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Subject: What do you want from a Designer's Notes article? rss

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Paul Chapman
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Steve Jackson Games been doing Designer's Notes articles forever and a day, but you can't rest on your laurels. So we're looking for feedback -- specifically, what do you want to see?

Do you want a shiny bubbly "this is why you buy this!" note, or would you prefer to hear about the trials and tribulations of the development process? Do you like to see alternative rules, rules that were discarded (and the explanation of "why" they were discarded), or just a meditation on how the rules work?

Bonus points if you link to an actual article you hold in high esteem!
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Kent Reuber
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PaulChapman wrote:
Do you want a shiny bubbly "this is why you buy this!" note


Good heavens no. That's what the back of the box is for.

PaulChapman wrote:
would you prefer to hear about the trials and tribulations of the development process? Do you like to see alternative rules, rules that were discarded (and the explanation of "why" they were discarded)


Absolutely. There are always reviewers that say "well, I'd prefer it if they tried ....", but by putting in the designer's notes that "we tried it, and it slowed the game down too much" or other reason.

PaulChapman wrote:
just a meditation on how the rules work?


That has a place, but I'd prefer that sort of thing to be on the Web site or in a separate "Strategy Guide" section.

PaulChapman wrote:
Bonus points if you link to an actual article you hold in high esteem!


One that I'm very fond of is the designer's notes for "Volley and Bayonet", a set of black powder (primarily Napoleonic) "big battle" set of miniatures rules. Napoleonics has been done to death in all sorts of scales. In this article, the designer says what his goals were and what sorts of things were omitted.

http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mcnelly/vb/articles/design_...


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Andrew Walters
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I don't want to be sold on a game I've already purchased, or have the rules explained again.

I do want to hear why it ended up the way it did. Not how hard everyone worked, not how much research, not how much testing. I don't like the sense of "it must be right because we worked hard on it;" I get enough of that from my teenagers. I really don't like the "we worked hard and got it right so don't mess with it" attitude I've seen in some war game and miniatures rules.

I want to hear why all the US armor units have the same attack strength if some had Shermans with the 75mm gun and some the 76mm. I'd enjoy hear about why bullets can't travel diagonally in Frag and ranges are calculated in straight lines: flavor? Speed of play? What was the inspiration for the game, what were you aiming at? Why were some things left out and why were other things included?

Not only is all this desperately interesting to me as a gamer and design hobbyist, if I *am* inclined to "improve" the rules I'll have the benefit of your research and playtesting and won't have to repeat dead ends.

Amusing anecdotes and background stories can be good if they're not self-indulgent. If any design iterations yielded surprising results that can be interesting.

I'm not crazy about the "here's some stuff we left out" designer's notes. That's great material and I love seeing it, but it's not designer's notes and I want designer notes!

Andrew
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Shanya Almafeta
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PaulChapman wrote:
Do you want a shiny bubbly "this is why you buy this!" note,


Good heavens, no! That's what the Geek is for.

Quote:
or would you prefer to hear about the trials and tribulations of the development process? Do you like to see alternative rules, rules that were discarded (and the explanation of "why" they were discarded), or just a meditation on how the rules work?

Bonus points if you link to an actual article you hold in high esteem!


Everything mentioned in this section is good content - especially alternative rules, or variants of the rules from earlier in the design process. Anything that had to hit the cutting room floor - we eat that up.

There is one thing in particular I look for in design notes, no matter which company I'm looking at: It's nowhere near as prevalent as it was several years ago, but if any magic numbers appear, the designer's notes are the appropriate place to explain why the numbers are where they are, and why they 'just work'. An example is the way the GURPS Spaceships designer's notes opens with a note on the definition of acceleration in the GURPS Spaceships system - this was just one of many things that, as written, are just handwaved away. Whether explicit (the acceleration X given by drive Y) or implicit (the numbers Wizards uses to guide encounter balance), these magic numbers are what I look for.
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Tyler
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I'd like to read about the writer's process. One of the things I liked about Kenneth Hite's notes on GURPS Horror was that he went into his chain of thought on previous editions of the book and how he utilized and reworked certain elements.

Deleted scenes, or content that had to be cut for space concerns, is nice too, though I imagine that's something more likely to become PDF companions these days.
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Alan De Smet
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I'm interested in hearing how the game evolved: what was the original idea, what were the goals of the design, what did it look like originally, what changed as the design evolved and why, what didn't change and why?
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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...much that he related belonged more properly to the category of what-might-have-happened-had-I-only-thought-of-it-in-time-instead-of-ten-minutes-afterwards. Those are always the best and raciest adventures...
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... a picked body of Toads, known as the Die-hards, or the Death-or-Glory Toads, will storm the orchard and carry everything before them, yelling for vengeance.
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My go-to example of excellent designer's notes is found in Up Front. It's much clearer than the rules, thank heavens, and by the time you're done reading it you understand and appreciate the design decisions made in the game. (Much more than you understand how to play the game, but that's a separate issue ...)
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