Why “Skinner Box” is a useful distinction

Dinofarm Forums member “SwiftSpear” wrote up an article yesterday which caused a strong reaction in me. While I am really excited that a lot of new people have started writing about game design, I also don’t agree with all, or most, of what people write. But this particular article is way wronger than average on something that’s really important, so I am deciding to take some time out of my day to go through it and tell people why.

Here is the opening paragraph. Continue reading “Why “Skinner Box” is a useful distinction”

Brett Lowey’s Game Design Commandments

Grab Minos Strategos when you can.

Today, in Episode 36* of the Clockwork Game Design Podcast, I had a great conversation with BrainGoodGamesBrett Lowey. If you don’t already know BrainGoodGames, they make some of the best single-player strategy games out there. All four of Brett’s games—Militia, Axes & Acres, Skyboats, as well as his latest, Minos Strategos—are available on Steam.

But making great games isn’t necessarily enough for me to want to have a conversation with someone. What made me interested was “BrainGoodGames’ Design Commandments” which he posted on his site recently.

The conversation was great and went to a bunch of interesting places. We covered his commandments, of course, but discussed his origins and what he considers to be the successes and failures of his games.

I should mention also that Brett is one of the editors over at gamedesigntheory.org, the new site I recently launched that highlights current game design bloggers and media producers.

Enjoy the episode!

*PS I think I said it’s 35 in the episode itself – ignore me!

 

Solvability In Games

What does it mean to say that one game is “more solvable” than another? Is there a relationship between solvability (of any sort) and the point at which players get bored of games?

Solvability

I should start out by making it clear that in game design, we are not usually concerned with true or mathematical solvability. We are not really concerned with the same kind of solvability that AI researchers are concerned with while trying to solve larger and larger Go boards. Continue reading “Solvability In Games”

Arcs in Strategy Games

It is common to hear players talk about “tactics” and “strategy” in games. In this case, the colloquial understanding of these terms happens to be pretty useful, in that it maps well to something that actually goes on in playing strategy games. With that said, it’s worth taking a moment to clarify these terms:

Tactics” usually refers to “short-term decision-making”. Questions like “should I move this character two steps forward, or three steps forward” are questions of tactics. Tactics are micro-level decisions in strategy game play.

Strategy” usually refers to “longer-term decision-making”. Questions like “should I be aggressive early, or be defensive now and attack later on” are longer-scale choices about a game that players make. Strategies are macro-level decisions in strategy game play.

In both cases, we are talking about a grouping of gamestate information over time and how it changes. I refer to this grouping as an “arc”. Continue reading “Arcs in Strategy Games”

Game Design Digest, from the Dinofarm Forums

A few months ago, I posted a thread on /r/gamedesign about how we should make 2017 a year with more game design blogging. Since then, a few Dinofarm Forums members have talked about starting up a game design writing career (or re-starting one). The last few days have had a huge uptick in interesting, quality articles on game design. I may be biased, because these are people who hover near my circles, but I find these to be some of the best articles on game design I’ve read in many years. (Here’s the good news: if you’re a reader of my work, you may also have the same biases!)

Here are some of the users over at the Dinofarm Forums (and the Discord!) who have been writing stuff recently. Follow these blogs!

Evizaer – Some of my long-term fans might remember Evizaer from an appearance he made on my old podcast years ago. He recently has started up a new blog and has a new article up about analogy (sort of like theme) that I think is quite good!

Elliot George – A newcomer to the Dinofarm community, Elliot produced this great piece, which is easily one of the most thoughtful pieces on strategy game design I’ve read in years.

Hopenager – Has started a completely brand new blog on game design. I have a few issues with the opening setup, but based on the last paragraph, I’m really excited to see where it goes.

Brett Lowey – This one doesn’t entirely count, because Brett is an established game developer, but I just really appreciated that he wrote this great piece on his “game design commandments”. I think this is something every game designer should do. (Also: his commandments are great!)

Disquisitor Sam – Started his new blog last year (I think) but it has recently gotten a facelift. His article on Auro I particularly recommend!

 

Already, 2017 is looking like it might be better than the last three years of game design writing combined. I should mention that a lot of these have happened in the last 36 hours. There are also rumblings on the forum of other people who are also starting blogs. Like I said in that reddit thread: if you’ve been thinking about writing about game design, do it! Ping me anywhere you can, and I’ll share your work. I want to do whatever I can to help foster a community of thought on game design.

Interview with Carolyn Petit of Feminist Frequency

Today I spoke with Carolyn Petit, the managing editor of Feminist Frequency, which you’ve probably heard about, since they’re easily the most successful and influential feminist/socially progressive games criticism outlet out there. A heads up: this is not a big formal “game design” conversation

Instead, here are some of the things we did talk about:

  • Some follow-up to my point about “be critical of the games you love” thing from the last episode with Tevis Thompson
  • A bit about Carolyn’s background, how she came to a “feminist awakening” after working at GameSpot
  • How game developers, especially indie white male game devs like myself can do a better job with representing people who don’t look like themselves
  • How the future is looking for representation and social issues in games

… and a lot more. I’d like to thank Carolyn again for her time, thanks to you for listening, and as always, thank you to the patrons who make this show possible.

To support the show, visit here.