Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] Icehouse games: What's the ideal?

  • FromLaurie Menke <laurie_menke@xxxxxxxxx>
  • DateThu, 9 Mar 2006 21:16:47 -0800 (PST)
My opinion regarding what makes a game that's good
enough to want to play repeatedly for years and years:

--MOST IMPORTANT:  the game should make me do all
three of these things at least some of the time: 
think, laugh, and feel relaxed.  All of the following
thoughts are really just details about how to
accomplish this main goal.

--Game Time:  Not so short I feel cheated, but not so
long I start wishing I hadn't started.  Ideally, I'd
say from 5 minutes to 1 hour.

--Rules:  The rules take less time to learn than the
game takes to play.

--Skill vs. Chance:  The smartest person in the room
shouldn't always win, but a computer shouldn't be able
to win against human players, either.  In other words,
a little skill and thinking to be brain-food, but
enough chance to keep things interesting...you never
know what turn of events might change the whole
scenario, and that's what keeps you playing time after
time (a la Fluxx).  Really, I think this is the true
crux of the matter.  It's why abstract strategy games
are not my favorite...they're more like puzzles than
games.  They get you thinking hard (and being
discouraged a lot at first) until you figure out the
strategy, and then there's no more fun in it and
you've got to find a new game or a better opponent. 
With truly good games, it doesn't matter if you're
playing a naive teenager or a wisened Mensan,
everybody's going to have a good time and feel like
they have a chance, but they'll have to keep their
wits about them to take advantage of that chance. 
It's not so much about cracking the code as it is
about thinking about the unique scenario that is laid
out in front of you this time around, which is
different than last time due to chance elements.  I
hope this makes sense...I don't feel like I'm
explaining very well, but I know it's very important.

--Down Time:  I agree with others that having to sit
idly is never fun.  Ideally, everybody is doing
something almost all the time.  This may be due to
simultaneous turns, some sort of clock ticking to keep
play moving, having decisions to make before it comes
around to your turn again, or having jobs to do during
other people's turns (such as the banker, seller, real
estate agent, etc. in Monopoly).  At the same time, if
you are TOO busy, the game becomes less fun because
you are tense, don't have time to socialize with your
opponents, and can't take time to eat/get a drink/go
to the bathroom, etc.  Game play should be relaxed,
but moving at a lively pace.

--Number/Age of Players:  Although this isn't as
important as the above features, I do agree with
others that flexibility comes in handy.    The more
scenarios your game can fit into, the better.  A game
that fits all kinds of scenarios will become a staple,
whereas a game that can only be played with, say, five
adults with a knowledge of a certain set of trivia
will rarely be played, no matter how good it is. 
Again, witness Fluxx.  :o)

--Novelty:  Part of what makes for an interesting game
is something that can't be found in other games.  Now,
don't confuse this with undue complexity...it should
be something simple, but fun because it's different. 
The pyramids themselves fit this bill.  Other examples
of games that have this novelty are Mousetrap (you
actually build a silly contraption), Trouble (the dice
in the little bubble), Horse Traders (the main
components are puzzle pieces), Trivial Pursuit (those
little pie wedges were novel in their time), etc. 
This is the least important of all my criteria, but
novelty does tend to add to the fun.

I hope this helps, and I look forward to your final
product!  I think that starting from what makes a game
good is an excellent idea.  Now you just have to add
the creativity...that's where I'm out of the running
for game designer of the year.  ;o)  Good luck!


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