Uncapped Look-Ahead and the Information Horizon

chess

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.

 

Look-Ahead

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

Introducing my new video series: 3 Minute Game Design

I’ve started a new video series called 3 Minute Game Design. I created a YouTube channel for it, and have posted the first entry in the series. Episode 1 discusses some fundamental ideas like prescriptive language and the very idea that we can prescribe guidelines for better game design.

If you like this video series and want to see more episodes, please support my Patreon campaign.

Clockwork Game Design is now available for pre-order!

For the last year or so, I’ve been working hard on a book called Clockwork Game Design. It details a clear, useful design pattern for building elegant strategy games.

411la8XXlHL

How does it differ from my first book, Game Design Theory: A New Philosophy for Understanding Games? Game Design Theory was very broad. It talks about the history of interactive systems design, it talks about other forms such as puzzles and toys, and it talks a lot about modern videogames and some specific problems with them.

Clockwork Game Design is narrow and focused. It asks a specific question: how do we go forward with strategy game design? How do we make games that are significantly better than the ones we’ve made in the past? How do we make games that are not only easier to learn than existing games, but also have longer life-spans?

The answer is in the Clockwork Design Pattern.

The Clockwork Design Pattern is one that starts with a core mechanism – a basic action that is the primary means of interaction with the system. Supporting mechanisms support – but do not fight with – the core mechanism, and all of this is anchored by the Goal. The Goal is the ultimate expression of the core mechanism action.

To the extent that designers are able to create depth and elegance, they’re already using elements of this design pattern without even necessarily knowing it.

If you want to design strategy games, and you can only own one book on the topic, it should be Clockwork Game Design. Pre-order it now on Amazon.com!