Design Curriculum 7: How, how, how, how, how?!

Justin gave me a list of questions or topics for this session, and I realized they made most sense in nested form. So I grouped IIEE and relationship mechanics into the larger category of Bounce and system diagrams (specifically their feedback or activity loops), then put the whole into the biggest category of design processes as an experience.

Part 1 (embedded below) pokes a little at IIEE and relationships to show that they are frequently in play without much mechanics, and to ask why and how mechanics matter for them

Part 2 presents the idea of a mosaic, or perhaps a moving mosaic, in which the interaction of parts generates the fiction rather than each piece being responsible for a discrete/single part [here’s SLUG, the game I mention]

Part 3 concerns the twinned evil ideals of engineer-everything vs. engineer-nothing and begins to examine relationship mechanics (in retrospect, it flows directly into the next video and the two should probably be combined)

Part 4 punches it home from Part 2: examing the particulate mechanics of the mosaic, and that over-engineering each one and its connections is counter-productive

Part 5 extends the previous points outward into the context of Bounce in general and to what Justin is calling the activity loops of the system diagrams

Part 6 introduces the concept of the Design Conversation, which refers not to dialogue specifically but to play – I should clarify here that I’m not talking about breadth but depth; one can have the “conversation” with just one game, for instance

Part 7 summarizes the “how how” issue as practically as I can, including three things that work together so crucially that I ought to make a billboard of them

Part 8 presents a very hypothetical design/practice challenge for thought-purposes only, and closes with why there’s no “design manual”

Last point: the production went crappy on me! Something about the initial video wouldn’t fit well into my editor, and that screwed up the size/resolution of all the graphics.

7 responses to “Design Curriculum 7: How, how, how, how, how?!”

  1. This is Great

    This is really a great series, the Design Curriculum conversation.  I've really enjoyed these first two sessions and am looking forward to the rest.

    • I’m glad you like them. I

      I'm glad you like them. I thought of them as a bit of a discovery process for myself, in order to think about the best pedagogical presentation for later. Any thoughts on that would be appreciated.

      Your phrasing worried me a little so I'll clarify that this "How, how" session is #6, with apologies if you knew that.

    • I appreciate the

      I appreciate the clarification!  I had watched sessions 5 and 6 when I made that comment, and then went scrolling through the early ones and realized I had a LOT of catching up to do!

      I really like the way you break the session into the smaller chunks in these two sessions.  It's much less daunting to take on a 10 minute video than to tackle a full hour.

      I'll be going back to the first one and watching them all.

    • I shifted to slice-and-dicing

      I shifted to slice-and-dicing all videos as standard procedure, once I figured out the workflow to make it an easy step. I'm still working on getting them to automatically start in sequence, especially when watching from an embed here rather than inside YouTube. Again, it's not just "how to" but also "without an intense pain in the ass." Once I get that handled, I'll start giving the clips individual titles too.

  2. Alternating pinpoint instrumentation with creative void

    Listening to part 3, when Ron is refering to not overengineering and having only the number of pinpoint mechanics necessary for the game you envision, I suddenly had an idea:

    It seems that a useful way to envision play is alternating between "pinpoint" mechanics and "creative space." So a given mechanic produces an outcome, including certain details. This is lobbed to the players, where the details provided describe context of situation and details that the player's can then imagine and respond to — their response being informed and constrained by the results of the mechanic — and this player response then produces the real world conditions that indicate the use of another pinpoint mechanic. Repeat.

    I think this is what Vincent is getting at with the "conversation." This is what powered by the Apocalypse move design attempts to address. What do you do?, Trigger, application of move rule (often with dice roll), outcome, What do you do?

    The trick I think is having the pinpoint mechanic produce a result that inspires the players with a sense of options or direction and reducing the need to delve around in "the murk" for too long.

    In one case, if you get to specific with pinpoint mechanics, it kills the player's sense of risk and creative engagement. In another case, too few pinpoints can leave everyone at the table hunting for progress and creating spot rules. In a final case, the pinpoints available actually produce results that don't mesh with the other pinpoints or the designers intent.

    This gives me a new appreciation why I like Vincent's characterization of conversation as an exchange of moves by players and GM — in particular, I note that the the GM's moves are those that reign in the murk. Has he just codified roleplayer's most common solution to the "murk"?


    • I am fan & friend of Vincent.

      I am fan & friend of Vincent. I have to grit my teeth a little here, though, because the concept you're referencing was introduced by me at the Forge as "points of contact," about seventeen years ago. This was, I think, the first time that anyone in role-playing talked about how play "reverberated" or "resonated" between interpretation of these points' use and setup/implications for the next point.

      (One of the subtopics at the time concerned my observation that "all talk, none of those awful dice, we just talk it through" play was actually maximal in points of contact rather than minimal.)

      It was also related to the ongoing conversation at that time among me, Vincent, and some others like Ralph Mazza, Mike Holmes, and Walt Freitag, concerning whether all play was basically talking, with mechanics as facilitative and positively-disrupting participants.

      This is a good example of the interplay among our ideas generated by the concept (warning: also over-intense and intimate, not geared for third-party reading) Exploration of System (split) (June 2003) and the badly-mistitled The whole model – this is it (November 2003). Some later reflections are much more accessible, like Jason’s Unified Theory of Exploration (February 2004) and Whatever happened to Points of Contact? (August 2005)

      There are lots of other threads; it was a on-off-think-post-rethink topic for quite a while.

    • Ah! Yes, I like “points of

      Ah! Yes, I like "points of contact" as a term. I am amused to see that in 2005, I made a short post to one of these threads, but I'm not sure if I understood the idea at that time. 

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