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  #21  
Old February 24th, 2001, 01:02 PM
Vicente Vicente is offline
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About design sequences I have very sharp opinion.
I really love design sequences, and I enjoyed a lot, both High guard and striker. But after I became a real life engineer, I noticed that that was all unrealistic.
However from the business point of view I advocate an options version. The point is that games are information products, and this kind of products have the characteristic of being modular and thus customizable. Most information products are customizable, like MyYahoo and MYCCN websites, softwares and cable TV.
In such a business You deliver something people can tailor to their need and wills. Howewver You need to be carefull not to create a monster like Rolemaster with too many options that would generate a week long debate on rules before play. A more simple division could be having three levels of play compatible with each other: begginers, advanced and grognard. This is sort of what happened with the original D&D, first came the old red box of the basic, the the expert and after a few years came advanced D&D. A grand design for traveller could be such as this one, a set of complimentary rules released over four or more years.
This goes together with the usual "programmed obsolescence" of information products. When the target public has acquired the product nobody else will buy, this is the moment to release a new procut that will kill the previous one and make everybody buy it again. This is why Microsoft realeases new windows and office version every couple of years or so.
Another positive aspect of this is the Venture capital nature of entertainment industry of which the game industry is part of, most products will fail, only a few (one in five to one in ten) will succeed, and this one has to be exploited to the max.
Take a look at the old TSR, and you will see many failed stuff like Star frontiers and Gamma world, but the one which went forward was D&D, it became a profitable line and most of the books were settings, not rules. Rules bother new players, get away with them, adventures and settings bring new players, You are selling entertainment not simulations. Players don't care if the rules are a bit unrealistic, or could be bettered, they want to have fun. Fun is your real product.
You'll never see design sequences for air galleons, castles or magic detailed in the old D&D, what you'll see is many masterpieces in adventures that deal with players having a challenge and fun like Temple of elemetal evil, Slave lords, Against the giants, Ravenloft and so on.
Note that these adventures have huge incosistencies and the adversary plans are inherently and obviously flawed because it simply ignores the existance of PC's parties, but this don't detract from game value.
I'm certain that adventure writing is one of the strongs points for Mr Miller. He should concentrate in that.
To sum it up, I would make T5 a very simple game with just one book of rules, and them would release adventure after adventure, and setting after setting. After a few years and noticing that the game has been well received I would create a new form like advanced T5.
I would never base my new company in just one product, You need a product mix. Remeber thsi is Venture capital, most products are failures. You roll a D6 and need a 6 for profit, so You need to roll a bunch of dice.
Best regards


[This message has been edited by Vicente (edited 24 February 2001).]
  #22  
Old February 25th, 2001, 05:40 PM
StrikerFan StrikerFan is offline
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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by T. Foster:
I still think there's room for a compromise. In my mind the complex system is established first and the simple system's components are drawn from it, just like you want. However, once we have our list of components we then develop a simpler, more abstracted, way of assembling them.

In QSDS you still tally up Mw of power use, figure surface area, assign workstations, and a bunch of other number-juggling which, since you aren't allowed to change or optimize anything, seems rather pointless; some of these steps should be able to be abstracted without seriously damaging inter-system compatability.

By way of example, in FF&S you're allowed to mount as many turrets as you want on a ship so long as you can account for volume, power use, and surface area; all of which can be juggled and optimized if you're willing to take the time and effort. In QSDS you're given a list of pre-made turret weapons (i.e. no juggling) but you still have to account the volume, power use, and surface area. Couldn't we instead just establish a fixed-value rule of thumb like '1 turret per 100 dtons'? The end result (number of turrets allowed on the ship) will be the same -- the rule-of-thumb having been defined through examination of trends and values in the complex system -- but it requires a lot less work from the prospective ship-designer.

Such 'arbitrary' restrictions might not go down well with number-crunching gearheads, but are they even going to use this system? Did HG-heads design many Book 2 ships? I agree, for consistency's sake, that it should be possible to convert between systems without doing a total re-design, but since I'd imagine folks are by and large going to stick with their complexity-level of choice, actual conversion probably won't be all that common an occurence, and IMO shouldn't be the primary concern in developing a 'simple-alternative' craft design system.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Well, the HG-heads may have designed a fair number of Book 2 ships, because Book 2 was available for several years before HG ever appeared. Since I didn't get into either TNE or T4, I'm an MT (pre-Virus, bleah!) fan, I can't comment on the details there, but I agree that certain ground rules that make life easier (like 1 hardpoint per 100 displacement tons) can be made, as long as they hold true both ways, or there's a reasonable explanation why a design is sub-optimal.
Ideally, if you were going to use a system of `modules', each module would be all but self-contained: it would require space and would have mass, the only thing that would need to be rolled into the rest of the ship would be controls (since they're modified by what computer system's available). The power plant needed by the module is part of it's space and mass, as is fuel for that power plant (with a note of how much per hour is needed so a designer can tweek the amount available if desired), and any necessary ammunition (again, a standard amount, with notations on how much mass/space per shot/burst/etc if a designer wants to add or subtract some). I once did some of these for standard turrets for MT, worked pretty well, you could just plug them in and go, made for quite easy customization.

StrikerFan

  #23  
Old February 26th, 2001, 11:48 AM
lucasdigital lucasdigital is offline
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There really is no perfect solution to the question of complexity/realism and difficulty in Role Playing Games.

I was a huge fan of both 2300ad and TNE which both captured my imagination more strongly than the CT. I must confess though that this was probably down to my own maturing.

Reviewing the CT books I love the austere design and the brevity. I would rather see little bits of great art than lots of average stuff.

I am sure that T5 will remain playable. The only RPG that I have bought in some 5 years was the recent Star Wars RPG for the wizards. It looks lovely but by about half way through the reading the rules I decided that I simply didn't want to fight my way through the morass of rules which seemed to frightfully clunky.

I remember the same thing happening a number of times..inspirational and exciting game universe held together with rules which sucks the very life out of any gaming you do there.

I think that it is really important that the initial release should include or be quickly followed on by excellent adventure/campaign material.

I think that a strong starting point feeds the sibling game in those early months and can mean the difference between a game gathering dust on a week after being bought, and really taking root and growing into something that can weather the ups and downs of the tabletop gaming industry.



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Mark Lucas
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  #24  
Old February 26th, 2001, 12:05 PM
Vicente Vicente is offline
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Lucas
I couldn't agree more with you when you say:

"Reviewing the CT books I love the austere design and the brevity. I would rather see little bits of great art than lots of average stuff. "

Many games clutter the books with "friends handdrawing" which add next to nothing to the game, and also extensively describe thing better left undescribed.
Also I hate the lots of similar guns that have one or two different mofifiers just to make the player think there's an option. CT brevity and simplicity is much more realistic.
Best regards


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Vicente
  #25  
Old March 8th, 2001, 02:22 AM
BitKnot BitKnot is offline
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KISS - the Keep It Simple Stupid philosphy is great in reality, but becomes more difficult to apply when one is trying to 'simulate' reality!

The tradeoff between Complexity and Simplicity for the sake of real time play (i.e. - lively!) is often a matter of quantity - how many steps, tables and die roles does it take to screw in a light bulb - versus time. This makes or breaks the enjoyment of the effort!

I think the missing element here is the Computer as an integral play aid. I'm not talking about online, multiplayer RPGs - these take the number one complexity factor out (the Human Referee!) - I'm talking about play aids.

In the light bulb senario =&gt; referee selects task form list and computer runs thru 5 tables, and two die roles each player, accounting for engineering and JOT skill modifiers and from this complex process spits out the fact that one team mate must role two or better to avoid breaking bulb and injuring party in explosion of reactive gas with current atmosphere - all before the referee's finger has cleared the mouse!

In other words, I don't want to have to look up three tables in order to determine the impact of a certain spiral mount weapon on the jump capability of my half designed ship - but I know those table need to exist to add balance and 'believability' to the game.

I think the answer to this is a computer augmented game - what do you all think?
  #26  
Old March 8th, 2001, 11:08 PM
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Ron Ron is offline
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I really don't like the idea of using a computer during my gaming session. It will take table space and will take my attention off my players. I don't need exact results to any particular task. What I need is a system flexible enough to give me good guidelines on performing tasks. However, a computer may be useful in aiding a referee in design an adventure. While gaming, I prefer to concentrate my attention to the players.

Best wishes,
Ron
  #27  
Old March 9th, 2001, 01:15 AM
BitKnot BitKnot is offline
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Ron, I can tell you're a good referee!

When I used the computer for traveller in the late 80's (sigh - no longer have those C64 programs) it was not used for referee only stuff - the screen was off to the side in plain view of everyone! I kept control of the keyboard of course - otherwise we would have had a mess - and too much distraction.

In this fashion I found the computer usefull during play and it actually let me focus more on the players and also allowed the players to consult with the screen while I was consulting with my 'god notes and roles'.

Another method I employed when the 'table space' (sometimes a dresser top!) was at a premium was to use the computer to bing and generate random encounters or to simply provide (at the press of the 'n' key) a random NPC or several. With a simplistic interface to task based info this provided no more distraction then consulting a reference sheet and rolling the cubes.

I think a well devised system can facilitate both roles - design and play. And should also be flexible enough to allow for off the cuff play (I remember playing on a wood fence once - definitely no place for a desktop )
  #28  
Old March 9th, 2001, 05:34 AM
JBM JBM is offline
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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by T. Foster:
The problem with such a system is that you can end up with something like T4's QSDS, combining the worst of both worlds -- you're still dealing with multi-place decimals and counting up Megawatts and such<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I must say that I agree with both the above and with Vincente point about 'philisophical focus'. IMHO to be successful T5 must be simple without being simplistic. GURPS Traveller has done this very successfully with its starship design sequence (using the complexity of GURPS Vehicles to develop simple 'modules' or 'componants' that are simple to plug together. New modules can be developed by gearheads and then used by all. Of all the Starship design systems I have used it provides the best balence between detail / flexibility and simplicity.

In contrast I find First In very detailed and 'realistic' but almost impossible to use in a simple way to develop 'realistic' planets with believable population densities for their Tech Level. In contrast the original CT system is too simplistic (for todays market) in that the planetry UPP that was developed was all too often just unbelievable, particularly when surrounded by other randomly generated planets.

Given the degree of success with which the old CT Material is selling I belive it would be an error to move too far away from the simple style of formula's presented in books 1-3. Even books 4-8 are not really complex, by odays standards. I would be tempted to initially develop (but not yet sell) highly complex rules for the scientific things such as Vehicle/Starship design, Planetry/System Development and Combat (Space or Ground). Having thoroghly playtested such products using the members of boards such as this, you could then identify how best to 'simplify' those rule sets and place them into a new version of Books 1-3. Once people buy the simple versions those who want the extra complexity will purchase it, those who don't won't. Those who want the best of both worlds will want software to do the hard work for them.

If I might make a point here, a major effort needs to be made not to make rules too prescriptive, particlarly in areas where sophont inspired classification systems are concerned. For example on what basis is a "Mainworld" of a star system classified? Ever since CT Book 6 Scouts, the basis has been that the planet with the highest population in a system is the main world. What happens if another planet in the system has a better starport? Or the historical government of the system is based on a different planet from that with the highest population? Both might be good exceptions to the NORM, but players tend to read 'rules' in a very prescriptive fashion. The NORM might be that the mainworld is the planet with the highest population, but this will not always be the case. Other NORMS might include 'rules' for Starport Classifications, Government Types, Law Levels, Animal Behaviours, etc.

There are lots of normative ASSUMPIONS that can be used within the rules to assist GMs to develop planets etc, but such assumptions should be carefully highlighted as optional and not made central to the whole workings of T5. This I believe has been a central caracteristic of all the versions of Traveller since book 1-3. In effect the NORMS of the 3I have become ossified into 'rules'. I do not believe that was ever Marc Millers intent.
  #29  
Old March 9th, 2001, 05:51 AM
JBM JBM is offline
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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by BitKnot:
I think the missing element here is the Computer as an integral play aid. I'm not talking about online, multiplayer RPGs - these take the number one complexity factor out (the Human Referee!) - I'm talking about play aids.

&lt;snip&gt;

I think the answer to this is a computer augmented game - what do you all think?
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I couldn't agree more. I quite like the extra detail and complexity, but HATE trawling through 1001 tables and 2^10 dice rolls to determine that the system I've just generated isn't really what I want. As a referee I want to be able to generate a fair degree of base detail very quickly and then spend my time adjusting that detail so that I get the correct "look and feel" to the Thing I am developing, be it a Starship (with deck plans of course!), a planetry system, a seties of 'beasts' on a planet etc. There can be a lot of fun in the complexity, but the real fun is in the Game!
  #30  
Old March 9th, 2001, 07:13 AM
BitKnot BitKnot is offline
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Ah, well put JBM!

The flexibility of experimentation computer aided design brings to the table can be substantial - without taking away from having fun!
 

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