Help support TMP


"Simulation Game Design" Topic


189 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Please remember not to make new product announcements on the forum. Our advertisers pay for the privilege of making such announcements.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.


Back to the Game Design Message Board


Areas of Interest

General

Featured Hobby News Article


Featured Recent Link


Featured Showcase Article

Little Yellow Clamps

Need some low-pressure clamps?


Current Poll


8,750 hits since 14 Nov 2009
©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 3 4 

Rich Knapton07 Dec 2009 2:12 p.m. PST

Bill: I don't know where you got your ideas of what a simulation designer 'has to do', but you are way off base in what they do and can do to simulate either Waterloo or Napoleonic battle in general. They certainly can and do build 'general procedures', based on your description.

I don't see how a battle can be modeled without know anything about the terrain; or without know anything about the organization and distribution of troops on said terrain; or some kind of timeline to relate certain events with other events. But, you are the expert, how would you model the battle of Waterloo?

That's not my bottom line. You have yet to make clear why those 'tools' have to be divided without option between models of aspects of reality on one side and make-believe on the other.

You still don't get it. Wargame rules designers do not provide information on specific terrain and specific troops as a simulator must do. All the rule writer does is provide the tools by which a game can be played. Tools: 1) define the game turn, 2) define unit organization for figure use, 3) define a average rate of march, 4) define ranges and impacts of missile weapons, 5) define how melee is conducted and results are obtained. At the bare minimum these are the tools the rule writer must provide the gamers. Those are gaming tools. They are what is needed to play a game. They are not NEEDED in order to create a model of a battle any battle.

You really don't understand what simulations are and can do. And obviously I am not going to change your mind on that, even after all the examples and books I have provided to the contrary.

You've done an excellent job explaining what a simulation is. I obviously agree after all I use your definition. What you've done a terrible job doing is showing what wargame rule designers do is model building.

Stay with your make-believe battles

Again you have it wrong. It is not my make-believe battles. It's the fact that these battles are games and games are make-believe. This is not me saying it, This is Roger Caillois from his book "Man Play and Games." It is also from Ian Schreiber, ‘Game Design Concepts, An Experiment in Game design and Teaching. I believe you used Schreiber as an authority. It is they who said games are make-believe.

The problem is not knowing what a simulation is. The problem is knowing what a game is.

Rich

Rich Knapton07 Dec 2009 2:21 p.m. PST

Mobius: Fitting a round simulation into the square hole of a game system makes it more difficult. What helps is there is no absolute level of modelling that makes the game a simulation.
The real truth of game/simulation or a game that simulates something is to just be a wee bit better than other games that are said to simulate that thing. That's all it takes.

The problem is, since there are different meanings for each of these terms what do you mean by ‘simulation'? What do you mean by ‘game system'. What do you mean by modeling? Before we can say anything about simulations and games these terms must first be defined or the discussion is chaos.

Rich

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2009 2:04 p.m. PST

I don't see how a battle can be modeled without know anything about the terrain; or without know anything about the organization and distribution of troops on said terrain; or some kind of timeline to relate certain events with other events. But, you are the expert, how would you model the battle of Waterloo?

Rich:
So you believe that it is not possible to simulate general operations and activities? A general system or model can't be created such as one for Napoleonic combat, or weather, or factory production, or crowd behaviors? That such a simulation can't be then applied to different 'scenarios' with different input? That is one of the major applications of simulations.

How would I model the battle of Waterloo? What parts do you want to simulate? You can't do it all. Pick the objectives of the simulation and I can tell you. Better yet, pick the simulation goals for a 'general process' of Napoleonic warfare and I'll tell you what a simulator would to to model it.

You still don't get it. Wargame rules designers do not provide information on specific terrain and specific troops as a simulator must do. All the rule writer does is provide the tools by which a game can be played.

Really? And who told you that? Who wrote that rule all simulation designers *must* follow?

Many, many simulation designers do just that: "provide the tools by which the simulation can be played." You make these statements about what a simulation designer can't do, and must do, and how they are sooo different from wargame hobby designers, yet I don't know of one simulation designer, and many hobby designers that would agree with your perceived restrictions and differences between simulation game and wargame design.

What you've done a terrible job doing is showing what wargame rule designers do is model building.

How can I? You insist they can't, and insist that by definition they are different. Every effort to do that has been rejected by you as impossible.

Again you have it wrong. It is not my make-believe battles. It's the fact that these battles are games and games are make-believe. This is not me saying it, This is Roger Caillois from his book "Man Play and Games." It is also from Ian Schreiber, ‘Game Design Concepts, An Experiment in Game design and Teaching. I believe you used Schreiber as an authority. It is they who said games are make-believe.

The problem is not knowing what a simulation is. The problem is knowing what a game is.

Rich, I have given you a description of a game, as well as several 'authorities' on the subject. As for my definition of simulations. I don't believe you have accepted it if you see no connection between games and simulations.

I have also provided a design meaning for "make-believe" for both game design AND simulation design. In fact I stated that all simulation design depends on the player's/controller's 'suspension of disbelief' to work. That is Ian Schreiber's and Rodger Caillois' meaning of 'make-believe: a suspension of disbelief--and they are very clear on that. And of course, he is talking about games in general, not wargames or simulation games.

I get the impression that your meaning for 'make-believe' in a wargame is any relationship to history or combat is simply illusion--make-believe. Now, if I'm wrong, please set me straight. I know what Ian and Roger mean and I know what the authors of Rules of Play mean as well as simulation designers, and they all refer to that required 'suspension of disbelief' as the make-believe in games and simulations--not the entire content of the game or simulation.

Before we can say anything about simulations and games these terms must first be defined or the discussion is chaos.

You realize that after all this discussion, you still are asking the same questions? That's how far we haven't gotten.

You have categorically rejected my definitions [or have misunderstood them] and those of other simulation designers, and just as adamantly insisted that simulations and games have no connection whatsoever.[your different circles] There can be no discussion of simulations and games when you see no point of commonality.

Again, a game is simply a decision-making system or set of rules of operation that lead to a conclusion. As Sid Meier's said, "a game is a series of interesting decisions."

A game is a system in that have specific rules of operation which lead to a set of results, both in process and as an end result.

A simulation is a system with specific rules of operation which model/mimic/copy/replicate some aspects of the operation of reality or real systems.

A simulation game is a system with specific rules of operation,which model/mimic/copy/replicate some aspects of the operation of reality or real systems. It has a set of results in process and as an end result that correspond to results in the real world.

Now, what both simulation games and generic games have in common should be obvious in the above definitions.

Both games and simulation designs can use the same mechanics and mediums in their design, whether computer programs, cardboard chits, lead figures on a table or any other medium. There is no reason they can't, and game and simulation designers certainly have done just that for decades now.

However, I have provided those definitions before--and they are very common among simulation and game designers, including the ones you mention--and you have rejected them as wrong or impossible.

You certainly don't have to accept the above definitions, but you must see by insisting that there is no common components shared by games and simulations, that they are completely different creations, we have no place for this discussion to go.

Best Regards,

Bill H.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2009 8:04 p.m. PST

Rich:

Just to cap off this discussion here are some quotes from designers of wargames for our hobby AND the military AND commercial gaming writing on wargame design over the last thirty years:

"Whichever physical form a wargame takes, it is two things: a competitive game, and a simulation of an actual or hypothetical 'real-life' situation."

A Guide to Wargaming by George Gush, Andrew Finch (1980), p.13


"Where military interests intersect with gaming we can place games which have a military theme but which make little attempt at accurate simulation, such as primitive toy soldier games, board games or 'shoot-em-up' arcade games of childhood, or the live combat games such as 'Paintball'…"

"War games involve aspects of all three contributory activities ['Miltary Affairs', 'Gaming', and 'Simulation'], and may be defined accordingly as 'military simulation games' (Dunnigan 1992:13; Grant 1974b:vii)."

"Playing at War: the Modern Hobby of Wargaming" by Philip G. Sabin, from War and Games by Tim Cornell, Thomas B. Allen (2002), p.195-196
link

"A more restricted and more useful definition is that a wargame is a warfare model or simulation whose operation does not involve the activities of actual military forces, and whose sequence of events affects and is, in turn, affected by the decisions made by players representing the opposing side."
The Art of Wargaming by Peter P. Perla (1990), p.164


I'll finish with a recommendation to read "Rules of Play". You want to know about game design? Here is a primer on it in general, and used as a text book for University and commercial courses on how to design games.
You'll love it. The authors make sure they define everything--working definitions. They even provide games to illustrate their points.

Here are the units and chapters to this text book, written to instruct the reader on game design--as the authors say in the Preface:

Although this is not a book about Pong, or about computer and video games, it is a a book about game design."

Unit 1: CORE CONCEPTS

*Meaningful Play
*Design
*Systems
*Interactivity
*Defining Games
*The Magic Circle
*The PRimary Schemas: RULES, PLAY, CULTURE

Unit 2: RULES

*Defining Rules
*Rules on Three Levels
*The rules of Digital Games
*Games as Emergent Systems
*Games as Systems of Uncertainty
*Games as Systems of Information
*Games as Cybernetic Systems
*Games as Game Theory Systems
*Games as Systems of Conflict
*Breaking the Rules

Unit 3: PLAY

*Defining Play
*Games as the Play of Experience
*Games as the Play of Pleasure
*Games as the Play of Meaning
*Games as Narrative Play
*Games as the Play of Simulation
*Games as Social Play

[and no, those are not mutually exclusive types of games or rules, but rather aspects OF games, one game or rules providing several of those traits.]

Unit 4: CULTURE

*Defining Culture
*Games as Cultural Rhetoric [Like our Hobby Culture]
*Games as Open Culture
*Games as Cultural Resistance
*Games as Cultural Environment

Some of the games used as examples of games in the booK

Age of Empires Computer game
Assassin RPG
Ace of Aces Book-based game
Battleship MB game
Capture the Flag
Car Wars board game
Chess
Civilization
Counter Strike Computer game
Diplomacy Board Game
Kriegspiel von Reiswitz's design
Warhammer GW

etc. etc.

If you want a definition of what games are and how they work, this is the book for you--particularly chapter four, in Unit 1 Design. I am sure it is available at most all University libraries and from Amazon.com…

Best Regards,

Bill H.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2009 11:16 p.m. PST

Oh, I forgot.

Greg Costikyan was a game designer of wargames [mostly boardgames] with SPI and others. He moved into the larger commercial game industry in the 1980's.

He has written some influential articles on game design, asking 'what is a game?' and how simulation games work. His most comprehensive article on game design, and the shortest can be found on his website:

"I Have No Words, but I Must Design."

costik.com/nowords.html

Again another wargame designer in 'our hobby' who has also had experience in the larger industry.

ratisbon10 Dec 2009 7:13 a.m. PST

Mozart was asked by a 5 year old how to get started composing to which he replied, "Write sonatas." The boy retorted, "But you started with symphonies," to which Mozart said, "Ah, but I did't have to ask how to get started."

I doubt the two finest wargame designers, Frank Chadwick and Craig Taylor, ever read a book on how to design a game or took much time to analyze what they do. They just do it.

Good gaming.

Bob Coggins

Garth in the Park10 Dec 2009 8:27 a.m. PST

Mozart actually started with sonatas and minuets, but it's still a good story.

There's probably an inverse relationship between the writing of games, and the writing <about> games. Those who can, do.

I confess I just glaze over with all these huge posts and references to this author or that author who wrote XYZ about simulation theory.

But I am sort of curious about one thing: who gets to decide whose definitions we use? All of this arguing seems to depend upon people agreeing on a set of definitions. Doesn't that mean that if we don't agree on the definitions (or can't be bothered to waste time worrying about them), then the whole exercise is pointless?

It reminds me of some Lit-Crit classes I had at the Old U, where we got so deep into what this or that passage really "meant" or how "significant" such a sentence was, and I always thought, "Meant to whom? Significant to whom?" If you don't analyze a thing to death, you'll probably enjoy it a lot more. And the people who do analyze it to death are usually pretty tedious.

bobstro10 Dec 2009 8:46 a.m. PST

Thanks all for the input. I'm on my 3rd re-read of this entire thread, and I get a little more out of it each time I read it.

At this point, my overall impression is that a lot of the criteria being discussed are wonderful for providing validation, but don't necessarily translate into things gamers care about -- at least not very much. If I'm developing rules to make a living, I'm probably better off making simulation design criteria the last of my worries. If I'm developing rules to satisfy my own sense of "correctness", then I will, but no doubt focusing only on those factors that fit my personal perspective on "reality". With a bit of luck, that might match the conventional perspective of the day.

That's not to downplay the value of the information Bill & others are providing. I was hit by an epiphany today while thinking through some of this. (I'm feeling much better now, thanks.) I want to toss this out to get your take on it:

An "accurate" simulation should not prevent players from doing stupid things. Players should be allowed to do silly things, but should expect the historic consequences if the simulation is accurate. I'd arrived at this conclusion some weeks ago while working through in my mind how to handle two issues in skirmish games: minimum firing ranges for indirect artillery and snipers. I'd drawn my conclusions, but hadn't related them back to the topic of "historical accuracy" and "simulation".

The discussion around this particular set of rules had gotten into special rules to distinguish snipers from regular infantry, and how to use indirect artillery on a table representing, at most, some 300-400 meters (1 inch = 6 feet/1:72/20mm scale). My final conclusion was that the rules should NOT make the distinctions, but that the "reality" reflected in the game should make them apparent. A sniper shouldn't be more deadly or harder to kill simply because his figure is flagged a sniper, but rather because the attributes assigned to that figure make him more effective used as a sniper. The rules shouldn't prevent players from calling in mortar fire 20 meters from friendly positions, but should make doing so deadly for those friendly teams. Reading through Bill's suggestions above, I'm concluding that I need to run through a few games at 6mm scale for validation. If they work on a "realistically" sized table, then the problem is the dinky tables we play on, not the rules.

The second, perhaps more significant corollary I'm drawing is that a "historical" game should not restrict player actions. Idiotic moves should be allowed. Many of the arguments that rules "aren't historical" because players can do foolish things are off base. If anything is wrong, it is that such moves are made without consequences.

My question for today, then, is: Should a simulation provide boundaries on player behaviours in order to achieve "historical accuracy"? This would seem to me to have huge implications for discussion here on TMP!

I've added "Rules of Play" to my Amazon wish list. Now I just need to survive the Christmas disruption to have funds and time for it!

- Bob

bobstro10 Dec 2009 9:01 a.m. PST

Ratisbon wrote:

[…] I doubt the two finest wargame designers, Frank Chadwick and Craig Taylor, ever read a book on how to design a game or took much time to analyze what they do. They just do it.
I'd add Featherstone and Young to that list, though they certainly wrote books about gaming. That gets back to my earlier questions about "feel" versus "accuracy", particularly when the guy writing the rules has first-hand experience with the real thing.

- Bob

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2009 9:31 a.m. PST

BD wrote:
But I am sort of curious about one thing: who gets to decide whose definitions we use?

BD:
Those who find the definitions useful in designing games. And they continue to be used by designers because they continue to be useful. And like all hobbies and disciplines, when definitions are found to be useful, folks will use them in discussing and reflecting on what they are doing.

However, that does require discussion and reflection, as well as actually using them to design. A community of designers all using the same definitions is far more dynamic and innovative than one which doesn't.

Bob C:
No doubt, designing games is the primary way to learn to design games. However, how that is done, including study and reflection, has a great deal to do with the outcome.

I am not sure you are right when you doubt that "Frank Chadwick and Craig Taylor, ever read a book on how to design a game or took much time to analyze what they do."

It could be true. I read where they continue to struggle with issues that I know have long been solved by the simulation and gaming community at large. [want examples?]

Innate talent and experience can't be over-emphasized in successful game design. Even so, talent can get you only so far without reflection and knowledge acquisition--even if you are a Mozart. And if that experience in game design is narrow, limited to a small corner of a huge game design community, no matter how much experience is garnered, it is still limited and still isolated. If Mozart had never heard a symphony, he never would have discovered he could replicate it.

It is easy to predict that there would be problems and design issues the small enclave find unsolvable which the much larger group of designers have solved and moved on to a deeper understanding… which can't be achieved without analysis.

In the teaching profession I have taught and worked with extremely talented teachers, Naturals. The real danger is that because they have no words for what they do so well, they can't communicate their 'knowledge', find it difficult to learn from others, and don't know why they are so good. And worse, when they do have problems, they can't improve because they 'just do it' like Mozart, and have no way to analyze what they do.

Many talented teachers quit teaching in five to ten years because they don't know why they are so good, or how to get better. I and many, many others have worked to give these talented people the tools to continue to succeed. They need a technical language and the analytical tools to improve.

That kind of technical language and the analytical tools have been developed by game designers for game designers--because they work in improving their game designs. That is the bottom line.

It is painful to watch gamers and our hobby game designers fuss over issues and problems that are deemed 'unsolvable',when workable solutions have been found by the gaming community at large. Too often hobby game designers act as if their design conundrums are somehow unique to our wargames, when they are universal to game and simulation design, I get frustrated listening to them--particularly when they aren't the roadblocks designers say they are. I cringe when our hobby throws around useless terms like 'process vs results' when it is technical nonsense and anyone actually designing games wouldn't use it.

Personally, I have enjoyed finding all the commonalities our hobby games share with many other game and simulation designers, commercial and in business--and in discovering all the solutions they have found for our game design challenges.

Best Regards,
Bill H.

ratisbon10 Dec 2009 11:56 a.m. PST

Bill H.,

I've known Frank and Craig personally for over 25 years each – Frank less well. I see Craig on a weekly basis,he and I live in Baltimore, and I've gamed with him on almost a weekly basis for those 25 years. I have never seen him struggle with a game design save as it brought him in conflict with the publisher but you are welcome to give me examples.

I never had the pleasure or honor of knowing Brigadier Young but I know and consider myself a friend of Featherstone. As great an influence as both were on me and the hobby, neither made their living designing games/rules.

Good gaming.

Bob Coggins

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2009 10:52 p.m. PST

Bob:
I don't think your idea of 'struggle' and mine are the same in this instance, and I am glad that Frank never struggled with any game design of his [quite an accomplishment]. I was not making a disparaging remark about Frank's ability or experience or his games in saying what I did, only an observation about what he has said about game design.

And this isn't about making a living designing games or not, but simply wargame design, simulation games, and what can be done with them. Lots of folks are designing them and have been for as long as Frank and Craig, Don F. and Brigadier Young. That should be an additive statement, rather than seen as taking something away from the four you mention.

So, Frank's struggles… What I mean by that I think will be evident in the following example.

Here is what Frank says about Volley & Bayonet in his designer's notes as part of his new revision--I have played the original for many years and have started playing the new version. I obviously enjoy the design, so that isn't the issue here.

SCOPE AND SCALE
The decisions concerning scope and scale are absolutely central to the Volley & Bayonet design. What I originally wanted from the game – in terms of scope -- was the ability to put any one of a number of well-known Napoleonic battles on a single tabletop, and not an impossibly large one at that, and then fight the battle to conclusion in one game session of reasonable length. That was the design goal from the very start, and I have never found any reason to deviate from that goal.

The reason for the goal was simple: what interested me most about the Napoleonic Wars was the army-level view of the battlefield. When we think about the Napoleonic Wars, I believe that most of us think Waterloo, Austerlitz, Marengo, Borodino, Leipzig, Jena-Auerstaedt, etc., as opposed to the charge of the Zastrow Cuirasiers at the Great Redoubt, or the breaking of the 4th Ligne's square by the Russian Garde Du Corps on the slopes of the Stare Vinohrady. So my viewpoint of the import aspects of the Napoleonic Wars shaped the scope of the game decisively.

I included the above because it is a clear statement of his design goals and the lead into the next, more pertinent paragraph:

The scientific notion of testability provided an additional motivation – not that I make any claims as to the game being particularly precise, objective, or scientific. All rules sets portray the capabilities of different armies as – unavoidably – the author sees them. But without being able to set up and re-fight entire historical battles, it is nearly impossible to find any sort of objective standard against which to measure the author's judgments. With Volley & Bayonet, for better or for worse, you can.

Now, in reading this, several things seem pretty clear to me:

1. Though the idea of "The scientific notion of testability" motivated his choice of goals, his design result is not "particularly precise, objective, or scientific." This strikes me as wanting something he didn't achieve. A struggle.

2. He sees a real limit to any sort of objective standard in measuring the designer's success in what? portraying the abilities of different armies. In fact the only method he sees for 'objectively measuring' the designer's success is provided by the scale of the game.

But without being able to set up and re-fight entire historical battles, it is nearly impossible to find any sort of objective standard against which to measure the author's judgments.

Here he suggests, but doesn't state it outright that by being able to 're-fight entire battles' some kind of objective measure is available. However, Frank certainly makes it clear that he didn't apply this measure, whatever it is.

3. It is up to the players to apply it. "With Volley & Bayonet, for better or for worse, you can." What? The customer can apply this objective measure, but Frank couldn't? A struggle.

So, the implication is that the players can apply an objective measure--'for better or for worse'. Do you know what that measure is? I don't. Frank, up front, makes no claim that his design is "particularly precise, objective, or scientific", but gamers can apply some objective measure.

It is obvious that Frank was interested in some kind of objective measure, that he felt the scale of his design allowed for it, but it is just as obvious that he didn't apply it or he wouldn't have said what he did about V&B being not particularly objective.

That strikes me as struggling with some game design concepts.

Just as obvious is that Frank doesn't believe any objective standards can be applied to smaller scale wargames, whether they actually portray anything objective concerning history. Why this would be so, isn't clear. It certainly isn't true. If you can apply objective measures to one scale of simulation, you can at any scale.

And last, Frank obviously meant to design something 'in his opinion' that actually portrayed something concerning the abilities of the various Napoleonic armies. However he leaves the 'test' of any success up to the customer--he doesn't claim to have any objective measure of success, even though that 'testibility' was a motivation for the design scale.

Imagine if the designer of the computer game Red Baron said he portrayed WWI aerial combat, but not particularly in any measurable way, and that the customer has to decide, for better or worse, whether it does simulate WWI aerial combat. What would the gamer be buying?

But the simulation designer of Red Baron [both versions] doesn't say that. In the design notes he says his design does simulate WWI aerial combat, and he says he knows it does because he tested it in specific ways.

In other words he is selling what he designed because he made sure it did what he claimed it could do.

Don't let the fact I used a computer game as an example fog the issue. Frank's miniature wargame design can be tested and be shown to successfully simulate what Frank designed it to by objective, provable measures. They've been around for a long time and used for any number of simulation games, including training games I designed, which have no computer programs involved.

So, when I say 'struggle', I mean that Frank and other designers see limitations where there aren't any, and are unable to do what they would like to do, that objective 'testability' that motivated Frank, but which he obviously didn't claim for himself and left to the player to carry out--somehow.

Does that mean Frank would have a better game if he did actually test his design? Possibly, but not necessarily. The point is that he would be able to offer the customer specifically what he wanted to in the first place, rather than something not particularly objective, percise, or 'scientific'[whatever he means by that]. A design the player is left to test in some unknown, but 'objectively measurable' way.

And about the "science" and the art of wargaming design. There is a reason for the study of both military science and art. There is a reason Crick, DNA's discoverer along with Watson, said 'scientific research is an art'. It has to do with the relationship between science and art.

Science is the codification of knowledge, art is the application. [A very old description] For instance, the very precise theory and specific architecture of drawing Perspective is applied in the expression of art--one doesn't control the other, they inform each effort. Limited knowledge limits the artistic expression, which is what I think Frank's Designer's Notes indicates concerning 'testability'.

Best Regards,

Bill H.

NedZed11 Dec 2009 12:25 a.m. PST

Bobstro, you are correct that the simulation should not prevent players from doing stupid things and then suffering the consequences.

Becks Dark, bear in mind that this is a thread specifically on "Simulation Design" within the "Game Design" category. In addition, while I disagree very much with Rich Knapton's approach, I agree with his notion that common definitions are needed if we are to have a logical and intelligent discussion about game design. Game Design and Simulation Design threads are certainly the right place to discuss these things. If it seems pedantic or "tedious" at least no one on TMP is forced to read it.

If we have Mozarts in wargame design it might very well be "pointless" for them to be here reading this stuff. For some of us lesser mortals, it might be somewhat illuminating. I've now read some of the references Bill has provided and I find such articles to be very thought-provoking … even if I don't necessarily agree with everything they say.

I would also point out that this all started because of other threads where wargame terms like "playable", "historical", "realism", "simulate" etc were seen to be subjective and thus difficult to discuss if different people were using different definitions for them. For players, this may not be a problem, but if designers want to compare, critique and exchange ideas, it is helpful to have a lingua franca to use.

In fact, the real impetus for this discussion is not just that wargamers differ in definitions such as "game" and "simulation", but that some will then state that "simulation" is impossible. That is what brings Bill out of the woodwork – to show that "simulation" exists and has an industry with definitions and techniques. That doesn't mean wargamers and designers MUST make or play or like simulations, only that if we can agree on or share some definitions "game designers" and "simulation" designers" can communicate and PERHAPS war game designers could find definitions or techniques they would like to use.

I do not know if a lingua franca can be devised, or if definitions from the broader gaming world can be used here successfully, but it is useful to talk about. If a designer thinks he has no need of that, he doesn't have to pay attention to this thread.
No one can force anyone to accept what someone else says, and it WILL be a waste of time if someone is determined not to accept new suggestions. However, even such arguments can still be useful for a third party if that third party wants to examine the arguments to see what he can take away from it.

Bob C, to be honest, I infer from your comment "I doubt the two finest wargame designers, Frank Chadwick and Craig Taylor, ever read a book on how to design a game or took much time to analyze what they do. They just do it" that you mention this to denigrate the discussion on this thread, or to say that Bill's responses to Rich that give references to books and "authorities" are fatuous.

If you are of the school that believes that "simulation games" are impossible and/or unnecessary because current designers are just fine, thank you, ( with the subjective definitions as they exist in today's games), then that is your right . (And I think it would helpful to just say so directly… but then why even post on this thread?).

This thread exists so that those who ARE interested to see IF simulation-design-ideas from "outside of wargaming" might be useful, will see that this is the thread for them. They can get a full dose of ideas, suggestions, and yes, even references. After getting that indoctrination, they might come to the conclusion that it is a crock and totally reject it, or they might actually find something to use.

I don't know what people are afraid of. I think that people come at Bill's ideas from a position of assuming that he is saying his ideas are "better" than theirs. Since they don't agree with that, they are inclined to attack him or "get even" with him for having criticized them in the past. They think that if he is attacking them for some sort of logical inconsistency, he deserves to be attacked the same way for what they perceive as a logical inconsistency. As a reader, I dislike that because this does nothing to prove or disprove his points. I would rather see the issues analyzed.

( For example, I think Sam comes after Bill because he thinks Bill has dogged him unfairly for years, and I think you were irritated by the Command Radius thread. I don't want to be accused of not being direct here.)

I just see him as pointing out logical contradictions in ways current and past designers talk about or explain their games. He offers some suggestions "from the outside" that might reduce the contradictions. If current designers don't care about the contradictions (and there is NO reason why they MUST care) they don't have to do anything about it. If anyone IS interested they can pursue it.

(Bob C, if I have misinterpreted your intent, or your reaction about the Command Radius thread, I apologize).

bobstro11 Dec 2009 1:05 a.m. PST

Interesting take, Bill. As I read that same text, I understand that the author is saying that the rules themselves provide that objective standard, albeit one developed with the author's biases. This strikes me as fully compatible with the approach that you described previously: Developing some data. Not necessarily "the one" correct data set, but some baseline data against which to measure. His rules provide the testability he was after using his own admittedly biased criteria.

I read it much more as providing some background as to his motivation in developing the rules he did. In no way do I read it as a statement that such measure cannot be achieved.

Bob C. -- Could you ask him for some clarification? If you know the guy personally, we certainly don't need to sit around parsing his words here!

Bill, I'm not sure I can fully agree with just stating "Limited knowledge limits the artistic expression" and leaving it at that. I think one can equally claim that "excessive application of knowledge constrains artistic expression." It's certainly possible to be a great creative artist without formal background. But no amount of training can make one into a great creative artist if they don't have that creative spark. Getting perspective right doesn't make it art. Here again, one can argue definitions -- particularly what constitutes "art". On a practical level, if other people willingly pay money for something that they consider art, that's probably close enough.

There's one aspect of game design versus formal simulation that I haven't really seen addressed in your presentation: A game has to fit on a table. The gamer's "world" is constrained by practical limits on physical space. Short of using smaller scales, how does one account for that with formal simulation methodologies? I'm suspecting that knowing what will work on a 6x4 table is a big part of the "art" of game design. A part that doesn't lend itself to formal validation particularly well.

Are there any aspects to formal simulation design that address this aspect?

- Bob

gweirda11 Dec 2009 6:45 a.m. PST

from one of those interested lurkers… ; )


"…game design versus formal simulation…: A game has to fit on a table."

I'm confused by this. It seems to imply that a formal simulation has no boundaries -which is impossible, isn't it?

I suppose it depends on what a "formal simulation" is --my impression is that a computer is involved, maybe? If so, a computer is a box of rocks (and just as smart) of a limited size -anything using it would be restricted by that size, wouldn't it?

A table edge is no different than the limits of a program --or, if no computer is involved: the boundaries set by the finite parameters of a simulation. What happens when a player reaches the "edge of the world" is a problem faced by any/every designer, isn't it?

bobstro11 Dec 2009 7:40 a.m. PST

gweirda wrote:

[…]"…game design versus formal simulation…: A game has to fit on a table."

I'm confused by this. It seems to imply that a formal simulation has no boundaries -which is impossible, isn't it?

Well that's my question. In attempting to draw my own conclusions as the the distinction between a "professional simulation" and a "game simulation", the need to confine the modelled world to the dimensions of a playing table struck me as one distinction. While a simulation might well have boundaries, I wouldn't expect them to be as arbitrarily chosen, based on how much space the player has in his living room, for example. A "game" has to work within such confines. A proper simulation would (I should think) at least define a world in which the parameters being modelled are significant.

This really became apparent to me working through the skirmish rule issues I described previously. In order to make it all fit on a table, the author had cut blast radii down to such an extent that players next were asking how to use indirect fire and air support, all on a table representing less than 300 feet across. When the discussion turned to assigning attributes (superpowers) to snipers to make them "work" in the same limited world, I started thinking along the lines being discussed here. To make my own rules "realistic" to the point that I can claim to be simulating anything using real-world data, I am going to have to use much smaller scale figures, or a massive table, if not both.

If using a 1:1 figure-to-ground scale, using larger figures implies that any blast "should" potentially affect figures across the entire table. "Realistic" simulation perhaps, but it introduces a whole slew of other simulation problems. Distinctions between weapons become blurred, for one.

If nothing else, I see the issues of practical table size and ground scale versus figure scale as being factors that, if nothing else, complicate taking a methodical simulation approach to developing a game. Or perhaps more correctly, they might lead to the author tweaking the reality being modelled to fit, even if the formal simulation methodology is otherwise adhered to.

Relating to the usefulness of simulation design to wargame design, I'm left with the impression that starting with a good artistic "feel" for what will play right is a much better starting point than technical correctness. Based on this thread, I might use some word other than "simulate" to describe the results.

- Bob

Daffy Doug11 Dec 2009 8:26 a.m. PST

This subject surely inspires lengthy posts! I too grow numb trying to read them. The comments above about natural talent for design, comparing the Mozart analogy, are especially appreciated. My limited game design has always drawn on the creations of others; no Mozartian talent here!…

Karsta11 Dec 2009 1:49 p.m. PST

Bob,
There are always some boundaries, whether you are doing game or simulation design or engineering. These boundaries might not be so clear as the table size, but (unfortunately) nothing really exist in an ideal space with endless resources. Taking the limits into account is an important part of the design process, whatever it is you are designing.

Table size is surely an important aspect of miniature wargaming, but hardly the defining factor: there are professional simulations that are supposed to be played on a table and they too have to take practical size of the table and the components into account.

If someone really want's air support and indirect fire represented or want's to represent snipers with figures on table in a game where table represents less than 300 feet across, then… IMHO he's just doing something horribly wrong. That kind of game is not going to pass the 8 tests. However, I would rather do some changes (quite many actually) to the game, than declare that the simulation methodology doesn't work.

gweirda11 Dec 2009 2:36 p.m. PST

"Taking the limits into account is an important part of the design process, whatever it is you are designing."

Thank you --that was the point I tried to make.

bobstro11 Dec 2009 3:33 p.m. PST

Just to be clear: I am not suggesting that table constraints prevent the use of a simulation methodology. But it does present a challenge for the game designer, whether using such a methodology or not.

Given the skirmish game example, using historical data, I can think of two alternatives available to someone conscientiously trying to follow a formal methodology:

1. Work out mechanics that work independently of the table size. This would allow, I think, the 8 tests to be applied using historical data.

2. Place certain elements "out of scope" for the simulation. Don't attempt to address them at all.

In either case, the world simply ends at the table edge, with the same end result. So we wind up tempted to tinker with reality to make certain things "fit"… which leads to reduced blast radius, which leads to questions about why not shelling and so forth. Or we apply the craft of game authoring to abstract these elements in some other way. Is that cheating, or simply a very abstracted simulation if we hit some historical target?

In other words: If we're designing a game and not necessarily a simulation, explanations that "it's accurate" probably won't satisfy prospective customers. Certain things are expected. Or do you find that players are actually content with an explanation that accuracy of simulation has been provided?

Now since the subject of this thread is specifically "simulation game design", for my own personal purposes, applying the tests and approach Bill's suggested does help. Thinking about this led to my conclusion that a simulation shouldn't prevent player stupidity, only punish it.

I just see some challenges in bridging the "marketable product" gap. Or am I being over-literal?

- Bob

Karsta11 Dec 2009 5:21 p.m. PST

Bob,
I'd actually like to see option 2 used more often. Many rules seem to have just too much stuff in them. Focusing on some aspects of the period instead of trying to cover everything might improve many games.

If we continue with the example of skirmish game, then I'd say artillery and air strikes are something that should happen before engagement, not during it. Also snipers, as well as probably other supporting weapons like HMGs, would work much better in most situations if only their firing sectors were represented on table, the actual weapons being off table. Often somewhat abstract rules can result in both better gameplay and simulation.

…explanations that "it's accurate" probably won't satisfy prospective customers. Certain things are expected. Or do you find that players are actually content with an explanation that accuracy of simulation has been provided?

Designers use words like accurate and simulation to satisfy prospective customers. Only that the explanation of how this accuracy was achieved is not provided. I think someone in this thread actually had an example of players being content with such explanations, but I'm too tired to search now. Anyway, the fact that something is a simulation doesn't make it any less marketable product; it seems many wargamers want games to represent something.

Rich Knapton11 Dec 2009 7:40 p.m. PST

Bill: I don't know where you got your ideas of what a simulation designer 'has to do', but you are way off base in what they do and can do to simulate either Waterloo or Napoleonic battle in general

I proposed that to model Waterloo one would need to include the terrain, distribution of troops and events tied to a timeline. You said I didn't know what the hell I was talking about. I challenged you if I was so wrong what would you include. The first thing you did was dodge the issue. Now you don't even bother. If you're going to claim I don't know what I'm talking about then you better have something to back that up. Otherwise your assertion is just b.s. It's time to put your money where your mouth is. What are the salient characteristic one should included in a model of Waterloo?

Rich

NedZed11 Dec 2009 8:04 p.m. PST

Rich,
Bill cannot answer because there is no one answer. It depends on what you (the designer) WANT TO MODEL. Bill did say no simulation can simulate everything.
Your proposal is based on your own definition of a simulation, which appears to mean that one MUST have an historical OB, and MUST have all terrain etc. Bill has also explained the difference between a static and a dynamic simulation. You seem to be asking for a static simulation where the simulation will give the same result and copy all of the same activity that the real battle had. You appeared to say that anything less was not a simulation or model, and that games did not have to have all of that stuff exactly right. Again you restricted the question to using only your own definitions (by which the two are by definition mutually exclusive). So there is no dodging here.

NedZed11 Dec 2009 9:24 p.m. PST

For example, Rich wrote:

"Lets take the battle of Waterloo. A simulation designer, in order to create a model of the battle, needs a set of procedures to provide a precise organizational breakdown of the armies involved…"

You assert that a simulation designer's model of Waterloo must have a precise breakdown of the armies. It appears that you assume there can only be one way of modeling Waterloo. However, you have used the definition of a model (if I remember correctly) in the past as a "simplified representation" – which would seem to be more flexible and open to different ways of being modeled. Bill has stated that a simulation is not something that must be done only one way or SHOULD be done only one way.

(That is why your question "What are the salient characteristic one should included in a model of Waterloo?" is unanswerable, and should have been clear to you if you understood what he has been saying).

You wrote:

"…He needs a set of proceedures to describe the geographical layout of the battle. He then needs write a set of procedures to develop a time line to connect individual events such as the attack on the British on the French left wing…"

This is why I infer that your definition means a model must be an exact copy.

You continued:

"…He will need some sort of algorithm for determining success or failure of an attack. He then needs to determine the major events of the battle and how they fit into the overall timeline of the battle. He probably needs to do other things but this is enough. If he were to create a simulation of another battle, whole new procedures must be created: new armies, new terrain, new timeline and new events."

Bill has already (in response to your request) given his definitions of simulation and modeling. This above is how YOU define simulations and models, it is NOT how Bill has described it. If you demand from him that he use your definitions (which are that wargames and simulations are mutually exclusive), and then accuse of him of hypocrisy or dodging you or unfairly claiming you don't appear to understand his methods and definitions, you shouldn't be surprised that further discussion is not possible.

NedZed11 Dec 2009 9:50 p.m. PST

Bobstro,

I think an essential element for a game or simulation design is that the "point of view" for a player is very important. I call it the 1st person POV and the 3rd person POV. What do they see/experience/know, and what decisions might they make because of it.

Is a player limited to what one "real" commander would see? If so, a "skirmish level" game would resemble a computer shoot-em up game. Are the players like an audience at a play, not in the action but from a distance observing the actors take action? (Like sitting on a hill watching two armies below go at each other.)

Mixing those two elements can lead to confusing and contradictory tabletop situations, but many game players would really love to have both experiences simultaneously.

Consider your thoughts about snipers and the size of an explosion, etc – if your table size limits you, but you WANT to have a sniper with full capabilities, and you want to have explosions that wipe out half a football field, you CANNOT have both on that table at the ground scale you would probably want to use. So you end up putting in arbitrarily-chosen modified elements of both (which gives you "flavor") so you can have snipers, explosions, maybe fast motorcycles, etc all in the game at the same time, on the table..

The result is a game that from a 1st person POV does justice to neither the sniper, the explosion, aircraft, or motorcycle capabilities. However, from a 3rd person POV you have some of each on the board (thus "playable", but not "realistic") that you can then enjoy much the same as watching an old war movie.

However, in that case you don't really have a game or simulation involving interesting decisions about snipers or explosions or air power, because they have been modified into something else unrecognizable that you just want to call snipers or explosion effects. You could, though, have a game of interesting decisions about the (unreal) effects you are now choosing to call "snipers, bombs, or motorcycles", even though they are behaving in game terms like other things. In that case it doesn't seem to make much sense to spend much energy researching what "historical" capabilities would be for those weapons. Much easier to just make the beaten zone or bomb crater or motorcycle speed whatever fits on the table best.

Suggestions about adding rules like having bombardments "before" the game begins" or having "off-board" snipers are quite excellent because they make it easier to have those effects without dilution; but the price you pay is the more limited focus and options that will remain in that game, which may then not resemble the "skirmish-level" game you envisioned in the first place.

BTW, if you would like to have a copy of a WWII skirmish level set ("SUTC" by Michael Korns) from 1968 or so that was modeled on WWII data for a skirmish-level set, I can email it to you. I don't think many would play it as is today, but you might find it interesting.

-Ned

bobstro11 Dec 2009 10:41 p.m. PST

Ned,

I would be very interested in checking out SUTC, thanks!

Your comments bring up an interesting question: Does varying from the principles of simulation design for one aspect of a game "taint" it in some way? Should a "partial simulation" of certain aspects of a game still qualify?

This thread seems to have (at least) two main areas of emphasis: The first is the use of simulation methodologies to develop games, which I'm finding quite useful. The second is the criteria for qualifying and semantics for the use of the term "simulation", which is less interesting.

I'd thought about using off-table markers for the snipers, just placing a marker along the table edge and considering the figure off at some distance in hard cover. The same certainly could be done for artillery, but it doesn't help with the blast radius issue.

- Bob

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2009 11:08 p.m. PST

Interesting take, Bill. As I read that same text, I understand that the author is saying that the rules themselves provide that objective standard, albeit one developed with the author's biases. This strikes me as fully compatible with the approach that you described previously: Developing some data. Not necessarily "the one" correct data set, but some baseline data against which to measure. His rules provide the testability he was after using his own admittedly biased criteria.

Bob:
The rules provide the objective standard for testing the rules—which were developed with the author's biased criteria? I don't know what to make of that. If you want to test the rules set in its ability to "portray the capabilities of different armies", the rules can't be the criteria for any testing of the rules. That is a zero-sum approach. The game will always test as the game.

Of course, Frank designed Volley & Bayonet with his own biases. He picked the history, he picked the scale, the goals and the game mechanics. His ideas, biases and style are all over the design. However, that is true of any human endeavor. A computer program can often be identified by the program code, because programmer's style and biases in programming are evident. A researcher or surgeon, musician or mathematician all have their own biases and style in what they do….Their art if you will.

That wasn't the issue Frank raised.

What did Frank want to test for? What was the 'objective standard' a measure of concerning his design?

What 'baseline' data you suggest, that 'objective standard' he spoke of, are we talking about? Certainly not his bias—that is the antithesis of 'objective'.

I read it much more as providing some background as to his motivation in developing the rules he did. In no way do I read it as a statement that such measure cannot be achieved.

Perhaps, but he did said "without being able to set up and re-fight entire historical battles, it is nearly impossible to find any sort of objective standard against which to measure the author's judgments."

So what is this objective standard that is nearly impossible to find, that could only be found in the scale of V&B, and that in the end only the players could use, for better or worse. Frank didn't use any objective standard to 'test' his design, or he would not have said he couldn't make "any claims as to the game being particularly objective."

If V&B had met some objective standard, I would imagine he would be more than justified in saying it is was 'objective'.

Simulation design methodologies provide proven objective tests for validating a simulation game's ability to model chosen data, not some designer's bias in designing his simulation. It is a way to see if the designer's bias in designing the simulation still modeled some 'objective' reality/history.

.Bob C. -- Could you ask him for some clarification? If you know the guy personally, we certainly don't need to sit around parsing his words here!
.

I agree.

Bill, I'm not sure I can fully agree with just stating "Limited knowledge limits the artistic expression" and leaving it at that. I think one can equally claim that "excessive application of knowledge constrains artistic expression."

Yes, it can swing that way too. It's a balance, and neither knowledge or art can be ignored nor give first place. They are complimentary. Mozart couldn't have written symphonies if he never heard one, and he had to understand the 'rules' to writing symphonies as opposed to sonatas…

Understanding the relationship between the two, art and knowledge, and the roles they play in creation is vital to both the growth of knowledge and artistic expression. That is the whole point.

I think Bob C.'s claim for Frank and Craig never reading a book on game design is falling on the side of all art and no knowledge. Such an approach can stunt artistic expression as easily as an excessive application of knowledge….

Talent is the ability to acquire knowledge easily, as well as the ability to apply that knowledge…. or in Mozart's case, application was an outright gift of birth. But it would be very wrong to suggest that he didn't need to or never did learn music theory, the various types of music etc. etc. etc. simply because he was so gifted.

.It's certainly possible to be a great creative artist without formal background. But no amount of training can make one into a great creative artist if they don't have that creative spark. Getting perspective right doesn't make it art.

Quite true, but I defy you to name one famous artist in any flat artistic medium from the last ten centuries who didn't understand perspective, and most used it in their artistic expression—depending on what they wanted to express.

The military artists Keith Rocco or Don Troiani would be idiots if they decided to create their historical military paintings without perspective and in the cubist style. Not because such paintings aren't art, but that it would completely fail to achieve the goals they had chosen,/i>for their art. As Don says, "If an historical painting is not accurate, then it is worthless as both art and an investment." That's because, like wargames, his art is representational--it represents something else in reality….

Here again, one can argue definitions -- particularly what constitutes "art". On a practical level, if other people willingly pay money for something that they consider art, that's probably close enough.

We can talk more about art if you want, but Frank C. was talking about an 'objective measurement' of something else. His discussion was about objectively measuring his art—just as Rocco and Troiani objectively measure the historical accuracy/precision of their art.

The question is by what criteria? What are the tests that can do that? Frank didn't say.

There's one aspect of game design versus formal simulation that I haven't really seen addressed in your presentation: A game has to fit on a table. The gamer's "world" is constrained by practical limits on physical space.

Every simulation and game design ever created are constrained by practical, physical limits. Those limits certainly can dictate what can and can't be simulated easily or at all, but they never negate the possibility of any simulating altogether.

The game table and figures are just a simulation game medium, like cardboard chits and board, computer program and screen, paper and pencil, role playing, etc. Like any artist or scientist, a game designer chooses the medium based on his goals for his design, both as a game and a simulation. Every simulation is limited: As it is pointed in the Rules of Play p. 440 "Every model has its limitations and is not a complete representation of reality." So what parts of reality has the designer chosen?

.Short of using smaller scales, how does one account for that with formal simulation methodologies? I'm suspecting that knowing what will work on a 6x4 table is a big part of the "art" of game design. A part that doesn't lend itself to formal validation particularly well.

Bob, the size of the table has absolutely nothing to do with the ability to 'formally' validate a simulation game played on that table, any more than the size of a computer screen has anything to do with validating the computer simulation played on it. It can help or hinder the validation process physically, [the screen may be too small to see details, or the table is too small to actually accommodate the scale chosen for the simulation], but what you are validating is how the rules work together to simulate successfully.

If you chose to create a simulation game to be played on a 6'X4' table, or a 3' X 2.5' playing board, or a piece of paper, then how could that hinder testing whether the simulation works? One the other hand, if the simulation game was designed to be played on a 6'X4' table, and you try to validate it while playing it on a single sheet of notebook paper, you are going to have a problem… but not one concerning any formal validation process or simulation methodologies.

Are there any aspects to formal simulation design that address this aspect?

Yes. They would say that the question you have raised about simulation design and its validation is a non-issue.
As the designer, you choose the medium that provides the best platform for simulating the wargame you want.

If you want to simulate an entire battle on a 6X4 table, you don't make the scale 1 yard to the inch. If you want to simulate an entire battle on a card table, then you need to chose a really big scale and perhaps 2mm figures, or think about setting aside the miniatures and do a board game.

There are simulation possibilities with game rules using miniatures on a tabletop that are not available to computer games, and vice versa. It's the designer's choice, and any choice in the playing surface for a simulation has no impact on being able to validate that simulation.

Knowing the strength and weaknesses of the different game mediums/platforms can help in deciding which to use in a particular simulation. The designer of the WWI aerial combat simulation Ace of Aceschose a book form for his game with pen and ink pictures rather than miniatures—because it did a better job of supporting what he wanted to achieve with his simulation game.

We like miniatures for a whole lot of reasons that have little to do directly to simulating combat, but in choosing miniatures as the simulation medium, the designer is automatically limiting himself to what is easily simulated and what is difficult because of the medium. Again, that has nothing to do with a designer's ability or inability to validate his design's success.

Best Regards,

Bill H….

NedZed12 Dec 2009 12:14 a.m. PST

Bobstro,
Email me at nedz@mindspring.com.
- Ned

ratisbon12 Dec 2009 8:22 a.m. PST

McLaddie,

I will not presume to speak for Frank, his words speak for him. Rather here is my read. He set out his goals in the designer's notes, goals which in his own mind he met. Frank then leaves it to the individual gamer to apply what he believes are his own objective criteria in order to make his own decision regarding V&B.

It is a given in wargame design the higher up the command chain you go the more predictable the outcomes and the easier they are to simulate. This is because there are fewer more predictable variables. Conversely, the further down the command chain you go the greater the number of variables and the greater their unpredictability. For instance in a squad game you may have to account for multiple variables from individuals tripping and getting injured to equipment breaking. On the division or army level, however, such variables become lost for the numbers and thus not necessary to simulate.

Ned,

Your apology is entirely unnecessary and your comments are entirely appropriate. To clarify, this thread is stuck in the over ananlyzation of game design.

When Craig and I designed NBs we stated goals which were not unlike those stated by Frank. We had long discussions about what we knew about Napoleonic warfare and why or why not to represent it in a game and how to do it. We then hit the table with our group. Some concepts and mechanics were found wanting and were changed or dispensed with and some were added.

After each game Craig and I would analyze it. We would then go to our respective corners and subsequently meet and talk about what we thought. Mostly I learned my thoughts were not as telling as Craig's and most were dispensed with. This went on for 7 years or so till we got the model we desired. Whether the gamers accept our model is up to the individual gamer.

To use an analogy, rather than deal in theoretical science, such as Newton, we dealt in applied science, such as Edison. The difficulty with dealing with the theory of game design is to be successful you need be a Mozart or Newton, whereas to design a game you need only be an Edison or you or even me.

Good gaming.

Bob Coggins

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2009 10:16 a.m. PST

Bob wrote:

I will not presume to speak for Frank, his words speak for him. Rather here is my read. He set out his goals in the designer's notes, goals which in his own mind he met. Frank then leaves it to the individual gamer to apply what he believes are his own objective criteria in order to make his own decision regarding V&B.

Bob:
When a individual applies what 'he believes are his own objective criteria' to make his own decision, that's fine, there is nothing objective. In a hobby where everyone is making their own, individual 'objective' criteria in 'testing' a design, all you have is a lot of opinion--not anything 'objective'. Again, that is the antithesis of 'objective', where there presumed agreement regardless of bias, or a judgment without bias.

Gamers are free to have their biases. I certainly have mine, but that has nothing to do with what Frank was talking about--a 'objective, precise, scientific' test of his design. He spoke of one "objective measurement", not hundreds. And he himself made no claim to having any individual 'objective measurement--his design wasn't "particularly objective."

It is a given in wargame design the higher up the command chain you go the more predictable the outcomes and the easier they are to simulate. This is because there are fewer more predictable variables. Conversely, the further down the command chain you go the greater the number of variables and the greater their unpredictability. For instance in a squad game you may have to account for multiple variables from individuals tripping and getting injured to equipment breaking. On the division or army level, however, such variables become lost for the numbers and thus not necessary to simulate.

It is a given in wargame design? With whom? Certainly not military wargame designers, or commercial wargame designers outside our hobby, so that has to be 'in house.'

The scale of the game cannot reduce the number of possible variables in a reality that has an infinite number of them. There are no fewer variables at the army command level than at the squad level, just different variables.

In fact, there are just as many reasons to suggest that there are more variables commanding an army of 100,000 men than a battalion of 600.

The number of variables portrayed in a simulation is a design decision, not some innate quality of the scale portrayed.

And though Frank doesn't seem to know it, the possibility of an objective standard for testing a simulation game is not influenced by the scale of the simulation--it is not "nearly impossible", but rather done every day at a huge variety of 'scales'.

Best Regards,

Bill H.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2009 10:28 a.m. PST

Bob wrote:

Your comments bring up an interesting question: Does varying from the principles of simulation design for one aspect of a game "taint" it in some way? Should a "partial simulation" of certain aspects of a game still qualify?

Bob:
A designer chooses what and where in a design he will simulate. A simulation can have one thing simulated, or twelve dozen. There are no 'partial simulations'. Either the design models what the designer decided it would simulate, or it didn't. The idea of a 'partial simulation' suggests that there is some universal notion of a 'whole simulation.' The designer is the arbitrator of what his simulation design will model, and either it does or it doesn't succeed. If it succeeds, it is a simulation, even if only of one variable…

This thread seems to have (at least) two main areas of emphasis: The first is the use of simulation methodologies to develop games, which I'm finding quite useful. The second is the criteria for qualifying and semantics for the use of the term "simulation", which is less interesting.

Actually, that is Rich's emphasis, not mine. A lot of space has been used on that. The only reason I started this thread was the first: the use of simualution methodologies to develop simulation games.

I'd thought about using off-table markers for the snipers, just placing a marker along the table edge and considering the figure off at some distance in hard cover. The same certainly could be done for artillery, but it doesn't help with the blast radius issue.

If these mechanics are meant to simulate something, what player experiences do you want to provide that mimic the combat situation?

Best Regards,
Bill

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2009 10:37 a.m. PST

Bob wrote:

Well that's my question. In attempting to draw my own conclusions as the the distinction between a "professional simulation" and a "game simulation", the need to confine the modelled world to the dimensions of a playing table struck me as one distinction.

Bob:
Why do you want to draw that distinction? Is there a difference? No, except one was designed for professional uses and one wasn't. As simulations, they use the same concepts, mechanics, and hopefully methodologies and often the very same mediums to achieve their purposes.

Is there a difference between a computer game designed at home and one that someone designed in a company? Not in design.

Simulations are a tool, some are used as games for entertainment, some used 'professionally' for training and research, but still the same tool. In fact, there are game companies make a living from taking 'professional' simulations and selling them as games for entertainment. A tool can be used in a variety of ways.

While a simulation might well have boundaries, I wouldn't expect them to be as arbitrarily chosen, based on how much space the player has in his living room, for example. A "game" has to work within such confines. A proper simulation would (I should think) at least define a world in which the parameters being modeled are significant.

ALL boundaries in all simulations are 'arbitrarily' chosen based on a whole myriad of considerations. For instance, the size of a training simulation would be dictated by where it would be used. A computer simulation's console and scope would be determined by where the simulation is to be used and the size of the computer's operating system.

Every single simulation ever designed has to work within the kind of 'confines' you describe. And of course, what is being simulated also informs the choice of the physical parameters.

One point I am making is that every single issue that wargame designers face are no different than those of other simulation game designers in kind, scope or methodologies. Only the medium is different, but even there not entirely:

On page 444 of Rules of Play the authors say this:

Not all wargames use a grid. Some miniatures games measure unit movement in inches, and in some digital wargames, unit movement is free-form and highly granular. In these cases, the principles of abstraction and meaningful play still hold….As play unfolds moment by moment, the total experience of the game emerges. In this way, the play of simualution brings us back to the most fundamental questions of game design.

Our wargame designs are in no way unique in scope, purpose or design from other simulation games in different mediums. We share a lot of common ground.

Best Regards,

Bill H.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2009 10:43 a.m. PST

Rich:
I answered your question directly. You insisted that simulations have to simulate things like A battle, and you gave Waterloo as the example. Then you said only wargames could represent general processes.

I said that wasn't true and asked you where you got the idea that such a finite dichotomy existed. Simulations can model general processes, like Napoleonic war and be applied to discrete scenarios. It's done all the time.

Rich wrote:

What are the salient characteristic one should included in a model of Waterloo?

As a simulation designer, the 'salient characteristics' one should include in a model of Waterloo depends entirely on what the designer chooses to simulate. There are no 'universal' salient characteristics of the battle that have to be simulated.

As Warren Robinett states in his book Inventing the Adventure Game:

Making a simulation is a process of abstracting--of selecting which entities and which properties from a complex real phenomena to use in the simulation program [Read rules]. For example, to simulate a bouncing ball, the ball's position is important but its melting point probably isn't. Any model has limitations, and is not a complete representation of reality.

What are the salient traits of that 'ball' in Warren's example depend entirely on what the simulation is focused on--in this case bouncing.

So, Rich, the designer decides what are the salient characteristics of the Battle of Waterloo to simulate. Two designers may or may not agree on what constitutes 'salient', and they can find different characteristics to simulate. Because the Battle of Waterloo is a very complex event, several designers could all chose different 'salient characteristics' to model, and each could create valid simulations of the battle.

There is no universal 'salient characteristics' playbook for simulations or the Battle of Waterloo. If I decide that I want to simulate the command structure of the two armies, my 'salient characteristics' of the battle could be a very different list than a designer who wants to focus on brigade formations and tactics. I might even want to simulate the supply system that operated during the battle, or even traffic control along the roads with both civilians and military personnel.

I know that whatever 'salient characteristics' I choose, they won't be yours. What do you want to simulate concerning the Battle of Waterloo?

Best Regards,

Bill

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2009 11:32 a.m. PST

Rich:

To further answer your question about 'salient characteristics', here is what the authors of the "Rules of Play" say about wargames--and remember this is from the larger arena of all wargames, not just miniatures or board games: [page 442:]

Working within the intrinsic limitations of simulations is one of the key challenges of game design. What are you going to simulate in your game? How are you going to abstract it? which features of the phenomena will you include and which will you ignore? How deep and how broad can your simulation be? How do you tie each aspect of your simulation to the larger player experience? To understand these kinds of design decisions more fully we look in detail at a particular genre of game, the historical wargame.

Historical wargames are complex strategy games that use cardboard chits or metal figures ton a map to simulate a battle. We have already noted that game simulations are not universally beholden to 'realism' or 'accuracy'. But historical wargaming is a genre of game design where both realism and accuracy are important. Historical wargame designers base their troop composition, map layouts and game rules on historical research, a numerical approach to military history that wargame designer James Dunnigan calls, "analytic history." In the game design sub-discipline of historical wargaming, part of the design ethos is that a game accurately simulates historical circumstances.

History, in a very general sense, represents a fixed series of events. But a historical wargame is a game, which means that uncertainty, risk, and unpredictable outcomes play a roles. What a historical wargame really simulates are the starting conditions of a conflict. The way that conflict plays out is what makes the game interesting as a game experience. Will history repeat itself? Was the historical outcome inevitable? How much can a masterful strategy affect the outcome? These are all questions that wargame designers and players seek to answer though the creation and play of their games. The meaningful play of a historical wargame derives not only from the strategic complexities of military decision making, but also from the fidelity of the game to its historical referent.

That fidelity to historical referents is what we are talking about here. Without that fidelity gamers can't possibly answer the questions mentioned above.

As we know, a simulation can never contain every possible aspect of the phenomena being simulated. Historical wargaming has been wrestling with this challenge for at least a century[longer--@1824], making it a wonderful case study for the design of simulations.

The authors then spend twenty pages discussing it--covering nearly all the ground we have here.

And you'll hate this, they summarize at the end of the chapter on "Games as the Play of Simulations":

A simulation is a procedural representation of aspects of "reality." Simulations represent procedurally and they have a special relationship to the "reality" that they represent.

There are many kinds of simulations that are not games. However, all games can be understood as simulations, even very abstract games or games that simulate phenomena not found in the real world.

A procedural representation is a process-based, dynamic form of depiction. Procedural representation is how simulations simulate their subject matter. These forms of representation emerge from the combination of the formal system of a game and the interaction of a player with the game.

Simulations are abstract, numerical, limited, and systemic. A simulation cannot be both broad and deep. Because designing a simulation means radically reducing the simulation's subject matter, a game designer much carefully select which aspects of a phenomenon to depict and how to embody them within the system of the game.

These are very experienced game designers speaking, Katie Slaen and Eric Zimmerman--not theorists or professional simulation designers.

Bill

Rich Knapton12 Dec 2009 11:34 a.m. PST

You're stalling Bill. I'm not asking for universal characteristics. I expect these characteristics to be different from mine. After all you said mine were wrong. So what characteristics would YOU use to provide the gamer a model of Waterloo.

Rich

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2009 12:10 p.m. PST

So what characteristics would YOU use to provide the gamer a model of Waterloo.

Rich:
Really? Stalling? You asked "What are the salient characteristics one should include in a model of Waterloo?"

'Salient' as in most important, relevant, leading. paramount… and of course there was that word *should*. Sounded like a request for THE characteristics to me.

What I would like to provide the gamer?

I would be interested in the how, why, where and when of the decision-making process for corps commanders and division commanders. The focus would be the challenges of how they made things happen on the battlefield rather than the details of the smaller tactical events.

The detail would be in the control points for those levels of command, the formations and orders given. The game would be in orchestrating their command. Timing would be a significant issue, so a you go-I go system would not meet my needs.

The game detail of the lower formations, brigade and battalion would be fairly shallow and the results of combat less detailed. For example, V&B is the same scale and with the same goals to some extent, but 95% of the rules are at the brigade tactical level, and only about 5% deal with any command mechanics. My rules would be heavily invested in the command operations, so more 70% command, 30% tactical.

That means that I would give priority to:
Communication methods and processes
Command level responsibilities
Decision making, including LOS, information gathering, movement and generating orders.
Staff work
Subordinate personalities
Formations and maneuver options for divisions and corps

The how and when of the operations of the subordinate commands would be 'salient' with this focus.

Combat in all its forms would be simple in operation and results:

For instance, most artillery would be used either according to SOP or by direct intervention of the play.

unit formations lower than the brigade would be ignored

Terrain, small unit maneuvers, even volley vs melee combat would be either simplified compared to say V&B or ignored. For instance, several games make no difference between melee and volley combat, or different weights of guns.

Best Regards,

Bill

ratisbon12 Dec 2009 1:42 p.m. PST

Guys,

I just got back from lunch with Craig. I was wrong. He said he read one book on game design and it got almost everything wrong. Now I don't know what to make of that save Craig has designed and developed over 200 games, board wargames, computer games and minatures games, all of which are eminently playable and almost all of which sre historically supportable.

If some of you don't understand the difference in the complexities of simulating small unit actions vs. grand tactical or grand strategic then we are so far from communicating it is usless for me to explain. I know Craig's position suffice one of you should get Frank's thoughts. Grand tactical and strategic simulations are easier to make accurately reflect the norm and thus reflect what did or will occur because the unknownn variables you must address in tactical games disappear into the norms of grand tactical games.

To the extent I doubt you will agree with me, I reserve the right to disagree with you and agree with Craig, who most likely designed more commercially successful games in any one 5 year period (getting paid for them) than all the posters on this side. But be of good cheer, were I interested in the theory of game design I should choose Peter Paret or Greg C. But as I am interested in playing games I choose Craig and Frank.

As for knowledge vs. art, in a test of knowledge of military history and of the machinations of armies from the Macedonians to the modern Israelis with Pirates of the Carribean and Vikings thrown in for good measure. I would bet on Craig's knowledge over anyone else and if not Craig – Frank.

This doesn't mean I do not think this theoretical discussion is valuable. So, don't mind me and keep plugging. As for Craig, he's too busy getting paid to design wargames to worry about theory.

Good gaming.

Bob Coggins

Karsta12 Dec 2009 3:15 p.m. PST

Bob Coggins:
I too have trouble understanding where you got the idea that at large scale there are fewer variables to simulate. Of course we are no longer interested in individual soldiers tripping and injuring themselves, but surely we find new things to worry about in every level of command. It sounds to me like you are still looking these large scale games from the point of view of a lower level commander who accepts that the problems he is facing are no longer important, but can't really understand all the challenges his superiors are struggling with.

Grand tactical and strategic simulations are easier to make accurately reflect the norm and thus reflect what did or will occur because the unknownn variables you must address in tactical games disappear into the norms of grand tactical games.

It seems you have mistaken consistent simulation end results for simulation accuracy. I agree that there's probably more luck involved in the small unit actions, so the end result of the battle varies more every time you simulate it. When a strategic game gives more predictable results, it doesn't mean that it's more accurate; for a strategic game to be accurate at all that's what it should do.

NedZed12 Dec 2009 6:57 p.m. PST

Bobstro,
I emailed SUTC to you, let me know if it doesn't arrive (it is a 6.1MB PDF file – in the past it has sometimes bounced back to me).

The designer, Michael Korns, had previously published a wargame book "Modern War in Miniature", which I have never read but only saw reviewed (in the old COURIER, I think. If anyone knows where I can see a copy I would be interested). Korns had worked for the army, (if I remember right, at Fort Leavenworth?) and "Modern War" apparently contained different math formulas used for simulating combat.

When I met him in the early '70s he lived in Mountain View, CA working in the civilian sector, I think with the telephone company. (He was only around here for a few years and then dropped out of sight). His "SUTC" rules were for a skirmish-level WWII game, for a table that represented a 100 yard by 200 yard area, and the 18 charts were dice charts that he had created from the formulas in "Modern War". SUTC was for an umpire and two players. Each player had a map and were separated from each other and kept away from the sandtable where Mike set up the actual buildings and miniature figures. He would shuttle to each player to get orders (30 second turns), carry out the actions on the sandtable, then report back to players.

The set I sent you is sort of a "second edition" in 1972 where his previous booklets were combined into one, and some additional statistics included. He actually purchased a printing press to produce the rules. Smart, interesting guy, a little offbeat.

Games were not necessarily "balanced". I was in one North African scenario where I was an officer, with an MG 42 crew and I think maybe one other rifleman. Enemy troops came up over the dune.(which was quite evocative since it was literally a sandtable!). Postgame I found it was about 14 troops against me, and it was their rifle grenadier who did me in.

Korns umpired another game that I thought was worth remembering. (I wrote an article about this in Wally Simpson's PW Review years ago, which will be more accurate than the following story which I relate here by memory).

A Russian village was set up. It was entered on one side by a few Russian soldiers. On the other side SS troops (commanded by yours truly). I was told there had been partisan activity in the area. I later learned that had I just occupied the place or scouted around it would have been an easy game "win". But with the scenario being "SS troops", I took on that "role", ordered searches and some rough handling of inhabitants, maybe set something on fire. Then a shot rang out, and to make the story short I lost and had to pull out when shots came from everywhere and I thought I was being overwhelmed (since I knew from past experience that Korns was under no obligation to make games balanced or fair).

Turns out that shot came from only one old Russian who had an old WWI rifle in his house who got angry and was only activated by the umpire because of the way we had behaved. Between him and the Russians who came into town, I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I had been beaten psychologically rather than by numbers or firepower.

In later years when I and others played our own versions of SUTC we tended to skip the player maps, and let the players come to the tabletop to "see" the game and give orders (the umpire would remove any figures or vehicles that were not visible to the player while the player was there, and putting them back on the table once the player left). This gave the players more feel of participation, but I do not if it interfered with the way the game was designed or not.

Once in college, we had a game where a player (unknown to him) played against nobody for an hour… and lost! He was a tank cmder ordered to get across the tabletop to the other side in some amount of time. In this type of hidden-movement game paranoia can really take hold. He was halting every few yards to fire into scary-looking treetops. When he came across a body he assumed it was an ambush or that the guy wasn't really dead, so he made sure to run over him. The umpire threw in a random bombardment of the area (he stood above the floor and dropped cotton balls to see where the shells would hit) and the player assumed there was an observer somewhere calling it in and drove around the board looking for him.

As you will read in the introduction, Korns considered this to be a "simulation game". If you find the game or the design to be of interest, you may want to post something here about it. This game was a huge influence on my way of thinking about games and how players minds worked so much differently when they were limited in visibility or information compared to wargames where everything was visible to all.

Of course this was all almost 40 years ago, so it may be that compared to today's game designs it might be clunky or "old news", so I would be interested in your opinion. At that time the dice rolls to "activate" a soldier was a new concept to me.

-Ned

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2009 9:04 p.m. PST

Ned;
"How players' minds work" is the whole point of simulations games. If the players aren't thinking and experiencing what you what them to vis-a-vie the historical situation, then no amount of detail is going to make a difference.

As Salen and Zimmerman point out: "These forms of representation emerge from the combination of the formal system of a game and the interaction of a player with the game." That is a fun part of a design--psyching out the players…so to speak.

When the 'unknown' shapes so much of the actions of the actual combatants, we miss a lot when it is absent from our games.

Bill H.

NedZed12 Dec 2009 9:12 p.m. PST

Bill wrote:

"As a simulation designer, the 'salient characteristics' one should include in a model of Waterloo depends entirely on what the designer chooses to simulate. There are no 'universal' salient characteristics of the battle that have to be simulated."

A fellow named Richard Burnett and I used to have long discussions about simulation that often veered from game design into philosophy, but the mention of modeling or simulating Waterloo, reminds me of some of our discussions. (Richard was in my Napoleonics group and also took SUTC and ran many games of it at local conventions – and it was the psychological aspects of SUTC that applies to the discussion of simulating Waterloo that I relate here).

An irony about trying to model or simulate "a battle" is that if today's player knows the history of a Napoleonic battle, he already knows too much to be able to recreate the psychology of the historical commander he is standing in for. You can set up the exact terrain, orders of battle, etc for Waterloo, but in a way, the more precisely it models or matches history the less chance that the "historical" results will occur. Today's "Napoleon" knows there's Prussians out there – and knows their OB as well as the history book he can consult. His psychological approach to whatever rules or tabletop information he has is already altered.

The "historical results" happened in great part because of the LACK OF KNOWLEDGE the historical participants had, and the errors (which today we can identify in hindsight) they made because of that. In fact, they might not be "errors" – they might have been the best choice that could be understood at the time.

If one wants to run a static simulation where the historical will rerun itself and the simulation participant is there to learn what happened, then this isn't a problem. If you are running a dynamic simulation where player decisions and interactions change things, player knowledge of the battle will ensure that a precise "model" of Waterloo will not happen.

If you have a hidden movement game of Waterloo, you can put some uncertainty back into it, and perhaps get the model to replicate some of the historical events. If you combine that with a player who does not know anything about Waterloo, you have a much better chance of getting a good "model result" that matches the battle's results.

An interesting spin of these ideas is the "hidden scenario" idea. The Wargames Development Group and Paddy Griffith used to explore this. Once I stayed at Paddy Griffith's house and as an after-dinner treat he tossed together and umpired a one-player game on the spot for me. He gave me a map and a scenario and I gave orders as necessary and my army progressed from one town to another with various things happening along the way. (I don't even remember now how the game came out).

At the end of the game he asked me if I recognized the historical campaign it depicted. I had no idea, which disappointed Paddy a bit. It turned out to be Texans against the Mexicans and was the campaign that led to the Alamo and other battles. The scenario and OB given to me involved other nationalities and names, so I had not a clue. (I think for my army he told me I had British Napoleonic-era troops, or maybe British troops in Afghanistan or somewhere else. "My" troops had similar "horse and rifle capabilities" to the historical Texan campaign).

Paddy thought it would be easy to guess because everything in it DID match the conditions and historical cmdr psychology and knowledge -or lack thereof. Though the map did have different placenames, its distances were the Texan distances, and the assumptions given to the commander (me) were those my historical counterpart had. I guess Paddy assumed that since I was an American his "hidden scenario" would be too poorly disguised to fool me, but I did not recognize it. (Paddy knows a lot about many periods, of course, and politely assumed I did, too).

If I had KNOWN it was Texas, and knew the precise historical terrain, orders of battles, etc, then that knowledge would have informed my choices and the game would have been different. Without that knowledge, I think I came closer to "simulating" this historical campaign by NOT knowing.

It may have been Paddy (or in the Nugget) from whom I heard the scenario of a spaceship landing and the reaction of the locals and the fighting that took place. Turns out it represented the Spanish landing and taking on the Aztecs. Their ships were analogous to flying saucers and their halfmen/half horses and guns analogous to ray guns. Thus the Aztec psychology was actually "simulated" pretty well – and if that was the designer's aim, it worked.


Reporting from down Memory Lane,

Ned

bobstro13 Dec 2009 12:55 p.m. PST

Given the volume of postings in this thread, I'm going to selectively quote and comment on a few of Bill's specific points that I want to respond to. Apologies if anybody feels I've taken things out of context…

McLaddie wrote:

[…] [Frank Chadwick's V&B rules] The rules provide the objective standard for testing the rules—which were developed with the author's biased criteria?
Without devolving into a parsing of my parsing of the Frank Chadwick quotation you provided -- surely the road to hell -- let me just say that I read Frank's entire statement as saying he provided an admittedly imperfect ruler by which players could measure the capabilities of different armies -- namely V&B. More pointedly, I certainly do not read the plea of ignorance or the cry for help from a greater power that you seem to have interpreted. I simply wouldn't expect an accomplished author to include any such thing purely form a marketing perspective!
[…] [Mozart] But it would be very wrong to suggest that he didn't need to or never did learn music theory, the various types of music etc. etc. etc. simply because he was so gifted.
As both a professional consultant and the son of a mad artist, I have to smile at this. It rings of a consultant saying "Yes, but just imagine how great Mozart would have been with OUR help!" :) Yes, artists like everyone else benefit from knowledge, standing on the shoulders of giants and so forth. However, they are praised as artists for what they produce, not how they produce it.
[…] [art & perspective] but I defy you to name one famous artist in any flat artistic medium from the last ten centuries who didn't understand perspective, and most used it in their artistic expression—depending on what they wanted to express.
Alas, my dear departed mother -- the mad artist in the family -- had volumes filled with the works of such artists. I can tell you her works from the period where she achieved a degree of recognition had not a hint of geometric correctness. Yet they could put you in a place that allowed you to catch a glimpse her perspective. Similarly, from a wargame perspective, I think that a good set of rules can provide the player a perspective -- reflection of the chaos and confusion of war -- without necessarily having technical underpinnings. Certainly not for certain aspects anyhow.
[…] The military artists Keith Rocco or Don Troiani would be idiots if they decided to create their historical military paintings without perspective and in the cubist style. Not because such paintings aren't art, but that it would completely fail to achieve the goals they had chosen, for their art.
If an artist were claiming to be providing an accurate (photo-realistic) representation, true. Yet Picasso's Guernica (whether you like it or not) provides a glimpse into war for the observer without having to be historically correct. We've probably stretched the artiste analogy beyond usefulness, but I do think there are some parallels. Suffice to say there's more than technical underpinnings to good rules.
[…] Frank C. was talking about an 'objective measurement' of something else. His discussion was about objectively measuring his art
I certainly didn't read those paragraphs that way!
[…] Every simulation and game design ever created are constrained by practical, physical limits. Those limits certainly can dictate what can and can't be simulated easily or at all, but they never negate the possibility of any simulating altogether.
Let me try to rephrase my question: If I am using historical data as the basis for developing my rules, as you've suggested previously, how do I account for the "as represented in a world measuring 100m (or 1km, or whatever) square" aspect of gaming on a table in somebody's basement?
[…] Bob, the size of the table has absolutely nothing to do with the ability to 'formally' validate a simulation game played on that table, any more than the size of a computer screen has anything to do with validating the computer simulation played on it.
Isn't there a distinction? The "world" still exists outside the dimensions of my computer screen when playing that flight simulator, for example. You can probably press a key and view various parts of that world from various perspectives. But on the gaming table, the world is limited to the tabletop.

Yes, we can add outside influences to our game to reflect "off-table" factors, but my question is how much of the desired simulation accuracy breaks down. Can I realistically find hard historical data that tells me how often shells landed near troops? Or do I just go with historical accounts that "shells were landing all around us" and add a sprinkling of incoming artillery to my game? And having based the rest of my game on hard historical data, yet resorted to a "smidgen" of factors for which no data exists, what has truly been gained? Some, I think, but not as much as perhaps one might hope for. So now having headed down that path, why not simply go with that "feel" to produce a set of rules that provide that (artist's) perspective on the battle without overly worrying about "accuracy". This, Bill, is what I mean by "simulating" a battle without developing a "simulation". The resulting game produces encounters that play out more-or-less according to less-than-technical accounts.

[…] One the other hand, if the simulation game was designed to be played on a 6'X4' table, and you try to validate it while playing it on a single sheet of notebook paper, you are going to have a problem… but not one concerning any formal validation process or simulation methodologies.
My question isn't regarding whether the simulation can be validated. My question is whether the ability to produce any meaningful difference when a simulation is played in the truncated world of the tabletop is a consideration that is somewhat unique to the game designer. Yes, you could produce a simulation that is simply too big for your customer to use -- that's not my point. (I assume it would impact future business with that customer.) A game designer has to consider real-world constraints that are perhaps not unique, but certainly limiting. And if that world is too small to produce meaningful distinctions based on historical or technical data, there's still the challenge of providing that perspective, or "feel"… the "playability" factor.
[…] If you want to simulate an entire battle on a 6X4 table, you don't make the scale 1 yard to the inch. If you want to simulate an entire battle on a card table, then you need to chose a really big scale and perhaps 2mm figures, or think about setting aside the miniatures and do a board game.
Am I naive in thinking a game designer is much more apt to think along the lines of "I want to represent this battle using 15mm figures on a 6x4 foot table" than someone out to truly simulate that same battle? For the latter, a bigger table, or smaller scale is the obvious solution. But a game designer doesn't necessarily have that luxury. Players like to push their existing collections of toys around on their tables.
[…] in choosing miniatures as the simulation medium, the designer is automatically limiting himself to what is easily simulated and what is difficult because of the medium. Again, that has nothing to do with a designer's ability or inability to validate his design's success.
In the context of this thread -- simulation game design -- that's true. It also highlights the distinction I was trying to make between "professional" (this is accurate) and "game" (this is as accurate as I can meaningfully make it on a 6x4 table using 15mm figures) simulation. As you pointed out in quoting from G"ames as the Play of Simulations":
There are many kinds of simulations that are not games. However, all games can be understood as simulations
Do the authors provide a term for those simulations that are not games? Perhaps that would help me be more clear.

I would still find the process you've outlined above useful for some aspects of game validation, even if I were to cheat in the end (e.g. twiddle with ranges to fit the table in a meaningful way).

[…] [response to Bob C.] When a individual applies what 'he believes are his own objective criteria' to make his own decision, that's fine, there is nothing objective. In a hobby where everyone is making their own, individual 'objective' criteria in 'testing' a design, all you have is a lot of opinion--not anything 'objective'.
Can we truly claim any degree of objectivity for any historical account or data? Any more than 100 years old? Can we not also say of history that "all we have is a lot of opinion"? And yet we strive to provide historical accuracy through simulation.
[…] There are no 'partial simulations'. Either the design models what the designer decided it would simulate, or it didn't. The idea of a 'partial simulation' suggests that there is some universal notion of a 'whole simulation.'
I'm asking about instances where within the domain of what is being simulated tweaks must be made for reasons of game play. Using my previous example of 15mm figures on a 6x4 foot table, I may be able to "accurately" model most of what I want to reflect, but need to make an adjustment to one factor to reflect something that would not normally be reflected within the distances represented by our game table. I would think that using the design and validation process you've outlined in this thread would still be immensely useful. And yet I sense that were I to describe the result as a "historical simulation", and later reveal to you the adjustment, you would not be satisfied. And perhaps justifiably!


Bill, you seem to set a high standard for judging rules wherein the author uses the term "simulate" and yet you have repeatedly suggested that a simulation need not be all encompassing, nor necessarily account for every outside factor. In many cases, what is being reflected (or "simulated") in a game is based on historical accounts that are nothing more than a non-objective recounting of events. If we're lucky, more than one, and within a lifetime of the event.

I am sensing a disconnect between the suggestion to use simulation methodology that can be applied to a subset of real-world factors based on a base set of data (which need not be perfect nor all-encompassing) and the degree of validation expected for historical rules that are intended to provide the "feel" of battle based on historical accounts. How does a budding Frank Chadwick provide a simulation (if he dare use that term) of a historical battle based on a smattering of accounts that are in no way objective? Having done so, what is lost by having acknowledged that this basis is itself, imperfect?

[…] The only reason I started this thread was the first: the use of simualution methodologies to develop simulation games.
And I truly do appreciate those efforts, Bill. Yet I have been thrown whenever use of the word "simulate" seems to trigger some killer instinct, and you use the methodology as a club with which to thrash successful rules authors. I, for one, have no basis for assuming that they didn't use a similar methodology or validation process in developing their successful commercial games. I can see the value of the tool, and yet the seemingly-implied purity test concerns me!

- Bob

bobstro13 Dec 2009 1:00 p.m. PST

NedZed wrote:

Bobstro, I emailed SUTC to you, let me know if it doesn't arrive
It has arrived and has been printed, thank you!
The designer, Michael Korns, had previously published a wargame book "Modern War in Miniature", which I have never read but only saw reviewed (in the old COURIER, I think. If anyone knows where I can see a copy I would be interested).
It appears to be available from Amazon for about $65US.

- Bob

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2009 1:54 p.m. PST

Bob C.:
It would be interesting to know what book Craig read and when he read it…

Because I have never have, I just went back and counted the number of commercial simulation games and games for training, the classroom, and the hobby I have designed in the last three decades—often four or five for one training course. I came up with 142 games. The training simulations had to be both 'eminently' playable [read entertaining], and not just 'supportable' as a simulation, but validated objectively. Both qualities had to be established for them to work—and sell—as a training platform.

Now, I agree for the most part with Katie Salen's and Eric Zimmerman's take on design, and have used it in designing games. So, they have between them designed over 500 games, that gives a count of 642 for me. If you add Frank's and your games to Craig's total, that is around 500 for you. Your turn.

However, counting notches is not the way to discuss game design, nor is stating something as design fiat and then explaining it as "If some of you don't understand the difference in the complexities of simulating small unit actions vs. grand tactical or grand strategic then we are so far from communicating it is useless for me to explain."

It leaves me wondering if you can explain it.

But counting notches or whatever isn't the point, and I am not interested in having to question Craig's or Frank's design credentials to actually discuss what they have said and done. I've had the humbling pleasure of sitting in a room of scores of game and simulation designers with at least the same experience as I across a wide variety of simulation and game design backgrounds. Thousands of years of experience from designing thousands of games, all in the same room. And what they have collectively recognized as useful—as in application—outshines any one talent. But of course, that only happens if they can communicate what they do. These thousands have found a language that works—that's all I am sharing.

I have started this thread to address what that community knows of the how of designing, not the theory or definitions behind it. That has been others' interest. I accept that most all application is based on conceptual models, including the one you state so categorically below:

Grand tactical and strategic simulations are easier to make accurately reflect the norm and thus reflect what did or will occur because the unknown variables you must address in tactical games disappear into the norms of grand tactical games.

I never disagreed that lower level tactical variables can disappear, and 'norms' can be substituted for the tactical variables with a grand tactical game. And if the game has fewer variables, it certainly is easier to validate it as a simulation.

Those variables represent 'real life' variables. Now a designer can choose to have the 'unknown' variables 'norm' out at lower, Tactical scales in designing a Grand Tactical wargame. But that is true of Tactical scales too. A designer can make Grand Tactical variables disappear using norms too.

However, as the unknown variables represent actual variables from real battles, the idea that variables at the Grand Tactical and Strategic level somehow automatically or naturally are fewer in number simply isn't true. There are just as many unknown variables at the higher levels of command as lower—they are just different.

The use of 'norms' to reduce variables at the Grand Tactical level is a designer's decision, not some intrinsic quality of Grand Tactical games. For that to be true, it would require that in reality, the unknown variables faced by a company commander are more complex and numerous than those faced by an army commander.

It just ain't so.

What does this conceptual model mean for Frank's Volley & Bayonet in practical, application terms?

Even though he and you feel that it is possible for Tactical variables to disappear at the Grand Tactical scale, 95% of the V&B rules by weight and number are tactical—at the brigade level and lower—and only about 5% address the command or Grand Tactical level.

So in application terms, which Tactical variables have disappeared? And what did Frank do with the Grand Tactical 'unknown variables'? When any questions of higher command issues are raised, from communication and subordinates, to staff, Frank says to 'simulate' those variables with multiple players.

Now that isn't a bad solution, nor is there anything wrong with designing a wargame that way. Yet, it is obvious that many, many 'unknown variables' at the Grand Tactical level were totally ignored while at the Tactical level, a whole lot weren't. So, how was this 'norming' used as a tool, or was it just assumed because it supposedly existed naturally regardless of what Frank designed?

The designers of Empire and board games such as GMT's Austerlitz and Risorgimento 1859 chose not to 'norm' out many of the lower variables of their Grand Tactical designs to a greater degree, producing much more complex designs. Designer's choice.

In reality there are just as many 'unknown variables' at Grand tactical level as the tactical level. This means in practical game design terms, there are just as many possible variables to be gamed at either level--depending on what you want to simulate and how. There isn't some intrinsic quality of simulations which makes higher level games simpler regardless of the designer's decisions.

To the extent I doubt you will agree with me, I reserve the right to disagree with you and agree with Craig, who most likely designed more commercially successful games in any one 5 year period (getting paid for them) than all the posters on this side. But be of good cheer, were I interested in the theory of game design I should choose Peter Paret or Greg C. But as I am interested in playing games I choose Craig and Frank.

As for knowledge vs. art, in a test of knowledge of military history and of the machinations of armies from the Macedonians to the modern Israelis with Pirates of the Carribean and Vikings thrown in for good measure. I would bet on Craig's knowledge over anyone else and if not Craig--Frank

.

Terrific. I was talking about testing a simulation design, whether it actually succeeded, not about testing the designer and his mental library of useful historical knowledge. Why do you regulate any game design question to counting notches, or to claim that one person knows much more than me?

Assuming your opinion is true, that's good for them, but it doesn't add anything to any practical game design discussion here.

And Personally, I tend to agree with the larger simulation and game design community representing hundreds, probably thousands of designers, simply because what they share on how to design games works. Because I am interested in game design and enjoy discussing it, I have found the applications they have accumulated to be useful, as well as the technical language to share them.

I'm not interested in Theory either, except where it helps in designing games. And I am not interested in having the sum total of game design discussions revolve on who designed more or read less, particularly when the end result is completely devoid of any 'hows' in designing simulation games. And that is in no way a dig at or a devaluing of Craig's or Frank's abilities or accomplishments, or yours for that matter, only that listing them isn't discussing game design.

This doesn't mean I do not think this theoretical discussion is valuable. So, don't mind me and keep plugging. As for Craig, he's too busy getting paid to design wargames to worry about theory.

No, you've made it quite clear that you don't believe 'theory' is valuable at all in game design, or design knowledge for that matter. In fact, you have relegated everything written here about how to design games and test them to 'theory'. Seems there are only previously designed games and theory. No discussion of game design applications or 'how to's' necessary or even valuable.

If you are ever interested in talking about the hows of wargame design, that's what I am interested in. For instance, how to 'objectively measure' a simulation game's ability to model history, or how one game is 'supportable' as a simulation, and other isn't.

And in that regard, you have really failed to understand how Edison and Einstein worked if you believe that one was all application or the other all theory. Those were just their products, not their methods or design processes in achieving them. Einstein was heavily into applications [That is what Scientific experimentation is: Application of theory to see if it works] and Edison used theory his entire life in directing what he did and didn't apply in creating his inventions. Don't take my word for it. Take a look at his practices.

Best Regards,

Bill

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2009 4:01 p.m. PST

Without devolving into a parsing of my parsing of the Frank Chadwick quotation you provided -- surely the road to hell -- let me just say that I read Frank's entire statement as saying he provided an admittedly imperfect ruler by which players could measure the capabilities of different armies -- namely V&B. More pointedly, I certainly do not read the plea of ignorance or the cry for help from a greater power that you seem to have interpreted. I simply wouldn't expect an accomplished author to include any such thing purely form a marketing perspective!

This is long, but I wanted to answer your questions as best I could.

Bob:
Wow. I never suggested that Frank's comments were plea of ignorance or cry for help.

He simply says:
1. A motivation for designing V&B was the possibility of an 'objective measure'
2. He did not use any objective measure himself because he states very clearly that his design isn't 'particularly objective.' He says that an objective measurement is 'nearly impossible'
3. Somehow the scale of the wargame can provide an objective measure.
4. It is left to the players who can, "for good or bad", to carry out that objective measure, and
5. No where is the how of that objective measure described that players can carry for themselves, let alone how that is 'objective.'

So, knowing that there are very specific standards, technical methods that can provide 'objective standards' to Frank's or anyone else's design, it is obvious to me that Frank would like an objective measure, believes it is nearly impossible. Yet he believes the scale provides an objective measure, but then doesn't use it himself, but says the players can… That isn't a cry for help, but he obviously has some unresolved issues with 'objective measures…'

However, they are praised as artists for what they produce, not how they produce it.

Quite true, so are we here to praise the artists, or to find out how to do it ourselves? I have no problem with doing both, but I am here for the latter.

Similarly, from a wargame perspective, I think that a good set of rules can provide the player a perspective -- reflection of the chaos and confusion of war -- without necessarily having technical underpinnings. Certainly not for certain aspects anyhow.

How? In practical game terms, what is that 'reflection of the chaos and confusion of war'? How do you design for it and how do you know you've accomplished it? If that reflection is specifically Napoleonic warfare between 1792 and 1815, how do you create that reflection and know that it is an accurate mirror.

You can't begin to tell me without getting 'technical'. You certainly can't actually design that game without getting technical, and you certainly can 'objectively measure' it without getting technical.

The word 'reflection' is nice and all, but when you start asking the where, when, how and what of designing that mirror to produce that reflection, how do you do that without any technical underpinnings? Game design is a technical activity. You can't avoid it if you are actually trying to achieve particular goals with the design.

If an artist were claiming to be providing an accurate (photo-realistic) representation, true. Yet Picasso's Guernica (whether you like it or not) provides a glimpse into war for the observer without having to be historically correct.

In fact, that is a perfect example. That is the question: what are the designers 'claiming' for their designs? Picasso clearly stated his goals for the painting, and chose the cubist style as the vehicle, feeling that a purely representational painting wouldn't do what he wanted to do, particularly in speaking out against all war, not just the Spanish Civil War. [though he was quite capable of creating representational painting.]

That is the whole point: What are wargame designers claiming for their designs?. Designers of games such as Piquet, La Salle, Age of Eagles, Johnny Reb, Flames of War, and many others claim their designs 'simulate'. So what does that mean in practical, application, technical terms? Particularly when some of these same designers categorically states that wargames can't simulate warfare at all.

Now we have a choice. 1. Each designer defines 'simulate' for themselves, meaning whatever they want it to, or 2. It can have a single, technical meaning for game design.

At the moment, it seems 1. prevails in our hobby, along with words like 'recreate, reflect, model, portray etc every one has their opinion and bias and that's it.

For the rest of the game design community, 2. prevails. Guess which designers do more with simulation design, knows when they succeed in simulating, and can actually talk about how to simulate with a game design?

What is obvious to me in Frank's Designer's Notes is that he would like to have an 'Objective Measure' for his designs, even though he thinks such a thing is 'nearly impossible'.
He believes the scale of V&B can provide that standard/measure, but then doesn't use it himself or claim it for his design, but leaves it to the players to determine. And as you have rightly concluded, that means an 'objective measure' in each player's opinion, according to their personal bias.

If game design is 100 percent opinion, then I can claim anything I want to for my design, without every having to, or being able to explain how I have achieved it. The larger game and simulations communities don't believe that—ours do. That is why Craig doesn't see any point in reading a book about game design: It is just someone's opinion and obviously he didn't like the book because the author didn't agree with Craig's opinion. End of story and end to any design discussion.

Let me try to rephrase my question: If I am using historical data as the basis for developing my rules, as you've suggested previously, how do I account for the "as represented in a world measuring 100m (or 1km, or whatever) square" aspect of gaming on a table in somebody's basement?

I am still not sure what roadblocks you see in that situation. The assumptions here are that you 1. are using miniatures, 2. want to simulate some aspect of warfare on a particular sized table in someone's basement.

The series of questions a simulator would ask is what aspects of war do you want to simulate, and then what 'scale' is necessary to do it? If all you have is a basement table, then that will dictate what scale you can use.

Give me the answers to those questions and I can continue.

Isn't there a distinction? The "world" still exists outside the dimensions of my computer screen when playing that flight simulator, for example. You can probably press a key and view various parts of that world from various perspectives. But on the gaming table, the world is limited to the tabletop.

And our wargames can simulate the 'world' outside the sides of the gaming table or game board? It's done all the time, including reinforcements, flanking movements, political events, etc. I would say that the visuals on the computer screen are limited, which is why you have to press a key to see other views, where you don't with a table-top game. Both the flight simulator and the tabletop have dimensional limits. Fly in one direction long enough, and it becomes as obvious as moving in one direction on a tabletop.

Yes, we can add outside influences to our game to reflect "off-table" factors, but my question is how much of the desired simulation accuracy breaks down. Can I realistically find hard historical data that tells me how often shells landed near troops? Or do I just go with historical accounts that "shells were landing all around us" and add a sprinkling of incoming artillery to my game? And having based the rest of my game on hard historical data, yet resorted to a "smidgen" of factors for which no data exists, what has truly been gained?

Ah, the issue of 'not enough hard data.' First of all, ALL simulation designers face that problem, not just wargame designers. I will repeat it: No simulation designer ever has *all* the information necessary. How does a designer simulate a galaxy twenty million light years away? How does a designer simulate a factory assembly process that hasn't been built yet? How does a designer simulate the flight characteristics of a plane he doesn't have all specifications for? Simulation designers have come up with solutions for the problem:

There are five ways to tackle the problem of 'not enough evidence' or statistical data is known:

1. Reframe the simulation to recreate only what IS known and can be tested… If you can't get enough statistics on casualties, duration or ammunition, what can you say or find out about the outcome of combat that you can use?

2. Use the statistics you have, even if shallow. If you only have five samples, for instance, develop a system that models it. There are any number of combat incidences between formed troops in "Napoleon's Apogee," the translation of Bressonet's 1894 study. You may be able to isolate engagements and results, win or lose, and from there determine approximate duration and casualties… Lots of ways of going about it.

3. Reframe the question. What do you want to simulate with casualties, duration and ammo expenditure? Is there another way of simulating it with different variables--morale, cohesion, and outcome?

4. Guess. Simulators do this all the time. They fill in the blanks with their best guess. Now how can this be simulating history? That is what the tests are for! If you guess, and the tests show that too many casualties are being generated, or the engagement doesn't last long enough *compared to the historical record*, you know you have to adjust some of those blank spots. That is what wargame designers are doing when they say they are 'black boxing' the process and generating a result, only they never 'test' to see if it works. They play it, it seems 'reasonable' by some vague set of expectations, and that is it. OR they simply look at the final outcome, the 'result' of the game, and if it isn't wildly off compared to the actual event, it's deemed 'a historical result.' Mush. If you create a simulation, it has to actually be proven to simulate.

5. Do more research and find more information.

And of course, the reason these can work is that they have tests which can validate it all. They can test their guesses and other solutions. And of course, a designer may use all five of the approaches on one design, depending on the actual mechanics…

Some, I think, but not as much as perhaps one might hope for. So now having headed down that path, why not simply go with that "feel" to produce a set of rules that provide that (artist's) perspective on the battle without overly worrying about "accuracy".

Okay. What is 'feel'? How do you design for it? That is the issue. Again, is it some idea in someone opinion that matches their particular bias? As simulations depend on players experiencing a specific 'feel' of the part they are simulating in the design, wouldn't it be easier to use simulation design techniques?

The other problems are 1. how do you know your game 'feel' is accurate—that is matches the history you are targeting, and 2. it would seem that 'accuracy' is still a major issue with designers in our hobby if Frank is still intrigued with the notion of "an objective measure." That is what an objective measure is for: measuring accuracy.

This, Bill, is what I mean by "simulating" a battle without developing a "simulation". The resulting game produces encounters that play out more-or-less according to less-than-technical accounts.

Again,'more-or-less' that what? In design terms? ALL historical accounts are 'less-than-technical' in game design terms because none of them are ever provided for game designs.

For every simulation designer, for most all designs, EVERYTHING has to be translated and EVERYTHING is less than the necessary technical data until the designer translates it. He finds out if he did a good job by testing it. The only case where it isn't necessary is when the information is collected and then the designer specifically creates the simulation to only portray the data at the technical level it was provided.

Am I naive in thinking a game designer is much more apt to think along the lines of "I want to represent this battle using 15mm figures on a 6x4 foot table" than someone out to truly simulate that same battle? For the latter, a bigger table, or smaller scale is the obvious solution. But a game designer doesn't necessarily have that luxury. Players like to push their existing collections of toys around on their tables.

Again, I don't think so. I am sure that there are designers that do have that as their primary goals, and I can think of some rules sets off hand. Nothing wrong with that. As I've said, I sit at the table for that very reason and only that reason many times in a year.

It all depends on what the designer states as his design goals and what he claims his design provides in play.

However, the size of the table isn't the determiner of whether something can be simulated or not. Those little metal figure are just markers. It is the game play that simulates, which means the rules. And the designer is completely free to determine what parameters his simulation will have.

I would still find the process you've outlined above useful for some aspects of game validation, even if I were to cheat in the end (e.g. twiddle with ranges to fit the table in a meaningful way).

See above 5 methods of 'twiddling'.

Can we truly claim any degree of objectivity for any historical account or data? Any more than 100 years old? Can we not also say of history that "all we have is a lot of opinion"? And yet we strive to provide historical accuracy through simulation.

Again. We can only represent the 'feel' history, or simulate history or represent history according to the history we have available. That means that you have some history, written records, hard or soft data, or even contemporary opinion. That's history and that is ALL you can simulate when claiming to simulate history.

For instance, someone can take Clauswitz's "On War" with all his opinions and statements about tactical combat and only simulate that. Is Clauswitz part of history. Does a Napoleonic officer speak to history. And if I took only his book and simulated only his conclusions and descriptions, that is simulating a portion of history, correct? If I test the simulation and find that I have in fact simulated accurately what Clauswitz believed was the way tactical combat worked. I can say that I have accurately simulated history, that particular history.

That claim isn't opinion. There is a direct line between the history, Clauswitz's book, and the simulation's ability to portray that information accurately. That's all ANY simulation does.

I'm asking about instances where within the domain of what is being simulated tweaks must be made for reasons of game play. Using my previous example of 15mm figures on a 6x4 foot table, I may be able to "accurately" model most of what I want to reflect, but need to make an adjustment to one factor to reflect something that would not normally be reflected within the distances represented by our game table.

Fine. Either that adjustment is on something that you can't claim simulates anything, which is always a portion of a simulation—parts of a simulation exist simply to make the simulation parts work, without simulating anything themselves. Or you can try to solve it with the five methods I mentioned. Your choice, you're the designer.

I would think that using the design and validation process you've outlined in this thread would still be immensely useful. And yet I sense that were I to describe the result as a "historical simulation", and later reveal to you the adjustment, you would not be satisfied. And perhaps justifiably!

That is why simulation designers are very clear on what is being simulated. And I have already pointed out that if the players don't know what they are simulating, then nothing is being simulated.

Bill, you seem to set a high standard for judging rules wherein the author uses the term "simulate" and yet you have repeatedly suggested that a simulation need not be all encompassing, nor necessarily account for every outside factor. In many cases, what is being reflected (or "simulated") in a game is based on historical accounts that are nothing more than a non-objective recounting of events. If we're lucky, more than one, and within a lifetime of the event.

Actually, Setting any 'standard' appears to be high with there are no standard in the hobby. Outside the hobby that's not true. If for no other reason, when a designer claims to simulate history, or reflect it, and then sells it on that basis, he damn well be able to tell the player exactly what that means in play terms, rather than fobbing of off as someone's opinion.

I am sensing a disconnect between the suggestion to use simulation methodology that can be applied to a subset of real-world factors based on a base set of data (which need not be perfect nor all-encompassing) and the degree of validation expected for historical rules that are intended to provide the "feel" of battle based on historical accounts. How does a budding Frank Chadwick provide a simulation (if he dare use that term) of a historical battle based on a smattering of accounts that are in no way objective? Having done so, what is lost by having acknowledged that this basis is itself, imperfect?

Answered that question above. All simulation designers have to deal with those issues. It is how they solve them that matter.

And I truly do appreciate those efforts, Bill. Yet I have been thrown whenever use of the word "simulate" seems to trigger some killer instinct, and you use the methodology as a club with which to thrash successful rules authors.

I'm glad. I had no intention of thrashing anyone. I am simply pointing out what is a lack of any common methodology and the problems that engenders.

If I seem to go off with a killer instinct, it is I find it very hard to have wargame designers stating that there are no 'objective measures', when there are being used by simulation game designers every day.

I find it frustrating to have wargame designer present game design issues as unsolvable or worse, innate characteristics of game design when they aren't to anyone outside of our little hobby.

I, for one, have no basis for assuming that they didn't use a similar methodology or validation process in developing their successful commercial games. I can see the value of the tool, and yet the seemingly-implied purity test concerns me!

I can only assume that they don't use similar methodology when they state that such methodologies are 'nearly impossible.' And it isn't some sort of 'purity' test. If I wanted to build and fly a remote controlled airplane, would it be an purity test to suggest they use some principles of aero-dynamics, or a few aircraft engineering methods? Not if they are interested in seeing the damn thing fly. And if it does fly, is that a 'purity' test?

Obviously I feel this is important, because I know what it is like to design games among others with a common language across many fields. I know what it is like to have access to applicable methodologies when things appear 'impossible.'

When a designer like Frank declares what I have been doing for many years is 'nearly impossible' and the only is based on the scale of the game, it isn't a killer instinct that raises it's head, just a deep frustration with Frank's dilemma and game discussion in general. That doesn't make me necessarily a better game designer than Frank, or Frank a bad one. It does limit what he and the hobby can accomplish though.

Best Regards,
Bill

NedZed13 Dec 2009 4:35 p.m. PST

Bobstro,

Thanks for the lead on Modern War in Miniature. I see it is in some university libraries, also.

BTW, there is a very intriguing article about the possible link between Korns's ideas and the beginning of D&D at:
ptgptb.org/0015/retro.html

-Ned

bobstro13 Dec 2009 4:47 p.m. PST

NedZed wrote:

[…] BTW, there is a very intriguing article about the possible link between Korn's ideas and the beginning of D&D
Your timing is impeccable! I literally just started reading through the document, and was struck by the passage where it states that players not knowing the rules can be an advantage and the similarity to RPG.

My most recent rule interests are in games that skirt along somewhere between "hard" skirmish rules and RPG. I guess I could phrase that as "reflecting the vagaries of human nature in a combat simulation". I am somewhat unsatisfied with rules that get the "friction" parts right, but seem thin on technical details.

I am also enjoying the old teletype typeface!

- Bob

NedZed13 Dec 2009 7:02 p.m. PST

Bob,

When I met Korns I was either finishing high school or early in college, (I don't remember now). It was around the time when in the San Jose, CA area there was a store that had just opened called The Byte Shop where computer hobbyists could buy parts and build computers.

There were about 8 or 9 of us who participated in Korns's SUTC games at his place in Mountain View, and I remember him proposing that if we each put in $100 USD USD we could get a computer for about $1,000 USD. Korns said that with such a computer he could create a game about WWI aerial combat. The computer screen would be the view from the cockpit.

Unfortunately, for students such as myself that was more money than we could put out, especially for a 1/10 share of a computer that could have a few games on it, and the project never happened.

Years later, when I saw the ACE OF ACES booklet games that had just come out (which I thought were brilliant), it made me think that this was probably a similar look to what Korns had in mind, except with moving aircraft.

To see what computer games can do now, is, of course, astounding.

– Ned

PS: on Nov 21, Rich Knapton responded to me:
"Perhaps you are new to our hobby."

Let me just say that while I may not be exactly new, I probably haven't gotten any smarter over the years. ;^)

bobstro13 Dec 2009 9:24 p.m. PST

NedZed wrote:

When I met Korns I was either finishing high school or early in college, (I don't remember now). It was around the time when in the San Jose, CA area there was a store that had just opened called The Byte Shop where computer hobbyists could buy parts and build computers.
Let me just say how fortunate you are to have met Mr. Korns, met somebody to show you the ropes at that time in your life, and to have hung out in a computer shop back at the start of it all! I'm truly jealous. At that age, I attempted to figure out Tractics and Angriff, and pretty well gave up on wargaming until picking it up again with my sons some 20-odd years later. I did snag an Apple 2+, and eventually made a career out of computers at least.
I'm getting all misty-eyed!

I am impressed by the technical depth in SUTC, and I expect I'll be more so with "Modern War in Miniature". While the rule mechanisms are cumbersome by modern standards, the approach is refreshing (in a musty old cupboard sort of way). I really appreciate the blast radius, rate of fire, arty. delay and fire mission detail he provides. The Random Numbers table on the last page is a great touch as well.

After reading a few pages, I see that he's addressed a lot of the things that I've been looking for in skirmish-level rules. He also seems to have provided a complete enough set of data that I can use as the data set that can be used in developing mechanisms in the manner that Bill H. describes.

- Bob

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2009 7:57 a.m. PST

Bob:
Real quick. Your question about history and opinions. We all have them about history, and history is filled with opinion.

For instance, some other comrades-in-arms want to simulate the battles of Jena and Auerstadt and aren't sure what quality the Prussian and Saxon infantry should be compared to the French. We all have our opinions. The real question is whatever opinion is used: does it allow the game system to recreate the battle? Can the systems/values that are plugged into the system [whichever opinion is used] pass the simulation test--compared to known history?

Those eight tests I outlined. They are objective, proven tests. [I can explain what that means] When used, they establish 'objectively' whether the system can and does simulate whatever reality [read known facts about reality] was chosen to simulate.

That's it. The history to simulate is chosen [such as Korn's data you mention], a system is developed which the designer, in his opinion and bias, believes will simulate that history, and then it is tested to see whether it does or not.

Even Clauswitz's opinions about combat can be tested to see if they can simulate history when plugged into a simulation game system.

Lots of different systems can all simulate the same things, and all can be established as functional simulations through the "objective measures" Frank wished for.

Best Regards,

Bill H.

Pages: 1 2 3 4