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<  News & gossip  ~  Balance of Power

Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:08 am Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
Chris Crawford has released the full text of his book on his game Balance of Power to the public, which you can find here:

To my knowledge this is the only time a game designer has written a 300+ page book on the process of creating and the thoughts behind one of their games.

The game itself can be found here: (1990 edition) (1985 edition)
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Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:19 am Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I'm going to post excerpts that I think are interesting here, as I read the book.

"A game is dramatically different in its intentions. A game is to a
simulation as a painting is to a blueprint. A painting of a house gives you
an emotional impression of the house; a blueprint of the house tells the
carpenter exactly where to put the windowsill. A game is no mere
approximation of a simulation or a lower-quality version of a simulation.
Instead, a game focuses on presenting broader, less quantifiable concepts.
One would not use a painting as the basis for building a house, nor would
one use a blueprint to convey his feelings about the house in which he
spent his childhood. The difference is a matter of "soft concepts" versus
"hard concepts" - those things that cannot be measured as opposed to those
things that can. A simulation and a game attempt to communicate entirely
different messages. The simulation communicates technical information,
while a game communicates something closer to an artistic message."

"Any game that hopes to achieve commercial
success must accentuate the conflict and remove the inhibitions that frustrate
our bloodlust. This does not mean that all games must be blood-soaked
shoot-'em-ups. They must, however, clarify, and emphasize the conflict
inherent in the situation and provide the emotionally satisfying resolution
that our real-world conflicts so often lack."

"A good portrait painter accentuates those facial
features that reveal character and simplifies away those features that
compromise his representation; in the process, the painter distorts reality to
reveal truth, not deny it."

"If the realism of the game is measured relative to the level of expertise
of the perceiver, then it follows that the learning process of the game must
itself make the game seem less realistic. That is, the beginning player will
accord the game a great deal of respect, but as he plays the game and learns
the principles behind it, his growing understanding of geopolitical processes
will make it easier for him to see the flaws in the design. This is a natural
and predictable phenomenon, and is in fact the best measure of success of the
game. A game that fails to change its player is a failure. A game should lift
the player up to higher levels of understanding; in the process, the player
who once stood at its feet later stands on its shoulders."

"The central problem in conventional warfare has always been getting
rational human beings to risk their lives in battle. The songs may sing of
courage and self-sacrifice, but in the real world of blood and death, normal
human beings, if they had their druthers, would much rather drop their weapons
and run away. How does the commander prevent such undesirable but rational
behavior? The solution has been to create a very strong social group with a
powerful grip on the minds of its members. All of the odd customs and values
of armies arise from this necessity. The uniforms, the marching about, the
flags and the traditions - all these things exist to create a strong sense of
identification with the group. If that bond is strong enough, the soldier will
stay on the battlefield with his group rather than run away as an individual."

"The most
violent and brutal form of political change - insurgency - has obtained a
success rate in the last forty years of only 20%; the next most brutal form,
the irregular executive transfer, achieved a 44% success rate, while the
most civilized form of political change, the regular executive transfer,
enjoyed a success rate of 80%. Those who fear the world is descending into
barbarism take note."

"The other strange term in the equation is 'Integrity', which may surprise
the reader. After all, one would not expect to see a variable in a computer
program called 'Integrity,' There is certainly something unsettling about the
thought of computing integrity. This is one of our finest and most cherished
virtues, a hallmark of our moral sensibilities. There is something both
presumptuous and outrageous about attempting to reduce so noble a concept as
integrity to a few ciphers in a computer program. It borders on sacrilege.

My reply to these reservations is to claim that the attempt to quantify a
concept in no way demeans it. If something exists - that is, if it is real -
then its very existence implies a set of numbers that characterize its
properties. That set may be very large, or very difficult to determine, but
they do exist, and making a stab at getting a few of them is not sacrilege. We
all know (or should know) that a person's IQ does not define his or her mental
ability; it is only a score on a test and the only thing it tells us with
certainty about that person is the ability to answer silly questions about odd
geometric shapes. We generalize that number to make statements about the
person's native intelligence, but we realize that we are on very thin ice when
we do so. And skating on thin ice is not tantamount to sacrilege."
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