July 21, 2016

Delusions of Grandeur (Part 2)


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PART 2: The Fresh Smell of Administrative Air

My delusions continue from Part 1 of this series, which provides teasers, spoilers, and other amazing ideas I have for creating my very own, not-another, space-based 4X game. Last time I outlined the big vision for my 4X game, Transcend, which is built around the notion of guiding your civilization to transcendence while avoiding any number of galactic threats that want to eat you and your citizenry for a midnight snack. I also talked about some specific design goals, around trying to eschew the usual 4X complexity for something built around simple numbers and a relatively small number of total turns. In other words, a more finely tuned game all about hard decisions and big consequences.

In this installment, I’ll be talking about a few core elements of the design related to the structure of your empire and its management.



July 18, 2016

This Thing Called Strategy


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Geopolitical strategy, circa 1675


For the past few years, a question has been haunting my dreams: What is strategy? A narrower follow up question is: What makes a compelling strategy game?

One reason this question has been bothering me, particularly in terms of 4X or Civilization-style games, is that so often the gameplay does not feel like what strategy is or ought to be, at least for me. If the gameplay isn’t strategy, then what exactly is it? And if I’m not getting what I want out of a strategy game, then what in the heck do I really want?!

I have a number of pet theories floating around these troubling questions, which might help me work towards an answer. Fair warning though, much of this article will be spent in the realm of “pontification” or “theorycrafting.” Back in the old days, we called this “BSing.” You’ve been warned!



July 5, 2016

Ubiquitous Violence


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My father passed away recently in a tragic accident - and so I’ve been thinking and reflecting.

My dad was a staunch supporter of non-violence in all aspects of his life. But despite this, while I was growing up he purchased a fair number of violent games upon my request - such as the First-Person Shooter (FPS) game Doom and its many followers and derivatives. At the same time, he always stressed the importance of separating reality from fiction. And while he allowed me to play these games, I knew he found them distasteful and the violence unnecessary - especially when there are so many other wonderful things one might explore instead. He was always looking for a game that emphasized discovery and mystery, or story and problem solving, or journeys and narratives. Anything other than yet more violent action for its own sake.