2014-07-21 : Reminder: Object Schmobject
The object of the game is to...
Your goal is to...
The point of the game is to...
Your job is to...
The winner is the player to...
You have to...
You want to...
You need to...
In order to win, as a group you must...
The game ends when...
You're trying to...
Your objective is to...
You lose if the other player manages to...
Don't stop playing until...
The game can continue indefinitely, as long as...
See if you can...
Your agenda is to...
When you write out the object of a game, "object" might not be the right word to best communicate it. That's okay. "Object" might not be the best name for it in this series of posts, either. That's okay too.
Here's me from an earlier comment:
Multiple levels of simultaneous objects, yes, absolutely. Objects that change over the course of play, objects that you create for yourself while groping toward an understanding of how the game works, objects that are mutually incompatible or otherwise defy you to meaningfully pursue them, yes. All kinds.
2014-07-21 : The Object and Particular Strategy
The object of a game of Hearts is to have the lowest score when the game ends. The game ends when any player reaches 100 points.
Therefore, the general strategy of a hand of Hearts is to avoid adding points to your own score, while adding points to your opponents' scores. If you're already winning, you might prefer to shove points onto the player with the highest score, to bring the game to a quicker end, or the player with the next-lowest score, to strengthen your lead. If you aren't already winning, it's important to shove points onto the player with the lowest score, to force them to overtake you.
Suppose that at the deal your hand consists of mostly low cards across the suits. This hand is pretty safe. For this hand, your particular strategy might be to get rid of potentially point-winning cards early, before the hearts come out, so that in the later game you win no tricks.
Suppose that at the deal your hand consists of most of the cards of one suit and a couple cards each of the others. For this hand, your particular strategy might be to use the early game to solidify your domination of your strong suit, so that you can use it in the later game to force others' plays. This is a riskier hand but not a bad one.
Suppose that at the deal your hand consists of generally high cards across the suits, but all in the 8 to queen range, few face cards. This is a pretty poor hand. Your particular strategy here might be to opportunistically throw in with someone who has a strong hand, trying to shift the points you'd otherwise win onto somebody less canny or even less lucky than you.
Summary: Combined with the procedures of play, the object of the game gives you your general strategy. Combined with your general strategy, the changing circumstances of play give you your changing particular strategy.
Super Mario Brothers! Your particular strategy changes from level to level, obviously enough. It also changes when you've grabbed a fire flower vs when you haven't, when you have a lot of lives vs when you don't, when you're big vs when you're little, when you know a level well vs the first time to play it, and others.
In Apocalypse World, your object as MC is to find out what the characters make of their world. The principles are your general strategy. The changing circumstances of play are which characters, in what conditions and situations. It starts with the playbooks the players choose and develops continuously from there. Together, these give you your particular strategy. Same as in Hearts: of all the cards you could legally play, which do you consider playing, and which do you reject as poor play? In Apocalypse World, of all the things you could legally say, right now, when the players turn to look at you because they need to know, which do you consider saying, and which do you reject as inappropriate, counterproductive, or poor play?
How about now! Everybody still with me? Did I lose any of you?
2014-07-19 : Aside: Designing a Bell Curve
When you design a game, you design a bell curve of experiences. Every experience that anyone will ever have playing your game is a point under the curve.
Inevitably, when you create and publish a game, someone's going to come to you and say "hey, we played your game, and we had a bad time. What did we do wrong?"
There is un-fun play under the curve. There are times when the game crashes and the players get mad at each other under the curve. So the answer is probably that they didn't do anything wrong. Probably, they played your game right, and they had a bad time with it.
It's too bad that it happened to them, but it was going to happen to somebody!
2014-07-18 : Non-Endstate Objects, Strategy & Style
So take it that the object of Human Contact is to create sf in the universe of the Academy, resolving (fictional) situations into new situations from chapter to chapter.
This object supplants* your normal interests while you're playing, right, but it doesn't give you an endstate to play toward. During play, you're either doing it or you aren't, and when you stop playing, you've either done it or you haven't, but it doesn't tell you when to stop playing.
So at any given moment in Human Contact, you have an assortment of procedurally legal plays, and you can choose between them strategically, right? Given that you're trying to make sf in the universe of the Academy, resolving situations into new situations chapter by chapter, you can tell which plays are strategically sound, which are questionable, and which are poor plays.
The object is so open-ended that the set of strategically sound plays is usually going to be very large, but that's fine.
And given this (probably large) set of strategically sound plays, you'll be able to go on to make a stylistic choice about which to make, right?
For example, here's a play that is sometimes procedurally legal to make during Human Contact: "I step up to her, right up in her face. 'Back off or I'm going to drop an asteroid on your home city. Don't test me.'"
The procedures tell you when it's legal. When it's legal, you weigh it against the object of the game - to create sf, resolving situations into new situations, chapter by chapter - to decide whether it's strategically sound. If it is strategically sound, it's a stylistic choice whether to make that play or a different strategically sound play.
Still with me?
2014-07-18 : Objects of RPGs
The procedures of a game supplant* your normal interactions. For instance, in normal life I never put a 2 of clubs on the table and turn to Meg expectantly but without saying anything.
The object of a game supplants* your normal interests. For instance, in normal life I never care whether I'm the first one to empty my hand of cards.
* Supplant, that is, for purposes of gameplay. You still have normal interactions and normal interests as well, outside of the game, and into which your gameplay fits.
Given that, here's the object of a game from my game shelf:
Human contact is a set of tools designed for you to use to create science fiction in the universe of the Academy... Those tools are there for you to build people and societies and then help them change. You'll create situations that will resolve into new situations, from chapter to chapter, often taking unexpected turns as you explore with your friends.
(In normal life, I never care what's going on in the universe of the Academy or how situations are resolving there.)
In the game, players take on the roles of characters inspired by history and works of fantasy fiction. These characters are a list of abilities rated with numbers and a list of player-determined priorities. The synergy of inspiration, imagination, numbers and priorities is the most fundamental element of Burning Wheel. Expressing these numbers and priorities within situations presented by the game master (GM) is what the game is all about... The in-game consequences of the players' decisions are described in this rulebook. The moral ramifications are left to you.
(In normal life, I never care whether I'm expressing numbers and priorities within situations presented by the GM, nor do I care what their in-game consequences or moral ramifications are.)
Pendragon presents an on-going story. It is a campaign roleplaying game in which time progresses, unique events occur, and characters age. If the players play through the whole Arthurian campaign the players' characters at the end will be the grandchildren of the original characters.
(In normal life, I never care whether time in the Arthurian campaign progresses or whether my character at the end is a grandchild of an original character.)
These are all perfectly legit objects for games to have. They do precisely what they have to do: supplant our normal interests for purposes of gameplay.
How about now? Everybody still with me?
2014-07-17 : Strategy vs Style
2014-07-16 : When is a game a game?
2014-07-15 : Procedure, Components, Object, Strategy, Style
2014-07-01 : AW:Dark Age: Despair Not!
2014-06-12 : While you're waiting...
2014-05-24 : Games that Take Off, Games that Don't
2014-05-19 : AW:Dark Age: Picking Back Up
2014-04-28 : Midsummer Wood
2014-04-22 : Enough Dillying! Also, enough Dallying!
2014-04-15 : Cultivating Your Audience with Love