Wednesday, 26 August 2015

There's fun...yet.

But wait yet once again, for I am brought to an important point, that I will illustrate through an analogy. I have heard the greatest wisdom, of the summary of the point of Life, in the words of a Chinese sage: "the greatest happiness in life is to associate with the good spirit (of like-kind) and the greatest misery is to know too much and yet unable to be detached." And it is of the former that forms the basis of my analogy. Just imagine, as I can, since it was very much my youth, that you are hanging out with the best of friends, people who came over on a frequent basis because they enjoyed your company, and the feeling was mutual. At that point in the past, there wasn't much that could be done together, even if we had fun hanging out. Now, what happens when this experience is augmented by the introduction of those high-quality, well-designed board games that I will later become acquainted with, in life, after the years past of my teenagehood? And it follows from there, from the revelation of how much more fun such an experience will be, to be with friends of kindred spirit, and having the chance to play one of the many board games I rate highly on, not by the measures of just good design, but on that genius that comes together as a gestalt of a fun experience, I can safely call "interesting". Noting that the experience would have been enhanced, what makes it so fun exactly?

(On a secondary note, we did play a board game from back then, and it was an engaging affair as I have predicted, as much fun as Risk can provide. Also, the one I call my Mentor among that group was an avid StarCraft player like me, and in fact that whole group I associated with through my elder brother, played LAN games often together. It was by norm, StarCraft Brood War, but I did play some other games with my Mentor, like Dawn of War, which is especially apt, since we both share an interest and love for Warhammer, although him for Fantasy, and mine for 40k. I was introduced first and foremost to Fantasy, but that's another story.)

I think at this point, I can say safely as well, that my point has been brought across at some level. As I have mentioned beforehand, I am in the business of knowing, and then proceeding from there, the making of fun and interesting things. There must be a strong reason in the synthesis and coming together of elements that constitute the design and mechanics of a game, that they will produce an effect or appeal of the eventual product that is able to involve the players, and I believe the capture of that to be the brilliance of the rules, and the boldness of introducing radical elements into the game structure. This was successfully done with Forbidden Stars, allowing each of the four Warhammer 40,000 Factions to do some very nifty and "cool" executions, and make some of the most exciting decisions, allowing some very awesome engagements, by revolutionary bending the rules for some Factions, as they come against a rule and circumventing it, like being able to travel through a Warpstorm, when by the usual application of the rules, this is something impossible and not usually allowed. This feature or implementation suggests to be an interesting notion of itself.

This mentioning is just one of many such ways of stimulus to both the satisfaction of the intellectually-grasping mind, who revel in the mechanical synthesis of a brilliant game design, as well as for those who seek to play "cool" moves, taking them on a thrill of the accomplishment of some truly interesting feats. For me, interesting mechanics are a natural evolvement of thematically-written rules, but that might require another post all on its own. But I suppose it has always been a mental affair, and will always be with board games. You can expect a higher toll on the faculties, compared to the mindless engagement of a first-person shooter.

It should be noted on the reason why I quote the word "cool" (again, I did it), and it is the same one as for interesting. What allows a certain entity to gain the association and attribution of a quality, either interesting or cool, in whatever way it comes? This applies to all other situations, and it marks the development of the faculty of observation, but that's a little beyond our interest of discussion, being of course the creation of these two qualities within the merging of mechanics, in a game. How and why it works is within the domain of my business, being the designing of the best games possible. I say possible, because I believe in optimisation, a related factor to my own perfectionist streak. I believe that there is an optimal and optimised way in the dealing and enactment of actions, reflected in one's choices and methods of approach. I believe in an "ideal state", that can be achieved, with anything in excess of it removing it from perfection. I am not entirely sure how this philosophy of mine, developed along with my personality of near-anal perfectionism, and with the gradual realisations as they came with the experience of life, making me remark to my Guru of then, that "it is about balance", achieving a state ideal and not in excess of both its strengths and weaknesses. Like the revolution of the Dao.

It seems even with the devotion of two whole posts, I have yet to fully resolve and decide on the meaning and occurrence of what and how good design and rule-making lead to interesting gameplay. I suppose that's why the discussion was opened to the floor in the previous post, but if I was to be concrete on "what" constitutes it, from the educated guess of one who describes himself a talented creative, I should first mention that whatever that crucial element is, it has been hinted at in some parts, either by interesting propositions of thought-provoking and possible revolutionary decisions and actions that one can undertake, which the game both thematically and mechanically allows for, that leads to my first point being the thematic integration of the background of the game being coherently incorporated and brought through in a way that stays true to the fluff in a logical and comprehensive way, leading to the feeling that you are really engaged and playing that faction as how they might and should be represented in an actual warfare. Such kicks are the reason Ameritrash holds popular to a huge mainstay following.

The second point would be the possibility of the execution of great tactical and strategic finesse, in the controlling and mobilisation of the forces in the game, as well as the resource management that usually comes with it. This has led me to a realisation that a large part of not just what constitutes the fun factor of a game, but the content of the game's experience itself, is in the choices that one makes, or is allowed to, within the span of the game. These two aspects in entirety might actually be more crucial than the thematic flavour of the background integrated into the character of your favourite race or faction, for it is the crux on which the game functions on and is given life. In fact, this very feature works across all other mediums, whether playing StarCraft on, DotA 2 on Steam, and so on. Without the intellectual factor of clever mental exercise in employing and immersing yourself with the myriad of possible tactical options, and the intrinsic strategic value present already in the framework and structure of the game, the game will never draw the necessary crowd for it to rate. The beauty of optimal design balance only shines through how well-designed the game's strategic package is, all the way from the determining of the parameters of the lowliest unit or worker within the game. And the beauty is shown when they all come together in the perfect execution, creating a most formidable display of those satisfying actions that led to you seeing your ingenious battle plan work in the way you desired; that is a beauty unrivalled as it is optimal, never needing more or to take away from it any less. Certainly the reason we call it cool, and the reason why it is interesting: because it was damn well designed so.

And having quite exhausted and written as much a deal on this issue as I can muster, I will leave the rest of those valid points remaining, to be fed to me through your engagement with the comments, of which will surely nourish the burgeoning, maturing, and nascent creative mind that is both me and my company. Or should it be the reverse?

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