Friday, June 26, 2015

Reducing the number of moves

Again about the design process of City of Judas. This time it’s about accepting good advice - and about how I reduced the number of Moves in the game.

Here is the first part, here the second and here is the third.

The number of Moves
The first drafts of the game had a lot of Moves. There were a lot of Basic Moves and a lot of Peripheral Moves, and also a lot of Combat Moves. For example, in combat you had a standard move to fight, one to be more on a defensive stance, and one to be attacking in full force.
Several of the feedback I received were clear about this: there were way too many Moves.
My initial response was to be defensive. It’s normal to be defensive I guess: it was my game, it was for free, and I wanted advice but most of all I wanted to be given compliments and confirmation. Still, while it’s legitimate to say: that’s the game, play it as it is or don’t play it at all, well… feedback is exactly that: telling you what you did right, and what you should perhaps consider to change.
What I did with the number of moves, was indeed was to change and simplify.

There are a couple of reasons for this: one is indeed that I recognized the wisdom of the commentators that insisted that there were too many moves. A lot of them were smart people that in other cases I found myself agreeing with.
Perhaps this time they were wrong, or perhaps I thought they were wrong just because they were talking about my own work. Yes, of course the real reason was the latter, I was just being defensive.

More importantly (the second reason for this change), I thought about the process I followed when doing other work: when I write fiction, I write following the inspiration, but then I need to review and clean my work, and a lot of it involves taking out stuff.
Same when I write code: when you get the job done quickly, there’s a lot of clutter in the code. When you take your time to tidy up, you usually end up with a better script, which is also shorter.
So yes: I reduced the number of Moves, and in some cases that paired up with reducing the number of Counters.

Bottom line: usually good people give good advice, and while it’s good in an early stage to throw into a game all the ideas you have about that subject, later on you will need to simplify and cut away some useless (or nearly useless) chunks.
An example: Rings were used to improve your rank within the Iron Fist; they had a special rule and a dedicated counter.
Now the rank is just a single Advancement you take with XP. From a rule and a counter, to a single checkbox, without actually removing anything relevant from the game.

So, how’s your experience with your own game design? Does it feel painful to cut certain pieces of your work, to simplify? Or perhaps you don’t have this problem at all?
And as a player/GM, do you find yourself house-ruling to simplify games that are too (unnecessarily) complex? (of course, again, this is often a matter of taste)

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