atheorist (atheorist) wrote,

interfaces in game design

In some games, prominantly collectible card games like M:tG,
and deck-building card games like Dominion,
but also fragments of older games such as Monopoly's Chance and Community Chest,
the player needs to read and interpret (obey)
sentences and paragraphs printed on the cards as rules.

This is in contrast to games such as Chess,
which may have rules, but during play,
the players do not generally read and interpret the rules.

In a recent RPG such as WoW or Torchlight,
these blocks of text are printed on the player's spells and abilities,
as well as their equipment.
A significant fraction of the RPG experience is 'character building',
where the player considers these rules, and particularly their synergies,
when they are choosing among several spells or abilities to invest in,
and when choosing among several pieces of equiment.
This aspect is closely analogous to deck-building in a collectible card game.

In modeling a game with this structure,
you may want to abstract away from the actual paragraphs printed,
(in a CCG like M:tG, the owner/operator of the game will want to
continuously print new paragraphs,
and focus instead on the interface
in between the paragraphs.

It can be difficult to figure out what the interface is.
One test for whether something is part of the interface,
is whether it is universal, across all decks or classes or races.
In order for things to 'plug together', they need to be universal.

A sword says it has "+1 str".
Is it the case that every character has a 'str'?
Then str is part of the interface.

A sword says it does '+10 fire damage'
Is it the case that every blow has damage?
Is it the case that every bit of damage can be categorized as one of 'physical, fire, lightning, poison'?
That's part of the interface.

A ability says it does '+10 fire damage to water-type mosters'
Is it the case that every monster can be categorized as one of Foo, Bar, Baz types? Then that's part of the interface.

In a collectible card game, there is often a standard layout
for every card, or a few different standard layouts for different categories.
There might even be an explanation of the standard layout
(this is where the cost is printed, this is where the offensive stat is
printed, this is where the health stat is printed, et cetera).
That standard layout is filld with universals and therefore probably
valuable for the interface.

Monopoly Chance and Community Chest interface, with the universals:
Pay $ / Collect $ / Pay Each Player $ / Collect $ from each player (Every player has a stock of cash)
Advance to Nearest (Every player has a token at some specific place)
"Advance to nearest railroad and pay owner
twice the rental that they are otherwise entitled,
if unowned you may buy it from the bank." (Every property is either unowned,
or owned by some specific player. Every owned property has a rental cost.)
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