• Random Movie Quote

    Chili Palmer: Rough business, this movie business. I’m gonna have to go back to loan-sharking just to take a rest

    — Get Shorty (1995)

Chasing Down a Dream

g3173I 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.

 

Diceless???

lunaMy 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!

The Crazy Brain Won

If you are a regular reader of this site, you may have already read the epic struggle between Me, my Crazy Brain, and my Perfectionist Brain.

If you haven’t read it, go here and do so. I’ll wait.

You’re back? Good.

Personally, I don’t mind the Crazy Brain at all. When it gives me an idea I can work with, I can get positively euphoric as I play with it in my head. However, it can also lead me down some tangents when I am working on a project. I can be quite the idea machine, but if I don’t spend any time actually developing them, they go nowhere.

I can get so bad that in our last gaming session together, Ralph Mazza wanted to show me a game that is somewhat similar to what I am doing, but then told me it was probably better that he didn’t because it might give me ideas.

I have been working diligently on Dream Palace for the last few weeks, but the Perfectionist Brain had been holding the project hostage. “Is this a Competitive game or a Cooperative game?” it kept asking me. Actually, this was an important question since it would affect how the game ends. Dream Palace has major elements of both. It is Cooperative since all the players are striving to come up with an entertaining story. However, it is also Competitive since all the players are jockeying to influence the story.

Miraculously, my answer was delivered to me. I have been reading  The Art of Game Design: a book of lenses by Jesse Schell. There is a section in there that addressed the question and allowed me to come up with an answer. There are some already established games that can be played both Competitively and Cooperatively!

A primary example was the old arcade game Joust. It has a “Survival Phase” in which both players need to live through in order to get 3000 bonus points, and a “Gladiator Phase” in which on must kill the other to get the 3000 bonus points.

Being able to play either way made sense for Dream Palace. A movie is primarily the combined effort of those involved, but there is always the possibility of a single star rising from the ashes or a poor movie. So, the Crazy Brain’s idea about Star Power tokens will be added to Dream Palace.

Star Power tokens will be awarded to active Cast members by members of the Audience for actions in the story that entertain them. It’s given me something to think about for the endgame, but should slow down the development of the rest of the it.

Thank you, Crazy Brain!

A Tale of Three Brains

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. The closer I get to the end of a project, the slower I seem to go. As I reach completion, the crazy little part of my brain keeps coming up with new ideas. It can’t help itself. It gets bored with real work. However, it will take the entire project hostage until I address its demands. It nags at me until i either include the new ideas or lay them to rest.

In this case, I am trying to finish up the beta of Dream Palace. For weeks, the crazy brain has been trying to convince me to include a point system in Dream Palace to determine a winner for the end of the game. I decided that it was unworkable and unnecessary. The Crazy Brain countered by asking me what the objective of the game was. I knew I was in major trouble now since it had gotten help from the Perfectionist Brain.

The problem with the Perfectionist Brain is that it actually wants evidence when I tell it that it is wrong. The problem with that in the case of Dream Palace is that the game system is a brand new concept. When a conflict arises in a story, it doesn’t ask, “Did you succeed?” It asks, “Who has control of the story?’ This new concept makes it extremely difficult to come up with prior examples. So, I had to logic it out. ME versus the Perfectionist Brain:

ME: I can’t use that point system. This is not a competitive game. :

PB: It’s not cooperative, either. You have the players competing.

ME: Only because movies have a Protagonist and Antagonist. Conflict drives a story.

PB: Then you need a winner, don’t you? You must have a winner, or you are not making a game. You are making a toy. You need that point system to make it into a real game. (I could sense it smiling evil at me.)

Me: Hold on. In roleplaying games, who are the players playing against? Who is the opponent?

PB: The gamemaster, of course. Duh.

ME: Wrong! The gamemaster cannot be the opponent since he is primarily a referee. He cannot win a game. The opponents are the fictional ones in the adventure itself. The players win by overcoming them. Dream Palace has its objective – to overcome the opposing side of the story, whether it be Protagonist or Antagonist.

PB: (Flaps its mouth uselessly, trying to think of something to say.)

So work continues until I finish it.. or have another idea.