There has been a thought that I have been fighting with lately. Instead of coming up with an original gaming system, why don’t I simply use one of the many systems that have an open license? That way, I can skip the work in creating the system. I might also attract fans of that system into my camp. It’s a very tempting thought: Adaption instead of Innovation.
Why would I consider this after making so much noise over the years about innovation in game design? Simply because it’s easier to move with the herd.
The Same Thing, Only Different
Have you ever wondered why Hollywood very rarely makes anything new? Their movies are usually continuations of franchises, reboots of old hits, or adaptations from other media. The reason for this lack of innovation is simply that they want a return on the money invested. Making familiar movies is a safe way to insure there is an audience to see them.
It works the same way in the gaming industry. Why are there so many games where the main activity is fighting monsters in a Tolkienesqe setting? Why do so many of them use dice? Because that is what the first roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons did. Now it is the standard for all other roleplaying games. To wander away from that standard is to risk failure. Even D&D’s 4th Edition, with all the changes it made to the rules, failed because it was too different from what it’s audience expected.
Still don’t believe me? Then check out the protests that go up every time a fresh version of the Star Wars or Star Trek franchise comes out. Just look at the ugliness that arose because they introduced a female Doctor Who.
So, to succeed in my game design, the smart move is to make a game that uses one of the popular roleplaying systems. All I need to do is add a bit of new content to make it appear fresh. It would be so easy.
It would also be wrong. Why should I go to the trouble of making a halfhearted try at writing a game? My job is to deliver a unique and powerful experience to the players. I’ve seen it before. I know it can happen. It’s just not going to be easy.
I have decided to call the path I have been on the Merry-Go-Round. Originally, I had envisioned Dream System using a diceless mechanic that used a token auction to resolve conflicts. I hit a snag, and switched over to one that used six-sided dice. I decided to use cards when I wasn’t happy with the dice mechanics. Then I came up with yet another mechanic that used polyhedral dice. It didn’t meet my original goals for the game. By then I had worked out some of the original problems with the Token Auction. When that line of design collapsed, I worked out a better way for the card mechanic to work…
I had to do a lot of thinking about this post. The main reason is that I wanted to make certain that this wasn’t just another Crazy Brain tangent. I’ve been flailing around with the rules for Dream Palace and the Luna System for a long time now. . . too long. While I’ve had some really good ideas and come close to making a complete game, something has been holding me back. So I decided to pull back from both projects and look at them from a distance.
There were elements that worked excellently in both games, but there were also some aspects of both games that simply were not working for me. Then I tried looking past the rules and tried to see what I, as a gamer, was actually after.
I have stated before that I am looking for a game that will keep up with my imagination. I’ve been happiest with freeform roleplaying online. If you say you do something in freeform, Boom! it’s done! The only time you have a conflict is if another player disagrees with what you have played out.
It finally hit me that I have been trying to design for what I think other people will like, and not for myself. I know that sounds foolish, especially since this is a company that makes games for other people to play. However, game design is also an art. If I, the designer, am not making something that I would not want play myself, how can I expect anyone else to want to play it? I want to make something Amazing. Dream Palace and Luna are close to what I want, but they aren’t quite there.
So, I am announcing the creation of the Dream System. I’ll be taking elements of both Dream Palace and Luna and merging them with some new ideas. Wish me luck! Maybe this time I’ll get a game that works At the Speed of Imagination.
Recently, I watched Geek & Sundry’s episode of Tabletop where they played Mice and Mystics. If you have never seen Tabletop before, I would encourage you to watch it. Not only is it informative about the games it covers, but it is also very entertaining.
At the beginning of the video, Wil Wheaton brings up the “RPG in a Box.” Mice & Mystics fits into this category since it is a hybrid of roleplaying and board games. I consider this a good move since the gaming industry needs more entry-level roleplaying games to keep them alive and thriving in the market.
My Crazy Brain is trying to make me die a pauper. First, it led me to try a Fudge dice mechanic for Luna. Then it brought up a mechanic based on Yahtzee. I bought a slew of dice in anticipation of using these new systems, worked out some of the problems that popped up. . . and now it wants me to design Luna so that it doesn’t use dice.
DICELESS!!! For Heaven’s Sake!
So, the challenge is to build a mechanic that doesn’t make use of a randomizer, but will still be fun to play. For those of you not in the know when it comes to game design, there is a general prejudice against non-random games. This has mostly to do with the expectation that there won’t be any surprises. I can understand this. There is a thrill to gambling with the life of your character.
So how do I justify making use of diceless mechanics in Luna? The random element can also lead to a behavior called “turtling.” The player makes certain that their character only performs the safest moves and has as much protection as possible. Or they may put together some unbeatable attack that they use over and over. The risk the players say that they want is almost completely nullified by their actions in-game. This goes against the principle of Being Awesome that I want to encourage.
A non-randomized system would also be a step closer to “Games That Play Like Fiction.” How hard the player works for something should be the determining factor on whether they succeed or fail.
Well, back to work on this. I will keep you informed with further updates. Be sure to leave comments!