06 Mar

Downtime vs. Dead time in Games

Power Grid/Carcassonne smashup imageI hate downtime. I’ve always done it. But recently I realized that I really don’t.

See, there’s several kinds of downtime. I’ve always thought there was but one but in retrospect it’s easy to see that there’s always been two and, if one draws the analysis a step further, three, and I hate only one of them.

I’ve taken the liberty of naming them plan time, dead time and rest time. Read More

06 May

Knowing when to end

Finish signpostThere’s a big difference between novels and short stories, beyond the obvious ones. It goes beyond word length, beyond character arcs and sub-plots. It resides in those final moments when you know that the story’s ending but you see that the ending will leave you wanting more.

In a novel that’s mostly fine, in fact it is desirable. Wanting more is all right when you’ve gotten a major emotional payoff from the resolution of the main, and possibly sub, plots. It’s the feeling of “I love this restaurant but I’m so stuffed that I don’t want more right now”; it’s what makes readers come back and buy the sequel. But as short stories that give that kind of major payoff are rare (and a lot of them go on to win multiple prestigious awards) the short story ending often end up feeling lacking.

The same is true for games. Most games are short stories. Only the largest, most complex games, can assume the mantle of being the play equivalent of novels. And those games don’t get played a lot, or at least not by many people. Even here on the Geek, where the most rabid gamers come, how many of us sit down to 20+ hour games on a regular basis? Read More