Dec 9, 2013

Metatopia 2013 - Recap - Part 3

See Part 2

The Best Ideas to Steal from Other Games

Following those two playtests, I broke things up by attending this panel. The topic kind of veered around and was mostly on how to steal appropriately instead of speaking about specific ideas. However, it was interesting to see how the RPG culture treated this. The attitudes were very open and pro-stealing, best characterized by "Of course you should." Remixing directly from several sources is very natural in this community.

FCOJ - Test 1

That afternoon was the first test of FCOJ, my real-time finance game. This game is born out my experiences with the financial industry and the idea that one actor can take on so much risk that it can destabilize the entire system. Players are divided in half between industrialists and financiers. Industrialists play somewhat similarly to the role of players in my other economic game, Captains of Industry. They build facilities to produce goods to sell on the open market. Financiers, on the other hand, are the ones with cheap access to capital. They make their money by loaning to the industrialists at interest, by investing in startups and mortgages, or by engaging in futures contracts to bet on market prices. There are two winners at the end of the game: the industrialist with the most money and the financier with the most money. Therefore, players only compete with other players of the same type. If you're an industrialist, the financiers are neither your friend nor your enemy; they are just people with whom to negotiate.

In investing in startups, the financiers can choose from a range of risk-reward options. The riskier the startup, the more interest the financier collects. Therefore, the game, like real-life, encourages the financiers to one-up each other in risk-seeking. Also like real-life, if the financiers take on too much risk, it can cause a cascade effect of bankruptcies which destroy the game's economy.

In this playtest, that is exactly what happened. The risk levels I made available after my analysis were too high. The financiers went right for the riskiest choices and the dice hit the long tail right from the start. By the end of the second of three rounds the entire economy was in shambles and at the end of the game everyone had gone bankrupt.

Now, I definitely intended for this outcome to be possible. However, it seemed like it happened too easily and too quickly. My goal was for, in the worst case, the economy to look dangerously close to collapse at the end of round two and only fully collapse at the end of the game in round three.

I had another test if the game scheduled for that evening, so I had to make changes quickly. I increased the number of hits on the dice required for each startup/mortgage to go bust by one and gave the financiers a way to throw away money to stimulate the economy away from collapse (a la J.P. Morgan in 1907). I don't buy into the Sid Meier "double it" theory of changing your game. I prefer to make small, controlled changes so I can be more certain of the effects of those changes after the next test.

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