Three types of bad randomness, and one good one

A few years ago, I wrote an article about randomness in games. It was far from my first time taking a stab at the subject, but it is the most recent big, singular effort at describing the relationship between randomness and game design, as I see it. In this article, I'm going to talk a bit about randomness in games—ways to describe it, why it's important, how to use it, and how not to use it. There are four types of randomness, three that are bad and common, and one that is good and rare.  

Types of randomness

The basic points I would make about randomness are these:
  • Good strategy games require randomness to avoid being just calculation, or a "look-ahead contest". So randomness can not only be good, but it's crucially important!
  • Not all randomness is equal, however. Some kinds of randomness (actually, most kinds that are used, in practice) are damaging.
  • Randomness has to be used very carefully. But instead, it tends to be used frivolously and without much consideration/knowledge of the costs.
In short, while randomness is basically a requirement for good game design in my mind, I have a real problem with the way that we use randomness in games today. Mostly, we are using randomness as a cheap and easy way to get shallow systems to produce variant outcomes. (more…)

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Naomi Clark on systems thinking and social responsibility

[caption id="attachment_2677" align="aligncenter" width="625"] Art from Naomi's new game, Consentacle[/caption] Today I'm super-excited to have Naomi Clark on episode 45 of the Clockwork Game Design Podcast. Last year, Naomi ran a super-successful Kickstarter for her two-player social card game Consentacle, which in addition to having beautiful, memorable artwork, is also trying to use systems to explore human communication and connection in new ways. Naomi is also the co-author of A Game Design Vocabulary (written with Anna Anthropy), which is easily one of the best design books of its kind, and she teaches game design at the NYU Game Center. She also has a thoroughly awesome Twitter account. Some of her activity on there feels too good for Twitter; it feels like it needs to be catalogued into We had a pretty wide-ranging conversation that touched on meta-rationality, social responsibility in game design, providing off-ramps for players, addiction, and more. You should also go check out Naomi's GDC talk here (it's the last talk in the clip). Oh, and follow her on Twitter. Enjoy! If you thought this conversation was one worth having, please consider contributing to my Patreon!

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Jon Shafer on pushing the 4X genre forward

Today I have an interview with Civilization V designer, Jon Shafer. Jon's an experienced 4X strategy game player and creator, and I wanted to talk to him about the design issues these kinds of games tend to face. Here's a few subjects we talk about:

  • Diplomacy systems
  • Lack of dynamics in the late (and often mid) game
  • How combat should be resolved, if it exists at all
  • Match length
  • Victory conditions
... just to name a few. Jon is currently working on the successfully Kickstarted At the Gates, which you can play an early access version of here. Note: Jon's audio is a little bit spotty in the first 10 minutes of the interview, but it clears up! Enjoy!   Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed the show, please consider supporting my work at www.patreon.com/keithburgun. Special thanks to Jean-Marc Neilly, and a big thank you to all my patrons for making this show possible.

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Push the Lane: Loot in a Strategy Game?

Since Push the Lane entered this latest phase back in mid-2017 (basically after the failed Kickstarter version, which was much more puzzle-game-like), it has become much more videogamey. By that, I mean, it has focused a lot more on fighting, monsters, items, special abilities, moving around a big map and such. I have been thinking of it more like "a Rogue-like DotA" recently; a turn-based, single player League of Legends. With that thought, I always kind of had it in the corner of my mind somewhere that it would be pretty cool if the game had "loot" somehow. My general feeling and belief about loot has been, for years, that it has really no place in strategy games. But maybe there's a way? First, let's define the term.

What is loot?

I think most of the time the word "loot" is used, it refers to randomly dropping items. For me, the classic version of "loot" is item drops in Diablo, or a Rogue-like. More recently, it's popular to have "loot crates" in games like Overwatch, which give the player some random metagame items, such as skins. (more…)

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Art is People Too

In this episode, I struggle with, and mostly reject, a lot of the formalist ideas I previously held about art. Art - whether it's games, music, movies, or anything else - is largely about connecting with other people. When you like something, it's largely because of a lot of subconscious processes that are largely informed by a specific language of art that you personally have developed for yourself, based on your own personal experiences that aren't the same as anyone else's. So just as I would be a pretty bad judge of West African music as someone who has very little exposure to it, I am also a bad judge of someone who makes puzzle platformers, or someone who makes death metal music. These are specific aesthetics, or languages, that I just don't really have the cultural capital or emotional connections to connect with. But the point is, I should try. Just as I am open to meeting and having relationships with new, different kinds of people, I should be the same way with new, different kinds of art. Art is a reflection of people, and I think it's probably healthy to look at it that way. Also, some Push the Lane updates! Don't forget, you can become a patron over at http://www.patreon.com/keithburgun. Enjoy the show! Special thanks to Aaron Oman and Jean-Marc Nielly for their generous support! <3

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CGD Podcast Ep. 41 – This summer, being anti-social, and Push the Lane

Hi everyone! It's been awhile since I made a podcast episode. Today's episode is just me - no guest, although I do have a long list of guests that I intend to get on soon. In this episode I talk about the crazy summer I had and some major realizations that I've had about art and its (at least partially) social purpose, perfectionis, a way for indie game developers to exist, and some specific challenges I'm having with Push the Lane (and their Clockwork solutions) -- and a lot more. I hope you enjoy the episode, and thank you so much for listening! Special thanks to Aaron Oman and Jean-Marc Nielly for supporting me on Patreon, as well as all my other patrons.

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