[Note from Dustin: We’ve got a special guest writer this week – Florencia Minuzzi from teawithflo.com. She also happens to be my partner in a new game design venture. As a writer, I felt she was more qualified to step up and talk about today’s topic: creating resonance between the player and the main character of a narrative game. Nothing is really spoiled beyond the first few minutes of the game, but if you prefer to play knowing nothing, then you’ve been warned. I’ll leave the rest to her.]
Hey everybody, apologies for the break, but vacations happen from time to time. I’m back, so let’s get started. While on holiday, I blazed through Shin Megami Tensei IV. I had a few things in mind to write about it, but when I read Dyl’s post last week I knew it was a good opportunity to follow up on theme.
While discussing the post last week with my brother, I hit upon the argument multiple times that some of his comments reflect something about him personally, but are also signs that the mechanic as a whole is a bit broken. By ‘the mechanic’ I mean money acquisition and purchasing of resources in most RPGs, and by ‘broken’ I mean that it ultimately just wasn’t accomplishing much in the game to justify its use as a mechanic. I don’t think I’m alone in this assessment, but instead of dwelling on the reasons for this, I would rather spend my words here focusing on how I think Shin Megami Tensei IV quietly improved on the standard.
You don’t know Project Evolution (at least not the one I’m talking about), and I can’t link you to a convenient description. It’s a rough design for a tabletop roleplaying game I’ve been working on this week. I am running an early prototype playtest this weekend just to feel out the main concepts and mechanics, and thought it would be interesting for you to read about what I’m hoping will work out in my own design this time around.
This has been a long time coming. Anybody who has spoken with me about games, especially role-playing games, knows that Final Fantasy 13-2 captivated me. I was never sure when (or if) the time would come that I would find a productive and self-contained angle from which to approach it.
Many people like many different things about Dungeons & Dragons – the storytelling, the fantasy action, the camaraderie, the layers of customisation. It’s safe to say that I like the philosophies behind D&D Next: understanding what the game means to everybody who plays it (or might play it given the chance) and reconciling those motivations.
However, I did enough talking about general goals in WIHILA D&D Next. Instead, let’s talk about something more specific which I’ve had some experience with during the playtest: non-combat rules in D&D Next (because rules for engaging with games which don’t involve combat don’t generally get enough love). More specifically, new rules for Exploration.
After a series of diversions, I’d like to return to form with this column. WIHILA is kind of my way to deliver a hypothesis about a game before I’ve played or finished playing it. This hypothesis is generally prompted by the questions ‘What do I hope I’m going to like about this specific game?’ or ‘What is this game in a position to do, from which I might learn?’ This week, that game is Dungeons & Dragons, and more specifically D&D Next (the next iteration of D&D, currently in open playtesting).
Though a shout-out on its own is not really this column’s style, there’s a lot to be learned from the many sources of insight and information out there on the expansive and noisy internet. This is a bit of a departure from the usual, but I’d like to touch upon one general game design concept (Core Aesthetics) that a weekly webseries titled Extra Credits has covered quite well with their own experiences and examples.