... now with 35% more arrogance!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Game Design Sucks

Someone asked a question on the RPG Site several days ago: "Does good game design really matter?"

The thread quickly became a stupid argument about whether an inherently subjective opinion could secretly be objective, but to that original question, I say, "Hell no!" The shift to so-called "game design" was one of the worst things to happen to RPGs.

I mean, look at the history of D&D. It didn't start with "game design", it started with Dave Arneson saying "hey, instead of re-creating a historical battle or battles from Tolkien, let's have an adventure!" Everything at first was a house rule or re-purposed mechanic from some other game. That continued to be true when Gygax came into the picture; he was perhaps more systematic, but there's still very little "game design" in the sense of fretting over balance issues or fine-tuning progression rates or setting up synergies or whatever the latest jackass thing is that people are talking about.

As Michael Mornard described it in many a forum thread: "We made shit up that we thought would be fun". I wish RPGs would return to that principal of "game design".

And P.S.: I do not want to see yet another "resolution mechanic". Mechanics are the least important part of the game. All the good ones have been thought of already, and you can substitute one for another with very little effect. They are crap. And a waste of time, because anytime someone comes up with a new resolution mechanic, the next thing they do is post on some forum: "can someone help me with the probabilities behind this new resolution mechanic?" Here, let me help you: Your probabilities suck. Go back to one of the old standards.

11 comments:

  1. Of course good game design matters!

    Much as I love old D&D, there's a lot of things that don't make sense about it, that are more complicated than they need to be, or that make the game less fun than it could be for people.

    That's what good game design is about - it's not about "balance", or "synergy", or - as you point out - about resolution mechanics. If that's not what you're designing around, I agree - that's stupid.

    It's about making the game simple, sensible, and fun!

    Heck, good game design is why I read your blog - you have so many interesting things to say about game design! I don't always agree, but it's always interesting.

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    1. Whoops, there's a "not" where there shouldn't be! Should read: "If that's what you're designing around, I agree - that's stupid."

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  2. At my regular weekly game, whenever I hear someone say the word, "system" I have to fight down the urge to punch them in the face.
    After enthusiastically discussing how game a is different from game b for years, I have gotten sick of the subject.
    The thing I liked about role playing games when I first started playing them was I didn't really need to know very much to start playing. "Rules from life" applied. If the DM told me we came to a river, we could try to swim it, turn back, try to build a raft, find a bridge, etc., all of which were things I could envision doing in real life. But when the people sitting around the table start getting more worried about feats or discussing whether or not hitpoints are 'realistic' or whether it's fair that the fighter is 'more powerful' than the cleric, I start to think that we've lost sight of what the original came was about and crawled so far up our own gamer asses that we might not even understand what makes RPGs different from other games... and I don't mean funny voices.

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  3. In my experience, games that are obviously carefully designed leave me feeling cold and uninterested, there's just something about them that doesn't grab me. Too clinical and too try-hard perhaps. Whereas games that focus on fun, game designed be damned, those are the games that are filled with passion and joy, and which fill me with the urge to grab the dice and play.

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    1. I realize you probably just dropped a word by accident, but I really want to see a "game designed be damned".

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    2. Ha, now that I've reread that, I realize I was interpreting it wrong. Still want to see a game that was designed to be damned, though. Or the game designs of the damned.

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    3. Yeah, I should've slowed down a bit while typing that, it should of course read "game design be damned". But it's always good to amuse another and that's worth more than my sentiment. :-)

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    4. A game designed to be fun is still "designed." I think simpler rules are more fun than complicated ones, but that is my Humble Opinion. Your mileage may vary.

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  4. I think you've ratcheted up the arrogance by about 50% with this one! As a dude who wastes far too much time thinking up fiddly new ways of bastardizing the game, this sort of post is a refreshing reminder to forget about it and just play.

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  5. @Tomrod: Really? I think my "arrogant" posts aren't really up to the full quality I ought to be capable of. I wrote some really crazy stuff in alt.slack and alt.religion.kibology, back in the day.

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