Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] Possible Zendo game at SDG

  • From"Tom Phoenix" <rb+wunderland@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateSun, 5 Mar 2006 08:39:36 -0800
As a big fan of SDG and of Zendo, I've got to contribute to this....

On 3/3/06, Aaron Dalton <aaron@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> 1) I realize that koans can be very freeform.  By necessity however, an
> online implementation would impose some basic restrictions on the types
> of koans that could be generated.  My current plan is to design a set of
> text commands that can be used to auto-generate PNG images of various
> pyramid configurations.  The restrictions that immediatly come to mind
> are the following:
>    - Pyramids could probably only face up, N, E, S, and W.  No leaning =(

(You can't point NW? SSE? At the large red pyramid? Between two
pieces?) Use this restriction if you must. But, even if you can't
accommodate them in the initial release, consider incorporating some
named koans or other named structures. If your text commands can be
flexible enough to allow a user to easily build a "tree", a "stack",
or a "nest", I don't think a "Santa's hat" or a "Seuss" or a
"Pallbearers" is out of reach, even though each has to be added as a
special case.


>    - Multiple pyramids would likely need to be arranged in a square
> grid-like relationship to one another and not in nice circles or wavy lines.

Why not? I can think of names for those things too! :-)  I don't know
how hard it would be to let users submit new koan form data, but it
would be cool to have something so expandable.

> Would such restrictions make the game significantly less playable?

Not at all; the essence of Zendo is in the nature of divining of the
rules, not in the pyramids themselves. Pyramids are near-perfectly
suited for Zendo, but all that really matters is that you provide a
rich environment for rules, without having much room for ambiguity.
Zendo with pyramids is good about ambiguity but it would be better,
for example, if the Master needed to make judgment calls even less

My words about named koans notwithstanding, perhaps rather than
adopting the limitations of real-world pyramids, you should try to
re-invent Zendo in this new environment. Kory made a good choice in
using the pyramids, but maybe something else works better than trying
to squeeze 3-D pyramids into a web-and-text-based user interface.

You asked about the mechanics of play. It's worth noting that a player
may ask the Master factual questions about the koans at any time that
the Master is not otherwise occupied; it's not necessary to wait until
your turn to ask whether the red pyramid is pointing at the blue one.

Are you planning on randomly choosing one participant to be the
non-playing Master? Since the Master has to participate on every turn,
that's a bottleneck. Or are you going to have a computerized Master?
Or something else?

Speaking of bottlenecks, normally every player participates in a
Mondo. Literally adopting that rule would mean holding up the game for
days on each Mondo. There may be a better way; I thought of this while
trying to make a net-playable Zendo variant: Each player may record a
secret guess at the rule, which can be updated or erased at any time.
When a player calls for a Mondo, your answering stone is cast
according to your secret guess, unless you choose to override it. If
you don't have a guess on record, your stone is cast at random.
Players are still encouraged to cast their answering stone manually,
since the game can continue as soon as everyone has done so. In case
someone is slow to respond, the game can continue automatically after
24 hours, and nobody has to miss the Mondo.

I don't know whether your software could allow this, but there's no
great difficulty in letting a player drop out of the game, or drop in
mid-game, except that a latecomer misses any previous Mondo rounds.
But when you have six or more players, it's a frustratingly long time
before your turn comes around again.

I hope you have success in adopting Zendo to SDG!

--Tom Phoenix