How simple would be too simple?

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How simple would be too simple?

Postby Crucis on Wed 15 Jul 2009 20:55

Hi guys,

I have a serious philosophical question to pose to everyone. Please do not take anything I say on this topic as indicating a direction that I am currently planning on going in Cosmic Starfire. However, I am very curious as to the opinions of everyone on this question and ask for your input.

I should also note that perhaps I'm posing this question to a potentially jaded audience since I'm thinking that anyone here is likely a fairly hardcore Starfire player. But I'll ask the question anyways...

Enough with the setup ... and on to the question...


How simple would be too simple?

Let me explain what I mean here.

Currently, the level of complexity in Starfire, whether it's 3e, GSF, or Ultra is such that people claim that computer support is necessary to play. But rather than debate the validity of that claim, let's assume it to be true for argument's sake. And rather than debate getting computer support (which has been argued ad naseum on the SF List at times), I suggest that there is another alternative. If the game is too complex to be played without computer support, rather than produce that computer support which is an extremely complex and expensive process, why not simplify the game to a level so that it can be played without computer support?

And to that philosophical end, I ask how simple would be "too simple" in seeking to achieve a goal of a heavily simplified, non-computer requiring version of Strategic Starfire?


I've had some vague ideas on ways to do this ... but rather than present them at this point, I think that I'll let the philosophical question stand on its own and let everyone weigh in.

How simple would be "too simple" in seeking to reach the goal of a heavily simplified, non-computer requiring version of Strategic Starfire?
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby PracticalM on Wed 15 Jul 2009 21:43

I think you'd have to get close to "Race for the Galaxy" level of complexity. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/28143

It's one of the more complicated "designer" board games that have come out in the last few years. While it doesn't come close to some of the classic war game level of complexity (let alone Star Fleet Battles, or Advanced Squad Leader), it's pretty complex.

I just noticed some new Star Fleet Battle's board games with a focus on war on a Federation frontier. I wonder if that would be a kind of complexity that would work.

I've previously used one of the old Mailing List ideas to make a map on hex paper and allow players to build their own ships using the tactical rules but simplifying the economic rules. (Similar to Starfire III planet income rules). There was no colonization and I don't remember how I handled tech advancement. (I think it was some pre-GSF tech tree rules that I tried to create a long time ago.)

That didn't need a computer but it was really simple (but more complex than Race for the Galaxy.

There's probably some way to do it with cards that could be cool.
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby Crucis on Wed 15 Jul 2009 22:10

What I had in mind wasn't really at all along the lines of some super fancy board game, as much as heavily simplified strategic processes that would reduce the overall level of complexity in the paperwork.

It'd probably reduce the complexity level below the 3e level. Probably not exactly to 1e "Empires" levels, but maybe in some ways. My ideas are exceptionally vague at this point and certainly not fully thought out in any way, shape, or form. I'm really just trying to get a pulse for whether people might think that a severe simplification of the strategic processes might be at all desireable. Note that when I say "severe simplification" I mean far beyond anything that I have currently envisioned for Cosmic at this point. My current plan has been for much more mild levels of simplification... what you might think of as sandpapering the rough edges... (at least that's how I think of them).

This "severe" simplification would probably involve a serious reduction in economic complexity, for starters. And since it's "economics" that would in turn affect a TON of other things.

There might be other areas of severe complexity reduction that could be undertaken that were completely unrelated to economics, such as system generation. Of course, "severe simplification" of the sys gen process would probably require something like creating a bunch of pre-generated star systems that could be used over and over again. Of course, that may also get boring for some who might like the idea of a seemingly unlimited number of variations that come from the current style of system generation in ISF and 4e where pretty much every little detail is determined via die roll.


I guess that the "problem" would be, as this thread's subject asks, "How simple would be too simple?" How far could a "severe complexity reduction" go before the strategic system lost its appeal? Could hardcore fans of strategic Starfire enjoy a severely simplified, non-computer requiring version? I don't know. But I have to admit that I seem to have a much higher paperwork tolerance than many people.



BTW, everyone, please note that I am not "proposing" this. I am just trying to get an idea of what people think about this question.
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby krenshala on Wed 15 Jul 2009 23:01

First off, I have to point out that I'm a glutton for punishment when it comes to games like Starfire. I have been known to do everything in a text file (not a spreadsheet), while adding my own personal level complexity to things (e.g., I'll be tracking actual distances al a ISF in the ULTRA solo game I'm working on). With that in mind ...

While some folks won't like a simplified version of the strategic side, I definitely think it could be a good thing. I can envision going all the way back to a "system X is worth N points, and connects to systems W, Y and Z", in order to draw in the folks that don't like the complexity of Monopoly, or Clue. ;)

Then you've got ideas like PracticalM had (the graph paper "map", etc) for the folks that think Monopoly isn't complex enough, but ULTRA is more than they want to track without computer help.

Then you've got the current rules, and the crazies like me that make them even more complex. :lol:

If you can manage a way to make simplified strategic rules at different levels we might have found a way to pull more people back to Starfire, which can only be a good thing.
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby Crucis on Wed 15 Jul 2009 23:42

krenshala wrote:First off, I have to point out that I'm a glutton for punishment when it comes to games like Starfire. I have been known to do everything in a text file (not a spreadsheet), while adding my own personal level complexity to things (e.g., I'll be tracking actual distances al a ISF in the ULTRA solo game I'm working on). With that in mind ...


Crap. I've run 150+ turn campaigns that were strictly pen and paper, with the sole computer tool being a self-written sysgen program. I know allllll about being a glutton for punishment! :mrgreen:


While some folks won't like a simplified version of the strategic side, I definitely think it could be a good thing. I can envision going all the way back to a "system X is worth N points, and connects to systems W, Y and Z", in order to draw in the folks that don't like the complexity of Monopoly, or Clue. ;)

Then you've got ideas like PracticalM had (the graph paper "map", etc) for the folks that think Monopoly isn't complex enough, but ULTRA is more than they want to track without computer help.

Then you've got the current rules, and the crazies like me that make them even more complex. :lol:

If you can manage a way to make simplified strategic rules at different levels we might have found a way to pull more people back to Starfire, which can only be a good thing.



Simplifying system generation would be one of the easier things. Of course, simplification of sysgen would also limit the variety in systems, depending on the exact nature of the simplification methodology. My first thought would for sysgen might be to simply produce a set number of pregenerated systems and you'd simply use those, rather than having to roll them up. Of course, the more pregen'd systems you had the more variety you'd have, though it would still be somewhat limited...

For economics (the biggie), it'd probably require the removal of the entire PU/PTU population/economic/colonization methodology as that is largely at the root of economic complexity. You might even go so far as to remove megacredits themselves, and go with some sort of more abstract "resource point" or "monetary unit". The key of using a more abstract concept I think would be to make the economic system more abstract. (Let's use "RP" for this discussion rather than "MU" since "MU" might get confused with "MC".)

For example, rather than worrying about a MC cost of a ship, the abstract system might be such that any warship would cost 1 RP per HS. And the cost of any tech systems in that ship might be subsumed into the RP cost of building 1 HS.

And as a further abstraction, unlike in the Megacredit system which is less abstract, perhaps the abstract economic system would subsume size increases in the economy when EL's increase ... But at the same time, the costs of everything else would also remain static across EL's as well. That is, an EL1 warship would cost the same 1 RP per HS as an EL10 warship. I'm sure that it's not realistic, but we're talking about severe simplifications here and such simplifications almost certainly require either giving up some realism, or at least assuming that it has been subsumed into the abstraction of the system.

And and if EL/TL/whatever-L advances do not increase apparent economic output (i.e. more Mc), what they do improve is the TL of the tech systems that you have available to use.





===


I understand the desire for complexities and realism.... how ever those things come at a cost in ... well ... complexity. And it appears that there reaches a point where the level of complexity requires computer support for most people to be willing to play. I think the question then becomes would people be willing to play some form of Strategic Starfire that was simplified to a level that could be comfortably played without computer support, in the full knowledge that making it that way required a severe simplification in many of the areas that might be really interesting, but very time consuming, complex, and paperwork intensive (aka known as "requiring computer support")?

My plans for Cosmic did not and do not have this in mind. Oh, I want to make it "simpler"... but smooth off the rough edges "simpler", not "let's do a gastric bypass" level of severity. But I suppose if there was some sort of groundswell of support for that level of simplification I'd listen.

I don't think that it'd be all that hard to do a severe simplification. I do think, however, that the trick would be finding the right balance, the right level of complexity. I also think that who would enjoy such a simplified version might depend on how they view the game in the first place.

I mean, if one views strategic starfire as some sort of galactic economic simulation and you like all the minutae of moving PTU's here and there and calculating ROI's and all that stuff, then maybe all that complexity is for you. OTOH, if you prefer seeing Starfire as more of a wargame and see the strategic side as the glue that toes all the battles and conquests together, and the economic system as the fuel for building up your fleets, then maybe a simpler strategic system would be your cup of tea. I have to admit that between those two extremes, if they are extremes, I probably lean more towards the latter.
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby Dawn Falcon on Thu 16 Jul 2009 16:16

How likely is it that people will be playing without electronic support, though, in this day and age?

Given Starfire's demographic, honestly I'd be looking at, say, an iPhone app which handled a lot of the rolling for you based on input situations rather than trying to overly simplify the strategic game. More, there is still very very much a market for a sysgen program which can display Starfire strategic maps from various viewpoints, none of the programs I've used for this have been really satisfactory.
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby Crucis on Thu 16 Jul 2009 16:31

Dawn Falcon wrote:How likely is it that people will be playing without electronic support, though, in this day and age?

Given Starfire's demographic, honestly I'd be looking at, say, an iPhone app which handled a lot of the rolling for you based on input situations rather than trying to overly simplify the strategic game. More, there is still very very much a market for a sysgen program which can display Starfire strategic maps from various viewpoints, none of the programs I've used for this have been really satisfactory.


Thud... (that's the sound of me fainting dead away at the suggestion of iphone apps....)


I guess that if I wanted to play a computer game I'd actually play a computer game.

Call me old school, call me old fashioned, call me a neanderthal, but for me, Starfire is very much not a computer game, and I'd honestly prefer staying as far away from computer tools as possible with the possible exception of a sysgen program, and even that process can be simplified to the point of not needing computer support. I'm old school, pen and paper all the way, baby!!!
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby PracticalM on Thu 16 Jul 2009 17:17

Heck before strong Excel support, my groups used to meet in person to do strategic turns and fight all the battles.

I'd rather have a Starfire game that I could show off at a convention that doesn't require a computer.
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby Dawn Falcon on Thu 16 Jul 2009 17:24

Well, what are you going to be showing though, honestly? The demonstration is likely to be of the tactical game, which remains entirely playable (even if a dice roller program helps) with pen and paper, regardless. Note I'm not suggesting increasing the complexity, just that I don't see "pen and paper" as good reason to simplity.

This is of course not new. I'm essential using the MIT approach here. (With the note that "correctness" in this case refers to not using special case rules, essentially)
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Re: How simple would be too simple?

Postby Crucis on Thu 16 Jul 2009 17:55

Dawn Falcon wrote:Well, what are you going to be showing though, honestly? The demonstration is likely to be of the tactical game, which remains entirely playable (even if a dice roller program helps) with pen and paper, regardless. Note I'm not suggesting increasing the complexity, just that I don't see "pen and paper" as good reason to simplity.

This is of course not new. I'm essential using the MIT approach here. (With the note that "correctness" in this case refers to not using special case rules, essentially)


Andrew, I guess that I see "pen and paper" as the pre-eminent reason TO simplify.

I simply have no burning desire to see Starfire as a computer game. And from what I can see, the more complex the game becomes, the greater the perceived need for computer to do what people are unwilling to do...

I wonder if the real solution is to return to a level of simplicity that simply (pardon the pun) does not require a computer.
Last edited by Crucis on Thu 16 Jul 2009 18:31, edited 1 time in total.
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