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Thread: What makes a truly good game?

  1. #1
    Abecedarian Mage
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    What makes a truly good game?

    This is in general gaming, but is meant to encompass wargames too boys.

    Ok first off, is the game immediately fun. If not, piss off you failed gaming 101.

    So that very first comment is going to track muddy boots all over a lot of precious wargames, because they are NOT immediately fun, unless you are weird even to already weird people.

    A couple of brutally frank examples. Dungeons and Dragons (any flavour past Rules Cyclopedia), War in the Pacific/East, Anything by Citadel, and my ASL.
    Yes I just gave failing grades to basically the elite of gaming. Here's why.

    1. none of them come in one box with clear easy rules and simple components.
    2. they are all considerably expensive in one gulp even if some competitors have eventual expenses that can get up there. People are conditioned to over react to being told pay this much or go away.
    3. they all take massive sums of time to do anything they do.
    4. they are all more interested in being fussy at the expense of fun.
    5. it's unlikely you will find them in any other location other than a largely invisible retail source.
    6. I think I can safely say, all 4 examples have something about them that makes them difficult to play almost anywhere.
    7. resource hogs, they all seem to require way more resources than should be needed, in order to play.

    I can likely think of a few more, but heck the above 7 I already have are fine examples of good reasons to slam these games as being well made.

    So now I suppose I need to provide examples of what can be considered good examples of well made.

    Rules Cyclopedia is by now long in the tooth in as much as design is concerned. But a friend of mine elected to run a campaign based on Rules Cyclopedia. We had previously played some 2nd edition, and some 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. I am also no stranger to 3rd/3.5/Pathfinder. RC is a single book. You simply need nothing else. Not a very great deal if you are the company selling, but phooey, this is about game design, not profit margins. Back in RC, character creation wasn't what it is today in current editions, but in today's editions, the player likely spends all day just trying to figure out the game. There really isn't a lot to burden the player with in RC. Granted it pays off if the DM has read his own book first. But the players simply need to be told roll some dice, this is what your rolls allow you for choices, pick your choice and then read this quick section explaining it. Good for maybe 15 minutes unless your reading skills suck.
    The person that gets the pleasure of buying the book, really is only buying 1 book. That's it, the game is all in one book.

    I think currently Panzer Corps is showing us how you can really succeed in doing a computer wargame.
    It's not really tactical, it's not really strategic. It has not needed to be real time, and it has not needed to be pointlessly fancy graphics driven,and it has not required massive system resources.
    It can be marketed to every device on the market if the source wishes it. PC, laptop, tablet, gamer doodads like Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, might be pushing it to say a cell phone is a good idea.
    The game is not rocket science, and they have been able to release a whole range of add ons which are not really needed, not really expensive, but certainly not bad purchases.
    The game is easy to learn, yet not so easy it is boring. Slitherine has clearly mastered putting players playing players too. I think it has a demo.
    It's a good initial price. And it can be bought as a download and you don't really miss not having a long tiring manual.
    And you don't need to be a grog to play it.

    Concerning Citadel. I've seen plenty of games do something neat and physical and part board game and part minis, and part card driven and a lot more likely to be fun. I've seen games do all sorts of genres, not just fantasy and not just scifi. I just can't understand the attraction to a company that markets badly made, over priced, way too expensive and complicated and ultimately too cumbersome to find a place to play all wrapped up in a single product.
    I wish someone could release something like Warhammer, but not meant to be random component driven. That's way too expensive.
    I'd like something a bit like Axis and Allies minis, a bit like D&D minis, not needing to be random component driven though. Pre painted. And with terrain in the box and rules that are not too complicated. I've seen games released with gorgeous components. 7 wonders is great, and so it the Civiliztion board game, and Fantasy Flight sure made a spiffy Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay edition where components are concerned.
    It might be a bit pricey, but it would be real nice if Warhammer was a one box game and not just a profit margin dodge.

    Concerning ASL. Hmm I think I will take a pass here
    But I must say. I liked Up Front so much better.
    Please don't go on about how cool it is I like wargames. It gets old.
    Some of my comments are just me parroting his bitching.

  2. #2
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    Have you checked out Dust? That maybe something you maybe interested. I agree with alot of what your saying. Though sometimes I like big complicated rulebooks just as reading material, is that odd? Or big games with loads of components etc just to hold and rules to read, sort of a tactile experience you don't get from PC game, I love sheets of counters, maybe I'm weird. Most games I've bought during my life that aren't PC games have never or hardly been played, mainly due to having no one of a similar geekyness to play against or if not that then time (see my other thread about car wars).


    I see where your going with Panzer Corps and yes as a wargame lite not only does it do the job it's also great product for them as a money earner, however I have heard rumblings within the ranks with regards to the missions having no effect on each other. Seems some are starting to get abit fed up with just new units and terrain and want abit more from it now. For me it's a touch to abstract for me. To rock paper scissors for my taste. I can deal with lite aspects but basic rock, paper, scissors doesn't do it for me. I certainly wouldn't like it if all games followed it's path. However on the other hand WitE is just to much. I think you should be able to have detail and chrome but still be easy to play and hard to master. At the minute it seems you have to choose, either abstract but easy to play or detailed but time consuming and overwhelming. The last PC game I played that I found quick to start playing but as I played I discovered more and more depth and it never felt overwhelming was Dominions 3. Yet they went and released Conquest of Elysium 3 which to me felt like Dom 3 lite and had lost something along the way (though the start of that game is the biggest problem I have with it as it takes an age to ever have enough money to really get going).

    I watched a review today on Imperium Twilight which sounds like one of those ultimate games you'd love to own but probably if you did own it hardly ever play it. However knowing myself I'd still enjoy owning it and looking and reading the rules etc. Again a tactile experience that also fires the imagination.

  3. #3
    On the board game front I've bought many games over the years but recently I've culled my collection after really considering what actually gets played the most. I noticed that rule heavy, extra long games seldom make it to the table and that I've gravitated towards the more simple games. I love Dan Versson games, mostly because they are often designed for solo play. The Leader series is well worth looking at especially Hornet Leader and U-Boat leader. Check them out on boardgamegeek.com I've also regressed to my childhood picking up a few second hand copies of games I remember from many years ago. My favourite being Kingmaker. Another recommendation would be Lost Battles by Prof. Philip Sabin. A relatively easy well thought out game of ancient warfare produced to high values by an academic of the period.

  4. #4
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    Blimey Kingmaker. If you rea ym Car Wars thread I'm not sure if I mentioned Kingmaker, I don't think so. I picked it up from a small Toy Shop In Exeter not far from the Model Shop (now sadly both no longer there). I was about 12 or 13. I did manage to play that game a few times which made a change and really enjoyed it. It was probably my first historical wargame. I also remember we had to design a boardgame in Engish not long after buying it in school. Most did little puzzle or chess like game. Me being me did a rule conversion of Kingmaker in to a game about Vietnam ( I was obsessed with that War at the time having just read 13th Valley and started buying the monthly Vietnam magazine)adding rules as I went along. God knows how it would have played and how unhistorical it would have been!

  5. #5
    Abecedarian Mage
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    Some of my first post was a bit like a parrot imitation.

    Here's another way to answer the question.

    Can my wife play it? How about my interested 8 year old son? If not you just missed the gold.
    Can my buddy that likes some of my wargames play it? If not you just watched the silver walk off without you.
    Will any of my buddies that thinks Call of Duty is a wargame want to try it? If not you haven't even won the bronze.

    Are you guys really satisfied with yet another 'runner up, thanks for participating' ribbon?

    I sometimes think you guys honestly think all of those back slapping awards I occasionally see mentioned really count.
    They don't you know.
    The kids playing Diablo 3 have never heard of you, and couldn't care less which wargame got the gold in 2011.

    I haven't really seen anything all that inspiring in wargaming when it comes to actually being clever.

    I thought Columbia Games was being clever putting the same old counters on wooden blocks. Haha niner niner, can't see what it is now, could be that junky unit, could be my new super tank unit you just don't know do you.
    Up Front was clever too, no board, neat no needing to fret over line of sight. And a cool way of creating battlefield uncertainty, oh for god's sake where are the rally cards.

    Why is it every wargame on a computer needs to impress me with how none of you guys can figure out how to make an easy interface?
    Don't any of you designers play MMOs?
    If you can't run the game with custom keys or all from just a mouse get your butt back in game design 101.
    Please don't go on about how cool it is I like wargames. It gets old.
    Some of my comments are just me parroting his bitching.

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    Funny I played an MMO the other day and hated the awkward clunky combat mechanics it was the Secret world Beta, I always though the combat in MMO's was similar to online fps games, but it wasn't, I shan't bother with another.

    As for wargame awards I take them with a pinch of salt to be honest. As for a wargame having to appeal to all and sundry hmmm, thats fine for a genre of sub section of wargames but I don't want to see my hobby\genre dumbed down and streamlined for mass appeal which is all to common in the games industry today.

    Thats not to say I don't want a good well laid out UI and decent tutorials and etc. I do. I want the learning curve to be gradual. I do think for a gold prize your right a game should be easy to get into, however I like my games easy to get into but not easy to be good at and as you go you learn the other parts of the game. As I said Dom 3 I was up and running and expanding quite quickly, but I didn't really have any idea about most of the game, or what things did even though I had the basics, I then started to learn the other parts and parts I'd overlooked which opened up new possibilities. This I like. Being able to dive in and then discover parts of the game as you go along, rather than not even being able to get started without two hours of rule learning and preparation etc.However trying to make wargames appeal to everyone? Take Panther games titles. If all wargames had to follow the rules set above then they wouldn't exist. An eight year old is unlikely to bother and someone who plays CoD certainly wont give it a chance. Finally is it really important to have everyone like and play wargames? Not really, it happily plods along being a niche with the odd game that crosses over, though I bet you any money Panzer General probably sold alot more copies to the mainstream gamer than Panzer Corps could ever do. Reason: More choice for the mainstream and with the graphic power and big technicolour thrill that the mainstream games are then Panzer Corps will never really get their attention, if Panzer general was released today it wouldn't have the sales it had back then. I remember playing it on a PS1. Doubtful Panzer Corps would get a release on a PS3.

    So yes great UI and easy to pick up the basics, must have advanced rules or features though that you learn as you go along at your own pace. However I have no urge or want to see wargames appeal to non wargamers or CoD mainstream gamers. If they see it and like it great if not then it's no loss to me. No way should all wargames change to try and entice the mainstream though.

  7. #7
    Abecedarian Mage
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    God I hate that term dumbed down.

    You know what happens to my stew, if I dump every spice in my kitchen in it?

    More is not always better.

    By the arguement I am used to seeing, Chess is a beginner lite beer and pretzels game because it only has a handful of pieces, all of the moves are simple to explain and it takes no effort to explain the rules. That's crazy talk.

    Attention span problems is not owned by 8 year olds, I've seen adults unable to sit through a basic explanation of something. Kids get fidgety and adults pull out their cell the moment you pass about the 3 minute mark.

    A company in order to stay afloat, needs cash flow, once you have the cash flow, you can do the pet project.
    Ever notice that stores always seem to sell the same junk at the cash? That garbage provides a lot of cash stream for the niche stuff.
    Please don't go on about how cool it is I like wargames. It gets old.
    Some of my comments are just me parroting his bitching.

  8. #8
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    The paradox is that for example the recent Panther Games games are some of the most user-friendly computer wargames ever made. The complication is a burden of the developer, not of the player. One of the worst sins of computer wargames when it comes to complication isn't advanced mechanics, but burdening the players with tasks way under their command level.
    Still, for example, I don't find the command level presented in the Airborne Assault and Command Ops series attractive. I'd love to play a tactical wargame with similar command mechanics.
    Last edited by Perturabo; 05-21-2012 at 04:09 PM.
    "And as the light embraces the wanderer,
    as knees bend as thought is obliterated,
    with the very moment that resistance has ceased,
    now, I am become death, the enemy of man."

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perturabo View Post
    The paradox is that for example the recent Panther Games games are some of the most user-friendly computer wargames ever made. The complication is a burden of the developer, not of the player. One of the worst sins of computer wargames when it comes to complication isn't advanced mechanics, but burdening the players with tasks way under their command level.
    Still, for example, I don't find the command level presented in the Airborne Assault and Command Ops series attractive. I'd love to play a tactical wargame with similar command mechanics.
    You said exactly what I tried to say but alot better.

    @Joan I do understand a company needs cash flow and making games to appeal to the widest audience is a way to get it. The problem is when that becomes what it's all about we get the sort of rubbish that floods the mainstream market.

    Panzer Corps is a great game, thats most likely a great money earner, but for me it's too abstract. As Perturabo says we can have advanced less abstract games that play as easily as games like Panzer Corps if the design is well made and mechanics well thought out in the first place and the player isn't overburdened with tasks. Panther games series is a great example of this. Though i to would like a smaller scale.

    Tigers Unleashed is a very detailed game which really could be played pretty much hands off after setting the SOP's and putting your forces into maneuver groups. Give out the initial orders and away it goes. So detailed games can be done. The problem with TU at the moment apart from the bugs is I think the abstract nature of hex terrain clashes with the rest of the detailed mechanics, also it has very poor scenarios that came with the game.

    Slitherine have signed up a game called Sovereignty which is being made by Lordz. It seems it will have a battle card mechanic which is hugely popular in the gaming world as shown by Might and Magic. Yet for me it's something I don't want in a game. It's to simple and abstract for me.

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