Monday, October 11, 2004

A Potential Game

posted by Doc Blue

Anyone out there remember Aria by Last Unicorn Games?

Over the weekend, I think I came up with an intriguing variant to the Aria concept. Based on the statement "As you change the stories, you change the culture", the idea is that the players play the characters in (cultural) stories. They tell these stories with the Storyteller over and over, with changes (intentional or otherwise) creeping in over time. After each telling, the play group takes time to interpret how that latest telling impacted the culture overall. Advance time a generation and tell the stories all over again in the next session.

Now - telling the same story each session sounds pretty boring, so I imagine some complications. First, (based largely on the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde) the characters in the stories are *aware* that they are characters in the stories and have lives within the context of the story outside of those depicted in the story. Thus, in additon to the conflict inherent to the stories, there can be other conflicts affecting the character lives in the 'story world'.

Second, to inspire change, the characters can change importance in the story based on their performance in the latest iteration. I imagine a system where every player has a number of 'chits' based on thier importance that they can use to influence the story. At the end of the story, they use their chits (used and unused) to reward the characters for a job well done. I imagine a system where you (as a player) can give no more chits to yourself than A) you give to other player characters, B) you have left 'unspent' at the end of a story, or C) both.

Third, if the characters are aware - then there is the potential for chacters from other stories to invade. Also consider 'narrative' monsters and natural disasters that the 'real world' is never aware of. Monsters that attack the form and function of language. Word storms, metaphysically looking like whirlwinds or tornadoes, that jumble words and stories.

Obviously, this needs a lot of fleshing out - but the concept itself is intriguing - at least to me.

And now - I've got to run!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

D&D and Surfboardds

posted by Doc Blue

This is a post I've been meaning to put together for some time now, and now am going to try to collect my thoughts in about 10 minutes.

There are days that I believe that producers may be using the wrong model or example when attempting to do 'strategic planning' for gaming. If you look at the major players in the field, I get the sense that they think they are producing a commodity like tennis shoes: they assume nearly everyone needs them and that they just need to reach the target audience, they assume that the same basic design will work for everyone with some relatively minor tweaks to meet special needs, they assume that they can earn brand loyalty and raise prices because of that loyalty.

I think a different model may be appropriate. I think that the gaming industry is more akin other hobby industries. Take surfing for an example. (Now, I'm _not_ a surfer, so this is based only on my perception and used for illustration.) I will admit, there are likely a small number of mass-producers of surfboards and I suspect that obviously limited target audience can support a small number of mass-producers. These mass producers can act, more or less, like I described above. However, I strongly suspect that when you get into the serious surfers, many of them move away from the mass produced boards. My guess is that there are a major more numerous set of small board producers, operating off the beaches they surf, or did surf, themselves. These small shops hand-produce or at least hand-modify the boards they sell.

To wrap up quickly, as I'm out of time, what's my point? I think there is a place for the big players in the industry. But I think that there is also a very important role for small players. I _want_ someone to custom craft a game for _me_. I'm willing to pay more for a game that meets _my_ specific ideosyncracies. I want to run down to my local game shop and say, "We're changing the direction of our campaign, can you craft some new rules to meet our new needs?"

Is this just a dream, maybe. But I think the prevalence of PDF publishing makes it less so that it was a few years ago. Will someone open a 'custom games' shop in the future, probably, but until then....

Hang Ten!