Designer Diary @ RockPaperShotgun

Everything Hinterland that doesn't fit elsewhere
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Designer Diary @ RockPaperShotgun

Postby Reed » Fri Oct 10, 2008 3:35 am

"...the game’s producer and co-designer Mat Williams writes exclusively for RPS about the thinking behind Hinterland - and why it has much in common with that most ubiquitous of man-fads, poker."

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Postby LordFu » Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:28 pm

Very nice. I can certainly see the influence of games of chance on Hinterland.

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Postby OddjobXL » Fri Oct 10, 2008 2:38 pm

I'm a huge sucker for games with random elements but that also have just enough structure to create room for strategy to pay off (most of the time) and emergent narratives to arise. From majestic dynamic campaigns in flight sims that describe an ever-changing cathedral of possibilities to the whims of power and politics and personalities scrambling the maps in strategy games like Romance of The Three Kingdoms or Crusader Kings- that stuff is where I live.

I'd never thought about it quite like poker before to be honest so I'm looking forward to seeing how it actually plays out in Hinterland. To me randomization is a means to an end more than an end in itself. It's what keeps a game 'alive' and forces a player to pay attention to the game at hand rather than some canned strategies gleaned from trial and error or cribbed from gamefaqs. Variables make for dramatic narrative twists in unscripted games and along with cause and effect of the player's own actions account for much of the story that comes out of a session.

Playing against other players tends to have the same effect but the level of competition often tends to distort the gameplay as people feel forced to chase after optimal strategies and remove any sense of mystery from their ability to control their own fate. Wargamers tend to hate rules about morale or personality that force 'babysitting' and few RTSers will relax long enough to sit back and really enjoy the moment or the story/game events they're in the midst of as there are just too many things they need to be doing right now before their opponent can do something to them.

Too much focus on turning games into something like chess so one guy or the other knows who the better player is. That's what competition is about. Variables, unreliable units or intelligence and obscured systems don't play to that need.

King of Dragon Pass is a game that made the mechanics as mysterious but as natural as possible while overloading on variables in character personality, random events and the world around the player's settlement. And the result is the one of best narrative generating PC games ever created. "Have you read a good game lately?" was their slogan. But there were endless complaints from competative gamers who got mad when systems weren't laid mechanically bare for easy metagaming or who found the variables unfair and frustrating.

At any rate, I ramble, but I think Tilted Mill is definitely in my part of the sky when it comes to game design. With the holiday weekend coming I'll finally get my hands on Hinterland and likely play it to death. I'm also very much anticipating Mosby's Confederacy for similar reasons.

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Postby CustodianV131 » Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:55 pm

Hey good! Missed this earlier due to all the financial trouble. What is the world getting to! You would almost forget about the important things in life! Thanks for the heads up!

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Location: Birmingham, AL

Postby tyjenks » Sun Oct 12, 2008 1:23 am

As a guy who quit his job to play poker online for 3 months, that diary completely clicks with me and is a great way to describe the blend of random board game elements and this PC game.

A game like this would never make it to a console. Hooray for PC focused developers and TM especially. Great read, but I would have loved to read about 9 more pages of the game's origins and development. :D

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