Sunday, January 17, 2010

Game Design Journal #2 - M.A/C.C

When it comes to Game Design, as with almost any other kind of design, there are multiple theories on how to go about doing it. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone by now that I'm a fan of John Wick and his games, not to say that I like everything he does, or agree with all his decisions, but in general I like his games and I like his approach to game design. Since I don't have my own approach to game design yet, and with his beginning step fairly easy to use as well as setting a good ground work for what you want to do in the game, I decided to use that. The first step to this (really, the only step I know fully, after this it's just muddling around) is what he calls the 4 questions. The first three are from his friend (Jeff something I think), the fourth is his own. So, without further ado, the questons.

Question #1 - What is your game about?
M.A/C.C is about, in a word, 'Drive'. It's about the commitment to a mission to get up every morning and do it. The will power to persevere against all odds, the stamina to endure whatever is thrown at you. Motivation, commitment, will power, stamina, conviction. I couldn't think of a better word to sum all of that up then Drive. In the end of the first Boondock Saints movies an exchange much like the following happens.

"How far are we going to take this?"
"The question is not how far, the question is do you have the faith, the depth of conviction, to go as far as is needed?"

This is a question that the characters in M.A/C.C should be asking themselves regularly, or at least should be having asked of them. Just what is it worth to you to go out there and protect just one more person? What is it worth to you to avenge your parents, brutally slain by a mob boss. How much will you deny yourself? How much will you sacrifice? And when you've lost everything, will you continue on?

A Character's drive is the centerpiece of this game, the 'theme' for it if you will, much as L5R is about Honor and Houses of the Blooded is about tragedy. There are other smaller things this game is about, but the one word answer to the question is 'Drive', that is the "what" the other answers are the "how" so to speak.

Question #2 - How is your game about that?

This question has always been hard for me to answer without also delving into question 3, so I'm just going to have to give it a bit of a try and hopefully I won't repeat myself too much with question three. The game is about drive, about commitment and all those other words by making the player sacrifice. Nothing is sacred or off limits when it comes down to what can be taken from your character. The fact that the  biggest threat to everything you hold dear and really like is you yourself also helps get that along. After all, when it comes down to it you can (and probably will at some point) destroy it with a thought, the GM has to get through you if he wants to take it away.

So the game is about that by being designed to help put players into positions where they need to sacrifice to win. What they sacrifice is up to them (for the most part) but sacrifice is needed for the mission to ultimately have a chance to succeed.

Question #3 - How does your game encourage that?
The game encourages this by giving players rewards for when they sacrifice. There is an important difference here between sacrificing and losing, but the encouragement is in giving players rewards for what they sacrifice. The bonuses gained may or may not be mechanical in nature, but then again, so can the sacrifices. This also encourages people to have more of a character with wants and desires, as sacrificing things that are important to your character gets you more then things that aren't. A player whose character has shown no signs of caring about his relation ship with Ms. Lafleur is going to find that sacrificing it pays for far less than if he actually valued and cared for it.

Question #4 - How do you make that fun?
Losing things doesn't seem to be particularly fun when you think about it, and while I could just point out that that is where IC/OOC separation comes in, the fact is even in game losing something you worked to get doesn't feel particularly fun. That being said, we make it fun partially with the rewards, and by making failure optional, provided success is worth it to the players. This mitigates the whiff factor to almost non existent, if something is truly important to a player or character, they can do it provided they are willing to pay the cost for success anyhow. Failing a roll can be the beginning of a player truly taking over the action and how it plays out.  It's something that takes careful work on the GMs part in session, but making failure an option does help with increasing the fun. Lastly, the game is about being someone like batman, that's pretty fun in and of itself, no? :)

The in system answers to all four questions are a bit more in depth, but not sure how much of that to go into now, so for the moment I'll leave it at the brief answers to all four questions I gave. Though, expect to see more about this game soon (maybe tomorrow). Especially as initial alpha testing on it has begun.

Happy Gaming

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