Show059: Interview with Vincent Baker
Text later, sound-file… now.
Tags: Apocalypse World, Dogs in the Vineyard, Gen Con, Gen Con 2010, Inhuman podcasts, Interview, Interviewing techniques, Theory, Vincent Baker
This entry was posted
on Thursday, August 19th, 2010 at 2:04 am and is filed under Interviews, Issues, Shows, Theory.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
It sounds like Vincent in describing Trait Invocation games is trying to talk about games where invoking the trait is justified by the fiction but doesn’t inform the fiction. So, when you invoke the trait you just care about whether it can be explained by the fiction and don’t have to worry about meaning anything in the fiction.
Timo, I can see that you are quickly taking over for me as chief indie wanker. I swear, when I listen to you on TJC, you sound so much like me five years ago it scares me.
Hear hear, Dave! Timo’s a real catch.
Clyde: Great interview as always. Very glad to see more stuff from you. Keep it up, man!
For reals. This interview blew my mind in a very serious way, especially about what the Forge is really about, let alone the further clarification of Clouds and Arrows.
Great interview, Clyde. I wish Vincent would have gone into more depth on game problems that he would attribute to cloud/arrow issues. It’s hard to know whether I’ve understood his point when only the “positive” part of it has been articulated.
Yes. That. I think the problem can occur the other way around. Say a game tells you to roll dice when you have a “conflict.” That’s not a very good trigger. That’s my own thinking though, thinking about what Vincent said; he never made that claim during the episode.
What do you mean by the “positive” part? Sounds like you extracted something I didn’t; I’m not following that.
I can see where the clouds/dice thing is doing something cool in the “you need to know which fallout dice to roll” part of DITV. However, I don’t necessarily see where games that don’t have that particular cloud/dice relationship break down, among other things. Just because Dogs does X and Dogs is a good game doesn’t necessarily mean that X leads to good games. If the argument is that X is important for good games, you need to explore more than just the “positive” side that good game A had feature X.
It’s also not clear to me that “fictional causes” is the right way to describe what’s happening. It seems like there’s more bi-directionality to those arrows than the diagrams imply. For example, the “figure out what fallout dice to roll” thing could just as easily be interpreted as a dice-based decision dictating the fiction you narrate — e.g. “I want him to take d10 fallout so I will describe my character shooting him.” Or maybe that’s playing Dogs wrong?
Holy crap Clyde, i’m only half way through but this is a stupendously enlightening conversation!
A story of a working engine is nice, but you really know if it’s a good story if it lets you spot things that are bust! If it can describe working things and bust things and by default label them differently. But maybe that’s not what Dan’s saying!
I have to say I laughed at “I think that’s well explained” when you’d already suggested that getting Vincent to make sense would be your triumph.
Where I feel you make a real triumph is “how you should approach this game”, for both players and GM, quality prodding there!
I found the stuff about the forge strange. Is it that the forge from the outside is like those anecdotes that war veterans can tell each other that sound unfinished to anyone else? Like a few hard slogging post-multi-failure-designers have this background of experience that is uniquely grown, but because they’ve hit enough of the same experiences, it allows them to interpret this stuff?
So as a poor newbie designer coming to the forge, you get something that’s 50% academic term definition, 50% samurai war proverbs. But here’s where I differed; the moment you start designing your game, asking for feedback, and people start asking “what is it about” then you start entering that body of conversation that the other stuff is an offshoot of. I think that stuff like the terms crystallises on the outside of where the helpful knowledge can be found, because these people are still game designers not glossary writers!
But if you don’t go in there, make guesses, and make loads of people suggest your wrong, then you have this weird loads of offcuts from debates. I don’t know how much you asked for advice on designs, but giving and receiving advice has been a huge part of me getting some of the core ideas at the forge.
When I saw some of Ron’s essays, thought “nope but close, and well thought out, looks like there’s people here I can learn from”. But one thing I reckon though, is that many people see glossaries, essays, conversations impenetrable from the outside, and get pissed off, because this stuff seems to want to supersede their practical knowledge, short-circuit their oral tradition, piss on games they have a lot of good memories using, and uncover stuff they do intuitively that they are quite happy to continue without thinking about.
Maybe someone needs to go about interviewing grognards, valuing their hard won knowledge, particularly in how they make things work rather than dealing with “problem players” or “problem GMs”, draw out good memories, find out how older games supported that, and what they added in terms of record keeping and adjudication, and somehow find a way to make it valuable to them to think about how they do things.
Basically total charm offensive from the theory crew, bringing in the experience of those people who are recommended as good GMs. May well start to improve the opinion of “forge people” among detractors or lead to amusing cognitive dissonance at the least!
Evaluating the “hard won knowledge” and find out how older games supported a different style of gaming is something a lot of so called “old school” bloggers are doing. Sure, we fumble around a lot in the dark, and sometimes sprout jargon. It can happen to everyone.
Really good show Clyde. This will result in some hard thinking, and an attempt at solving why my latest blog post have been unpostable for a few days. I was kind of looking at an clouds and arrows problem.
First time Clouds and Arrows (or Clouds and Boxes or whatever) has made sense to me. Nice.
This is a fantastic conversation, Clyde.
[...] This Is Important In Game Design, Game Designers, Links on August 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm I just finished listening the Clyde‘s interview with Vincent from GenCon – Theory From the Closet interview w/Vincent Baker. [...]
Great discussion, Clyde and Vincent!
I too am of the opinion that players need more guidance on how to approach particular games than they have generally received.
@Josh W – I would like to hear more interviews with veteran gamers as well (like Clyde’s upcoming Dave Wesley interview) but I think that may be more about “how to run conventional RPGs” than “how to design RPGs”.
You took the provocative position that The Forge doesn’t teach game design and neither do various sites that are part of the indie crowd.
I have owned this resource for a couple of years but never deployed it. But if you and a pal want to give it a try … who knows.
Ludology meets Understanding Comics.
In GameGame, players compete in designing games. Players collect and trade cards in order to create a complete game design. In between, one player gets to play a game publisher, while the other players try to sell their game concepts to her. In the end, the best game design is decided in a vote. Let the best game win!”
Here is the link: http://gamegame.blogs.com/gamegame/2006/02/gamegame_20_rel.html
It’s part of Aki Jarvinen’s dissertation:
And a shorter introduction is available here:
First off, this was a really great show. I was disappointed when it ended.
I really wish Vincent would write a book about game design, he has a way of explaining things in terms that make sense to me. However, from a few of his comments in the interview, it sounds like that is not something he’s interested in.
I’m really glad you talked a bit about the culture of The Forge. As an person who just recently returned to gaming it was one of the first places I went for help designing a game and, although I did learn a lot there, most of it had nothing to do with game design.
Just like you, I’m finding that getting answers to game design questions is difficult and confusing. There doesn’t seem to be a single good source for information and I think that is partially due to the number of varying theories in the game design community. I’m finding that the answers I need are out there, but I have to search a few dozen threads on different forums, listen to 3 podcasts, read a number of blog posts or articles and buy a couple of games and then assemble the information on my own, to find a suitable answer.
Sorry I’ve been lax on replies… going to try to get to it over the next few days.
On the Fictional causes thing. I think the problem may be that you’re thinking of it as a tool to anaylze play as it occurs? I think the perspective is more of as a designer looking at rules.
What I mean to say is you can make your decisions for all kind of reasons that I can’t address, but when you make that decision and push forth the dice, you have to tie it to the fiction. Those are the rules. It’s not necessarily about how you make your decisions, but what happens after you do.
Now I think you can have rules that help, and support people wanting to play in a specific manner, but I believe that is likely considering your design on a more macro level.
I am I making sense… does this address your question?
I reviewed your site when you commented. I’m not exactly sure what you’re offering? I am interested in seeing the card game is it something that is sold, or was there only one copy used for academic purposes?
To everyone else, thanks for the positive comments. If you were comiserating about having a hard time figuring out design, hopefully I’ll have more of that in the future. I’ve just started reading the Art of Game Design, by Jesse Snell. So far it is written in a conversational tone so it may be easier for me to parse.
I think I’m looking at it from the design/rules analysis perspective, but since that involves thinking about moment-to-moment hypothetical play I’m not sure that there’s a big difference there.
I think the important thing Vincent is getting at is understanding why the “you have to tie it to the fiction” effect happens. As I understand Vincent’s argument, the reason that the dice->cloud then cloud -> dice relationship causes this to happen is because the fiction is a vital step. You can’t “forget” to do it without the game stopping. If you push forward a 17 on your dice in Dogs, the opponent doesn’t know what to do with it until you say what the fiction of your raise is. In contrast, in D&D, if you roll your damage against me, I can just look at your die result and mark down my lost hitpoints. Even if the rules tell you to give a vivid description of your attack, it’s easy for that to fall by the wayside because we don’t NEED the fiction there the way we supposedly do in Dogs. As I understand the argument, the cloud->dice stage is the critical step that makes that happen because that’s what makes the other guy sit there and look at you expectantly until you give him the fiction.
That’s a pretty good argument. However, if I know that’s what you’re waiting for, why do I still give my fiction instead of short circuiting the process by saying “this is 17 coming with d8 fallout” instead of the fiction I’m supposed to provide? Is it the fact that it’s supposed to be your decision? What reliably distinguishes dice->cloud;cloud->dice from dice->cloud;dice->dice?
Basically, I think the cloud/dice analysis stuff makes some sense, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to understand or agree with all the nuances until I see it applied to some subtler situations, or see other places where the games working well (or not) are the same places that this theory predicts they will work well (or not).
Can we agree that as a game designer it’s reasonable to expect people to play by the rules? Assuming they’re not broken, or the few times we have a weird situation pop-up? If that’s something we can’t agree on then there is nothing else I can say, as it’s built on that.
The reason I ask is; we can decide to play any way we like, as humans with free will. But I’d like to explain fictional causes more, or at least my likely slightly flawed interpretation of them.
Also, I’m not trying to set some trap, and hit you with, “cause the rules say so.”
I don’t think that’s a simple question in this context. I think the whole clouds and dice discussion is about which rules tend to get followed and which don’t. In Mouse Guard, for example, when you give a helping die to another player you are supposed to describe what action your mouse is taking to help, but many people report that the “describe what you’re doing” step gets dropped and they just say “I’ll help with my _____ skill” and hand over a die. I THINK this is an example of dice->cloud + dice->dice where the dice->cloud part is routinely dropped because it’s not essential for the operation of the mechanics (it’s hard to be sure because Vincent didn’t give examples of published games that show off this part of his argument, and doesn’t explain how to reliably detect them). I tend to be pretty pedantic about always following the rules of games, but even I sometimes fall into the trap of not describing what I’m doing when I give a helping die in Mouse Guard.
So I would say: yes, people should follow the rules. But, as designers, we should also design rules that people will follow. Is that enough agreement for you to say what you were hoping to say?
[...] World’s GM advice in the wake of hearing this quote from Vincent Baker. As a guest on this episode of the Theory from the Closet podcast, Vincent Baker said: “There’s no such thing as a good GM. There’s GMs in [...]
Uhhh… wow. Vincent says, “Back in 2000 or something, Ron wanted to talk about game design. So, obviously, GNS; then, we can talk about game design. And it’s been ten fuckin’ years, trying to get to the point where we can finally talk about game design.”
All I can think of is http://xkcd.com/592/
No, it’s not an exact analogy, but come on. “We introduced this discussion about a complex conflict to the internet, and then the conflict was magnified! WHO KNEW”
[...] main issue, as I see it, is one discussed by Vincent Baker in a recent interview and also on his blog (over there in the sidebar, “anyway.”). That issue is when the [...]
The cards you print out as play with as an exercise in making some of the choices that game designers make.
The author of the game and the articles is an academic interested in game design across a variety of media.
Again, it might be all too speculative/academic/whatever for your purposes.
But perhaps this thread at The Forge offers some guidance in how to build your own pen and paper RPG after making a few decisions:
Let me try that again
Er, it’s entitled “Reduced enjoinment playing RPG”
[...] on Theory From the Closet’s interview, Vincent said he’s a game designer rather than a teacher, and in light of that it makes sense [...]
[...] that’s totally true. However, when I ponder that a bit further, I think about Vincent’s interview with Clyde and their assertion that now we can finally talk about how to design games, since we’ve won [...]
Great conversation. The historical analysis of the wargaming roots of conventional roleplaying design is a little more complex than you make out though, Clyde. After all, wargames have had referees and morale rules for a long time. Even so-called OSR games still have morale rules that determine social/mental consequences for NPCs.
Listen to the next show. I interview Major Wesely who brought referees to Wargaming. It isn’t actually that much later that it starts turning into proto-roleplaying. It seems the referee was the key to kick that idea off.
I enjoyed (am still enjoying) this episode very much, so I will, but the 19th century wargame Kriegspiel had referees, so I’m interested to hear the specifics of what he has to say.
That aside, I’m glad I finally listened to your show; keep up the good work!
Thanks, a lot. You’re right, there were several examples from quite sometime back, but the idea had been lost in practice. Wargaming last century, according to Mr. Wesely didn’t have referees until he, and some other folks unaffilated with him, rediscovered / recreated the idea. Major Wesely details some of the examples in that interview. This interview with Vincent was chronologically after the one with Major Wesely, which is likely why I was spewing, what I was spewing. Normally I don’t run interviews out of order, but Vincent’s interview had the best raw sound quality so it was easiest to get out after Gen Con.
[...] Clyde’s Interview with Vincent (GenCon 2010) [...]
[...] Clyde’s (most recent) Vincent Baker Interview [...]
[...] Clyde’s Interview with Vincent [...]
Mail (will not be published) (required)
Theory From the Closet is proudly powered by
and Comments (RSS).