30 April, 2010

Vector Theory #13: In which I get caught up in my own definitive nightmare

Those who've been reading from the beginning will be aware that I've been generating this Vector Theory because I was getting annoyed at the semantic warfare raging on in the shadows of The Forge and Story Games.

Five different people with five different interpretations of the term "Narrativism". Four people with six definitions of "Simulationism", because two of the two four can't make up their mind about the true definition and their version of the term changes depending on the context in which it's being used. One person with an adamant view on the phrase "Step On Up", despite their view running contrary to standard grammar and everyone else who has input regarding the topic.

GNS and The Big Model have evolved, and arguably they are a great way to define the theory about what happens between a group of players when they meet on a gaming table. But for a newcomer they can be really hard to penetrate, just when you think you understand it, someone comes along with a different perspective that just doesn't seem to work until you force a paradigm shift...and whose to say that the new paradigm is better, it might be simply taking into account false data from a skewed observation.

So I've been plugging away at Vector Theory, in an attempt to rationalise terminology from the perspective of particle dynamics and optics, rather than anthropology. I guess I'm trying to look at the functions of play, and using them to build up the forms, with the Big Model (the way I currently understand it) begins with the form of play, then tries to pick the component functions that lead to it.

But I've realised that my own definitions need to be clarified before I proceed too much further.

I've looked at the vectors of individual player's stories, and have considered how they can be added together to provide the vector of the groups story (thanks for that analogy Jeff, it will help in the next stage of refinement for the theory), I've started to look at how different types of nodes affect the direction of the story vector, and I've also touched on filters.

But my entry about filters seems to have some overlap on my entry about decision nodes. I really don't want this small point of conflict to infest my future posts, so I'm forcing myself to set some very specific definitions. The analogy remain the same, but I'll be clarifying some key points before I move on much further.

A lot of these issues ran through my head when I first pencilled in the ideas behind Vector Theory, but they seem to have become lost in the translation to the blog.

So I apologise for the break, but first some definitions, then back to my regularly scheduled vector rant.

29 April, 2010

A Game Design Font

I've just finished creating a font for Bunraku Nights.

It depicts the dominoes from a standard set of 28. I'll make it available shortly if anyone's interested.

But the font creation bug has hit.

I'm looking at creating a few new fonts, depicting dice of various types with each possible result.

4 images of a d4
6 images of a d6 (may 12, 1 set depicting numerals, 1 set depicting pips)
8 images of a d8
10 images of a d10
12 images of a d12
20 images of a d20

But with 128 characters possible in a font, that will leave more than half of the potential characters empty. So what do I put in the other potential character slots for my new gaming font?

Vector Theory #12: Comparison of Dualities

Good versus Evil.

Light versus Darkness.

Form vs Function.

Truth versus Lies.

When we see a dualism in the world, we naturally try to compare it to other dualisms with which we are familiar. It's easy to say Good equates to Light and Darkness equates to Evil. This is a common theme through a lot of western thought and it has become deeply ingrained in our psyche. But a comparison of the "Good versus Evil" dualism and the "Truth versus Lies" dualism starts to touch on some grey areas. Is it always good to tell the truth, what if you hurt someone's feelings in doing so? What if you expose things that make the world a darker place? Is it better to tell a "white lie" and let things progress more smoothly?

This could be argued semantically for years...and I'm sure it has been.

The reason I'm thinking about this topic is the notion of "Clocks versus Clouds". It has just been brought up in a thread on Storygames. My first response was heartfelt at the time, but it now seems pretty glib, and I've been thinking about the ideas behind it.

Clocks and Clouds may equate to Good and Evil in some people's minds. Those who like regularity will find clocks linked more closely to the "Good", those who value freeform organic chaos will see clouds as "Good". Neither perspective is more right, it's a matter of personal preference. (Just the same as Chaotic Good, Lawful Good, Chatic Evil and Lawful Evil will always be four distinct points of the compass from my mind...none of this 4th Edition D&D crap..but that's a can of worms I'll leave alone for the moment).

What I'm more interested in immediately is how the clocks and clouds dualism links into Vector Theory. I agree with the point that a roleplaying game is made up of moments of cloud play and clock play, no game solely consists of one or the other. I guess that's all a part of my beliefs in quantum mechanics and deeper level science (We're told in junior high school chemistry that all chemicals are bonded by ionic or covalent bonds, and there is a line on the periodic table that can generally be used to determine which sorts of bonds take place. Then in university we're told that there are no truly covalent or ionic bonds, all chemical bonds are actually a blend of the two on a spectrum of extremes). There is no pure black or white in the physical universe, only shades of colour and grey.

Pulling it back to Vector theory, it's an easy dualism split to compare clocks to game nodes, with the intricate mechanisms working off one another to divert to story according to predetermined means, randomised input, vector shade and speed, and a dozen other factors. On the flip side it's easy to equate clouds with story vectors, simply hurtling through the ether pushing the story onward.

But I'm not sure that this easy split is quite right.

It's like the truth/good, lies/evil split. It makes sense in most cases, but there is a significant percentage of cases where the analogy starts to waver.

Are story vectors form? Are game nodes function? This also seems to make sense at an immediate level, but analysis reveals that game nodes incorporate aspects of function when they divert the play experience, and form when their mechanisms specifically impact on the game world.

I'm reminded of the Tao, in which all Yin possesses an aspect of Yang, and all Yang possesses an aspect of Yin. It's an elegant solution to the idea that different dualities can never be fully resolved in the context of one another. But they got out of the dilemma the easy way.

Maybe my original response to the idea of clocks and clouds was simply tainted by overanalysis.

I'm afraid to say that I keep aiming for clocks but keep producing clouds.

Everything I produce aims for the streamlined elegance and mechanical smoothness of clocks, but my inner desire to keep the story moving and interesting means that my clocks are designed with chaotic subroutines to keep the players and the GM on their toes. Individually I'm producing a dozen clocks that impact on one another, and the resulting pattern has effects I can't quantify at the time of writing. Thus I produce clouds from clocks.

...suddenly I'm thinking of neural networks and cloud computing.

24 April, 2010

Some examples of Games for Goblins

There's some ideas posted at Games for Goblins, if anyone's interested in having a look.

Just some games I threw together, based on some of the ideas I had when I was illustrating the book.

They aren't meant to be complicated games, just simple things that help get creative juices flowing.

The first is called "Defending the Horde"...though that should probably read "Defending the Hoard", a tactical game where a single powerful antagonist tries to raid a goblin treasure pile while everyone else defends it. Each player takes turns as the antagonist.

The second is called "The Maiden" and it's all about Goblin courtship.

I'll be creating a few more idea for the project over the next couple of weeks regardless of whether anyone else decides to provide input. I'll be trying to make sure a combination of all the different components are used in the various games I write up.

22 April, 2010

Vector Theory #11: Filters

I just put this post up on The Forge, it's one of those things I've been trying to get towards with Vector Theory, but losing my lobe in mid-March has caused there to be a general disruption in services for the blog. (Most of my attention has been focused on activities that have a slightly better chance of earning me some money...eg. Building my suit of Iron Man armour, illustration, and actually doing the legwork and looking for jobs).

But anyway, here's a cut down version of the post (I've cut out a few of the points referencing this very blog, to avoid a post-modernist perspective loop).

If you leave it alone, a story/beam will continue traveling in a straight line. If you put mirrors in the way of the story/beam, you deflect it in a premeditated way. If you focus the beam through a series of lenses, you have a tendency to divert it to a specific point (this might be a climax, or a specific scene along the story).

Colour theory emerges with some of the deeper concepts in the thory. If you pass the story/beam through a coloured filter, then the sory becomes tinted by that form of experience.

Let's work with a hypothetical situation where combat equals red, puzzles equal blue and social play equals green.

  • Party 1: A bunch of players makes a balanced party...their starting beam of light is a balanced mix of the RGB colours...therefore white, but not very bright because of the mixture.
  • Party 2: A bunch of players just want to solve puzzles...their starting beam of light is purely blue, and very bright for this colour.
  • Party 3: A bunch of players make up their characters, mostly social types and some combatants. In additive colours, this makes their starting beam of light somewhere between red and green, but closer to red...therefore orange (and reasonably bright).

Challenge put forward to the characters cause the story to pass through correspondingly coloured filters.

Test 1: A complex puzzle (blue filter).
  • Party 1: Starting with a dull white beam, pass fairly easily through the situation (it might take them a bit of effort because their party isn't specifically tailored to this type of play). But their perception of the game will probably shift...they've encountered a puzzle so they'll expect more puzzles to arise. Their beam of light might take on a more bluish colour as they adjust their characters for puzzle solving obstacles.
  • Party 2: With a purely blue beam they pass through the situation as though it isn't even there. They are already optimised for puzzle solving play, so no changes for their beam.
  • Party 3: With no blue in their beam, they perceive the colour filter to be an impassable obstacle. Either their beam is reflected in a completely different direction, or their story ends here.

Test 2: A tense negotiation between two factions on the brink of a fight (Yellow Filter with 2 possible outcomes).
  • Party 1: There are a few options available to this group. Because they start with a white beam, they can see that there is a social (green) way through, or a combative (red) path. Depending on the path they take,
  • Party 2: Being purely intellectual (blue), this situation leaves them dumbfounded. Let's hope they have kept a way open to back out.
  • Party 3: This party sees the options available. For them, the violent red path would present no real obstacle, and it would probably cement their status within the game as warriors. They don't have as much power when pursuing the diplomatic green path, so this would be a bit more complicated for them (but still possible).

This is just an example of how colour theory would work with respect to game design theory. I would tailor the colours to the specific types of play that a game claims to produce, the types of situation potentially encountered through the game. The more focused a character is toward a specific play type, the more their beam of light is colour focused to that wavelength. The group as a whole is defined by the addition of all the character wavelengths. The obstacles met along the path of a story are similarly defined by colour combinations...the easier an obstacle is to pass through, the clearer it's filter...and if an obstacle is easier to pass with a specific strategy or play type, it starts to be coloured according to that wavelength.

I hope to expand this a bit more shortly.