Issues of Scale

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Things come in different sizes. That’s the premise here. A given. Most games deal at least a little with scale imbalance. Fledgeling will deal with objects and organizations on vastly different scales.

But what does it mean that something is bigger or smaller? Does size really matter as much as we think? Can a difference in size amount to a difference in kind? I would say, respectively: Larger things are more difficult to work with, but also more useful. Not really. No. A single set of flexible rules should be able to account for the behavior of large and small alike.

What does scale mean? Like any distinction, scale means relative motion along several gradients. Here are five to get you thinking. Continue reading

Good Graphics are Bad

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No wait, let me explain! I like my games iconic and clean. I don’t want a cinematic experience, I want to be challenged. If you love the fancy eye feast offered by modern games, that’s great… and you should probably skip this article. Chess and Dwarf Fortress are more my style. So, that’s where I’m coming from; That’s also where I’m going.

Graphics should clearly present the game state and indicate the player’s options. Visuals which lend a sense of place, atmosphere, and proper gravity to a game world are admirable. When I say “‘Good Graphics’ are bad” I’m talking about facet count, normal projection, specularity maps, lens flares, and pre-rendered cutscenes. That stuff is great in movies. But games don’t need it. Games don’t need “good graphics” to be good games. Continue reading

Design Hubris

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Everyone thinks that their ideas are the best. No one thinks they are crazy. Yes, we can all admit we were wrong from time to time, but people don’t actively hold beliefs they know are false. We have (and must have) a confidence in our own ability to reliably perceive and interpret the universe.

Despite this, everyone is wrong all the time anyway. Continue reading

Linguistic De-coupling


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Do not abuse language. If you try to bend language too much, it will just delaminate from the hearer’s consciousness, and inhabit a separate space from their perception of reality. You won’t be talking about anything your audience knows or cares about. You’ll just be talking to yourself. Continue reading

Games of Chance and Skill

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Some games are fully chance based. Some games are fully skill based.
But some games are both, and life is like this too.
The problem is when one is disguised as the other. Often chance is disguised as skill, to make the player try to figure out how to do better. The other case, where skill is disguised as chance, is far rarer.

Most games involve both chance and skill. A game that is totally based on luck is merely a lottery. However, even games where luck and ability are mixed can be deceptive. Most often, chance is disguised as skill, but it can go the other way as well. Continue reading