Archive for the ‘Critical Strike’ Category

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The Seed strikes back!

July 9, 2007

Hi Jon! Let’s talk about things!

You’re right, as far as I can tell, about the ancestry of this game. I like having this ‘mythic heritage’ game as a sort of chronicle of where my head-in-design in at any given time, and it’s a lot of fun to pull structural bits out of older games and see how they fit together. Like Legos!

I have to think a lot about those challenges you’ve pointed out, I think, ’cause they aren’t exactly parallel to the challenges I see, and they’re interesting and hard! I’d really like to tackle 3.4 in a serious way; how do you herd creative people so they receive the shakti you are trying to impart to them, while enabling them to bring out the goodness inside them?

Following that, I’m really excited that that section about heroic traditions works for you! It’s hard to let go of formalities and talk in terms of guidelines and blurry thought processes, for lots of reasons; my personal #1 is that it’s hard to trust gamers to follow them. #2’s something like, I have these intuitions, right? It’s a long process dissecting those intuitive leaps into something that is accessible for people that don’t have the Borgstrom weakness (squee!).

Anyway, we’ll catch you next time on Critical Strike, when I post some thoughts about…something. Maybe the avatargame, although I have covered that in earlier posts. We’ll see.

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Critical Strike on the Seed

July 8, 2007

So Shreyas and I were talking about picking one day each week, probably on the weekend, to write about each other’s projects instead of our own. We need a name for it. Right now, we’re calling them like: Write About The Other Guy’s Stuff Days, which is lame. Maybe we should just call them Critical Strikes. “Boom, hit you with my constructive criticism! Take that!”

In my head, Story of the Seed is part of a series of Shreyasian designs that includes multiple versions of Torchbearer (the game Shreyas was fiddling with when I first met him on the Forge in 2002) and goes through In Darkness He Is Waiting (PDF draft) and a few other things, like the first time he fiddled with boardgame-like setups in Ninegun Choir (PDF of character sheet).

Now, not to pigeon-hole Shreyas, but here’s the continuities I see between them (this is how I think, partially from my pseudo-academic training, looking for continuities and differences):

  1. Strong focus on aesthetics, both of the game text and, more so, of the rules itself. The rules should seem really pretty when you consider them in your head (or look at their physical representations in character sheets or play objects) as well as being capable of producing neat stuff at the game table.
  2. All of them, I think, reflect Shreyas trying to come to term with or, really, produce an expression of his own mythic heritage, the stories that he grew up with as a kid and young adult. Many of these are about India, but not all of them are, and even the stories about India are not necessarily stories from India, so it’s a very diverse batch.
  3. Many of them are very difficult to play if you are not Shreyas, Mridangam being the classic example. There are multiple reasons for this:
    1. Many of them started out as thought-experiments and have only secondarily become playable games,
    2. Shreyas has a little bit of that Rebecca Borgstom genius that makes it harder for him to communicate his insanely awesome ideas effectively, since sometimes he just thinks orthogonally from other people,
    3. His ornate, poetic writing style (which is awesome and a key part of #1) makes it more difficult for him to convey some of the subtleties and specific details that he has in mind, and, most significantly of all,
    4. His projects really demand that players take initiative and ownership of the game (making it their game and not Shreyas’ game) and put a fair bit of effort into making it work, since he really wants people to grab this stuff and run with it (though he has specific directions in mind for them to run in).

#3 above is basically a list of what I think Shreyas’ main challenges are, as a designer, and most of them involve being able to effectively communicate his desires for the game to prospective players. His last post, Using Heroic Traditions is a great example of him making it work. There, he is really up front about the limits of his ability to tell players what he wants them to do. He says:

    I can’t really tell you obvious, visceral ways to do this, because the traditional conflicts are very inward-turning, so instead I’ll give you strategies.

And then he gives examples of the kinds of things he wants players to do. Which is totally hot. Who needs hard rules when you have examples and guidelines? If you teach people how to do something, then they don’t really need rules, since they have some idea of what the result should look like and can keep aiming for it. I honestly think this kind of writing/design may be a really cool thing for him to explore further.  It enables him to put forth beautiful ideas for other people to riff off of, instead of going into complex explanations.  Surely the former is also more fun, no?

Anyway, there’s some initial thoughts. Maybe next week I can talk about why Minotaur excites me so much.