This is fast developing into my favorite HR thread on the boards. The discussion is spirited, and amusing, and I think it is pulling us in the right direction. Safe to say this is the exact sort of feedback I was hoping we’d be able to gather.
I’m zonked from work, but wanted to just mention one more thing before I retire for the night, a very general impression I have about A&A HR design tendencies…
I’ve noticed in A&A, when it comes to creating analogies between the historical war and the actual game, there is always a tension between two basic ideals or approaches. I’ve seen them at play on the Larry Boards, and here as well, whenever historical questions arise.
On the one hand, you have an approach that favors a more consistent historical analogy for the individual game elements.
On the other hand, you have an approach that favors a more consistent historical analogy for the resulting gameplay patterns.
At some point I think you really have to choose which approach you want to give primacy, because the game system is often too simplistic to handle both without internal conflicts arising.
Like if you want to keep the game elements totally concrete and uniform in their historical analogies, then you have to just accept the play-patterns that develop out of them. But if you want to change the play-patterns after the fact, you basically have to let go of the notion that one of those elements represents something very solid.
Let me give an example of what I mean in a game context…
Take a critical game element like IPCs/Money.
These are used for all sorts of things in game, like determining territory value (where production can be located, what its worth when traded for units), or what sorts of units that can be bought in a given purchase etc. So in that respect, a Nation’s starting income might be really important.
For some players, this element of the game should be concrete and consistent in its analogy to the real world, or to the actual historical situation in WWII. 1 IPC = 1 million man hours of “Industrial Production.” That’s what it says on the certificate, and what it says on that dollar bill, is exactly what it means. Now depending on how strict you want to be, you can say ‘OK this is our building block’, and this initial abstraction is going to serve as the basis for all the other abstractions we make. It’s a foundational game element, and the analogy or narrative created around it is seen as very concrete and not open to much interpretation. Since units cost a set amount of IPCs, and territories are worth a set amount of IPCs drawn on the map, the IPC is sort of sacrosanct. If we were to suddenly change this element somewhere via HRs, then the change cascades out through the entire game, such that nothing relates in quite the same way to anything else consistently anymore, and the historical analogy of the IPC is broken. Potential uproar. Also, because the IPC value of a territory represents something like resources and raw materials, increasing or lowering it substantially is just off the table, unless you want to entertain total fantasy. Things like starting Income or the value of Objectives, average income in a round etc. trump other considerations because they’re at the root of the game’s design. So after all this you come down to the idea, that starting income should just never be changed.
Or, then again, perhaps the Starting IPC analogy is not the most thing important to you, and there are other things in the game that trump it. In this case, what’s important might not be the IPC starting treasury totals, or the IPC value of a given territory, or IPC objective bonuses per se, but rather how players are using this cash in their actual games. How players are drawn towards certain higher IPC territories, or totally ignore some zero IPC territories. Basically whether or not the resulting game-play pattern feel “satisfying” as a reflection of the real historical war. Here IPCs are just a means to an end, not 1 million man hours of production really, but just some sort of abstract game point that allows other things to happen (things that are more meaningful to the overall narrative you create about the game as player, like maybe combats happening in territories where combat historically occurred.)
You could take another game element, like the sequence of the Turn Order.
On the one hand you could say that the chosen sequence represents something really significant to the game’s design. Having Germany move first, or having a particular nation’s turn fall when it does, attaches to a timeline of events that’s meant to simulate something specific. You could say that turns in the game round = some set number of months, and that the turn order specifically reflects which sort of attack patterns can develop in that time-frame. Like G1 = Fall of France type scenario.
Or again, maybe it just isn’t all that important to you, and something you can tweak if it leads to a more satisfying set of gameplay patterns.
Another element might be something like Starting Unit distribution. Whether you consider the starting units to be concrete representations of the actual forces in the field. Or whether they are just vague gamey abstractions, that can be altered like with a bid or a set up change. Similarly you might put the focus on the units themselves, how they move, their combat abilities etc.
In each case, there is this tension, between the desire for the element to be accurate and the desire for the gameplay pattern to be accurate, and frustration when they don’t both align under the games normal rules. Hence the desire for the reboot hehe. Personally, the thing that I care about in G40 is not how accurately the game’s individual elements are modeled at the outset, but whether the gameplay patterns that emerge from those elements feel accurate as the game progresses. And when I say “feel” accurate I mean true to history, or historical probability, where the gameplay over the course of many rounds resembles what actually happened in World War II.
Marc’s Campaigns basically… And then the question, do they actually happen?
Because when they don’t, or when “other campaigns” like the Japanese Tank Drive, or the Western Air Wall to Moscow, take over, I think that’s what bugs.
You know, when the largest naval battle between Japan and American takes place somewhere in the Mediterranean. Or the largest tank battle in human history occurs not between Russia and Germany, but between Japan and UK (somewhere in Russia.) Things like that, they just bug. Even if all the elements seem accurately modeled relative to each other, if they produce a game that departs markedly from what happened in the second world war, then something’s got to give. We just need to pick the focus for what to change.
Perhaps I’m too blitzed right now to spit it out (I’m a smokey character tonight), but I guess what I’m driving at is this idea, that we should figure out which element of the game we care the least about from the historical analogy perspective, and then change that element to create the desired gameplay patterns, (leaving the rest alone, so its relatively easy to adopt). Figure out the simplest ways we can, to create incentives for the Campaigns we want to see occurring, while retaining the entertainment value provided by potential deviations from the history.
I rather prefer to build backwards. Taking the desired play-patterns first, figuring out what’s necessary to get where we want, and then use that to determine what a given element represents, or how it should be interpreted historically. (as opposed to the other way around.) Put another way, I’m happy to accept that a unit in one part of the world, might represent something rather different than the same unit in some other part of the world. Or that IPCs are not quite the same for Russia as they are for Germany, or for Japan and USA. Or that the treasuries of the various nations at the outset need to fall along some kind of weakest-to-strongest continuum with no regard for everything else that’s in play (like what the Nation is actually expected to do with that Treasury in the game haha.) I’d think more in terms of, “is this Nation fun to play?” and “are they doing what they should be doing from a historical perspective?” If the answer is “no, or boring, or could be better,” then I’m willing to suspend the disbelief a bit when it comes to tweaking the elements, if that results in a more convincing play-pattern.
In particular, the Central Pacific campaign for islands is something I’ve always wanted to see in A&A, but never really have.
Another thing I’ve wanted to see, but haven’t yet, is a way for the Axis to win that doesn’t always run through Moscow (esp for Japan).
I’d set those up as fairly modest goals that we should aim to achieve, however it is we get there in the end.