Thursday, January 2, 2020

From Chaos to Order

Why would a player cheat at solitaire?

In trying to answer this interesting question, I’ve realized a way to enhance my next game design.
So how to explain this odd if common practice of cheating at a game where no one but you cares if you win or lose?  I think I have the answer.

Achieving Order in Solitaire

In the well-known Klondike Solitaire, the cards are first randomized by shuffling and then dealt into a layout with seven columns (the tableau). I’ll call this beginning state of the game Chaos. To win the game, all the cards must be moved to the four home cells, sorted by suit, and in ascending sequence. That winning state is the ultimate Order.

There’s no denying the satisfaction of attaining that order, that definitive organization on finishing the game, even if one didn’t win legitimately.

Achieving order can add satisfaction to games with an opponent as well.

Gin Rummy and Other Games

My wife and I spend many fun evenings playing Gin Rummy. We just call it Gin (and often drink gin while playing.)  The satisfaction of turning a chaotic ten-card hand into the fully melded order of a gin hand goes beyond accruing points.  Points can be gained by knocking, that is going down with a less-than-perfectly melded hand. And knocking is often a wise play, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as ginning.

Gin is a two-player game, but Chinese checkers can be played by up to six players who move their marbles from beautiful symmetry and order, through chaos, to order again to win.

Of course, many, maybe most, games do not involve mechanics for creating order at all.  I’m thinking of Monopoly, checkers, Chutes and Ladders, etc. Chess begins with order which is lost as the moves commence.

Players Who Enjoy Order 

I suspect that “order building” appeals more to certain players, those who enjoy puzzles for example. Jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, and Rubik’s cube are about nothing beyond the satisfaction of producing order.  Collectors of stamps, coins, and fancy china as well as children who love to sort out their Lego bricks probably enjoy games that include this mechanic.

The Order Mechanic in Game Design

I’m currently brainstorming a new board game and have decided to build a “creation of order” mechanic into the game play.

Please share your thoughts.  What games include creating order?  Would you use this idea in your game designs?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Own Your Skills

In September 2017 I gave a talk at the Pacific NorthWest PHP conference (PNWPHP). "Using PHP and JavaScript to Design a Better Board GameThe board game I discussed was Strengths and Troubles.

Meet Pup, the PHP-Women elephant I was given at the conference.

This fall that talk morphed into an article for php[architect] Magazine. "Rapid Prototyping a Board Game with PHP" was published in the October 2018 issue.

Recently, I was interviewed by the magazine for a php[architect] podcast episode. You can listen to the podcast here PHP Architect Podcast Episode 14. If you're not a PHP geek you may want to click here to hear my interview only. They really let me go on and on. My interview runs about 28 minutes.

Own Your Skills

One reason programming is so deeply satisfying is that it's creative. 

The fact that programmers are creative is lost on most non-coders. There was a widely held idea that our main job was to add a line to a form for a bank or other client. Graphic artists are supposed to be the creative ones. The app explosion demonstrates programmer creativity although many believe that's just about making millions.

My main point in my presentation, the article and the podcast is that having skills like PHP, MySql, JavaScript and HTML5 or any other languages allow you to be creative on your own personal projects. 

Suppose a skill you possess is knitting. Do you wait around for a paid knitting gig? No. You think about the striped socks your girlfriend's been wanting and get to work.

To quote Simon Sarris' final comment in the code for his HTML5 Canvas Tutorial,

“// Now go make something amazing!”