Monday, April 17, 2006

Rules, rules, rules

This thread about the rule of halves is sort of interesting. I don't believe in the basic concept, that people avoid certain games based on the rules alone. Most purchases are made by your traditional "looking at the box cover" kind of decision, or "word of mouth" kind of thing. Box cover decisions show theme, and cool looking parts, or lack thereof, not rules. And while "word of mouth" probably does convey some amount of rules complexity, those passing along the their suggestions will most likely take note of badly worded rules, or things like, "once you download the errata, the game is fun" kind of thing. Or the ever dreaded, "Man, if they ever took time to playtest this thing, the game would rock."

So, I don't think you can win or lose players too much by the size of the rule book. You CAN lose a certain market of players based on the theme, or the mechanics of game. Otherwise known as the "I refuse to play a war game" syndrome. But to a player who's into merchant trading, a complicated trading game that fun is probably just as good as a simple trading game that's fun.

On the hand, the games that I've had perform the best in the Game Design Showdowns or probably the ones that I've spent the most time on editing, and re-editing, the rules. Going over them countless times, looking for the most efficient way of wording the rules, keeping things under the 800 word limit, and generally spending a LOT of time reworking the words themselves; the rules remain pretty constant. And I'm talking probably maybe 3 or 4 hours here per game of editing. That's a lot, I think, for a mere 800 words; maybe 20% of those don't even relate to the actual gameplay, which is where the root of the entry SHOULD be.

Then again, the contest is SOLELY about the rules. This is where I think some entries miss the mark. Wasting valuable words describing what each and every card does in the deck when you can uses those words to better describe the gameplay. Putting just a few example cards into a .jpg, even using something like excell to make the "graphic," just gives you so many more words to use to better describe how the game plays. That's what I think the core part of the contest is about; not the clever card list of the deck, which would be changed anyway through playtesting.

Also, being as nebulous as possible about scoring I think is important, beause quite a few people judge the game, and start looking for ways to "break" the game balance based on points or something. This stuff, in general, would be all worked out in playtesting, and should not be part of the voting consideration, but sadly, I think, some people do give it too much wieght. So, it's best to sort of hide some elements of the scoring, and concentrate more on HOW things score, than WHAT those scores are.

So, how do I fair in this month's challenge? I wasn't planning on entering, actually, based on the fact I have VERY limited time this week to work on an entry. Also, the somewhat limited scope of the restrictions leads me to believe that there will be very little variance between entries; I don't think I can add to that. But I had an idea driving home from work, and I had an hour to type something up,and I sort of like what I have, so I have an entry. However, I am sort of scared that since I don't have time to do my now standard 4 hour edit to really polish it up. Hopefully the meat of the design will show through.

And I don't think that my design will be particularily different from many others. But one can hope.


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