All posts tagged with "the founding of new sogwood"

Rally Point Whackamole

Daniel and I love arguing with each other about random design questions though somehow we generally end up agreeing on what to do, without agreeing on a conclusion to the original question. The result is, at least, a practical course of action. This is the story of an argument where I concede victory to Daniel.

This colony was barely holding by a pack of depressed militia. They had only a stockpile full of raw food, their guns, and some whisky. Then 30 Fishpeople raiders attacked.

This colony was barely holding together, the only survivors are a pack of utterly depressed militia soldiers. They have only a stockpile full of raw food, their guns, and some whisky. … then thirty Fishpeople raiders attacked and it was all over.

Rally Point Whackmole

Playing the latest build in the tropical biome, you may find that it is indeed crawling with random Fishpeople. When playing I found I had to send troops from one side of my colony to deal with a fishperson, then order them to run to the other side to deal with another one. Meanwhile, a third fishperson is trying to mess up my crops and, jeez, to re-select the military rally point I have to open Work Crews, scroll to the military squad (defaults to the bottom of the list), find the little rally button, then drop it off on the map each time I want to move the squad rally point. Tedious! Let’s break down the issues here:

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Storytelling as Game Design

You’ve all read Boatmurdered, right?

A “Let’s Play” (or LP) is a narrative write-up of a game playing experience, preferably entertaining. Fans of Dwarf Fortress do this a lot – they’ll either play a game themselves and write up the events that occur into story form, or they’ll pass it between forums members with each writing a chapter for their part of the game.

This is not a recent phenomenon or one limited to the DF community. Or the Something Awful community, for that matter. Over in Paradox land, players of their historical strategy games have written up “After Action Reports”, aka AARs, in a tradition that goes back to tabletop wargaming. These probably started out as purely functional reports of the course of a game, but over time they’ve grown into elaborate alternate histories with characters and drama that don’t exist in the mechanics of the game ending up somewhere between a walk-through and fan fiction.

These stories give a look into gamers’ experience of the games they play – it’s not just what happens on screen; there’s all kinds of imagination at work especially in games that leave room for speculation, implication, and creativity. So sandbox games, building games, simulations, and even especially open-ended RPGs are perfect environment for this sort of thing. (I’ve even seen some Quake fanfic that … wasn’t terrible.) Well, it’s only natural for people to write down the stories they make & experience.

With Clockwork Empires we want to make a game that gives players just that kind of creative space and experience. And of course as game-players and creative people ourselves, these stories are just the sort of thing we love to enjoy & create.

So: could not the principle be applied in reverse? Sure, any game designer does this to some degree eg. “I want to make a game where you’re a hero and go on adventures and find a magic sword and fight monsters!” can be turned into a game simply enough; from story/theme to mechanics. Dwarf Fortress does this quite explicitly as a conscious practice; Zach Adams writes short stories that take place in a fantasy world then he and Tarn sit down and work out what game mechanics might support that story taking place.

We’ve done this too, in a few forms. On at least one occasion we sat down with a grid-mat and some dry erase pens and played out what amounted to a free-form tabletop roleplaying game of Clockwork Empires: It started with an expedition meaning to build a bridge, some wood getting chopped down, then spiraled directly out of control as a Mysterious Statue was discovered, found to spread Madness, dumped in a lake to contain it, then water from the lake used to create ale, then everyone was driven Quite Mad.

There’s a proper write-up of that one somewhere, but for now I’d like to share with you all a story of imagined Clockwork Empires gameplay I wrote while in a powerless cheap hotel in the middle of British Columbia. Join me, friends, for:

The Tale Of The Founding of New Sogwood On The Sour Coast

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