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The Christmas holiday was great fun!

First Rachael and I spent a few days with my parents in Bournemouth, enjoying playing games with them and the generally manic antics at the Shack, and the wonderful Christmas Day traditions. Then we drove off on Boxing Day to Rachael's extended family gathering (I feel so lucky that Rachael's normal Christmas gathering is on Boxing Day, so we don't have to alternate years spending Christmas with one family or the other). Thence we went down to her parents' house in East Dorset for a final few days.

The contrast between time at our parents' houses is entertaining. In some ways it's very similar – in either house we'll take things pretty easy, spending time sitting playing games with the family and doing puzzles together on our own. But my parents' house always feels like a hive of activity – there's always something going on; whereas Rachael's parents' house always feels very quiet and relaxed. Sometimes it's because my parents are still working (Rachael's are semi-retired), but it still feels the same even when they're also on holiday. I think it's just something in the personalities of our different families. Both states of affairs are nice and comforting and homely, but in slightly different ways.

One other thing that the week off has provided me is plenty of time to be making progress on my planned ren'ai / turn-based tactical combat game! I've been making plans for a lot of the details of the combat engine, and having worked out the functional and architectural design, I've actually started writing Ren'Py code for a turn-based tactics combat engine – quite a bit of it – onto my faithful PDA. The code is of course completely untested – that will have to wait for my return home to a computer. But it's lots of fun to be exercising my creative juices in a productive way during random 20-minute car journeys and suchlike, and it's very cool to be coming back from a week away with a significant fraction of the code for an isometric battle engine. (One of the chief reasons I'm writing this post at all is because I'm aware I have a few visitors from the Lemmasoft forums, and having some modicum of progress on a ren'ai game to show, for the first time since I finished Elven Relations, is quite exciting. A lot of the Elven Relations combat engine was also first written onto my PDA while I was on holiday, in that case over Easter.)

toothycat emailed me the preliminary coloured version of the book cover to Ultimate Dream, and it's very cool! So I still need to make several tweaks to the PDF, but it hopefully won't be too long now before you can buy a proper version of the book from LuLu, if you're the kind of person who prefers to have a proper physical book in your hands, as I know several of you are.

Now, onto the questions. We played many games with our families: Rumis, On the Underground, Zendo, Gnostica, Samurai, and Pentago at my parents', and Trivial Pursuit, Zendo, Bananagrams, Humm Bug, and Are You Smarter Than A 10-Year-Old with Rachael's. As we were figuring out the rules to this last, I had a rare moment of getting really rather worked up. I was reading out sections of the rules, not word-for-word but paraphrasing and interpreting as I went. It transpired that this was found by most present to be a pretty inefficient or unhelpful thing for me to do. In discussion afterwards, we decided to take a poll.

(...And since this is my first time posting a poll to LJ, I am discovering the hard way that you can't include text between two sections of a poll, nor can you edit the text of the poll once posted. Oh well. You should still be able to answer both questions, even if they're fairly unrelated ^.^)

The setting is the following. Imagine you're with me and a few other people, and we're opening a new board game and looking at the rules for the first time. Which of the following is your preference?

Someone reads the rules out loud – verbatim – and the group listen and figure them out.
Someone reads the rules out loud – paraphrasing, interpreting, and reordering as seems to make logical sense – and the group listen and figure them out.
Someone quietly reads the rules on their own and figures them out – while the rest talk among themselves – and then once they've figured out the rules, explains them to the group.
The rules are placed where the whole group can read them, and the group read them together and figure them out.
Any of the above would be equally fine to me.
Something else would be my preference, as I'll explain in a comment.

Would people prefer it if I split my posts up into several smaller ones (appropriately tagged), rather than multi-topic behemoths like this one?

Yes, several posts on individual topics is better than one huge post on all sorts of different things
No, keep it as you have been doing - fewer posts, each on multiple topics
Doesn't bother me either way.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 29th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
This is a behemoth post? ^^;

I'd prefer someone to explain to rules to me (which seems quicker) with the option of reading the rules myself if I want to check something.

What features will your combat / RPG system have?

I know toothycat is working on a RPG system (he mentioned it yesterday), perhaps you could collaborate?
Dec. 29th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
"Working" is too strong a word. My get-up-and-go stocks tend to be much lower than other people's.
Dec. 29th, 2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
This is a behemoth post? ^^;
Well, obviously not by your standards, but you post larger posts by far than anyone else on my friendslist ;)

What features will your combat / RPG system have?
Quite a lot is still to be determined, so this is all provisional. That said, key principles that I'm focusing on are:
* The capability for characters and units to develop from one combat to the next, and in ways that can vary from one game to the next.
* Units should be different, in ways that matter - not just "an extra movement point but one fewer damage point" kind of thing.
* Keeping the different combats feeling really different from each other.
* In-game, things should keep moving pretty quickly.
* Like Elven Relations, I'd really like to have actions in the visual novel parts of the game have impact in the tactical combat parts, and vice versa.
* Where possible, keep the influence of randomness low. I generally dislike randomness, so for example, I'd ideally like to avoid having a "to hit" percentage, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to avoid it.

I have a number of other things planned, with Rocket, the guy I'm working on the game with. In particular, we have one key hook planned that neither of us has seen in a tactical combat game before, that could lead to some very interesting tactical situations. But you'll have to wait a bit longer before I reveal that ;)
Dec. 29th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, that was the other thing. While I ticked "I don't mind either way" for your second question, if your posts do get as large as Rob's, use of lj-cut would be appreciated... ;)

Edited at 2007-12-29 04:42 pm (UTC)
Dec. 29th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
I am discovering the hard way that you can't include text between two sections of a poll, nor can you edit the text of the poll once posted
AFAICT if you have a post with a poll in it, and you edit the post, removing the lj poll tag and replacing it with new LJ poll markup, the new poll isn't accepted by LJ. This means you can't 'edit' a poll you made an error on, even if it has only been up for a few seconds. You have to recreate the whole post.
Dec. 29th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
Are you going to do one of those 'What I believe' posts that are becoming popular around my flist? :)
Dec. 29th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
I think it varies a lot, depending on how user-friendly the rules are to start with, and how good the person is at distilling. I think you're quite good, but I also understand that all the options can be frustrating in their own way, particularly if you're used to one way, when someone departing from it might seem to be for reasons other than just being what they're used to.

I'm not sure what is usually most efficient.

And of course, some people read rules in different ways. Show me a page describing how to determine who plays first, and in what order, and what I'll see in my head is "Play proceeds clockwise, starting with an arbitrarily/randomly chosen player, the traditional manner of which can be dereferenced later when needed", and I'll probably say that. But someone else might see it in a completely different way we might find each other's distillings less helpful.

Sorry, I went on a bit. The main thing is to not worry about it so long as you come to some compromise.
Dec. 29th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC)
I like a chance to quietly read the rules if I am going to play a new game and it has a rulebook. If someone is loudly reading / paraphrasing them while I am trying to do this, this stops me concentrating. I usually appreciate the chance to judge for myself which sections of a game's rulebook are important, how they are to be interpreted etc. I find it helpful when reading documentation in general to paraphrase things to myself, but since I don't like other people doing it out loud around me as it stops me concentrating, I don't do it out loud either. I find I tend to be in the minority, though - most people in the groups I play in seem to prefer me to quietly read the rules on my own then explain them in my own words and maybe talk people through a turn. If there are just one or two other people in the group who also prefer to read the rules for themselves they usually read them in turn.
Dec. 29th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
Mmm, yes. I specifically wanted to exclude the circumstance where someone (e.g. me) has had a chance to open the box before people gather, and read and understand the rules themselves on their own. When I receive a new game, that's actually what I'll often do, so that when we come to play it for the first time, I already know something of what I'm explaining.

So I view that as generally preferable, if it's an option. The poll was more specifically about when that's not an option - people say "Oh, we've got New Game X, shall we play it?" and we're having to figure it out as we go.
Dec. 29th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)
Well, yes. Even in the situation you describe, though - which I did have in mind when writing my reply, as it is not at all uncommon - I still prefer the chance to quietly read the rules myself before playing, while being able to concentrate on what I am reading, to all other options. A trial playthrough of a turn can also be very helpful. I don't mind whether everyone else then or beforehand also individually or communally reads the rules, or I or someone else explain them to other people or whatever, it makes no difference to me so long as everyone else is happy. Obviously if other people in the group have played before and have developed house rules, or if there is no rulebook, there is no option but to have the game explained to me verbally.
Dec. 29th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)
my dad likes to read the rules quietly to himself, but the rest of us like to have someone read-and-interpret as they go along. my main thing is to get into playing as quickly as possible, picking it up as you go - interpreting rules the 1st time you play i find kind of trying...altho i think my dad absolutely loves it! XD (i prefer pressing out all the counters! *never got older than 3* XD )
Dec. 29th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
Word tells me that this post is 875 words long, which I'd consider about "average".

Of course, pretty much all of my entries of any significant length come under a cut, which I'd encouraged the use of.

Be interesting to see your game when it's more progressed, having played more tactical combat simulations than I can reasonably be expected to remember, an actual novelty would be quite something :).
Dec. 31st, 2007 02:33 pm (UTC)
Of course, pretty much all of my entries of any significant length come under a cut, which I'd encouraged the use of.
Well, yes. I'm in favour of cuts too, and applied one to this post, although only partially. If my posts get any longer, I'll certainly make more liberal use of cuts.

Be interesting to see your game when it's more progressed, having played more tactical combat simulations than I can reasonably be expected to remember, an actual novelty would be quite something :)
Hee. Well, I haven't played that many - certainly single digits - so I can't guarantee it's not been seen before. It's flavourful, within a certain setting, so if there are other such games within similar settings, it's certainly possible they could have thought of this. It's conceptually a drawback, but obviously if the enemies have it as well, it balances out, and allows intriguing tactical possibilities.

Of course, a game can't stand on its unique idea alone, so I'd welcome recommendations for general principles to make the game fun, playable, and replayable.
Dec. 30th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC)
I think it's best if the person who is going to read the rules out reads them first and makes sure they understand them.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )