The sinful wheel of flawed design

After reading n-th vague game, Bucyrus thinks that way too many authors are lazy fucks. Don’t get the wrong impression, Bucyrus is all thumbs up for occasional “just fill the gaps on your own” approach. After all, it’s what his gadget stories are. Speaking of which – it has been some time since Bucyrus wrote one. Hmmm…

Anyway. “Here’s some vague setting, a few general story seeds, mechanics that’s hard to precisely comprehend without the help of a veteran player – read it and it’ll change the way you perceive RPGs, chop chop“. It’s omnipresent nowadays. Instead of delivering detailed background, examples and scenarios, we’re usually being told to simply make it work.

And it’d be fine, after all, the more the merrier, right? Right.

Unfortunately, it spawned the infamous “wheel of flawed design” which is far from “right”.

The wheel… Its screeching sounds haunt my nightmares… Make it stop…

As usual – Bucyrus’ English isn’t good enough to put it into right words, but the Wheel is supposed to work like this:

  • Author(s) create new game.
  • Because it lack both details and depth, said game lack the ability to attract players for more than a few short sessions – it’s ok for quick “didn’t have time to prepare, don’t feel like playing D&D” one-shot, drinking session or tournament/-con play but nothing more.
  • Here’s where wheel starts to spin: after initial “woooooooooow!” (if only) players withdraw (providing the game managed to attract any players at all), turn their attention to other games.
  • Authors acknowledge that, and provide less and less update their product.
  • Even more players withdraw.
  • Repeat whole process as many times as needed until authors themselves abandon their own creation and create something else.
    Sometimes they also become bitter trolls expressing anger and hostility towards other, more popular games that, in their opinion took the place reserved for their obviously (obviously!) superior product.

It’s nothing new. After all, that’s how many blogs/sites end. Slower and rarer updates, lack of feedback, lack of followers, “oh well, let’s close this shit and go back to angry commenting on Facebook“.

There’s this saying “no man falls in one step” and certainly, in many cases it’s also true for games. Still, relying on the idea that players will simply swallow the game like pelicans and (once again) “fill all the gaps” thus making it awesome is a cardinal sin of game design.

We are now almost half way into the year of our Lord 2015. Some perceive our times as the Golden Age of Role Playing gaming. Bucyrus doesn’t. Unless it’s just a case of subjective, limited perception and cognitive bias, the situation resembles more the insane march of Alexander the Great, who conquered everything on his path, formed one vast empire that crumbled under its own weight the moment he died.

Look at my game, ye mighty and appreciate its flawless design!
Look at my game, ye mighty and appreciate its flawless design!

Heretical as it might sound, Bucyrus believes that we have too many, too easy games (some among them mistakenly called “role playing games”) for our own good. Because of that, most of them have little to no chance to attract enough gamers who could help it in reaching maturity. That they are built on the concept of “seek no more, waste no time, you’ll learn it in less than 15 minutes!” doesn’t help either. In fact, collaborating with people’s laziness hurts RPGing.

So we should cease to produce games and they should all be hard as possible, right” – you might ask, to what Bucyrus answers “heavens, no!”

It’s just that way too many people produce and advertise games that have NO chance to become something more than just a position on the list of “shitty products nobody really needs”. Countless variations of “this D&D rip-off is totally not the D&D/it’s what D&D should really be“, or “D&D but with non-lawful good paladins” (by the way: whoever thought non-LG Paladin is a good idea is sure to land in special circle of Hell). Numerous combat mechanics presented as fully developed games (even though they feature no setting, no adventures). All those badly written, poorly edited PDFs written in Times New Roman, illustrated by kindergarten kids (probably). Myriads of games that feature almost no rules, what makes them unplayable without “just make it work” all the time, but which still are sold as “games”.

This is the shit RPG market doesn’t need. Such things are RPG equivalent of homoerotic “worst enemies” fanfic: it shouldn’t ever leave the dungeons of some private, god’s forsaken blog or a drawer in author’s desk.

“C’mon you magnificent bearded brute, I FEEL you crave for some elven sausage…”

Quantity kills quality.

That’s the fact.

The sinful wheel of flawed design

2 thoughts on “The sinful wheel of flawed design

  1. I think you’ve got the problem right (“a lot of vague RPG shit is produced these days”) but the conclusion wrong (“quantity kills quality”). Back in the “old days” only a few RPGs were produced. Not because they were that good, but because it was so hard to produce, distribute and sell them. These days with kickstarter and whatnot, everybody can produce and sell an RPG. It’s because of all those choices that it’s more obvious which ones are bad and which ones are good. If you would slim it down to “only good RPGs allowed”, we would be back to the days where we wouldn’t know wether an RPG is any good, because we have nothing to compare it to.
    I am someone who enjoys these new, only-good-for-a-few-evenings RPGs. I don’t have the time or attentionspan to delve into a system for a few months or seasons or years. I like to try something new, something different. Sometimes I can use the same system for different experiences, sometimes I have to go looking for another game.
    For me, this is the golden age of RPGs. I don’t long back to the days with limited choices, because those choices did not guarantee quality.
    RPGs are a lot like Operating Systems, and one of the things they have in common is that they need to be constantly updated. And sometimes an OS becomes obsolete, and must be replaced with something completely new.
    Come to think of it, wouldn’t you agree that more choices in Operating Systems would be good for the computer industry? A lot of people would still go back to the “D&D-OS” because it’s something they know and trust, but it’s nice to have options.


    1. “To each his own”, like people use to say. ;]

      Where you see possibilities and diversity, yours truly sees impossibility for many promising games to grow and mature to levels beyond “one-nighter”. At least not without serious money behind them, meaning advertising, -cons, accessories and such, which are sure way to attract some attention.

      Here’s important thing that might be lost in the translation: It’s not that people produce many games and should be forbidden from doing that. Hell no!

      It’s that the majority of them have nothing interesting or new to offer, feature very little elements, “pieces” to play with. Their developers put way too less effort into them, provide little to no support above the initial “we’re launching it, wohoooo” stage, and rely on the idea that it’s PLAYERS who will, somehow, make them awesome. Moreover, many games are no games – they are mechanics only (often highly uncreative and untested) with some very rudimentary, blurred “just make it on your own, I don’t really care” outline of a setting – they are addressing “how to play” question, but leave “what to play” and often “what role to play” unanswered.

      As such they are nothing but a distraction, taking the place other games deserve and shouldn’t ever leave their private blog or a small forum of developer’s friends.

      That’s what’s this opinion is all about: way too many, way too underdeveloped, way too unoriginal games on the market. Want to write a new one? Good luck. Just put some effort into that. MORE EFFORT. ;]

      As for IT: it’s entirely different sector of reality, governed by different set of priorities. While we could compare some of their aspects (the impact of plurality, closed vs open source etc.), at their cores they are nothing alike and one can’t serve as an argument explaining some situation in the other one.

      Simplest example: you DON’T need role playing games to operate in modern society. Without IT it’s impossible, especially since the cyberpunk-ish future becomes so very real, with Internet of Things crawling slowly but undeniably into our reality.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s