Tuesday, March 15, 2005

GDC 2005: Raph Koster's Game Notations

A Grammer of Gameplay
Game Atoms: Can Games be diagrammed?
Raph Koster

Raph’s talk center around the goal of creating a way to diagram or notate gameplay the way that music or choreography can be notated. While he failed to convince me this was possible and his end result was not satisfying, his process did answer a lot of open questions. He even admitted that he had not succeeded, but was happy with some of the definitions he managed to create as a result.

He started by defining the problem through comparison. It took dance centuries to find a way to write out choreography, poetry has intensely formal rules, and musical notation can actually reproduce the experience of listening to music, even if it can’t reproduce the playing of skilled musicians.

He got very detailed as he tried to define what a basic element of the notation, a game atom, would be. A few more scattered points he made along the way:
  • In-game physical space and Game design territory are different things
    He uses the example of checkers. It looks like an 8x8 grid of squares, but really it is played on a diagonal set of nodes
  • All games have sequences of nested and looping events. The more nesting elements the have, the deeper a game is.
  • Most games have parallel paths of nested events. The more paths they have, the broader a game is.
  • The most basic element must involve skill, which he defines as having risk. Any element with no risk is not a gameplay atom. He marked these in his notations with red squares. If a chart has more than one of these in a row, he equated it to boring gameplay.

    There was a lot more there, but it was a pretty dense talk, I’ll look for his slides and see if they are online.


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