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Subject: Classic versus modern games rss

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Nick Bentley
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mocko wrote:

Certainly it seems to me that one perfectly respectable line of argument would see greatness, not just as testable only on the basis of longevity and mass appeal/acclaim, but as actually consisting in them.

I'm hesitant about this notion, because it would seem to require including things like historical contingency and marketing as aspects of greatness.

e.g. Abalone has a lot of longevity and acclaim, despite serious problems in the design department. Abalone has sold millions of copies over the last 30 years not so much because it's a great game, but because it's a great toy. There are lots of ways things can become popular and enduring without being the best at the particular thing one cares about.
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Herb
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It seems like the discussion ought to go off into the direction of which game played by humans is most *inaccessible* to computers. Then you of course have to argue discuss in what manner does the computer have an accessibility problem. Is it analytical, dexterity, or reading the other players as in poker.
 
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
mocko wrote:

Certainly it seems to me that one perfectly respectable line of argument would see greatness, not just as testable only on the basis of longevity and mass appeal/acclaim, but as actually consisting in them.

I'm hesitant about this notion, because it would seem to require including things like historical contingency and marketing as aspects of greatness.

e.g. Abalone has a lot of longevity and acclaim, despite serious problems in the design department. Abalone has sold millions of copies over the last 30 years not so much because it's a great game, but because it's a great toy. There are lots of ways things can become popular and enduring without being the best at the particular thing one cares about.
For what it's worth, I think a game cannot start out being great. Even if it is considered great using other criteria, it yet has to become great in the playing. But, mindful of Abalone, the playing alone cannot make it great either.
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herace wrote:
It seems like the discussion ought to go off into the direction of which game played by humans is most *inaccessible* to computers. Then you of course have to argue discuss in what manner does the computer have an accessibility problem. Is it analytical, dexterity, or reading the other players as in poker.
Maybe it should be added to the Go rules that players are required to pickup and place the go stones like a pro (between the tips of index and middle finger) and players should carry and power their own brain during the game. Would take a while before AlphaXXXX reach that level.
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David Ploog
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This is an interesting discussion I just stumbled upon, and I realised I entirely disagree with the premise the best is yet to come.

Many good points already have been made. I am squarely in the camp of russ (Russ Williams), so I'll quickly get to my (hopefully somewhat) novel points:

Modern games tend to be awful at narratives. By this, I don't mean theme, even though, as Richard correctly observes, theme is relevant and useful for a game's appeal. What I mean: how can you talk about a game just played? What language do you use to describe games of Chess, Go, Pente, Arimaa etc.? Some of these games lend themselves to story-telling and others do not... I don't think this is an accident, and Christian hinted at that: most novel combinatorial games have as goals one of: pattern (most often n-in-a-row), linking, crossing, chain scoring. These are less conducive to story-telling than mate or territory.

A simple comparison between two games that I like a lot and (think I) understand: Lines of Action & Amazons. Matches in either can be drastically different but it is easier to indicate what's going on to an outsider about the Amazons match.

milomilo122 wrote:
Connect6 is a pure, incredibly balanced n-in-a-row game with a high meaningful branch factor and gobs of tactics.
Can you talk about Connect6 games to non-specialists? Note that precisely this happens with Chess and Go games during championships. A game that lacks this property -- no matter how good otherwise -- will never become a classic, in my opinion. (I have no idea where Connect6 stands in this regard; my question is 100% curiosity.)

This is not a science; there is no objective good/bad scale.
There is so much discussion in this thread about "better games", with "better" usually meaning one or both of "deeper" (sufficiently complex in whatever metric) or "more elegant" (=short rules). A clear indication that something's fundamentally wrong here is intransivity: you cannot order something as complicated as games on a linear scale.
And while depth and elegance are interesting properties, I believe they have very little to do with "really good game". Because that's a social construct. This argument holds even more with lesser properties such as "no draws".

In other words: for the future to give us "better games than Chess or Go", mankind would have to be ready to accept that. I don't see that coming, for reasons discussed at length in this thread.

Yes, Chess has various shortcomings and one of them (draw margin) is bad enough to kill its professional arm; see Capablanca's "death by draw". This is something one can try to address, and many people did. Any of the proposed solutions, whether Fischer's Chess960 or Christian's Grand Chess, would improve Chess but it doesn't matter unless the public is interested. If only professionals and dedicated amateurs care, then the game may well slowly die and not be replaced by anything.

---

Some random replies:

Regarding the ancients, I cannot argue for the Chesses but I want to point out that there are surprisingly few territorial games. (I don't include chain scoring games here where by "chain scoring" I mean that at the game end, each player's score is a function of the set of chain sizes of their colour.) I believe this is a win condition that very naturally leads to games with really good qualities, including narration. Empirical evidence is scarce but two younger territory scoring games are Amazons and Ponte del Diavolo.
I would love to see that design direction more explored rather than the flurry of pattern and crossing games (win conditions that tend to lead to short rules and good games, but perhaps stopping there?).

althus wrote:
I'm starting to believe that this comparison to music is not apt at all. It misses the vital point that centuries ago, there were no professional designers of games, whose job it was to think about them fulltime.
I agree with the conclusion but I think the main reason is quite different. This is an observation of Botwinnik's: a huge difference between games and arts is that you *need* to be fluent with the rules in order to appreciate a master piece of a match; that is not so for master pieces of art.

Corey Clark wrote:
Abstract game design is still in a grotesquely primitive stage as a discipline. Where is the game designer's Linear Algebra or Fuxian Counterpoint? It hasn't been codified.
This statement assumes that abstract game design is as deep as mathematics or as deep as music theory. There is no reason to assume either; perhaps it's just on the level of writing novels: entirely non-trivial but without theoretic underpinning.
This is related to Buckersuk's comment that (advances in) game design should be compared to arts rather than to science/technology; I agree with that assessment, even in the face of Botwinnik's point.
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christian freeling
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dpeggie wrote:
In other words: for the future to give us "better games than Chess or Go", mankind would have to be ready to accept that. I don't see that coming (for reasons discussed at length in this thread).

Yes, Chess has various shortcomings and one of them (draw margin) is bad enough to kill its professional arm (see Capablanca's "death by draw"). This is something one can try to address, and many people did. Any of the proposed solutions, whether Fischer's Chess960 or Christian's Grand Chess, would improve Chess but it doesn't matter unless the public is interested. If only professionals and dedicated amateurs are interested, the game may well slowly die and not be replaced by anything.
In case of 960 the public was interested (and maybe still is, I don't follow its development) because it was Fischer's brain child. Fischer's brain was fascinating beyond Chess and the public was interested in it for its own sake. But Chess960 is not generally considered to be a good game here, quite the opposite actually.

I expect Chess960 to eventually disappear. Chess960 may have the same notion about me and it will be right before I am, no doubt, but in the long run it cannot survive because it sucks and the public will lose interest. You can fool all people sometimes and some people all the time but you can't fool all people all the time.
 
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David Ploog
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A trivial but perhaps useful observation: a major divide in this thread is, naturally, between designers and players.

I'm a player, so I don't need to believe that better games will come in the future. I fully understand that for a designer this is different -- one of the reasons you'd start inventing games in the first place is to create something that lasts and is, hopefully, better than everything before. (See Sid Sackson's comment on Focus.)
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christian freeling
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dpeggie wrote:
A trivial but perhaps useful observation: a major divide in this thread is, naturally, between designers and players.

I'm a player, so I don't need to believe that better games will come in the future. I fully understand that for a designer this is different -- one of the reasons you'd start inventing games in the first place is to create something that lasts and is, hopefully, better than everything before. (See Sid Sackson's comment on Focus.)
I don't know about others but I've always been acutely aware of that division. As a player I lack about everything that is needed to even aspire to mediocrity. As an inventor I'm more or less able to "see the Gestalt forest through the mechanical game tree", as Nick put it recently. The irony is that this vision doesn't help at all to become a better player.

As an inventor it helps to believe that some games might evolve, hence Grand Chess and Dameo. Believing that a new game might emerge to rise to a similar status ... well, people believe all kinds of things don't they? Unfortunately I can't say that it hurts nobody but in this particular case I choose to believe that Storisende may be such a game precisely because of what you said about 'stories games can tell'. Ironically that may be the very reason Storisende received a somewhat lukewarm reception. Too much of a story for this day and age. It's a game for an extinct breed of players.
 
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Russ Williams
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christianF wrote:
Ironically that may be the very reason Storisende received a somewhat lukewarm reception. Too much of a story for this day and age. It's a game for an extinct breed of players.
I like it (and I'm not extinct yet!), but I still think the game-end condition is a problem clearly in need of some kind of fix.
 
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christian freeling
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russ wrote:
christianF wrote:
Ironically that may be the very reason Storisende received a somewhat lukewarm reception. Too much of a story for this day and age. It's a game for an extinct breed of players.
I like it (and I'm not extinct yet!), but I still think the game-end condition is a problem clearly in need of some kind of fix.
Yes I know, what if the losing side refuses to pass? There's a rule there somewhere because it violates the 'Gestalt' of the game. I suddenly love that word.
But to the point itself, I'm not in a hurry. There have been adequate attempts to misunderstand the rules of the game in order to make them idiot proof, but at the moment I want to better understand the game first, in particular endgame situations, before I address it.
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David Buckley
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christianF wrote:

In case of 960 the public was interested (and maybe still is, I don't follow its development) because it was Fischer's brain child. Fischer's brain was fascinating beyond Chess and the public was interested in it for its own sake. But Chess960 is not generally considered to be a good game here, quite the opposite actually.


That's news to me! I realised that you didn't consider it a good game. I didn't realise that most of those here agreed with you. I certainly don't. I also find it a bit dismissive to suggest that the public is only interested because it was Fisher's brainchild. The public is interested because it fixes a feature of Chess some people perceive to be a bug while leaving the core of the game intact.
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christian freeling
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Buckersuk wrote:
christianF wrote:

In case of 960 the public was interested (and maybe still is, I don't follow its development) because it was Fischer's brain child. Fischer's brain was fascinating beyond Chess and the public was interested in it for its own sake. But Chess960 is not generally considered to be a good game here, quite the opposite actually.


That's news to me! I realised that you didn't consider it a good game. I didn't realise that most of those here agreed with you. I certainly don't. I also find it a bit dismissive to suggest that the public is only interested because it was Fisher's brainchild. The public is interested because it fixes a feature of Chess some people perceive to be a bug while leaving the core of the game intact.
You're right that I don't actually know how the majority here feels about 960. Neither do I know whether the public is or was interested for the reason you give. Or whether 'the core' of Chess remains intact. Chess is indeed a story and 'The Book of Chess' is arguably the longest and most interesting story of its kind. If having it proceed as an accumulating collection of tabloids leaves the core intact, if you pardon the metaphor, then I'd like to know what you consider that core to be. And why it should be the best solution for the perceived bug, other that that a great player came up with it?
 
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David Buckley
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christianF wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:
christianF wrote:

In case of 960 the public was interested (and maybe still is, I don't follow its development) because it was Fischer's brain child. Fischer's brain was fascinating beyond Chess and the public was interested in it for its own sake. But Chess960 is not generally considered to be a good game here, quite the opposite actually.


That's news to me! I realised that you didn't consider it a good game. I didn't realise that most of those here agreed with you. I certainly don't. I also find it a bit dismissive to suggest that the public is only interested because it was Fisher's brainchild. The public is interested because it fixes a feature of Chess some people perceive to be a bug while leaving the core of the game intact.
You're right that I don't actually know how the majority here feels about 960. Neither do I know whether the public is or was interested for the reason you give. Or whether 'the core' of Chess remains intact. Chess is indeed a story and 'The Book of Chess' is arguably the longest and most interesting story of its kind. If having it proceed as an accumulating collection of tabloids leaves the core intact, if you pardon the metaphor, then I'd like to know what you consider that core to be. And why it should be the best solution for the perceived bug, other that that a great player came up with it?

I consider the core to be objective, composition of the armies and rules governing how those pieces move and capture. The only difference between Fisher Chess and regular Chess is the starting position and whether it is fixed or variable. I can't think of a better way of reducing the importance of opening theory that doesn't change that core.
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christian freeling
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Buckersuk wrote:

I consider the core to be objective, composition of the armies and rules governing how those pieces move and capture. The only difference between Fisher Chess and regular Chess is the starting position and whether it is fixed or variable. I can't think of a better way of reducing the importance of opening theory that doesn't change that core.
I'm not unfamiliar with the 'problem' but I find 960 too much of a quick and dirty solution that fails to continue the story in a way that Chess would deserve. I think David already mentioned the difference between a player and an inventor. Chess960 certainly testifies to that.
 
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By analogy, consider the genre of epic travel stories:

From before the age of discovery, we have a relative handful of examples
that have survived - The Odyssey, Marco Polo, Gilgamesh and the like.
Everything we have from that dim past is great, or it wouldn't have
survived at all.

With the advent of ships and steam, travel became a lot more common,
and easier to do. Many new titles were written, and many new genres
were invented, making some of the "greats" look quaint and dated.

With the advent of jet travel, everyone can be a traveler, the number
of titles approaches infinity, and the average quality necessarily goes
down. Everyone has a travel story, but not all are great story tellers.


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Buckersuk wrote:
Anyway, enough about my personal preferences. What about yours? How old are your favourite abstract game(s)? Are there any recent inventions you think would be your favourites, if only they had the same extrinsic advantages as Chess? Which ones? Do you feel like games are getting better and better?

1. Go (classic abstract): It has such an organic feel and hence layers of emergent complexity.
2. Tak (modern abstract): Not as refined as Go, but the aesthetic productions from playing again have a wonderful organic feel to them so this can be appreciated from a similar principle applied superficially as opposed to deeply as found in Go.

Hive without a board again has a pleasing aesthetic production from playing although it feels "chess-like" to play so is not as enjoyable for me.

Zertz, the variable win conditions, diminishing board and forcing moves are really wonderful too though again it's not as rigorous as a classic with some complications to repeat games a bit like Tak has with it's 1st player move and scoring has issues. But on the whole I enjoy the core combinatorial abstract design but in a novel form and interactive output.

Carnivores seems again to have a form of play that appeals in creating forms from play. I need to play it more than the basic trial mess around I so far had a go at.

So games may not all have the deepness that Go demonstrates but they can provide that essential organic feel in the output even if it's not a perfect game system. That to me is almost as equally rewarding, especially given I can only give my attention to study x1 great abstract that actually fits my needs perfectly, to enjoy other designs for the aesthetic value.

Namely, abstracts in play are very "left-brain" but in form and output the transition from that to more "right brain" enjoyment of the aesthetics is the essential property for me to a good abstract. I guess the deepness of such a game is only a big bonus!

Again on another level, I really enjoy: Quoridor, Hey! That's My Fish! and Element for the 2,3,4 multiplayer additions to the core abstract system. I enjoy abstracts but I also enjoy sharing abstracts with others too. The system of perfect information is very interesting but to make the best decisions under conditions without perfect information is also very interesting to me when layered on top of the former.

There's so many titles I still need to pick up and play.
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