Designing for the Inter Nets

It's not something I consciously do, but it's something I do: I design games that are deeply rooted in the physical world. People find it bizarre to play Mridangam without being able to sling gestures; Refreshing RAIN has a go board and mahjongg tiles, Torchbearer is nonsensical without physical Torch objects. Limitless is probably most efficient with, like, mancala cups for your Method dice.

These are all data-storage techniques that turn abstract information into physical things that can be rapidly and easily manipulated. How do you do this digitally, under the constraints of, for instance, IRC?

I realise that there are like ten people, tops, reading this thing. I don't do cool theorising like my colleagues at anyway. and This Is My Blog, or have a game coming down the print pipeline soon enough that you should be saving for it. Nevertheles, I encourage you to think at me.


Anonymous taiji_jian said...

So, in light of your plea for blog comments, and in the interst of testing out non-blogger postings, here I go:

Nicknames! IRC nicknames are variables that are easily manipulable. You can store a limited amount of data there without needing any extra fancy stuff.

Also, IRC bots can recognize nicknames. You could probably get someone with code-fu (I tried this once; couldn't get it working) to write some DLLs that would keep track of various variables for each user in a channel. This would, of course, require a bot.

9:39 pm  
Anonymous Bob Thornton said...

You own. Seriously. There is no other way to describe this. Your languages are insanely awesome, and your story-writing skills are... divine.

9:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Starting at no on-line tracking of variables, you do what Thomas suggested which is everyone keep track of it at home on their own. This is cumbersome and opaque and often confusing.

Nate's IRC nick thing is good, but you can't hold more than one number in there at all well. I suppose you could custom write aliases to help with incrementing multiple levels of numbers, but thats not very efficient.

There's also the wiki option. Easily set up, easily accessible by everyone. It's slow and probably not useful for rapid information sharing. Seems to be good for Fact tracking in Uni though.

As nate said, there's custom bots. I do have some small code-fu skills, but not the type that will allow me to write a platform-indpendant bot for IRC. Though I suppose once I did, it would be trivial to alter it to do other things.

After that, you really have to use custom designed software. (Like they did OPENrpg for tabletop d&d) If you have the resources, it works pretty seamlessly. Magic does very well online, from what I hear. Still, some games aren't really suited for online play. As I've said in the past, I won't play poker online because the people-watching aspect is gone. It's a lot harder to jive with people when you can't pick up visual cues. Your games might not be suited for online play. I know that doesn't really help for the circles you travel in, gamer wise. Myabe you could excite interest by going to a con and running a few instances of the games.

3:00 am  
Anonymous Josh said...

Apparently this thing resets the name field when you preview the comment. The above was me.

4:08 am  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

So here's the deal, yo.

I was recently thinking that in order for roleplaying to maintain its status as a distinctive and unique artform that offers a distinctive and unique experience of play, it would be nice for bunches of us to focus on creating play experiences that could not just as easily be electronic games. This is D&D's big problem, I think, where the GM is basically serves as a computer, processing player input, and you could just as easily go play World of Warcraft.

When you look at recent indie game designs (like Dogs) and the shift towards GM-less play (most recently, Polaris and Breaking the Ice), what you get is play that couldn't be created by a video game. It's about real people getting together and doing something together.

Now, Polaris and BTI can still be played in a chat client or whatever, but I don't necessarily see this as a requirement for Torchbearer or any of your designs. You, as a designer, focus more on the details of the actual play experience more than anyone I know. You ideas about play are very much grounded in a physical, sensual experience.

So I don't see why your games can't require physical, non-virtual play.

I mean, oh my god, it's so retro-cool.

8:12 am  
Blogger Mee-ah said...

There are at least like... eleven... people reading this. Just so you know.

11:34 am  
Blogger Shreyas said...

Thanks for your thoughts, all. Specific replies:

Yeah, code-fu is irritatingly desirable in this case. I was hoping someone would pipe up with something that no one ha expected, but code-fu really seems to be the best way to go.

Thanks very much!

Blogger comments suck.

Yeah, I'm actually pretty happy about designing games that enthusiastically reject online play; this musing is about spreading my skill set and recognising the overlooked sensual details of another environment. Unfortunately, there are so few!


9:58 pm  

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