Monday, 16 January 2012

Rolling with it: adaptive action

The next part of the series on game design is up at House of Paincakes. Loquacious starts looking at rules, and as with the last part there's a lot of thought-provoking material from interviews too.

The mention of elimination got me thinking, and SinSynn makes what looks to be a central point with the recognition that "everyone's mind works differently". I'd say there's huge potential in that.

I got quoted too, from a great discussion we had on what exactly random might be. We covered Freud's parapraxis, a quote from Marvin Minsky and the Mandelbrot set, as well as precision and the potential for a 'limitless' game.

More could come later, but reading the snippet, I thought I might develop the idea and turn it into a rule. I'm surprised we don't see one like it more often. Here's the key line.

The random element is a catch-all feature that covers all of the multiple factors that can't easily be accounted for otherwise - the side of bed the person got out of that morning, distracting glints off the other guy's buffed up equipment, subtle variations in wind speed, or the shadow of a bird, an order not quite heard clearly, a moment of doubt.

The rule fits in well with the propluristemic content series and some of the material on Hogintu, specifically the rules for the approaches of the habber-on, troobloo and doppler.

It assumes that small margins of error performing a trained action are more likely to be caused by factors over which the individual has no control, but that larger margins are at least partly down to interaction with self or the environment and can be adjusted for.

It also allows for the reverse, possible misplaced confidence if things go especially well.

Adaptive action

If an action succeds or fails, and the margin of success or failure is half or more of the total range on the die being used, the actor gains a modifier of 1 to each successive attempt at the specific action, positive in the case of failure, negative in the case of success. The modifiers are cumulative, but is lost if the action attempted changes.

A natural minimum or maximum roll is an automatic success or failure, as appropriate.

This means that when using a D6 the necessary margin of failure is 3 or more. Let's say a character needs a 5+ on 1D6 to force a door, but rolls a 2. The character can now add 1 to subsequent attempts. If the next attempt is also to force that door, then all else being equal the character will then succeed on a 4+, and if a 1 is rolled, the modifier rises to +2. If the next action is anything other than forcing that door, the modifier is lost.

This has major implications for scenario design, and wargaming especially. It adds more value to the ability to deter and disturb a capable actor who left alone would quickly be able to adapt to the circumstances and dominate, but also allows less capable actors to solve problems if they put the time in. In general, it encourages engagement.

Any and all thoughts are welcome of course, but don't forget to read the HoP post.


Dave G _ Nplusplus said...

The exclusion of chance within gaming also seriously changes the dynamic of a game AND the mindset of its players.

Take any game like checkers, chess, othello, etc.. they're very much games that exist within the heads of (good) players. You analyze moves, weigh risks, consider your opponents thoughts.. but you know for the most part how things will play out.

Imagine for a moment, introducing dice to these games. What if you never just "took" an enemy piece, but you had to make a roll.

That'd DESTROY these games. They wouldn't work. The appeal would be lost.

The other part of me wonders what would happen if you were to remove dice from other games.. maybe nothing as complicated as wargames, as I'm not sure that would work.. what about Risk (Attacks are based on unit count) or Monopoly? (ability to freely move to any property not already purchased)

Dave G _ Nplusplus said...

Just makes me wonder if there are other games out there that take random chance for granted.. could we make them as analytical and structured as something like chess?

Even a game like Magic the Gathering... what if both players got to order the cards in their deck before a game? It'd be "even" right? Both players have access to every card (buying packs or singles) and build the decks they want, then each player gets exactly what cards they want - cards that due to random shuffling, could have come up in that order anyways.. just this way BOTH get their first picks at the same time.

Timeshadows said...

I like the Momentum effect on the task resolution rolls.

Is the Overconfidence aspect modeled and I didn't catch it in the text?

Porky said...

@ Dave G _ Nplusplus - Interesting stuff, but your comments guarantee that. Wargaming without randomness is definitely possible, and likely works all the better the more the competition can be transferred from a competition between the players to a competition between the forces, the more willing the players are to discuss and compromise, and the closer they are in their understandings and their knowledge of the setting. I agree on what adding randomness could do to games like chess, and I'm guessing many games would lose by having their randomness taken away. That said, I'd also imagine they could benefit from some spontaneous interpretation of that randmoness, a teasing out of meaning based on a context, even if only the players, the time and the space, which could make each run through more of a memorable or even unique experience. Maybe games like ludo and Monopoly could get fuller setting materials, or generic scenarios? There's a project.

@ Timeshadows - I'm very glad to see you here too. Yep, the overconfidence is the success / negative modifier. It's not as clear as it could be though, especially as I only gave the failure / positive modifier as an example.

Dave G _ Nplusplus said...

I'm trying to think of examples where the rules are already broken.. co-op games perhaps?

Playing on a harder difficulty increases the chance of failure. Some people strive on being challenged..

But if you look at games that lower their difficulty settings, decreasing the chance of failure, I think the majority of people get more involved.

Take a game like WoW.. being under-geared for a dungeon can be tricky.. yet people keep playing it more and more as they get better at it. Lack of other options? Sure, just like a game board with limited space.

At what point are people having more fun? Just playing the game and being social, even if there isn't a chance they'll lose? At this point, rules and chance become meaningless... Perhaps here the point diverges from the original article.

And thanks for the compliment.. I think my creativity in this area's been starved for a while, I'm going to have to follow your challenges more closely again.

Porky said...

It makes me think of Quake speed runs. There's probably a lot more to be found in any given game than we might expect, and I'd guess the greater the root appeal of the game the more often we're likely to come back to look for it.

I agree completely the social and cooperative aspects of a game could well throw all bets off. After all, the rules are ususally only written, or known as custom, so there's no binding restriction on what goes on with the agreement of all present. Even the simplest game could get transformative in the right circumstances.

You've definitely given me a lot to ponder, and I'm pretty sure I'll be following up that scenario thinking here in some form.