Thursday, August 25, 2005

Model Application: Conquer the Horizon

Alright, so somewhat by accident, I wrote up a little mini-RPG called Conquer the Horizon. I say 'somewhat by accident' but the pieces of it were simmering in my brain for weeks, now, along with phrases like "someone should try to design a game that does X to see if Y is true..." It all kind of came together in a critical mass tuesday night -- now, the ensuing explosion may be an explosion of crap, so no guarantees on quality, here. The game is a test dummy.

But now I want to try and hash out how CtH is supposed to work, design-wise, based on the Interaction Model. I'm hoping to play a bit of it tonight, so some thoughts pre-play might be useful to reference later.

In CtE, the players take on roles of explorers from the Old World in the New World; the action of the game is to collaboratively create the New World. This comes from two places: (a) the point of this game is very explicitly to make everyone imagine something very similar, as the Interaction Model suggests is the 'core function' of roleplaying. Also (b) this game is pretty intentionally incoherent in Big Model terms. It's not Narrativist, it's not Gamist. Perhaps it's Simmy -- but the Big Model is having trouble with Simmy at the moment. In any case, this is an attempt to create something that is functional without being coherent/adherent.

So: the Imagined in this game is pretty simply the developing details of the New World. The 'characters' are pretty secondary to the New World, which is in center stage. Players will be imagining this World. The System... check that, the Rules compose a pretty streamlined credibility-dispenser where all players introduce, qualify/complicate, and accept additions to the New World. It's pure Lumpley Principle. It also has some ambiguous edges (what constitutes a 'resource'); how the written rules become the utilized System will be interesting. As for Story, each player has a goal, which may or may not be secondary to the group goal of creating an interesting New World. I'm very interested to see how that hashes out -- I hope it will be something like "let's create a neat New World that I can profitably exploit".

Now the meat of the game: the interactions. Players take turns proposing additions called Discoveries to the game world (steering), which the other players add qualifications to (more steering). Eventually the Discovery wins acceptance (validation) and becomes a part of the New World (articulation), or it fails to win acceptance (validation) and turns out to be a phantasm on the horizon (negative articulation). In addition to some scant details on individual characters, players can also bring in references to prior Discoveries to bolster their chances of making a Discovery or getting their Qualification accepted (fuel).

As for contextualization and imbuing, those go one of two ways (or both) depending on the Story involved. We have Discoveries piling up in the Imagined, creating a world which can either (a) be judged as interesting or not or (b) inform the player's progress towards their win-goal -- that's contextualization. Some of those Discoveries will be particularly appreciated simply as 'neat', while others can provide opportunities to pursue the win-goal -- that's imbuing. Again, if all goes well, players will be trying to contextualize the cool bits of the New World as opportunities to exploit them in interesting ways, and setting their targets on their favorite bits as special because they are both interesting and useful.

Miscellaneous fiddly-bits include a dwindling pool of 'Supplies' which can be used to increase chances of having your input accepted (pure fuel) and which, once exhausted, end the game (fuel again). When the game ends, players tally points based on their characters' goals (validation) and the winner names the New World after their character (the final act of articulation).

Function -- the game should work to reconcile a developing New World that is both interesting and exploitable, a set of permissions and procedures for adding to that New World, and a sense that the game is played to create an interesting, exploitable world.


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