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Does complexity define wargames?

 
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Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 2:28:14 PM   
Daniele

 

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What defines complexity, after all? Does a game for experts need to be hard to play? Over the years there has definitely been a race to add more details to the games. Abstraction has become an design target few wargames developers are willing to pursue, because it breaks the rule of historical accuracy, but is the real thing fun to play?

The level of intricacy some titles have is the first a biggest barrier for new players to approach the wargaming genre. New potential audiences are out there looking at these games as monstrous beasts that are impossible to beat, but are the few that are willing to take the leap of faith rewarded enough?

#HoW15 is the perfect place to discuss scope of games, game design best practices and how to turn something that's extremely complex and scary for new comers into something that is sexy and inviting. Without dumbing down the games and making them less elaborated.

What is your view? Make sure you share it before the event and drive the change at this year's conference..

< Message edited by Daniele -- 5/28/2015 4:30:31 PM >
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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 3:15:41 PM   
zakblood


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quote:

but is the real thing fun to play?


most groghead level of war games aren't fun to play for casual gamers at all imo, and new players are totally put off the war game type straight away, as when you says suits all levels of players in most modern games, you mean 30+ years of war game history, and a infinite level of time and patience and also understanding while patches are made and nearly all stuff is fixed, tweaked and changed, then re done again, so most of the time second game comes out before first one is sorted... patience is a virtue but also can be worn out over time.

quote:

game design best practices


historical accuracy, Abstraction, extremely complex and manuals as thick as the encyclopaedia Britannica imo isn't good game design or planning, as doesn't make good marketing sense either, as you narrow the field down to much as there's only so many this deep level players in any group of board by the % divided by the number of members in total.

quote:

Without dumbing down the games


this is where balance needs to be on a common ground with developers listening to testers even before beta, in early alpha stages and taking a cross section of gamers onto a development team for feedback early on, not late into a beta where it's mostly too late to change hard coded stuff anyway without a rewrite which won't happen because of time scales etc.

everyone wants war games on a war game forum,

to which level depends on the style and skill level of the player,

ground, air, sea then supply, with C&C being apart of the basic design.

for me games like the old spectrum classic Arnhem did it very well by CCS, supply was in the game, but wasn't the main game, same as air but not sea for this game.

so you spent you time sorting out supply first, then to move your troops, with airborne drops, infantry and tanks, plus onboard artillery, no abstracted rules about hidden anything or rules which only two scientists could understand, the level of command was layered, with distance being the main lack of not only c&c but also supply.

http://torinak.com/qaop#!arnhem

play it, then understand it, then copy it.

yes most like to have more of everything, greater supply and air options, ground options and transport issues, road network, trains and seaborne etc etc, but as you add the layers, so does the complexity also ramp up, old game had it in, but didn't swamp the player with it, and if you needed to get the AI to control something, you could, and it worked and worked well, new games make it so hard each turn you need to read and re read a manual or at least a chapter to fully understand what you are trying to do, and so most just stay away from that level of difficulty and look for something more (was going to say easier, but will only say more fun tbh)

so to rap it up, if it's too simple and basic it's only for beginners, if it's mid level then more will play it and try it, if it's hard core or even mentioned by a few as too hardcore, then only a smaller of the smallest group will even try, and then if some of them feel let down with other games in a series, that list grows smaller in time as well.

games need to be written better imo, so the AI can be over powerful and be able to control almost everything if needed for the beginner, then the learning curve also is sorted as well, as if the AI does most stuff for you but you have the ability to turn most of it off in the menu's at will and over time when you the buyer feels your ready for a greater challenge, the more will buy it and play it to start off with, as the game from the developer from day one is designed to be more user friendly for a larger target, not just aimed at a smaller % of them, so it's win win for everyone but would take longer maybe and be needed to be coded better from the off set to keep a larger number happy, easy to say but harder to do, and that's your challenge.

easy should be easy with maximum AI help turned on, and cater for new players only, medium level of difficulty should cater for the middle of the market, casual players with a bit more to do, with hard for grogheads only and next to no help if turned off from the AI, so the challenge for the player at that level is higher so all is kept happier.

< Message edited by zakblood -- 5/26/2015 4:17:17 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 3:23:58 PM   
Daniele

 

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Thanks Zakblood, your contributions are always clear and helpful!

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 3:51:53 PM   
zakblood


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i have far too much free time, and i post too much, and have a view on almost everything tbh, mostly i'm wrong but as nobody else seems to be saying anything thought i might as well chip in with something off the top of my head, and not my views either, just a feeling from members from forum posts i have read.

48 years old, played war games since 12, mostly land based and either ww2 or Rome time period, but did like the old board games like Squad Leader etc, now retired with almost 30+ years of IT work behind me and nearly 50 beta's in the bag over many formats / operating systems and consoles.

so thank you and lets hope more reply, as it does seem to be me me and me a lot on here, FB and elsewhere so would like to see others views as well

my opinion and views is you only get out what you put in, so any game can be played, and mastered if you give it the time, but not all games require it or need it, and some are written so well with tutorials and in game guides for you that the manual never needs to be accessed at all, while others are so complex that you first need to learn almost a new language and while your doing it all hopes and fun go out the window so unless you achieve a certain level of skill quickly enough, unless you have infinite levels of patience and time you ability and drive for the new game soon wains and you loose interest and go back to another one which you know, enjoy and gives pleasure and not headaches over hidden stuff that also hidden from the manual and is Abstract in such a way and only in the eyes and brain of the coder and developer who may or may not in a given time share the reasons for it for one reason or another, as state secret type of hidden feature, in other words it's a Abstract rule which sorts something out that nothing else could etc...

oh i'm rambling again

edited;

i'll give a simple example,

quote:

Gary Grigsby’s War in the West 1943-45 is the most ambitious and detailed computer wargame on the Western Front of World War II ever made


ambitious yes, grand scale yes, fun to play, well as i don't own it i have no idea, but as the complexity is groghead level warp factor 9, beginners and casual players may have been put off, and my views to put games of this level of complexity are maybe unreal or not even needed by the developers or game buyers either, but if you make it more accessible to the lower game playing members, then more will or would maybe buy it...

maps look great, scale and topic also great, level of detail and amount of units is just massive and really well done, but is it too much for some? too hard for many or most unless happy to be called grogheads?

won't knock it, as i'd like to play it, but not sure even if i have the ability to do so after reading the forum comments on it, so guess it's been designed for players of the series who bought the old ones and not really to cater for the new players, then again do a poll and see the results, as i might be wrong, i normally am 50% or more of the time so won't be the first or last time either.

and game mentioned was a example, as being the hardest or one of the latest hardest to have come out, it was the first choice to mention, and maybe what the thread was about.

quote:

game for experts need to be hard to play?
NO

quote:

Over the years there has definitely been a race to add more details to the games
in itself is a good thing, but if gameplay suffers because of it, then no it's not, gameplay has to come first with good strong AI, a certain level of looks and UI and feel to the game with enough new features to keep you interested and make it different from the 20 odd others of the same type and name / type etc... rule of thumb for me is, no matter how good a game looks and feels, if it's too hard or boring and not fun to play, nobody buys or plays it for long...

quote:

The level of intricacy some titles have is the first a biggest barrier for new players to approach the wargaming genre.
not only is this putting newer players off, it is also making older gamers question some developers with there next in the series of games (format posts of i won't buy any more from XYZ etc in the series or in general)

quote:

New potential audiences are out there looking at these games as monstrous beasts that are impossible to beat

well no not hard to beat, as that just implies they can't win it, most will say they look and don't even buy it to start off with so don't really give it a chance, buying it would have at least got some money, most now look and watch and if not sure, just stay clear and wait for sales or a year or so later when fully patched, so getting a bit more smarter regarding first year purchases and time scales regarding patches and fixes etc etc

quote:

but are the few that are willing to take the leap of faith rewarded enough?

no as the discount offered for most early adopters isn't offset by the knowledge that it may or may not be fully 100% working either, so for the first few months or so are a type of later beta testers again i'm sorry to have to say and report from looking at forum comments and views...

quote:

complex and scary for new comers into something that is sexy and inviting. Without dumbing down the games and making them less elaborated.


well not only are they your words, but also your challenge as you already seem to know what needs to be done in the comment already tbh... eg make them less scary and complex and don't dumb them down, rise the bar with the AI to make the shortfall for the newer players, and sexy well is just plain silly, it's a war game so as war isn't sexy neither will be the game, no matter how you package it...



and that's it for now and back to testing

< Message edited by zakblood -- 5/26/2015 5:33:07 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 7:12:10 PM   
Ufnv

 

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I saw once a very good discussion about this. The main idea was it is a general trend to confuse game complexity with game depth. The simple addition of a lot of features that make a game more complex do not always make the gameplay "deeper". That's very simple design-wise to just add this and that and that, but the real problem is to make everything working together in a way any player decision makes sense and have consequences later in game - this means depth.
The second stage is often omitted leaving the game just "complex" with a very high entry barrier.

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 7:30:26 PM   
IronWarrior


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Oh this is such an interesting topic for me. :)
I won't ramble on incessantly about it, but here is my take on things. Grigsby's monsters are my favorite games- and I've played a ton of different games from various genres (starting with SSI back in the 80's and now coming full circle!). It is definitely the detail, and perhaps the complexity, but I don't really know. I'm not even a big time historical grognard- that's the strange part! I just absolutely adore the attention to detail and scope of them. Strategy games are my favorite genre, but even so, once I'd played War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition, or even the other 2by3 games, everything else just feels so shallow. I recently tried OoB: Pacific, and while I thought it was a good game, it also wasn't a game for me. It felt like a puzzle game almost, lacking variety and detail. I don't mean to bash the game- I thought it was good for what it was actually, it's just that I am now ruined for other games I think.

Unfortunately, there aren't many alternatives to pick from in the niche genre of monster strategy games. So it really upsets me when people ask for a dumbed down version of 2by3's games. As at that point there would be nothing left that will interest me really. :(

< Message edited by IronWarrior -- 5/26/2015 8:31:22 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 7:56:40 PM   
zakblood


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quote:

So it really upsets me when people ask for a dumbed down version of 2by3's games.


and that's a good point, and well worth a quote, as it doesn't have to be like that imo, the developer could with a little work add more AI to take over certain functions that would help the beginner and casual player alike, with options and menu settings that players like yourself could leave off, then every ones a winner in my book, developer gets more sales, you get another game quicker as with more sales, developer gets more money to add another team member / coder etc, so it's win win, as it is, without more new players buying, in the end less epic games will be developed as the cost v returns will be to poor, so less epic and more less grand scale ones will be developed, with a move to small budget and again with smaller aims, with maybe more of a mass market appeal and less towards the niche end of the market.

while you mention OoB: Pacific, a great game for the beginner and casual player a like, it doesn't have the grand scale and depth of a monster game, but in the same way it wasn't meant for the same sort of player, and if we had the sales figures for lets say war hammer and OoB: Pacific for a guess both would be in the X 50/100 % of more sold than most if not any hardcore groghead type games, and this is why hardcore games come out every few years and main stream wargames every year, time taken v cost is basics maths.

so alter the groghead / hardcore game to suit all tastes with making the AI take over more of the hardcore elements and leave it as a option for hardcore to not enable and you please a greater audience and sell more games, while at the same time not dumbing it down for the masses and turning off the loyal groghead / hardcore gamer.

if the same approach was in reverse, some casual to medium difficulty games could be changed slightly to make them more hardcore so as to also fill in a market where as a few don't have what level of difficulty they require or want / need to fulfil there enjoyment whilst gaming, so like a branch of a tree in the wind, it needs to bend in both directions to keep everyone happy.

imo


< Message edited by zakblood -- 5/26/2015 8:59:03 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 8:08:03 PM   
IronWarrior


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Sure, I wouldn't have a problem with a casual version or additional automated settings, or the like- in theory. But we all know how that always turns out. :D Not sure how practical it would be to ask for a more detailed or complex version of more casual games- I'd imagine that this would have to involve significant expenses and changes that probably aren't possible without a complete engine overhaul in most cases.

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/26/2015 8:31:52 PM   
zakblood


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i feel imo it's not a programming or programmers inability or coding issue, but a developers one and lack of vision for the real aims and goals, with some but not all who want to make bigger and better epic titles for the sake of it as what they call a vision, but forgetting it's a game in the process and not a simulation so maybe forgetting to add any real fun into it and trying too hard to make it more and more abstract and complex, as many have said, the more some games try, the worst the results regarding accuracy / results goes so have already failed on some levels and scope, better to do smaller and correct than larger and more of a failure, and this doesn't apply to any game in particular either, just games in general and not the ones just mentioned above.

while you maybe correct on engines etc, as in theory what is said in a few lines can takes years to apply to a program as soon as you try and program and code something into a already written program so maybe it's better to just stick with new and upcoming stuff and forget the older titles for now and leave them as is, instead of adding bits and altering bits for ever more, a even more topic for many who won't like that idea much either btw...

but with all topics and discussions it has to be debated both ways, then the programmer chips in it can't be done anyway, then the developer adds in the cost etc and time scale etc, and your back to your starting point all over again

< Message edited by zakblood -- 5/26/2015 9:33:31 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/27/2015 3:32:36 PM   
CGGrognard


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Interesting read from the comments. I appreciate them very much for I'm a gamer that grew up on Avalon Hill, SSI, and the likes who had the time to "study" the rules in depth. I appreciate it when games involve scenarios that must be completed before moving on to the next. I also appreciate the levels of difficulties as in the motioned OoB Pacific. This is where I believe a game could incorporate more layers into the game, rather than having a numerical adjustment in the program. For example, on a basic level, most things are handled by the AI, but on an expert level, the player handles everything but combat resolution.
Casual war games are nice and convenient, but I think they could be more in depth. As in some games, units strength is identified by a number, typically 10, which makes things simple, but not realistic. It would be more interesting if there was an actual number of soldiers, aircraft, armor, etc. listed in the unit, and strength was represented on a percentage. This is why I'm a fan of the Close Combat series, for the player knows how many soldiers are on the field for any given battle.
In closing, war games should be complex, but players should have options in controlling the complexity. Here's to looking forward to the next generation of war gaming.

_____________________________

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." - Sun Tzu

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/28/2015 10:45:02 PM   
Gargoyl

 

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Personally, I favor the old saw, "Easy to learn but hard to master," as a rule of thumb. This is especially true now as I am quite busy and don't have the patience for studying arcane rules that mimic the old board game manuals that I lovingly read forty+ years ago when I was a high school student and had time to do that. That being said, I do expect a good war game to faithfully attempt to capture the essence of the era the game is designed to replicate. I am a stickler for authenticity, which may at times increase the level of complexity, depending on the level--strategic, operational, tactical, and other considerations--weather, politics, command-control features. I agree with CGGrognard that games should be designed with levels of complexity (and difficulty) that players can adjust. That also happens to be a good selling point.

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/29/2015 12:54:26 AM   
wodin


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I like to see little abstraction and lots of detail that goes on under the hood but be relatively straight forward to play..with increasing options to make it more hands on if you want to manage say logistics in depth you can or let the computer do it.

A game doesn't have to be a slog and no fun to play just because it has little abstraction, it all depends on how the game mechanics play out.

There is a fine line between realism and gameplay though. Take FOW if you wanted real true FOW I expect the game would be difficult and possibly not that fun to play. However if you wanted all weapons to have proper ballistics and ammo counts and soldiers modelled to the man in say a platoon scale game then that wouldn't effect the fun side of the game in a negative way as this sort of thing is being managed by the computer. SO it really depends on what particular part of the war game your talking about.

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/29/2015 8:36:09 AM   
terry1040

 

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To me complexity does define a wargame.

But... are we not all too old fashioned, too comfortable in our practiced niche of gaming?
I am now 50 years old, and I have more than 30 years boardgaming and computer wargaming background. I do love manuals, I do love complexity. I do nowadays lack the time to digest and play those monsters. But the industry has taught me what to expect from a wargame and how to play it. Younger players might not be socialized in the same way.

So for me complexity goes hand-in-hand with a more intense game experience. However if you do not have the tools within the game to digest this complexity in a modern way, how can you expect to attract a larger (or even younger) audience. Provide the gamer with tools that help him. Do not make it a click-fest nightmare. Stick to the one-click para-dime as much as possible. Use mouse-overs, display nice graphics, allow for modding, help players to export lists & data into Excel so that they could run their analytic. The complexity must become easier, more intuitive to handle in the first place.

But is that enough for the younger generation? Is the wargaming industry even thinking about addressing the Generation Y? From what I see, younger people think the learning curve into complex wargames like WitP-AE, WitE etc. is above and beyond what they would see as attractive game. Hexes are not perceived as fun and great graphics, counters might be old-fashioned-counterproductive. Do we always need Nato-Symbols? Really?

And most important, developers need to help the younger players to get into a complex game step-by-step. That means have the AI take over most of the tasks at the beginning, then gradually allow players to take over more responsibility at their own leisure. Help them with short explanatory how to play videos. And with that I do not mean where to click, but what you are intending to achieve in the complex scenario. Talk strategy.

My point is that we do not have enough easy access tutorials, videos, tactics examples etc. to engage with the more visually inclined audience. That way complex games are very hard to digest, so complexity kills the potential market. It also kills the market for the audience only looking for a nicely paced small game for a few hours. And the latter is most likely what the Generation Y is expecting from a Wargame in the first place.

Cheers
Terry

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/29/2015 10:13:53 AM   
Daniele

 

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Here's an intersting contribute by Vr Designs
What do you think?

Does complexity define wargames? And are there any voids in wargame design?

The first part of the title of this post is the topic of a discussion question for my publishers Home of the Wargamers 2015 event.

And in fact it is a very good question and one that should in my opinion be reflected upon by any wargame designer before starting any new project.

My instinctive first reply to the question is to say that there is no such thing as “the” wargame genre or “the” wargamer.
The ideal amount of complexity depends certainly on the personal tastes of the player. Some players are more casual or beer and pretzel lovers, some players are more hardcore wargamers or even grognards.
Reflecting on the complexity of wargames I can distinguish (at least) two important factors that determine the perceived complexity.

The amount of game pieces you have to move each turn is the first important factor. On one side of the spectrum here we find for example chess, while on the other side of the spectrum you would find monster hex-and-counter games like some HPS games or War in the East.

And the detail for the game pieces you control, affect you or that you affect is the second important factor. Does each unit have 2 or 3 variables like in Empire Deluxe, maybe 10-20 variables like in Panzer Corps, or maybe 100s of variables like in War in the East?



Disclaimer: I really put these titles rather quickly on these 2 axis; please allow for an error of a few centimeters ;)

The amount of game pieces you have at your disposal should in general create more strategic and/or tactical options for the player. More permutations of game states. High permutation games are complex because they make it impossible to really calculate what is going to be the outcome of your moves, especially when trying to think a few turns into the future, you have to develop a “feel” or “intuition” to become a good player.

The detail of the stuff you have at your disposal can make each iteration of a piece of the game unique (12th Infantry division versus 45th Infantry division for example). These detailed games add a lot of complexity to the game and time-investment for the player, since everything should ideally be inspected before being utilized to achieve best results. On the other hand they add a lot of immersion, special strategies, management challenges and feel of “realism”.

My analysis here is that the [ level of simulation/detail * the ammount of stuff you control ] in a game results in that games complexity score. On the illustration I put for example Panzer Corps in the more casual wargame quadrant and Grigsby in the grognard quadrant. Panzer Corps has relatively low unit count and low detail, while Grigsby has defenitely high unit count and high detail.

So answering the question “does complexity define wargames?” I would really say yes, but the bar where a game becomes a “real” wargame differs from player to player depending on their preferred level of complexity.
In a way the term “casual” and “grognard” is actually not objective and betrays a bit my own sympathies. The term “casual” or “beer and pretzel” is definitely a term coined by players who prefer games to the high complexity side of the spectrum. My apologies if I offended any-one and feel free to replace “casual” with “strategy” and “grognard” with “I like looking at spreadsheets”. It really depends on your personal tastes and who you compare yourself too.

I think the interesting thing about putting turn based wargames on the two dimensions I chose is that I realized there are two design voids. There are no wargames I know of with very low detail per game piece but very large counts of them, nor are there any (non-tactical) wargames with very low game piece counts, but with immense details to each piece.

I know of other genres who have exploited these voids though… RPG’s for example excel in low unit count but with immense detail per unit (characters are of course the name for units there). And for example some RTS and Total War games field thousands of little soldiers on the battlefields but they often resemble a clone of their neighbor.

Personally I think these relative voids might hold the key to create some cross-genre and entry level games.

Thats it for my brainstorm on the subject for today. Correct me if I am wrong please.

Best wishes,
Vic


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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/29/2015 11:14:24 AM   
wodin


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I wouldn't say the amount of units is what makes a game groglike. Lots of units seems Grog like because only a grog would put the time into moving them all.

I prefer detailed games with as little abstraction as possible (Obviously abstraction I feel should go up as the scale goes up). Panzer General I really don't like because I can't get past the fact a unit has no actual scale pus the terrain hex size has no scale either. Battle Academy is much better as a casual game for me as it has a more realistic scale both terrain and units so I can visualise the battle much better and thus become more immersed.

As for Grog games I've yet to really find one that gets the balance perfect and stops it from becoming a slog. Or I find the developer has abstracted areas I feel would have been much better if he\she hadn't.

Another thing is I'm not sure if wargames boardgame roots haven't held back innovation once we started to go digital. Take a look at all the games here at Matrix, a vast majority of them will be IGOUGO and have hexes. Breakthroughs like WEGO turn mechanic has been instrumental in producing some great digital wargames, something that couldn't be done on a board (I feel that IGOUGO should be seen as a quirk for any developer specifically aiming for a boardgame feel\experience..otherwise it should be dropped for WEGO) The two things I feel should be kept from the boardgame roots are counters\chits and 2D maps. Not sure we need actual hexes when we can really use pixels as a marker for measurement. However on the whole very little innovation has come along when it comes to wargames. Hexes and IGOUGO mechanics where thought up and then used as standard due to the limitations of the boardgame format. We don't have those limitations now as the computer can do all those calculations like distance and LOS and moving at the same time and FOW more or less instantly, you can all imagine how difficult it would be for a player to manage\do\calculate all this sat a table with a calculator and HUGE rule book and a fried brain.

I'd say Command Ops and Combat Mission series have been the digital wargames that broke the mould. We also now have CMANO and a shout goes out to Flashpoint Campaigns for going WEGO.

The next grog game that really looks like it's trying to do something new and I'm getting excited about is Decisive Campaigns 3.

SO I think across the board we need some new innovative game designs, design from the ground up should be approached with a fresh outlook, think outside the box.

I hope you can make sense of this ramble..struggling to explain myself.

< Message edited by wodin -- 5/29/2015 12:59:26 PM >


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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/29/2015 12:02:16 PM   
zakblood


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the amount of units don't make a game grog head heavy game, it's the complexity of rules that come with supply, c&c and other things, but do agree to a degree, add in air and sea to land combat the difficulty of extra rules ramps it up some, so for chess etc to be explained to a new none player can be quite complex compared to other types of game, and this is where the middle ground needs to be thought from, as what's easy and maybe common ground for one type of player is rocket science for another, so take away the chess thought and put something more simple like drafts / checkers etc then a baseline beginning can be found, then expand the circle from there in each direction maybe.

i've played a few older games with 1000's of counters that where by any stretch of the term very easy, then again i've played some with 1/10th of that and they was very hard, then take a look at the manuals, with 200 pages plus being common place now, they are not for the faint of heart if they fill 200 pages, when some games won't fill up a A4 sheet with both sides used

while the model is quite good Vic, it's also basically flawed, as the weakness is the inability of the programmers and coders and developers for that matter to alter all or most games to suit all tastes, do this and that game will sell to the masses, atm none come even close, but it wouldn't take much to alter many.

good AI programming and basic design choices lets most games have some action be controlled by the AI to some extent,take that most basic of idea's a bit further and your rocking and rolling, with a AI to do most stuff for beginners, and none for grogheads, simple by design, and not the other way around, complicated by design and maybe lets say poor development choices to target only a small part of what could be used / played by all imo.

for me it doesn't make sense to make groghead heavy type games only, knowing the players of these epic massive games are few and far between, wouldn't it be better to target a game at war gamers in general, and yes you can't please everyone, but has any even tried to do it by design, answer, well no, none i've seen or heard of, it either fits in one side or another or crosses over all, but doesn't meet the challenge for what i propose, a monster game that can be played by a noob / none war gamers and for them to enjoy it mind you, and also for the middle road type of player and groghead a like...

2016 it may not be happening in, but aim for 2020 and it may

good luck

< Message edited by zakblood -- 5/29/2015 1:12:44 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/29/2015 1:13:38 PM   
redmarkus4


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Daniele

Here's an intersting contribute by Vr Designs
What do you think?

Does complexity define wargames? And are there any voids in wargame design?

The first part of the title of this post is the topic of a discussion question for my publishers Home of the Wargamers 2015 event.

And in fact it is a very good question and one that should in my opinion be reflected upon by any wargame designer before starting any new project.

My instinctive first reply to the question is to say that there is no such thing as “the” wargame genre or “the” wargamer.
The ideal amount of complexity depends certainly on the personal tastes of the player. Some players are more casual or beer and pretzel lovers, some players are more hardcore wargamers or even grognards.
Reflecting on the complexity of wargames I can distinguish (at least) two important factors that determine the perceived complexity.

The amount of game pieces you have to move each turn is the first important factor. On one side of the spectrum here we find for example chess, while on the other side of the spectrum you would find monster hex-and-counter games like some HPS games or War in the East.

And the detail for the game pieces you control, affect you or that you affect is the second important factor. Does each unit have 2 or 3 variables like in Empire Deluxe, maybe 10-20 variables like in Panzer Corps, or maybe 100s of variables like in War in the East?



Disclaimer: I really put these titles rather quickly on these 2 axis; please allow for an error of a few centimeters ;)

The amount of game pieces you have at your disposal should in general create more strategic and/or tactical options for the player. More permutations of game states. High permutation games are complex because they make it impossible to really calculate what is going to be the outcome of your moves, especially when trying to think a few turns into the future, you have to develop a “feel” or “intuition” to become a good player.

The detail of the stuff you have at your disposal can make each iteration of a piece of the game unique (12th Infantry division versus 45th Infantry division for example). These detailed games add a lot of complexity to the game and time-investment for the player, since everything should ideally be inspected before being utilized to achieve best results. On the other hand they add a lot of immersion, special strategies, management challenges and feel of “realism”.

My analysis here is that the [ level of simulation/detail * the ammount of stuff you control ] in a game results in that games complexity score. On the illustration I put for example Panzer Corps in the more casual wargame quadrant and Grigsby in the grognard quadrant. Panzer Corps has relatively low unit count and low detail, while Grigsby has defenitely high unit count and high detail.

So answering the question “does complexity define wargames?” I would really say yes, but the bar where a game becomes a “real” wargame differs from player to player depending on their preferred level of complexity.
In a way the term “casual” and “grognard” is actually not objective and betrays a bit my own sympathies. The term “casual” or “beer and pretzel” is definitely a term coined by players who prefer games to the high complexity side of the spectrum. My apologies if I offended any-one and feel free to replace “casual” with “strategy” and “grognard” with “I like looking at spreadsheets”. It really depends on your personal tastes and who you compare yourself too.

I think the interesting thing about putting turn based wargames on the two dimensions I chose is that I realized there are two design voids. There are no wargames I know of with very low detail per game piece but very large counts of them, nor are there any (non-tactical) wargames with very low game piece counts, but with immense details to each piece.

I know of other genres who have exploited these voids though… RPG’s for example excel in low unit count but with immense detail per unit (characters are of course the name for units there). And for example some RTS and Total War games field thousands of little soldiers on the battlefields but they often resemble a clone of their neighbor.

Personally I think these relative voids might hold the key to create some cross-genre and entry level games.

Thats it for my brainstorm on the subject for today. Correct me if I am wrong please.

Best wishes,
Vic




I'm sorry, but chess is not a casual game - it's highly sophisticated and also one of history's most successful games, still hugely popular after a thousand years or more.

The error made during the development of games like War in the East has been to attempt to model everything. A war game is all about chaos theory; the more details you model, the greater the chaos and the less historical the outcome.

The key is to know what to model and what to abstract.

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/29/2015 9:10:45 PM   
IronWarrior


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We had a discussion recently about a similar topic on a Steam group dedicated to 4X strategy games. The subject up for debate was "what defines depth". The author of the original article concluded that depth was defined by "meaningful" choices, of which I disagreed. My counterpoint was that heavily weighted "meaningful" choices often serve to take away strategic depth. Take a game of Civ V on Deity for example. You need to progress through the tech tree in a rigid and set path with very little room for error. One mistake and you could easily find yourself in a fail state. Games like this, where you can practically solve the game before even loading it up lack any sort of variety or strategic depth imo, since once you "solve" the game and know what to expect in advance- no strategy is actually necessary to be formed. This works well for mainstream and casual games like Civ or StarCraft where you can copy a build order and have success, but at that point is the player still forming a strategy? For me, there needs to be some measure of ambiguity or unpredictability in a strategy game. Conversely, Grigsby's monsters provide smaller, less dire and severe choices to be made over the course of the game that while "meaningful" add up to provide a much deeper strategic experience.

My conclusion is that depth comes primarily from detail, and perhaps also from balance in design allowing for variety. Detail is also often parallel to complexity, but not necessarily. Age of Wonders 3, for example, has a pretty "deep" combat system, but the game overall isn't complicated or complex. I do normally prefer complex games, but I think that even more important is detail.

Anyway, just some rambling thoughts. :)

< Message edited by IronWarrior -- 5/29/2015 10:25:43 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/30/2015 3:52:30 PM   
moet


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I'm not a true grognard, i.e. the kind of person who needs to micro-manage everything during a battle, although I can enjoy it when I have the necessary time. But I do like games that teach me realistic strategic or tactical lessons. This is IMO what gives a wargame its depth (not complexity nor over-detailed features, although those heavy stuffs can contribute to depth). Grognards are the only ones who will have an intense fun playing WitE, but they will appreciate too, as average gamers, any game that provides a true war experience.

I agree with everyone saying that we would be better served with good-looking-and-easy-to-learn-and-play wargames. I enjoy them a lot ONLY IF they provide a good war experience. We're getting some games of this kind from the tablet market (ex.: Crisis in Command) and they are now spreading out on all platforms (ex.: Ultimate General). From a more classic horizon, I'm very impressed by Flashpoint Campaign, that already gone a good part of the way being an easy-but-true wargame.

But the main thing remains: are all the game developers able to make the delicate work required (game design, friendly and opposing AI, etc.) in order to build an ample user-friendly wargame?

< Message edited by moet -- 5/30/2015 7:43:32 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 5/31/2015 2:11:58 AM   
gunnergoz


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Some wargames are more complex than others - we all know that. It is not this complexity that defines if they are good games or not. It is the execution of the design and the question of whether the game is satisfying to play, that determines if they are good games. Simple games can be very satisfying, as long as they don't pretend to be anything else.

Some war games are blessed by their complexity and some are damned by it. Other games are blessed in their simplicity and still others are condemned for it. What makes the difference in outcomes for me is the degree to which the designers have identified a target audience and its tastes and desires, and then went on to try to satisfy that audience, and no others. The greater variety of tastes you try to satisfy, the less likely you are to satisfy any of them to any marked degree.

Complexity by itself is not necessarily a good thing if it serves no purpose, or is deliberately opaque in its application and output. It is even more useless if it leads to outcomes that do not permit a player to apply historic strategies to a historic situation and receive a historically credible outcome. If you are going to create a complex wargame, you had darn well better know your topic area and history - then have a deep appreciation of the interplay of the factors that created the original war or scenario.

The Panzer General ilk of games and its successors are an example to me of a wargame paradigm that is superb in its attempt to address complexity (weapons designs, technological advances, battlefield tactics, interplay between weapons systems) while at the same time keeping things simple in the actual execution of play. The flaw in the PG paradigm as executed to date (up to and including the very commendable Order of Battle:Pacific) is the fact that these are heavily scripted scenario-dependent games that depend upon the scripting to conceal deficiencies in AI routines. As a result, they have not to date been able to support free-wheeling and open-ended sand table epics such as are possible in many 4X games including the Civilization series (some of which admittedly did this better than others.)

In the end, complexity is only one factor that defines wargames. Chess is certainly a wargame, perhaps the purest kind of one - Checkers and Go are so abstract as to be almost mathematical exercises, but one can think of them as highly abstract games for control of territory and in that sense, wargames too.

So no, complexity does not define wargames. What defines wargames is the extent to which the player feels like a commander while playing them. Shooter games allow one to emulate being the warrior, while a true wargame puts you in the position of being the warriors' commander - be it commander over a squad, a tribe, a nation or a planet. If that is done well, no matter what the complexity, then they are a good example of a wargame.


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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 6/1/2015 1:18:57 PM   
zakblood


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deleted, no more comments from me on the subject

< Message edited by zakblood -- 6/2/2015 3:04:57 PM >

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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 6/2/2015 12:46:33 PM   
Red Lancer


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I didn't rush to post on this thread as I wanted to think things over in my head first. Having worked on WitW and done my MA dissertation on information overload in a digitized era I have a couple of views.

Complexity spans a number of areas:

- the ability that the player has to influence gameplay - i.e immersion (e.g. ability to set aircraft load out and altitude)
- the level of abstraction of the game i.e. fidelity (e.g. is a unit modelled a single entity or an amalgam of its constituant parts which may themselves be different)
- the scope of game play i.e. size (e.g. how big an area and for how long)

If you plot those three areas then playability is bounded by the human brains ability to process the information contained within the sum of those areas. That means the ability to not only absorb the information presented, understand what that data means and then be able to act effectively on that information in order to achieve your desired aims within the time available. As many wargames don't run in real time then time is not a directly limiting factor although as a hobby the time you can devote to a game is.

In WitW a frustration is that the impressive fidelity of the air game makes it very difficult to relate easily the settings of aircraft type, altitude, load out, intensity, morale, experience, fatigue etc to the delivery of your intent. In WitW and WitW the ground combat model and the precise units present fixate some but others concentrate on morale as the one factor of importance. For some a WitP:AE campaign is only really playable using the help of WitP Tracker to help process the huge elements of data presented.

Ultimately information which you cannot use to further your cause is irrelevant.

Some people can absorb more information and process more. In a military headquarters information overload is mitigated both by restricting span of command and employment of staff officers to filter, interpret and present information moving in both directions. In wargames the role of the staff officer or neighbouring formations can be sub contracted to an AI to help.

Here are my three key points: complexity is not in itself a bad thing but for the complexity to be worthwhile within a design it must be possible to see a clear correlation between the benefit offered by the 'complexity' and gameplay. Secondly clear interfaces which present information in an exploitable manner are vital. Thirdly the differentiation between the amount of information that players can absorb (and want) should be addressed using multiplayer (human or AI) either across the span of the wargame or down into the detail to increase tempo.


< Message edited by Red Lancer -- 6/2/2015 2:24:49 PM >


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RE: Does complexity define wargames? - 6/25/2015 3:12:56 PM   
loki100


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an interesting topic and thread.

I suspect like a number of people who buy the more complex Matrix games, I'm old enough to have played the old SPI/GDW etc games. I think the solution, as far as one exists, to complexity/playability is to define the player point of view. The only way you could do this with paper and counter games was to fix the scale - want a relatively abstract WW2 game, use corps size counters. Want a grand tactical game, use battalions and so on. The monster games were great fun, but muddled these criteria as one restraint (one map/400 counters) was removed.

I also recall John Prados (I think it was him) with his design for effect mindset. It didn't matter if a given routine was unrealistic, if it was an elegant way to build to an acceptable game play. Now that was clearly so much more important when remembering and applying the rules was in the hands (or minds) of the players. Others of course took the view that any lack of fidelity in a sub-routine undermined the realism of the final product.

I think the solution for modern computer based games is to move to an order cycle concept. AGEOD have always had this, so the player task is organising armies, thinking about operations, OOB etc, and then you hit the end turn button (and your plans fall apart). At the grand tactical scale, Flashpoint, Brother vs Brother and Pike and Shot all make use of variants of the order cycle. This of course puts a huge premium on the programming, anyone who ever tried giving orders in Paradox's HOI3 soon gave up as there was no relationship between your orders and activity.

For myself I think Red Lancer underestimates how sophisticated the air model is in WiTW. I think you can take account of all the criteria he (? - one should never assume) lists, some I may ignore in favour of 'good enough', but you can manipulate all those to gain advantage. As its then an order execution routine, you escape the problem in WiTE, of selecting exactly which hex to bomb with your U2VS bi-planes.

So I genuinely think that setting orders - AI execution is the means to balance the demands of complexity and realism. It doesn't have to be WEGO, a lot of games are now embedding this approach into IGOUGO. It also helps remove the issue of the sheer number of counters to move (which can sometimes be a chore in say WiTE).

< Message edited by loki100 -- 6/25/2015 4:16:50 PM >


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