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Author Topic: Interview with Donald X.  (Read 1895999 times)

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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1175 on: March 30, 2014, 09:04:15 pm »
+4

Is there material (articles, lectures, etc.) you've found useful for designing games? Either for inspiration, or nuts and bolts process, or something else?
Uh probably. I've written a bunch of essays myself, and have actually gone back and re-read them and remembered something useful (I do not wish to put in the work fixing them up to be unembarrassed enough to post them). But I've also read plenty of stuff that qualifies, Richard Garfield's essays from the Duelist, Mark Rosewater's articles and blog, wait it won't all be Magic. Knizia's dice book? I don't know if I learned anything from it but I did read it. Richard has a good essay on luck that you can find on youtube. I guess he's done it multiple times, here's one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSg408i-eKw

Mark Rosewater has had more to say about game design (focused on Magic of course) than you will find the time to read/listen to. Like, he has a podcast called Drive to Work; he realized that he wasn't getting good use out of his time in the car, so he records a podcast sometimes then. He was putting up one a week and built up a backlog and so switched to two a week. Anyway you can endlessly read/listen to his stuff. I don't agree with absolutely everything but he certainly has tons of good advice.

I've gotten a lot out of games themselves, both what to do and what not to do. Like, in a typical game of mine, there are cards with rules, and on a typical card with rules, there is a line at the bottom giving the card types. That is from Magic (I don't know if Magic got it from somewhere else). It doesn't always survive in published versions because you can also identify cards from the backs, if there are types but they aren't mixed and you don't have multiple types per card. So for example in Gauntlet of Fools, the prototype says "Weapon" at the bottom of Weapon cards, and the published version doesn't. But both versions label Encounters, since there were more possibilities there in the same deck.

Anyway play some games, learn what you like and what you hate, that's a good start for anyone.

Prior to reading William Poundstone's book Prisoner's Dilemma, I didn't know about dilemmas. Probably that book and Magic have inspired me the most. I made all these games that either had dilemmas, or Magic's interacting rules-on-cards, or both. Cosmic Encounter would be a big influence except I first got that stuff filtered through Magic. D&D has probably had an effect, even though in my day beyond "it's rules for swords & sorcery make-believe" it was a mess. Being a math guy and a computer programmer has had an effect.
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ConMan

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1176 on: March 30, 2014, 10:47:51 pm »
0

What, in your opinion, separates a game from something-that-is-not-a-game? Have you ever set out to design a game, only to discover that you'd designed something else?
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Witherweaver

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1177 on: March 30, 2014, 11:06:16 pm »
+7

What, in your opinion, separates a game from something-that-is-not-a-game? Have you ever set out to design a game, only to discover that you'd designed something else?

Is this a subtle way of asking if Donald plays cookie clicker?!
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NoMoreFun

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1178 on: March 30, 2014, 11:41:08 pm »
0

I wasn't specifically avoiding "has a when-trashed ability, also has a way to trash itself," but it's only natural that there isn't one of those. It makes the whole thing less interesting. There is a classic thing they sometimes do in Magic, where they put both pieces of a combo on the same card. It's just much less fun than when you piece the combo together yourself.

I was referring to a card with a when-trash ability that can also trash other cards, including other copies of itself. The only card with a "when-trash" ability that can trash is Rats, and Rats can't trash Rats. Why aren't there any cards like that? Wouldn't it be easier to balance the effect knowing there's guaranteed to be a trasher in the kingdom?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1179 on: March 30, 2014, 11:55:59 pm »
+9

What, in your opinion, separates a game from something-that-is-not-a-game? Have you ever set out to design a game, only to discover that you'd designed something else?
A game is a structured activity with a way to rank performance. It can be one player; you can compare your performance to someone else's or to yours at a different time. You don't need to be able to win, just to be ranked, although winning is a way to be ranked. If there's no way to rank performance then it's just something to do, and not a game.

I've never had the experience of a game of mine turning out not to be a game. But then, I'm a pro. I've designed things that aren't games, that weren't intended to be games, but only as a hobby.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1180 on: March 30, 2014, 11:58:04 pm »
+3

I wasn't specifically avoiding "has a when-trashed ability, also has a way to trash itself," but it's only natural that there isn't one of those. It makes the whole thing less interesting. There is a classic thing they sometimes do in Magic, where they put both pieces of a combo on the same card. It's just much less fun than when you piece the combo together yourself.

I was referring to a card with a when-trash ability that can also trash other cards, including other copies of itself. The only card with a "when-trash" ability that can trash is Rats, and Rats can't trash Rats. Why aren't there any cards like that? Wouldn't it be easier to balance the effect knowing there's guaranteed to be a trasher in the kingdom?
It kind of looks like I answered that in the bit you quoted. Only natural... less interesting... Magic... pieces of a combo... Yeah I think I covered it.
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AJD

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1181 on: March 31, 2014, 12:28:43 am »
+2

A game is a structured activity with a way to rank performance. It can be one player; you can compare your performance to someone else's or to yours at a different time. You don't need to be able to win, just to be ranked, although winning is a way to be ranked. If there's no way to rank performance then it's just something to do, and not a game.

Hmm, that's interesting. That suggests that something like, say, Telephone Pictionary isn't a game (draw a picture, the next person writes a caption for the picture, the next person draws a new picture for that same caption, etc.), since there's no ranking of performance that takes place. But I think most people would describe that as a game.
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ConMan

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1182 on: March 31, 2014, 12:58:05 am »
+1

What, in your opinion, separates a game from something-that-is-not-a-game? Have you ever set out to design a game, only to discover that you'd designed something else?

Is this a subtle way of asking if Donald plays cookie clicker?!
Haha, nope. I've just been doing a little study around the theory of games* and found it interesting how different people define games in different ways so I thought I'd make use of this opportunity to ask a game designer. And I'm happy with the answer I got, which also gives a little bit of insight into the mind of Mr V.

* Not related to game theory, or theory of this forum.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1183 on: March 31, 2014, 01:11:13 am »
0

Hmm, that's interesting. That suggests that something like, say, Telephone Pictionary isn't a game (draw a picture, the next person writes a caption for the picture, the next person draws a new picture for that same caption, etc.), since there's no ranking of performance that takes place. But I think most people would describe that as a game.
I think in that Richard Garfield speech I linked to, he defines "orthogames" at the start. The idea is that he wants to talk about games and doesn't want to be making statements that depend on what you think of as games - are you counting solitaire games, roleplaying games, etc. So he narrows his focus and goes with a specific subcategory (which of course is extremely broad).

Anyway if you want to know what most people think, ask most people. That's how I define games. Telephone Pictionary is just an activity, except to the degree that we rank performance. Which we certainly do some, even though it's just social. In recent months Amazon's top 25 board games (as seen on the US site) has included a commercial version of Telephone Pictionary (how does that exist), plus Rory's Story Cubes, which also isn't a game.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1184 on: March 31, 2014, 02:18:14 am »
+3

Mark Rosewater has had more to say about game design (focused on Magic of course) than you will find the time to read/listen to.
His (weekly Magic) article for today (well Monday) is a good example. This one is about "lenticular" design - making cards that seem simple to new players but have strategic complexity for advanced players.

http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/mm/293
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NoMoreFun

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1185 on: March 31, 2014, 02:30:06 am »
0

I wasn't specifically avoiding "has a when-trashed ability, also has a way to trash itself," but it's only natural that there isn't one of those. It makes the whole thing less interesting. There is a classic thing they sometimes do in Magic, where they put both pieces of a combo on the same card. It's just much less fun than when you piece the combo together yourself.

I was referring to a card with a when-trash ability that can also trash other cards, including other copies of itself. The only card with a "when-trash" ability that can trash is Rats, and Rats can't trash Rats. Why aren't there any cards like that? Wouldn't it be easier to balance the effect knowing there's guaranteed to be a trasher in the kingdom?
It kind of looks like I answered that in the bit you quoted. Only natural... less interesting... Magic... pieces of a combo... Yeah I think I covered it.

I thought you were talking about oneshots, but it makes sense now.
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Ozle

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1186 on: March 31, 2014, 04:04:44 am »
0

Figuring this out isn't great; if there's something left and I end up making another expansion, I'd just as soon the amazing vanilla card is a surprise.

Comments like this are basically what keep me going in life.

Told you so.....
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SirPeebles

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1187 on: March 31, 2014, 07:23:07 am »
+5

A game is a structured activity with a way to rank performance. It can be one player; you can compare your performance to someone else's or to yours at a different time. You don't need to be able to win, just to be ranked, although winning is a way to be ranked. If there's no way to rank performance then it's just something to do, and not a game.

Hmm, that's interesting. That suggests that something like, say, Telephone Pictionary isn't a game (draw a picture, the next person writes a caption for the picture, the next person draws a new picture for that same caption, etc.), since there's no ranking of performance that takes place. But I think most people would describe that as a game.

Telephone Pictionary is pretty dense with ranking as far as I see it.  At the end of the line, you get to find out if you correctly guessed the picture you saw or if the next person was able to guess your picture.  You can feel from the collective laughter or mood how people felt about your contribution to the link.  I guess I could imagine some soulless version where no comparison or reaction is made at the end, but I can't see humans choosing to do that.
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soulnet

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1188 on: March 31, 2014, 03:18:19 pm »
+1

I wasn't specifically avoiding "has a when-trashed ability, also has a way to trash itself," but it's only natural that there isn't one of those. It makes the whole thing less interesting. There is a classic thing they sometimes do in Magic, where they put both pieces of a combo on the same card. It's just much less fun than when you piece the combo together yourself.

This seems contradictory with this:

Quote from: Donald X. (attributed)
Minion: The original version of this was a "choose one" card with three messy abilities. It was too messy and also too narrow, and so left. Later on I was looking for an attack to replace another attack that hadn't worked out, and thought of this. Originally the "discard, draw 4" ability only worked on yourself, but it seemed like it would make a cute attack if it hit everybody. The problem was that it was still too narrow - you would not always have a combo that made that exciting enough. The solution, proposed by Chris West, was to have the card be a combo with itself. You can play a couple copies for +$2, and then play one to get a fresh hand. For simplicity there is no 3rd ability.

I also count myself as one of the guys that do not agree with definitions of games as ranking. For me, building things with Lego or geomags are definitely games without structure or a proper way of ranking, and make-believe indians and cowboys, or playing house, or doctor, or doctor house, are definitely games. But, whatever, I do not mind disagreeing here at all and probably nobody else minds as well.

But, I do have a problem with your definition: it seems to encompass formal studies (high school, university) as games, since they are structured and provide a way to rank performance. Also medicine does that, and I do not think that dieting or exercising for health are nice to be qualified as games just because you can rank their performance.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 03:21:21 pm by soulnet »
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Watno

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1189 on: March 31, 2014, 04:02:34 pm »
+2

Minion is not a fun card so I don't see any contradiction :P
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1190 on: March 31, 2014, 04:06:51 pm »
+19

This seems contradictory with this:
Minion is a combo with another Minion, because otherwise the "discard your hand draw 4" ability would be bad way too often, and that ability can't be thrown in for free on something already worth having. You can argue that it should have been the Counting House of the set; that isn't the way I went. In Magic of course it's different because you pick what cards to play with out of a larger pool. Anyway yes, I broke any rules I had whenever I either didn't know better or had a good reason.

I also count myself as one of the guys that do not agree with definitions of games as ranking. For me, building things with Lego or geomags are definitely games without structure or a proper way of ranking, and make-believe indians and cowboys, or playing house, or doctor, or doctor house, are definitely games. But, whatever, I do not mind disagreeing here at all and probably nobody else minds as well.
I don't see the beauty of having all playing count as gaming. To me it is getting less use from the words.

But, I do have a problem with your definition: it seems to encompass formal studies (high school, university) as games, since they are structured and provide a way to rank performance. Also medicine does that, and I do not think that dieting or exercising for health are nice to be qualified as games just because you can rank their performance.
Well if we compare performances, that's a competition. I guess it's fair to say that attitude is relevant; sometimes "race you to that tree" is a game, and sometimes there is a bear after us.
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Witherweaver

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1191 on: March 31, 2014, 04:10:51 pm »
+3

Well if we compare performances, that's a competition. I guess it's fair to say that attitude is relevant; sometimes "race you to that tree" is a game, and sometimes there is a bear after us.

Haha, this is like the best "perspective matters" quote I've ever seen.

Edit: Or.. context matters.  Or whatever, I just like it.
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LastFootnote

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1192 on: March 31, 2014, 04:31:32 pm »
0

Just out of curiosity, was Governor intended to self-combo, or is that just coincidence? "Gain a Gold" combos very well with "trash a card and gain one costing $2 more" and of course "+3 Cards" just helps you get them all together. The result is often a mad rush on Governors.

I used to really dislike Governor for this reason. Lately I've come around on it, realizing that Governor games are often about getting the most out of the stuff you get handed for free. But I'm curious about its development.
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SirPeebles

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1193 on: March 31, 2014, 04:36:44 pm »
+4

This seems contradictory with this:
Minion is a combo with another Minion, because otherwise the "discard your hand draw 4" ability would be bad way too often, and that ability can't be thrown in for free on something already worth having. You can argue that it should have been the Counting House of the set; that isn't the way I went. In Magic of course it's different because you pick what cards to play with out of a larger pool. Anyway yes, I broke any rules I had whenever I either didn't know better or had a good reason.

hmm, putting the "discard your hand draw 4" option on Counting House instead could have been interesting.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1194 on: March 31, 2014, 05:07:31 pm »
+2

Just out of curiosity, was Governor intended to self-combo, or is that just coincidence? "Gain a Gold" combos very well with "trash a card and gain one costing $2 more" and of course "+3 Cards" just helps you get them all together. The result is often a mad rush on Governors.

I used to really dislike Governor for this reason. Lately I've come around on it, realizing that Governor games are often about getting the most out of the stuff you get handed for free. But I'm curious about its development.
It was no secret that that combo was there. But the point was really just to provide three good options that worked when it wasn't your turn. The card is imitating Puerto Rico (and has art from Puerto Rico), and came out for some anniversary of Puerto Rico. So it's got that "we all get it but it's better for me" mechanic and then had to do things that actually worked. Drawing cards and gaining silver/gold were automatic, they were terse and compelling. And then what else was there? I hadn't done Remodel yet and it sounded better than Bishop or Duchess.

Jay originally asked for a Power Grid tie-in, which also had an anniversary, but I didn't have any good ideas there. Plus it had to be a victory card, because of Friese's green theme. Puerto Rico was easy.
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blueblimp

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1195 on: March 31, 2014, 06:53:55 pm »
0

I also count myself as one of the guys that do not agree with definitions of games as ranking. For me, building things with Lego or geomags are definitely games without structure or a proper way of ranking, and make-believe indians and cowboys, or playing house, or doctor, or doctor house, are definitely games. But, whatever, I do not mind disagreeing here at all and probably nobody else minds as well.
One way I've seen it described is that there are toys, and you can either play with toys or play games with toys, and those are different. Lego is a toy, and building things with Lego is playing with toys. If you start introducing rules and objectives for how you build things, then it becomes a game.
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soulnet

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1196 on: March 31, 2014, 07:00:02 pm »
0

One way I've seen it described is that there are toys, and you can either play with toys or play games with toys, and those are different. Lego is a toy, and building things with Lego is playing with toys. If you start introducing rules and objectives for how you build things, then it becomes a game.

Ok, that makes sense. In any case, which I really dislike is the "rank performance" part. The Telephone Pictionary example was better.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1197 on: March 31, 2014, 07:01:14 pm »
0

Fun + objective = game.

I think that's all that's necessary?
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Tables

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1198 on: March 31, 2014, 07:14:15 pm »
0

Fun + objective = game.

I think that's all that's necessary?

Possibly necessary, but certainly not sufficient. Going for a jog isn't a game for example. Or watching a film with friends. Or many other examples of things that are both fun, have objectives and aren't games.

In fact I don't even think those two are necessary. Monopoly is a game and only satisfies one of the conditions.
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...spin-offs are still better for all of the previously cited reasons.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1199 on: April 01, 2014, 11:31:20 am »
+3

Monopoly is a game and only satisfies one of the conditions.

Debatable.
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