Game Design: Mechanics II

By 25/10/2017Game Design

Now listening to: “Song of Healing“, by Theophany

There’s are things called dominant strategies. Bad games like Starcraft II suffer them. Worse games like Monopoly are irretrievably broken by them.


Hey, listen. I didn’t invent the concept. If your game needs a balance patch every few months to keep it from crystallizing into two or three optimal strategies, that’s no one’s fault but your own. I’m not saying I can do it better. I’m just saying that, for me, playing a game where there’s little room for deviation from a tightly measured recipe is boring. I hear that a lot of people enjoy playing a classical piece flawlessly on the piano.

All games suffer from a crystallizing effect due to dominant strategies. There are no games without dominant strategies. It’s a byproduct of having rules. If there are rules, there are boundaries. If there are boundaries, there are jagged edge cases. If there are jagged edges, there are opportunities to exploit.

“Meta” is a term that arises from the need to analyze the current state of affairs as far as dominant strategies go and how players react to them, Strategy is a function of an assessment of risk and skill. A strategy that requires little skill and poses no risk and finds itself dominant is game poison.

A disparity between a player’s expectations of the levels of skill and chance required to play a game can spell disaster faster than anything else can. It is up to the designer to establish clearly what the rules are and to lay bare any clauses that a player might need to know to avoid the feeling of being cheated. A failure to do so will result in the player not understanding the boundaries of play and quitting in frustration.

I can only assume what “Head and Hands” must be all about. I’m thinking something about balancing motor skills with mental skills. That’s probably it.

#39 Meaningful Choices

#40 Triangularity

#41 Skill vs. Chance

#42 Head & Hands

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