David Sirlin on Game Balance

March 24, 2011

I had seen David Sirlin’s stuff on Street Fighter a bit back, and it was good, but I didn’t realize he had whole articles on overall game design, which a friend linked me today.

He says everything I’ve tried to say about gamist design in general, for the last few years, except he does so 1000 times more clearly than I’ve ever managed to articulate it.

Definitions (check out his thing on asymmetric games and consider that in light of character creation for rpgs)
Viable Options (Consider all the “bad choice feats” deliberately put into D&D 3.X design)
Fairness (all the stuff on Self Balancing Forces? Stuff that we see a lot in modern boardgames that hasn’t seen a lot of use in rpgs, yet.)
Slippery Slope & Perpetual Comeback (Feedback cycles, stuff like magic items which “break” the game, death spirals, etc.)
Rock, Paper, Scissors (Few rpgs put this as a play element, rather than loading it into character design)

While he’s mostly talking about videogames (with nods to boardgames and cards), there’s a lot to take into tabletop rpgs. And not just gamist designs, either- the issues of Rock, Paper, Scissors and Slippery Slopes apply to good reward systems in simulationist and narrativist design as well

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