Games, Stories and Words

Everyone seems to have an opinion with regards to the complicated relationship between stories and games. People fight about it often, and they’ve been fighting about it for a long time. There have been numerous academic papers and countless articles written about the subject (just Google the words “ludology” and “narratology”, if you don’t know what I’m referring to). There have also been, perhaps, many more words written about how stupid the entire debate is, or about how the debate is totally solved already, or about how it will never be solved, or about how the debate never even happened in the first place.

I think there is actually not all that much disagreement on this subject. Almost the entire problem sprouts from the fact that we aren’t understanding each other’s statements. In short: we don’t agree on what “story” means, and we don’t agree on what “game” means, so any statement regarding the two’s relationship is unclear and/or meaningless. Continue reading

General March Update

Today I’d like to fill people in on a few things that I’ve been working on in a quick blog post. Here goes!

  • The new release date for my book, Clockwork Game Design, is now May 28th.
  • I recently wrote two significant posts for about Auro and the huge rebalancing/changes job we’re doing for that game’s 1.29 update, which should be coming out soon. Here’s part 1, and part 2 – both definitely of interest to a reader of this site.
  • I stopped posting about them here (should I continue? Tell me in the comments), but I’m up to Episode 9 of 3 Minute Game Design now. Watch all episodes here.
  • The Patreon campaign is doing alright – it had a big spike up front but it’s mostly been reducing over time. I’m looking for any possible ways to get it some more exposure and make it more appealing, so if you have ideas, let me know.

As always, thanks for reading, and let me know what you’d like to see in the future for the site, the Patreon campaign, or anything else.

Why Many Eurogames Are Inherently Single-Player Games

pic1078232_lgBack around 2010 or so, I discovered the world of “designer boardgames”. If you don’t already know about them, they’re very, very different from “boardgames” most of us are used to finding stuffed in the top shelves of our closets – the Risks, the Monopolys, the Sorrys. Designer boardgames were almost the opposite of the old, shallow and predictable experiences many of us grew up associating boardgames with. These were fresh, challenging and new little machines – machines that were designed, and they proudly bore the name of the designer on the cover as proof of that fact. Continue reading

Uncapped Look-Ahead and the Information Horizon


I write a lot about how bad output randomness is for games, but today I want to write about a problem common in many deterministic games – specifically ones that lack hidden information.

Why doesn’t everyone just play chess, if it’s so great? The answer is that chess, or other ancient abstracts like Go and shogi, or even modern abstracts like the Gipf games, Through the Desert or Hive – these games really aren’t that great. They are all largely “look-ahead contests”, and people pick up on this, consciously or subconsciously, and it makes them all kind of annoying to play.



Here’s the process of look-ahead in action: what will happen if I make move X? Once move X is made, what will happen if the opponent makes moves A, B or C? If he should make move A, then I can make moves D, E or F… and so on. It’s literally scanning through every possible (or reasonably valid-seeming) move that you can. Games of chess, at least at novice and intermediate levels of play, tend to come down to simply who does more of this. One way to put it is that it’s a matter of quantity, not quality. Continue reading