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  1. I have been reading a lot of Josh Sawyer’s thoughts on high-level game design and while I agree with a lot of the things he says, I wanted to express my thoughts as a gamer about an observation that he’s made about gamers and would like feedback from other gamers regarding their own experiences. This was sparked by Josh’s comments about conversation [tags] and a post which I found on another forum (see the spoiler). So, quite obviously, I’m not a game developer, but I can draw from my own experiences playing these games and maybe help Josh and other developers see our perspective on these games. This is big wall of text, so I've put my examples (usually D&D) and anecdotes in spoiler tags and kept the important bits. In my experience, I think that most players are not “great at games,” not because they aren’t observant or paying attention, but that the games they play makes assumptions about them that are incorrect. There are let’s say, three kinds of players. I’ve been in each category: Those that learned the D&D rules through PnP sessions and by playing with different DMs. These players see interesting tactics from fellow players/DMs and model them with constant feedback. These players got the most enjoyment from the PC game because they have a deeper understanding of game mechanics and tactics taught to them through the PnP game. The computer player who learns by playing in a non-DMed PC single-player game and either reads strategy books or utilizes other people’s knowledge of D&D concepts as a source of feedback. The computer player who learns by playing in the PC game without any feedback except from the game. They often are the ones to utilize “game crutches” or general gaming knowledge to get them past difficult scenarios. I define game crutches as those methods that are not intended by the developers to be used as legitimate tactics when playing the game (save scumming, rest spamming, re-spec). Unless they have first experienced the game in a teaching setting (done in a P&P setting with the DM, for example) – that teaches them the concepts like buffing, the utility of certain spells, etc – many continue to rely on game crutches until they no longer work. Games, especially tactically-oriented ones, need to teach their players the initial mechanical concepts and ideas behind the game both in the manual and/or to re-emphasize those concepts while they play the game without making assumptions about their knowledge. Now, there is no reason to beat your players over the head with these “tutorials.” In fact they shouldn’t even seem like tutorials. This idea of a “conceptual tutorial” should be done early and as new concepts are introduced, throughout the game. An example, let players know (somehow) early in the game that conversation tags don’t exist and that they will not always know immediately all dialogue options. Let them know some of them are hidden. “Meta-game” this information in-game. This doesn’t mean make your tutorials easy or obvious. Convey the concepts intuitively. Nor do you have to expound on every iterative concept and its corollary. Finally challenge players with these concepts. Once initial concepts have been set in place, build upon those concepts. So, this is my own experiences and thoughts on the matter. As an individual these are obviously anecdotal and count only for an n=1, but I believe many players fall into the same hurdles, and developers rarely realize this. This isn't because they aren't gamers: it's because they are gamers with lots of experience in their field that it occurs. Once you start making assumptions, you find it difficult to realize why people aren't getting it. In fact, I've noticed myself doing the same thing with other forum members when talking about tactics. I just don't get how they don't "see" the tactics involved.
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