Game Design: Making Game Systemson July 27, 2012 at 11:15 am
There’s this thing I’ve been doing. Making a game system. It’s a whole thing. I thought of this after riding an escalator last night. An escalator goes up – it’s kind of like stairs, but different. Also, elevators, they’re pretty cool. If you want it more old school than that, you have ropes, or you could free-climb that thing. Four ways to do work.
The process is escalation – or elevation, or levitation – the point is moving up. It should be a straightforward process, even if it’s more difficult to do it one way than another. You’re still doing the same thing, no matter what you call it, or how you may feel about it personally. One hand over the other, one foot in front of the next.
That’s a matter of mathematics and spreadsheets. But that isn’t all the game.
It’s the system too.
A system only has to accomplish a pretty straightforward thing – escalation. Elevation. Moving from cell A1 to A2. There are good ways to do that, and bad ways to do that. See, the game is in assigning significance to those cells, and the movement across the spreadsheet. What do you call it, what does it mean to you?
Some of the meaning may come prepackaged with the system, and that’s okay as long as it’s mutable. Well, unless that’s what you’re going for, and you know what you’re buying. Maybe I’m making sense here, maybe I’m not – but I don’t think that the system should need the game to work. It should work on its own.
Using the rules of the system, you should be able to progress through the cells of your spreadsheet with relative ease – at least, if you’re making a tabletop game. I mean, spreadsheets aside, bookkeeping is best kept to a minimum. I mean, how else are you going to have time to play? You need room for interpretation, not to mention time.
It may be time to retire the idea of spending half an hour or more agonizing over character creation for a roleplaying game. Obviously some people don’t spend that much time at it, but it needs to be more of a thing not to – it should be easier to pick up and play. And advancement should be more straightforward as well.
And while we’re at it, it should be possible to solo a campaign – to advance a character without even a game master directing the action. At least, I think so. You can take more time if you like, but it should be as easy as an escalator if you want it to be. There will always be people who want to free-climb that thing anyway.