Archive for April, 2007|Monthly archive page

The Importance of Being Elegant — The Upside of Elegance

In boardgames, elegance, game design on April 30th, 2007 at 12:03 pm

While I did a bit to ameliorate the most common complaints about elegant games last time, they still have some clear drawbacks. Without some positives to tip the scales, we might as well tell game designers, “Forget about elegance, it’s just a way of showing off. You’d be better off focusing on other qualities when you design.” Fortunately, I can think of several aspects of elegance that, together, rise to the occasion.

Just as I did not discuss every argument against elegance in the last part, this is not an exhaustive list of the benefits of elegance. In addition to being a futile effort, trying to compile a complete list of the advantages of elegance, with even cursory analysis, would be far more than anyone would want to read. Instead, I will focus on what I feel are the most significant advantages elegance has to offer.

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The Importance of Being Elegant — The Case For the Prosecution

In boardgames, elegance, game design on April 22nd, 2007 at 9:23 pm

In order to critique games — and, if absolutely necessary, gamers — intelligently, you must understand the strengths and weaknesses of the major aesthetic priorities. Developing a grasp of why different priorities makes games fun, which priorities play well together and which ones do not, what the limits of their advantages and disadvantages are, and how the problems they can cause have been overcome in the past are all important to developing a thorough understanding of games and how they are designed.

Here and in the final part of this series I shall try to develop such an understanding of elegance, starting with the problems that emphasizing elegance can cause. I won’t pretend that I discuss every complaint about elegant game design here, though. This article would become (even more) unwieldy if I did, and I feel that some of the common complaints are straw men that anyone can see through. In addition, I am not aware of a comprehensive Encyclopedia of Complaints About Elegant Games that I can use as a reference. I’ve used the Alex Rockwell piece that is quoted in the introduction to this essay as my primary source for serious complaints. There are certainly serious issues with elegance that I have forgotten about.

It should also be obvious that I have a strong bias in favour of elegant designs. Because of this, I doubt that I have done complete justice to the arguments against elegance. I have tried my best to be fair, but I have probably not been as eloquent or as forceful as I should be when presenting the case against elegance.

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The Importance of Being Elegant — Concerning Aesthetic Content in Games

In boardgames, elegance, game design on April 17th, 2007 at 4:26 pm

[This is the second part of my essay on the role of elegance in game design. The first part, introducing the topic, can be found here. Parts 3 and 4 will be coming soon.]

Before getting into the advantages and disadvantages of elegant game design, it is important to understand the role that elegance plays in game design. It is not an objective measure of success or failure in game design, and it is not a goal that a designer sets for himself. Instead, elegance is one of a wide array of aesthetic qualities that a designer can choose to emphasize or ignore. The priority a designer gives to elegance, and every other aesthetic quality, has a huge influence on which players enjoy a game. Elegance only affects a game’s quality indirectly, though.

Advanced Squad Leader is an excellent example of a high quality game whose designers did not give much emphasis to elegance. At the time of this writing, ASL is ranked among the top 50 board games of all time on Boardgamegeek. It has also sold thousands of copies, has been in print for most of the last 25 years, and has spawned dozens of expansions and spin-off products. It is also one of the most inelegant games ever published. Even by wargame standards, its rules are almost (repeat almost) ludicrously detailed. Nevertheless, it has to be accepted as one of the best boardgames of all time. If elegance were an objective measure of quality, ASL would have disappeared shortly after publication.

The list of aesthetic values that a game design can possess is enormous, and each value has both fans and detractors. Every game design features a unique mix of them, and determining this mix is one of the most significant decisions a game designer makes, even when he is not aware that he is making it. Deciding involves trade offs, though, and no game can be all things to all players. How should a designer make this decision? What does this mean for the art of game design? How does this necessity affect the role of elegance — or any other aesthetic quality — in game design?

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The Importance of Being Elegant — Introduction

In boardgames, elegance, game design on April 16th, 2007 at 1:29 pm

[Presented here for your amusement, at long last, is my second essay on elegance in game design The Importance of Being Elegant. Well, actually, this is just the introduction to it. The whole thing is much too long to read comfortably in a single blog post, so I have broken it into four parts, and I will post it over the course of the next couple weeks.
I thought that I would start you off easy 😉

The entire essay consists of

  1. Introduction
  2. Concerning Aesthetic Content in Games
  3. The Case for the Prosecution
  4. The Upside of Elegance]

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My Podcasting Debut (such as it was)

In role-playing games on April 4th, 2007 at 12:25 am

I filled in for the temporarily out of action Jason (ynnen) Little on the newest episode of The Metagamers podcast.

Well, I tried to, anyway.

About half an hour or so into recording, I got up to let my cat in from outdoors, and as I got up, my foot snagged on the cord of my headset, and it got a very hard yank when I tried to take a stride.

The result was a headset with a malfunctioning microphone, and my contributions to the podcast were (largely) done with.

I did make a few typed comments during a BSW play of Venedig that Jim and Mark were discussing as the main feature of the podcast, and they passed them along to the audience. I was supposed ot be a full participant in the discussion, though.

I did manage to get a few words in about Bonaparte at Marengo and Shogun before disaster struck.

Up to that point, I was having fun shooting the breeze with the guys, and now that I have replaced my headset, hopefully I will get another chance to join in as a guest. there has been talk of an expansion episode discussing Princes of Florence strategy.

Or do I have a voice better suited to silent movies?

Designers, This is the Key

In boardgames, game design, role-playing games on April 3rd, 2007 at 3:33 am

The best summary of what design is about that i have ever seen.

Yes, it applies to game design. Board and roleplaying.

Courtesy Jeff Tidball.