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Messages - Nobby-W

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Similar debates have run through the social sciences for many decades.  At one extreme you have concepts like positivism, which values some sort of objective provability such as tests of statistical significance.  At the other end you have concepts like post-structuralism, which is big on relativist and subjective evaluation.  Positivism is great but only works when you can isolate variables that are both measurable and significant - which is not always the case, and then sometimes leaves room for debate about the significance of the variable.  Subjective evaluations are difficult to rigourously eliminate or expose bias in.  

You're asking hard questions and expecting simple answers - you're not going to get to have your cake and eat it.

'Fun' is not an easy concept to quantify, although you could probably design a survey that would tell whether an audience enjoyed the game.  Getting a meaningful comparison between two games (or two versions of a game) on an 'enjoyability' metric would be a bit harder.  Ergo, it would be quite hard to design a survey that accurately measured whether a version of the game had improved, and more importantly whether that improvement would lead to better sales.  The best you're likely to get out of this test is a like/didn't like measure that might give you some idea as to whether you are on the right track.  In this case I think the hardest part of evaluating people's responses would be finding ways to measure or eliminate bias from the results.  Designing effective studies to measure subjective things like that is hard and getting it right is where social scientists actually earn their keep.

Essential vs. non-essential complexity is another concept that has complexities of its own.  Information theory can tell us about a minimal space needed to represent information, but relating that to real text of a real game is a much harder achievement and natural language processing hasn't really done an effective job of solving that problem.  So, we're back to editorial taste and opinion about the value of the complexity in a mechanic.  Then you've got differing tastes for simplicity vs. crunch.  There is a lot of room for value judgements about what the purpose is, whether it has been accomplished or accomplished satisfactorily.  Tunnels & Trolls and Harnmaster are both fantasy games, although it could be argued they have different purposes and audiences.  Then there is the question of 'Whose purpose matters - the author or the players?'  Even the attempt to get an objective evaluation out of this question might not be terribly meaningful.

Clearly written and well organised could be tested through comprehension tests of people who have read the rules to some extent.  You might also be able to use applied experimental psychology (human factors) techniques to see things like how many times people have to search through the rulebook to find things.  Whether these measures really tell the whole story is debatable but they might give you some useful insight.  However, setting up a human factors lab in your basement and finding enough guinea pigs for a sample large enough to draw statistical inference from is likely beyond the reach of a typical indie game design shop.  WOTC might have the dosh to do it (although the 5e material suggests they didn't), but you probably don't.

Take a look at anything written by Tim Hartford, The Undercover Economist.  He manages to make books about research methods interesting, and shows many interesting examples of creative ways social scientists have taken to isolate significant variables in a complex, messy social or sociotechnical system.

This brings us back to what Linus Torvalds calls 'good taste' - skilled, practiced judgement from someone with the expertise to evaluate whether something is any good.  Not everybody has it, but it can be learned - there is a saying that goes 'Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgement.'  Judgement is not necessarily 100% reliable, but it is probably the best tool you have for evaluating the quality or fitness for purpose of a role playing game.  You will be too close to what you've written to evaluate so find some folks whose judgement you trust and ask them what they think.

Quote from: ThatChrisGuy;1119745
Dude's handle is Iron Cross...

Indeed.  I was thinking of suggesting to OP that perhaps if he didn't want to be perceived as a white supremacist then maybe he shouldn't base his online identity around symbolism associated with white supremacists.  But that's none of my business.

Quote from: ElBorak;1117273
I see this more this way,

Back Then -- make a character, backstory gets created as we play.

Today -- make a 10 page backstory as you create the character, so that the DM is forced to swallow your claim to the 110 skills that you have mastered so that you can have an Über character.
If the character generation system lets you roll up a character with 110 skills then that's fine or it's an issue with the design of the game mechanics - all the other players could roll up a character with 110 skills using the same system.  If the system doesn't allow 110 skills then redirect the player to use the actual rules for generating their character.

FATE, for example, is pretty free-form in what you can do with a character, but all characters get the same skill pyramid plus 5 aspects and 3 stunts.  You can make up any back story you want but if you don't design trouble into the aspects then you don't get any delicious FATE points from compels or invoke-against.  Mary-sue characters are bad by design.  D&D is even more prescriptive in what skills you get for what class and you can make it even more egalitarian by using point buy for stats.  Traveller only gives you coarse-grained control over your character to begin with.

There is, of course, a social contract here not to be a dick.  Some folks observe this more than others.

I've found DMs pretty much universally appreciating back stories if you put in some decent hooks; I even had the DM requesting them from other players.  You can shake the back stories down and fit them further into the game as you go.  In one case recently the DM took one of the hooks and turned it into a major side-quest for the party.

It's worth writing a setting guide for players - a map with key features plus some blurbs about lore, key points of interest, maybe some important NPCs and other features.  Keep it brief, though.  Maybe 10 pages or less to begin with or your players are going to glaze over when they read it.

Then you can drip feed the rest of the setting canon to the players on an as-and-when basis.

Design, Development, and Gameplay / Font Policing
« on: January 08, 2020, 07:25:01 am »
Quote from: daniel_ream;902558
That's almost certainly what's being done in the OP's examples.  For just about every major commercial font there's a freeware equivalent that's nigh-indistinguishable.  Much of what you're paying for in a commercial font is the kerning and hinting information.
Apologies for the necromancy, but the hinting and kerning information is what makes a font look good.  On display faces at larger point sizes you can work around it by manually kerning and the font rendering OK at size (although this will work a lot better in print than on-screen) but for text being set at 9 or 10 point you absolutely need a font with good kerning and hinting data.  It will look terrible otherwise, and hinting and font design for screen rendering is another whole topic in itself.

Individual fonts aren't all that expensive, even if large collections like Adobe Font Folio can run into thousands.  For a publication you're probably best off shelling out for the fonts you use as there are probably only going to be a few of them.  If you're (for example) a jobbing printer with an in-house art department, or a graphic designer then you may have to shell out for a large font pack.

One little protip that's worth noting is that old versions of Corel Draw go for peanuts on ebay and come with a collection of around 1,000 high quality fonts from Bitstream.  They also used to turn up in bargain bins quite often as well.  Corel Draw is also a fairly decent drawing program and will run just fine on older hardware.  It also comes with a paint program and a whole bunch of other stuff - it's always been good value for money.

And, yes, I used to work in this field at one point.

Design, Development, and Gameplay / PDF Compressor
« on: January 08, 2020, 07:01:38 am »
All PDFs are compressed with zip from memory, so you won't necessarily get better compression performance from one PDF generator than any other.  You will get better or worse rendering quality, though.  Many of the cheaper ones are based on ghostscript, which is (or was) proscribed from using certain dithering and other rendering optimising algorithms by patent encumberance.  Historically, PDFs produced using these systems (e.g. PDFCreator) produced slightly inferior quality PDF output to Distiller for precisely that reason.

Now, if you're comfortable building it from source, many of these are available as compile-time options.  As I understand, it's possible to compile in some patent encumbered stuff, although I can't remember the details of what.  Also, the patents are expiring, so this situation may have improved from the 10+ years ago that I first looked into it.

However, unquestionably the best rendering quality will be obtained from Distiller (A.K.A. Acrobat Pro), which can be obtained from Adobe.  I have it through owning CS6 which comes with it.

If you're concerned about size, you will probably have to tweak the graphics themselves.  You can dial up or down the resolution of bitmaps - use 72 dpi or 96 dpi for screen optimised PDFs.  Use vector formats where appropriate, assuming your software supports them - EPS, SVG or EMF.  Separate screen and print versions let you have higher resolution graphics for print but smaller and faster versions for on-line reading.

The compression tools do this sort of thing, reducing the size of images by resampling them.  They can also bin out unused characters from fonts and do various other optimisations like this.  You will probably have to frig with them to see which one gives you the results you're after.

I have done a few in my time.  At one end, the process ranges from CT/Striker/MT hybrids - with lots of house rules of course, this is Traveller after all.  A more extreme example would be a very hacked about Twilight:2000 1e system that I used for moderns and sci-fi gaming in the first half of the '90s.

This had a hacked about damage system, some tweaks to the character generation system (although it still retained the tradeoff between stats and skills from T2000 1e), plus a variety of house rules.  In all, I ran 4 sci-fi campaigns with it and several moderns games.  At one point I did a cyberpunk hack for it to address some of the flaws in the CP2013 system.

After that I did a brief segue back into using Traveller for sci-fi.  Then I drifted away from role playing in the 2000's and came back about 2015 or 2016.

World building is fun, and (speaking as an inveterate world builder) you do need to take it far enough so that your game setting hangs together, but ...

Folks don't really get off on a 'big book of canon' as much as one might think, and the detail also matters less than you might think in day-to-day play.  You might be better off revealing your 'verse on a 'show, don't tell' basis, integrated into your adventures, rather than trying to design it all in a big bang.  This approach has two strengths:

  • If you're planning to publish the material the process of incremental revelation is fun.  As a customer, you read a little with each published supplement or adventure, and it leaves you hungry for more.  By comparison, reading through a big book of canon can be a bit boring or sterile.  To a greater or lesser extent this also applies to your own players in your campaign.
  • It gives you more flex to evolve the setting with the adventures as you're less likely to have already painted yourself into a corner, and the setting work is more focused on stuff needed for the adventures.  This means your setting work tends to be more detailed where it matters and it pulls its weight rather than you spending time on a bunch of fluff that doesn't really get used.  This is also relevant to publishing material as space comes with a finite cost - bigger books cost more to produce.
Note that this is through the lens of doing something for publication, but for your own stuff the principles are still relevant.

That doesn't mean you can't do detailed world building or build something elaborate up front - I have a series of posts on another forum about building a city in lots of detail for a Blades In The Dark/Scum and Villany hybrid game.  Now, the city is intended in the long run to be a reusable resource (although that also applies to most campaign settings) so it's getting a lot of attention.  However, I do expect it to evolve, and I'm not going to do the whole city to start with - just enough to be a starting point.  

What I'm getting at here is that it's not necessarily best to do all your canon up front, not necessarily best to write it up for your audience up front, and you might get better results in the long run if take an approach that gives it some room to evolve.

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