Game Design

A Missing Opportunity - Artificial Intelligence in Games - by Brandon Franklin Blogs - 3 October 2018 - 6:40am
This post covers my experiences trying to leverage AI to generate game content rather than make them actors in a planned story. I cover the difference of perspective that is necessary to take advantage of our medium through our AI agents.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Why One Size Does NOT Fit All in Virtual Reality - by Neil Schneider Blogs - 3 October 2018 - 6:39am
The Oculus Quest is Facebook's latest innovation in the virtual and mixed reality space. However, a few choice words on how their ecosystem is structured could make the difference between effectively owning their market, or being a slave to it.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

On Meaningful Play: Design Thinking X Game Design - by Mars Ashton Blogs - 3 October 2018 - 6:38am
Design Thinking is more than a legacy of interdisciplinary practice or trendy Product Design methodology. It is everything good Game Design is supposed to be. Part of a series exploring topics from Michigan State University's Meaningful Play Conference.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Dissolving A Company - A primer on ending it all - by Brandon Huffman Blogs - 3 October 2018 - 6:37am
So the company didn’t work out. It happens. With all of the recent studio closures, I thought I would put together this brief guide to shutting down.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Steal This System: Pathfinder’s Discovery Points

Gnome Stew - 3 October 2018 - 6:00am

For years I’ve been kicking around a system in my head for simplifying hex crawls, point crawls, West Marches style games, megadungeons, etc… Something that keeps but abstracts the process of wandering, searching, and eventually discovering points of interest without requiring the potential for entire sessions to end up as fruitless wandering and random encounters and without demanding ridiculously detailed maps. It would probably revolve around skill checks of some sort with a chance to discover points of interest and add them to the map. I even hinted at it in a prior article, but I never really firmed it up or got it to a state that I thought it would work quite right. So of course in the process of looking up overland movement in the Pathfinder system, I discover that last November they beat me to it, publishing a “Discovery Point system” in their book: Ultimate Wilderness that not only hits all the high points I would want to and is elegantly simple but is largely system neutral. It DOES make use of Pathfinder-based skill checks and DCs but it would be simple to swap them out for skills and DCs or an analog from another system. What’s more, it’s scalable and nestable in a way that means with appropriate scaling and adjustment you can use it or a variant for pretty much any exploration mechanic that you need in your game.


The basics of the system are simple:

  • Discovery Points: The system introduces a new currency type called “Discovery Points” that are used to uncover points of interest on the map.
  • Each day each character makes a survival check: More success=get more discovery points, More failure=LOSE more discovery points (because you just drew part of the map upside down or misidentified a landmark or something). This encourages characters who aren’t really cut out for exploration to use the aid another action or spend their time doing other things: fortifying camp, using a subsystem to make maps and gazetteers, hunting for food and water, translating an old book the party found, whatever.
  • Characters can accumulate bonus discovery points by “interpreting waypoints”: This terminology makes it sound like inspecting physical landmarks but it’s just shorthand for any way of figuring out the location of points of interest other than stomping through the wilderness. In the example territory given three methods are flying overhead, talking to locals, and decoding a journal.
  • After some discovery points are accumulated, the party spends them to uncover known or unknown points of interest: Points they KNOW are there, they just don’t know WHERE, get paid for directly. If they’re looking to just uncover anything of interest they can blow a specified amount of points and hope there are unknown points of interest that cost half that or less.

The SRD explains the system as well as some subsystems and details target numbers and some other finer points. There is an example territory to illustrate, a small canyon with 3 points of interest and 4 defined waypoints, along with target numbers and a small random encounter table. For a free system on the internet that’s easily portable into any number of other systems it’s surprisingly useful. While the book has no new material (on this system anyway. It has 250 pages of additional material on other things) the PDF is also pretty cheap and it’s on sale at the time I type this. Here are some additional thoughts I have on the system so far:

  • A day and four encounters per day isn’t quite right: The system assumes a certain size of territory. See the example territory given and the suggestion that a single 12 mile hex constitutes a territory. But consider that sometimes an area of a much different size warrants territory status and that while the system still works as described, it creates some interesting issues.
    • For a larger territory: (let’s say a few dozen hexes across) you run into the issue that you can conceivably accumulate discovery points and “discover” a point of interest much further away than you could have traveled to in the time it took to discover it. You COULD figure out a bunch of sub-rules for where the party is in the territory and thus what they can and cannot discover, BUT it’s far easier to just change the length of time it takes to make a check and the number of potential encounters that could happen during that time. Using the initial hex and day, a good rule of thumb is that the time it takes to make an exploration check for a territory is about the same amount of time it takes to travel across that territory. That assumes the characters are traveling the length and breadth of the land beating bushes and peeking into corners and ensures that no matter where they discover a point of interest it makes sense. While that also means that you should check for 28 encounters for a discovery check that takes a week, that seems excessive. Instead assume that the party has many encounters over a time of that duration and avoids or overcomes most of them and instead make the regular four checks, assume the party is fully rested between each and populate your table with a selection of “notable” encounters. i.e.: with powerful individual creatures or with multiple encounters with weaker creatures. So you might say: “You explore the area for a few weeks. During that time you have to fend off many goblin hunting parties but several days into your exploration, through either accident or because of the creature’s determination you are attacked several times in succession.” Then run a single encounter with several “waves” of goblins that are separated by minutes to hours of “real time”.
    • For a smaller territory: example: the PCs are searching the local rancher’s back 40 for clues to his disappearance, it makes more sense to make a check every few hours and roll for an encounter each check. That said, if they area gets too small it’s probably best to move to a traditional dungeon exploration system or series of checks.
  • Where’s the rest of the party?: The base system allows each character to make a separate survival check to gather discovery points. While that makes sense, it also assumes that you’ve split the party and that each character (or group of characters if some are using aid another actions) is by themselves exploring or back at camp doing other stuff. This introduces the issue that any number of characters might end up meeting an encounter. In this case I think it’s safe to assume that characters are relatively close to one another and have some way of signalling one another (from magic items to bird calls to outright yelling) so in the case of combat, you can probably assume that missing characters show up in a few additional rounds. If you go this route, make sure that players understand it might happen so they have the option of not letting the mage wander off by themselves.
  • Other uses: While this system is presented as a system for handling overland exploration with minimal (or no) reskinning it can also be used for:
    • dungeon exploration: think really big dungeons like megadungeons
    • investigation: where waypoints might be clues that point to other evidence and points of interest are evidence, and the checks made are investigation instead of survival
    • information gathering: where waypoints are hints as to who may know things and points of interest are pieces of information and checks are gather information or diplomacy etc
    • social networking: waypoints are people who aren’t interesting or useful except they grant access to those who are (think a bouncer or David Spade’s secretary character), points of interest are contacts etc
  • Nesting Nesting Nesting!: One of the coolest aspects of this system is that it can be nested. You can start with a large territory and one of your points of interest can then be another territory all it’s own, but on a smaller scale. Conceivably this could go through multiple layers. Imagine a reasonably sized territory the size of a hex or two and one of it’s points of interest is the ruins of a city which is much smaller than a hex (a few square miles) but which can be explored as it’s own territory with it’s points of interest being buildings of interest, treasure caches, five room dungeons and the like, one of which is the entrance to a large megadungeon, which is its OWN territory. Nesting would also work very well for sci-fi star exploration, first discovering systems, then planets, then points of interest on those planets.
  • Save some for later: when placing points of interest, remember that not all of them have to necessarily be level appropriate challenges for their territory. While it’s not necessarily fair or fun to have characters stumble onto some alpha beastie’s lair and immediately get TPK’d, putting said beastie on the random encounter list (and letting players know that there will occasionally be out of level challenges they need to be careful of) and giving them bonuses to avoid it once they know the location of its lair gives them a reason to come back later and remove the menace or capture a trophy. Similarly, putting in treasures hidden in vaults with DCs too high to crack at the time they are likely to be found, and sealed doors in point of interest dungeons give the players a reason to return.
  • Gazetteers are awesome: One of the fun parts of the system is the ability for characters with the right skills to make maps and gazetteers for territories. The rules in the system allow for creating these even when most of the points of interest in a territory are still undiscovered. More complete ones might be worth more, or less complete ones might be worth less (or worthless depending on how incomplete) BUT one of the really fun ways to expand this subsystem is the potential for different kinds of gazetteers. The base assumption is that a gazetteer is a written guidebook of the territory and they take the literacy skill to create. But there is lots of potential information that can go into a gazetteer and characters should be able to make more money, though not necessarily increase the bonus they get to survival checks by making a similar number of successes with secondary skill checks to add in additional useful information to their gazetteers. Two or more characters might even work on this simultaneously, one cataloging and recording additional information while the other makes the literacy checks to do the actual writing.
    • Knowledge: Nature checks will create a guidebook with detailed information and sketches of the local flora and fauna and their uses and properties
    • Profession: Miner will create a guidebook with information about local rock structures and composition
    • Diplomacy will create a guidebook with information about the cultures and practices of the local inhabitants
    • Craft: Painting creates a guidebook with multiple attractive pictures of local landmarks of interest
    • etc… The limit is really the imagination of your players.
  • West Marches: So if you have a massive crush on Ben Robbins’ West Marches campaign but don’t have the motivation to crank out insane vector maps like he did to prep for it, today is literally the day you get started. All of that gets wiped away and replaced with this simple system… except maybe not. Because there is one major difference between these rules as presented and the West Marches: Multiple groups. If you want to run a West Marches style for a single group, then go get started. I mean it. Go. But if you’re going the whole nine yards and running for multiple fluid groups with all the complexity, confusion and jealously guarded secrets that entails, you’re going to need a few more tweaks to the system. For this you will have to figure out how to handle points of interest that are only known about by some players, if a character who was in a group when a point of interest was discovered can get back without the rest of the group or a map, who “owns” and “carries” discovery points that a group gathers but has not yet spent and other concerns. My initial thoughts are:
    • The local lord or some other NPC organization wants the land explored and is paying for all the info they can get. They are the primary market, aside from other PCs, for maps and gazetteers of unexplored territory.
    • Existence and location of points of interest become common knowledge when a map that contains them is sold to an NPC (similar to the West Marches communal map). We can assume this represents the map eventually making its way to the aforementioned patron who then makes it readily available to aid exploration.
    • That no one can find a point of interest they have discovered without a map or re-paying a fraction of it’s initial cost, but that once points are common knowledge, maps are cheaply available (cribbed from the communal map probably)
    • Discovery points are held by those who created them with their survival check or by interpreting a waypoint. If large numbers of them are gathered in a single roll, some may be shared with a character who used the aid another action to help gather them.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

"Hey, I have to interview someone in 30 minutes. Give me a crash course." - by Coray Seifert Blogs - 3 October 2018 - 2:16am
Recently, a colleague came to me with a conundrum. It went something like this: "Hey I have to interview someone in 30 minutes. Give me a crash course." This is the interviewing crash course that came out of that conversation.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

PUBG has banned 13 million cheating players to date

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 2 October 2018 - 12:57pm

PlayerUnknown†™s Battlegrounds has banned over 13 million players since the game's publisher started sharing ban numbers in June 2017. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Tencent testing facial recognition to enforce playtime restrictions in China

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 2 October 2018 - 12:32pm

Tencent is testing out a new method of identifying Honour of Kings players in order to enforce playtime restrictions for underage players that uses some level of facial recognition tech. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Narrativizing Night in the Woods - by Justin Reeve Blogs - 2 October 2018 - 7:09am
How do systems and story interact? This article examines how Night in the Woods puts the mechanics in support of the story - not the other way around.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Critique on data driven development - by James Mearman Blogs - 2 October 2018 - 6:15am
In a time where collected data increasingly shapes how we create games I would like to offer my thoughts on how this same data is invoking it's own reality on how games are to be created.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Situations of Conflict - by James Allsopp Blogs - 2 October 2018 - 6:09am
Most stress, anxiety and the increasing pressure we experience in game development is due to situations of conflict. Conflict with; other people, yourself, the design, the way the character just doesn’t quite feel right when jumping and of course…time
Categories: Game Theory & Design

DARK PLACES and DEMOGORGONS - The Ghost Hunter's Handbook - and use w/other OSR games

New RPG Product Reviews - 2 October 2018 - 4:19am
Publisher: Bloat Games
Rating: 5
Nothing beats a good ghost story and the early 80s was full of them. From the old school hauntings of 1981's Ghost Story to 1982's Poltergeist to the old guard in House of the Long Shadows (1983) and even to 1984's Ghostbusters. And this is now where near all. If you loved ghost stories it was a great time.

Thankfully Bloat Games hears you and has what you need.

DARK PLACES and DEMOGORGONS - The Ghost Hunter's Handbook is 60 pages (digest sized) with color covers and black and white interior. It has the same feel as the other books in this series. The art is good and I recognize a lot of the names inside.

With this book, like the others, we start out with new classes.
The Clairvoyant can see things the others can't (we have a couple "I see dead people" classes already, but this is a good one).
The Parapsychologist is great, but I think it is stretching what it means for a "Kid" class like the core book is filled with. Though, I guess reading the starting equipment this is also the class that best fit me in High School! Yes, I did write a program to emulate a PKE meter on my TRS-80 Color Computer.
The Mystical Ghost Hunter covers your basic exorcists/cleanser type.
But the class I was happiest to see was the Nullifier! This is the guy who walks in the room and all paranormal activity stops. The class might have limited growth, save that they are the ones that will survive any magical attack, but I like them all the same. In college one of my "hippie" friends claimed I was a "Null" because his Ouija board never worked when I was around!

Pages 14-24 cover different kinds of ghosts, spectres, and haunts and their reasons for haunting. This is one of the parts that make this book "and use w/other OSR games". You can drop these spookies into any OSR game (some will require tweaks) and you are good to go. They can all be run as-is really; especially if you are playing Swords and Wizardry. In fact, there is a lot here in the DP and D that the S and W game master can use.

A few pages on what you can find on The Other Side! (uh...Thanks! but I didn't get you anything. OH! THAT Other Side.)

There are a couple pages on equipment including Ghost Hunter kits to fit your price range.
Next, we have some new ghost-related magic items.
A couple pages of minor and major spells.

And what book on ghosts would be complete without a haunted house? Well, this one taped into that 80s feeling well and gives us a haunted asylum! It's like you guys read my Christmas lists or something!

Information of the J'town Paranormal Society (which feels like it is somewhere between Supernatural's "Ghost Chasers" and Doctor Who's LINDA).

We end with a great, but incomplete, list books, movies, and television shows.

Author Josh Palmer did a hell of a job here and this is a worthy addition to the DP and D line. The book is worth every penny. In truth at just $5 and 60 pages you are getting a hell of a deal.

Print on demand is coming soon.

It's Halloween. Get out there and bust some ghosts!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

How EVE Online has evolved in the era of F2P

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 2 October 2018 - 1:01am

We chat with some recently-promoted leads of EVE Online to learn how the long-running space spreadsheet MMORPG is faring as it transitions to F2P -- and experiments with new "Abyssal Deadspace" zones. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Advanced Designers & Dragons: Designers & Dragons Next — Evil Hat: 2010-Present

RPGNet - 2 October 2018 - 12:00am
Evil Hat in the Kickstarter and Patreon age.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Seattle police try new opt-in registry system to combat SWATting

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 1 October 2018 - 3:30pm

This week Seattle's police department is launching a new opt-in registry system aimed at making it harder for people to harass and endanger others by filing hoax emergency reports (aka "SWATting"). ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

California's net neutrality legislation met with DOJ lawsuit

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 1 October 2018 - 1:08pm

California enacted a law that offered what the state called †œthe strongest net neutrality protections in the nation,† something the Department of Justice has taken issue with. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Even a decade in, GOG doesn't want to try and be the Steam-slayer

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 1 October 2018 - 12:21pm

GOG's managing director and global communications head reflect on the platform†™s growth and its differences from Steam in an interview with Eurogamer. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Google is testing an in-Chrome game streaming service with Assassin's Creed Odyssey

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 1 October 2018 - 10:57am

Google has unveiled Project Stream, a Chrome-based streaming service that aims to let players dive into triple-A caliber games while armed with only a web browser and powerful internet connection. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Turning Food Into Architecture Makes For Great Game Design - by Deborah Han Blogs - 1 October 2018 - 9:14am
Concept Artist turns food into architecture to create world maps in Cookie Jam Blast.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

How does 'The Messenger' make you a master? - by Chris Wilson Blogs - 1 October 2018 - 7:46am
What can we learn about 'The Messenger' from it's opening hour of gameplay? A level and game design deconstruct of the initial experience of this action platformer with a twist.
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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