Game Grammar and Game Design Theory – Interview with Raph Koster

Today I had a conversation with the author of my favorite book on game design, as well as a designer on one of my favorite interactive experiences of my high school years, Raph Koster. The conversation goes for about 90 minutes, and like Raph said, we could have easily gone another four hours afterward. It was a great conversation that touched on a number of topics:

  • How videogame history both has a lot to teach us, but at the same time hasn’t changed much in some ways since the early days
  • Raph’s guideline for designing good abstract strategy games
  • Game grammar, and the books Raph has been working on for a decade
  • The state of game design theory discourse

Check out Raph’s website here. Also at the end of the podcast he mentions this article.

Enjoy the show!

As always, you can support this podcast by becoming a patron over at my Patreon page.

 

CGD Podcast Bonus – Introducing The Dinofarm Community Podcast

Hi everyone! This week, instead of a normal Clockwork Game Design Podcast episode, I bring you an episode of another podcast that I was very recently on – the Dinofarm Community Podcast. This is a podcast hosted and run by members of the Dinofarm Games community, over on the discord and forums. I came on this episode, #3, to discuss core mechanisms, and we contrasted them with Redless’ idea about core decisions. Overall, it was a good conversation, one that I think Clockwork Game Design podcast listeners will get a lot out of.

Enjoy! And subscribe to the Dinofarm Community Podcast, which will have new episodes weekly.

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”