Some time ago we started a new serie of game tips on our blog in which we want to help with game designer issues. How can our publisher’s perspective get your game to the next level? The idea of doing articles about a publisher’s experiences in dealing with different types of designer personalities came to us through twitter.
Last time we wrote about the noble (and sometimes somewhat overprotective) Guardian. In this installment we’re going to write about another stereotype game designer we meet a lot during our Open Door Wednesdays: the Railroader.
Railroading is a term often used in roleplaying games to describe a certain GMing style. No matter what the players do, the gamemaster will make sure that they experience the game according to his plan. Players are riding down a road they can’t get away from, and they can’t make meaningful choices that influence the course of the game.
The Railroader is a game designer who wants his players to have a planned experience when they play his game. He is very thorough in the explanation of the gamerules (to the point at which he will tell you when to do what…each round), and constantly comes up with added rules and warnings during the game. The players are kept from exploring the game themselves, so after all the pizza slices and cans of Mountain Dew have been devoured, no one can actually tell if they really liked the game.
GAME DESIGN TIP: while the care for a player’s experience is something to respect, the Railroader has to try to let the players loose and explore the game for themselves. At the moment you have a game up for publisher consideration, you should also consider that it will be a target for all matters of feedback. Some of it will actually be quite handy to tweak your game to get to that last level of professionalism. A good game designer is always open for tips about the game itself and other factors he might not have noticed before, while keeping the core of the game alive.
Does this mean that a railroader needs to get his hands off his game and fire it away at anyone who is willing to play it? No. Like we said before: the care for a player’s experience is something to respect. Giving them a good time is of course what a game should be about. If you still want to railroad and at the same time let the players experience it for themselves, you could use a carrot-and-a-stick approach. By this we mean showing the players a desired outcome in a situation (the carrot), but only give them the reins to figure it out for themselves. With your carrot-on-a-stick you can lure players back on the railroad without giving them the feeling that their choices aren’t meaningful!
So much for the railroad. Next stop: The Omega Supreme!