said rule is an ‘exception’, secondly it comes at the cost of understanding systems require constant erratas & ever expanding Q&A’s as gamers as well as even the game designers themselves get lost in debating which exception takes precedent. Many games developed now days would be vastly improved by more initial depth rather than end up as the stagnant mess that they are swiftly becoming.
Just throwing some petrol on the fires of discussion…Crimsonsun
On the surface I think you may be right about a current trend for slick and simple (perhaps at the cost of depth in places – though personally I strive to avoid that issue). however, there are so many games being released that there are always detailed and involved examples for those who are interested. What I think you’re seeing is that the big names are enjoying simplicity at present. The wheel will turn again, I am sure. Just give it time.
One thing I do in my owen designs is that I move elements of what is being modelled from where it might traditionally lie to somewhere else. Thus the facets are all included, just not where you might expect to find them if what you use for reference is other games. There’s also a clear debate about what is dumbed down and what is just simplified. Everyone has a slightly different take on that.
The principle of removing stats and replacing them with special rules is, I think, a good one in many cases. For example, in God of Battles, all units have a melee and a defence stat as all units use both. However, a shooting stat is only given as a special rule to those units which can use it. Warhammer, on the other hand, gives all models a shooting stat. As missile units are in a small minority in both games you are left with the choice between making every unit’s stat line longer and more complex for the sake of a minority, or leaving it out and needing a special rule to note the ability. Obviously I think that a universally functional stat line and appropriate special rules is a better system. The balance comes when you have stats which apply to most units. Where is the tipping point? What fraction of the units need to use a stat to make it worthwhile as a stat rather than a special rule?
The debate about precedence and so on with special rules is a matter for playtest and revision. As you say, as games expand they need periodic revision and perhaps second editions where the playing field is levelled again. The general issue with this sort of thing is that few people have the luxury of working through and balancing the whole breadth of what a game might become before any of it is released.
I agree with what you are saying as a whole, and I have no issue with special rules, they will always be needed and they really help to give a system some character and depth. My concerns are due too over simplification of rules which then need to be constantly added to time and time again, in my opinion 99% of the special rules should be in the rulebook for a wargame, skirmish/board games are a little different due to expansions bringing in on going campaigns etc – for example I have no issues with how you have gone about bringing forward the Dreadball rules for the most part Season1 had the basics, 2 looked at league play, 3 multi player. They all offer something that is above and beyond what the previous season covered, additions to the rules overall rather than just adding rules here and there. On the other hand I am less pleased with the skills for the new teams constantly being added because I feel this can lead to a loss of balance in the core system, it would have been better to release all the skill upgrades etc in season 1 apart from where they directly apply to a rules expansion (as in league, multi player, criminal) but I realise this is in a large part due to how the Kickstarter took off from what you had planned for.
Though I feel your example could have been better (I have never met someone who had difficulty not understanding that a BS 0 model could not use missile weapons) the dropping stats where not required is fine. I also find your question to what signifies Dumbing down or not, going to the easiest or most well known example Warhammer I have issues with the 8th edition and wont play it for a multitude of reasons. Some of these reasons I could argue on various grounds but its largely taste but the 8th edition in my opinion dumbed down rules, sadly it also brought back some things I liked about 4 and 5th edition but the core rules changes were too big for me to want to continue playing.
What do I mean by dumbing down the rules: 2 things, pre-measurement, including the loss of guess ranges – I cannot see a reason for why this is needed.Secondly though which is the more serious issue, random charge range! I was utterly lost when I discovered this change, it as well as pre-measurement makes luck > Skill and thus not a system I will support. This is sad because I prefer some parts of the current edition – Namely universal Magic Items (needs to be more because options are thin at higher pts but this helps hugely to balance the system) as well as the re-empowerment of magic (though this also needs some work on the 8 big core spells and in scaling for high pts games).
On the other hand there were changes way back from 5th to 6th that I could argue were dumbing down but in reality I was less keen on because of taste. This was the equalising of stats across the board, making heroes far weaker and reducing units in wounds/toughness/strength/attacks as well as pts to encourage larger battles. I like the larger battles but liked the Heroic heroes, because if I wanted to play a unit game Id play a historical version. I chose to play High Fantasy – meaning I want Big Dragons, mighty Heroes and power-fuelled wizards to be a massive feature. Yet this is taste no matter how I argue it, sadly it means I am searching for a new replacement high fantasy system, but have not found one yet. The one that gives me the best feel atm is Avatars of War but they have no current plans for a english Translation.
Right I need to go I actually have some forum adminning to get done else where, but I look forward to continuing the discussion.
Sorry to continue a bit more – I hope you dont mind!? I feel that sometimes the simple addition of a statistic could solve problems, especially once you start to look at games with a lower model count and thus a more detailed rules set.
For example – If in DeadZone you decided that stealth and ambush would be an interesting addition too the core rules it would IMO be easier to add in some form of wits skill which would set up an opposed test between the seeker & the hider, this would be 1 stat that would make sense quickly and easily, and although you could modify of statistics maybe using survival against shooting to spot the hidden model it would feel artificial and IMO make balancing those stats really hard because you would have too many variables. Now you could just add a rule on some models that they could hide, and to shoot them you would need to test against command or shooting if x or more range away, and that hidden models gain bonus dice to fight/shooting, but this would A) need extra tables of modifiers for cleanliness and clarity as well once again putting additional weight upon those few characteristics which would be REALLY difficult to quantify in terms of balance.
Now on the other hand you could decide that a more multi dimensional statistic would be agility and that seeking could be part of command values because that is a good way of indicating battlefield awareness. While the Agility statistic could be used to ‘lighten the load’ of several skills already in use – Eg jumping/climbing overwatch reactions, hiding, dodging in melee combat (or providing a bonus to survival, maybe counting as armour on passed rolls or even allowing an Ag test following a ‘fight action’ with varying difficulty to allow free movement/positioning type actions – thus bringing into play the advantages of being lightly armoured but quick against heavily protected juggernauts). As I have just shown adding one Statistic opens up tons of options that would require FAR more special rules to cover, and obviously the more rules you have that effectively stack the harder it is too account for issues and thus the more problems that are likely to arise. Stats are in there very nature easier to balance as they have a direct quantitative value, the more you have the more precise you can tailor your design, now obviously this is on a balance with redundancy – having multiple stats that do slight variations of the same thing is pointless confusing and overly complex for no good reason and thus is the difficulty in games design (along with making a game have originality, actually I think approaching a game with a clean mental slate is a better way of putting it – so the concepts are yours)
Another key part of this topic is the term ‘balance’ and its role/importance in gaming. Now I know from this post and others I have made it would seem like balance is something I rate of very high importance which is in fact more of a fallacy than a reality. I am not a competitive gamer, I play for developing stories and to help feed my imagination, to me a hard core win or Ive failed mentality is a far stretch from fun, but to be fun a system must have a reasonable application of balance – I dont care about winning but I do want to know I have not lost before the games even begun, and this is why balance is often on my mind. Also if a game is going to exist in a tournament enviroment then it has to be level or the game will effectively fail as players will swiftly discover the ‘I win’ build and games become luck > skill.
Now saying that I also love to break down a games mechanics; to a power gaming level for purely intellectual reasons, I do not mean being a rules ‘munchkin’ (normally referred too as a rules lawyer) who is looking for loop whole to gain an in game advantage which clearly goes against what the designer intentioned (yes people can argue how do you know what was intended though I am sure this is only the same guys cause 99% of the time we know the intended rule, and if its unclear or ambiguous then the community will keep asking for clarity until a ruling is made). I mean looking at perfectly legal options and designing a force that will be a nightmare to deal with for what every reason, testing it and then moving on to something else. I find such engagements against my opponents a huge amount of fun as we engage in this constant battle to out smart each other before the game has begun, which only makes the actual gaming even more engaging as we attempt to put our super plans into action.
So the point – If I ever had one? Is yes clear away clutter, but I worry (especially with the current game design mentality) that games are losing too much clutter in the core only to have it dumped back on when the game is returned too for expansions. Now I post on your blog for several reasons but mostly because I really like how open you are with your design concepts and are always willing to listen & debate the merits and reasons of them. I may not always be in agreement with your choices but because of how you interact with the gaming community I can understand them and as such I will always be a supporter of games you have designed that fit into my areas of interest. I would also like too say that I know in many of my rambling posts I can be critical or be exclaiming my concerns that would could be inferred as a negative view on your design ideas but I only do so to gain clearer insight into your reasoning, as well as to highlight ideas you may have over looked and most importantly I only do so because I have seen that if you have overlooked something you will fix it rather than hide your head in the sand and if you do not agree that you will throw those highlighted points back in my face (in the nicest possible way of course :p) with reasons, what I am saying is I am only negative and critical for purposes of debate, and to offer you with alternative perspectives.
Thanks for reading Crimsonsun
Sorry one last comment, I was wondering if you had considered a statistic like Agility in Deadzone, and what were your reasons against it. I ask for terms of hiding ambush style actions, which I could see being useful with the variable missions as it would allow a new dimension in concepts or options for the players to complete them. I also feel it could lighten some of the other duties that the core stats provide without any redundancy. I am also bringing this forwards because to add on special rules to open up these options later would be really clunky, and needing too many IMO extra rules + exceptions to do later, and adding a Statistic later would actually either force it to have redundancy or be confusing as it takes roles that were previously done against a differing stat – in other words a mess.
I actually think thats the best way of describing what meaning I wanted to convey: An extra statistic applied in the core games design will lessen confusion as long as it actively opens options without creating redundancy. While special rules are great for little changes but any changes that will apply to multiple situations and models should be handled in the core to avoid balance & confusion issues as they overly complicate matters…
wow I will leave you be now, though I will say I am keen/intrested to hear your thoughts both hear and in response to my comment on the Deadzone campaign systems, though I do not expect/demand such a reply….