Game Design: Mechanics IX

By 19/12/2017Game Design

Now listening to: silence in the streets after an argument between father and son

Although I remember nothing from reading about these two lenses, it did spark an idea about a game where you can jump between dimensions. I felt pleased about it until I remembered that The Legend of Zelda already beat me to it in the most spectacular manner. They could’ve pushed the concept a bit further but, considering the game’s critical acclaim, I won’t hold them to it.

If it looks like a duck, and talks like a duck, and fucks like a duck then it has to be a duck. It doesn’t matter if it’s actually a goose, or a swan, or a bipedal feathered robot with a bill. The audience expects the boon of familiarity.

“The Bacon of Familiarity”, by the way, sounds like a Douglas Adams book.

Yeah, testing is pretty important. In fact, it’s probably the most important thing of just about any project you may want to embark upon. With the possible exception of, say, suicide.

I have a note of a game about discovering an ancient civilization’s culture, and I cannot possibly imagine what could’ve prompted me to write down that snoozer as an avenue worthy of pursuit. TL;DR: bad idea. On the other hand, a game about creating memorable moments sounds like a great idea, and I think that’s what Dungeons & Dragons actually is.

Take Disney’s Splash Mountain. Splash Mountain is the undisputed shit. And I mean that in the best sense.

“So you’re looking for a laughing place, eh? We’ll show you a laughing place.”

A beautiful crescendo towards a satisfying finale. What a ride! There’s an interest curve. And I think I have discovered a key problem with Dungeons & Dragons. And it’s that it fails at something elemental! Something all too basic for a game about memorable experiences.

The story is only as good as the villain.

And Dungeons & Dragons, for all its worth, is terrible at creating fine villains. First off, to create a great villain you need to know what it’ll be a foil to. In other words, you need to know what your players and their characters will be all about.

A prophet from an ancient cabal shepherding the end of the world to its accelerated fruition is no good if players are only interested in local affairs and petty power struggles. But that’s not the players’ fault. It’s just a mismatch between your story and theirs in a collaborative storytelling environment.

The problem is that, for all the amazing tools Dungeons & Dragons’ books are canvased with, not one of them helps an up and coming DM beat out a good story outline. Without a proper villain, there’s nothing for your characters to face. Just disinterest, nihilism and inadequate challenges.

Imagine a game about crafting a grand finale. The Ring falls into the fiery maw of Mount Doom. Terminator sinks into the blazing pit with one final thumb up. The island volcano where the villain’s lair is explodes. I bet you can name every movie involving those finales. And I only used lava-themed climaxes which, I’ll admit, are pretty great but in the end something you’d normally consider a niche.

It’s moments. Great stories are pockmarked with moments. Without moments, your game isn’t memorable.

And if it’s not memorable, is it anything, really?

#66 Channels & Dimensions

#67 Modes

#68 Moments

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