Friday, March 23, 2012

Interview for HOP- David Morgan-Mar

I wrote a series of articles about designing better games for House of Paincakes over the past 2 months or so. While I was working on the process and developing material for the series, I conducted a good number of interviews with various people across the internet, as well as some real life folks.

I love the comment section of the HOP site, and my overall series, Musings of a Game Store Owner. It was in the comments that I was first made aware of this next person, his article and the followup ideas he had were great. David Morgan-Mar of :

No, not that guy. Still cool, though! 

L: I recently had a customer tell me that certain games "were awful" and "if there were better stuff" he would buy them. This prompted me to talk about designing games, and specifically intelligent design and how to get better games on the shelf for customers to buy. I'm in the midst of a series on said topic, and your recent article, Designing Games ( was mentioned in the comments and responses to one of my posts. 

I would very much like to quote you in my upcoming article on mechanics, given your permission of course. I would gladly attribute and link to you as a matter of course and politeness. I am interviewing several people about game design, and if you're available, an interview would be equally beneficial to my article. 

D: Certainly, please feel free to quote my stuff or redistribute it. And if you send some interview questions, I'll do my best to answer.

L: David, much of the article you wrote discusses mechanics that are fairly specific to board games. I noticed your mention of MtG as well. Do you do any roleplaying at all?

D:Heh. Not as much as I used to because of time constraints, but I've done quite a lot in my time. In fact I'm co-author on a few GURPS rule books.

L: The way I read your article, while you were talking about design; to me most of your commentary was specifically mechanics oriented. Does design always mean mechanics (how the game is played) to you? 

D: No, not at all. I think integration of a theme is also something to think about very carefully when designing a game. A successful and appropriate theme adds a lot of flavour and fun to a game design, whereas a poorly chosen or pasted-on theme can be detrimental.

There are also other elements, such as whether to use cards or tiles or miniatures or a board, that can change how a game feels to play, even if mechanically they might be isomorphic.

L: Do you feel any of your comments on design could apply to other kinds of games (such as miniatures or card games)?

D: Certainly. I think many of the general principles are the same.

L: Can you share a little on HOW you think they could be applied to other types of games?  

D: Let's see...

I think several principles carry over fairly directly. Don't knock people out of the game, have mechanics that allow people to catch up, and so on.

Giving players difficult decisions in a card game can be helped by the fact that you usually have severely limited information. Cards in the undrawn deck and opponent's hands are hidden, so the probability calculations are almost guaranteed to be to hard to do explicitly. The main part of the game design needs to be ensuring that the players have actual decisions to make, and that they meaningfully affect the outcome.

In a miniatures game, there's usually no hidden information, and the complexity has to come from the multiple possibilities of what your opponents might do.

The overall principle for any game is really identifying what elements of the game give you complexity and lead to tough decisions, and then using those elements. Some types of game lead more naturally to leaning on randomness, or sheer computational complexity, or hidden information. 

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!!! I have known David Morgan-Mar since he was Danger Mouse in alt.callahans. I guess this is a case of worlds colliding! Also, interesting article. Maybe you should post a copy at the store for certain GM's.