Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dull Stuff: Game Design Research

How stats are rolled - 20% deviation is something I see pretty often in performance testing and mass in both human and animals.

Rolling 3d6 as stats doesn't respect the natural deviation of +20% deviation for untrained human averages. You have a results that have ~+80% deviation.

Why can't someone roll up top most 30-80% deviation for human abilities? One reason is that part of these abilities come about through work and experience. Another is that Rolling with the odds 1:216 of the lowest of the low or the highest of the high has strange utility/payoff/motivations alterations to players. If you want to play odds, then if you read up on mutations (different from parents) and evolution: the odds of getting a positive mutation with a marginal advantage is actually millions of times more unlikely than a negative mutation. This is because mutations are at the bottom line copy errors. In fact, because of technology we are able to stave off unforgiving natural selection for most of these errors but as life continues to thrive through technology a lot of these negative mutations will remain in the succeeding generations. (In a way Robert E Howard's view of civilization is kind of correct)

Unfortunately increments of 20% just creates 3 groupings: Low, Median, and High. So I use the 10% deviation so that I have 5+1 groupings. The +1 is for exceptional cases I intentionally made available if one are lucky enough to roll a natural 18. Its an adventure game, allowing for exceptional abilities is part of the fun.

IQ has about a +40% deviation. Since Attributes are generated assuming an unrefined ability and there is stat progression through experience, the character rolls up the first +20% deviation and then can make up the additional 20% when they advance. Since character advancement is does not follow age but over all capability and productivity (i got this from economics, as wage follows productivity), a character can quickly grow smarter, wiser, or more influential as they progress.

Animals and Creature Creation. I plan to use a modifier in strength progression for upright biped, semi-upright, and quadruped. Here is a good article about how much they can carry which has a source reference. Well written and very useful information if your a system designer. Hereis a more detailed one, if you have more time to read.

Googling I found elephants can carry up to 25% their mass. The decline of an elephant from the horse (which is max 30%) is a trend worth noting for quadrupeds. I'm sure the trend gets worse and worse, but all I have to plot the progression of weight to work are Horses, Oxes and Elephants.

Thanks to Excel I found a exponential progression of mass to work ratio that follows a curve of diminishing returns as a creature gets larger.

More Learning through Game Design - Game design is a great way to practice some math, statistics, and algebra. Making a race of semi-upright elephants or baboon crossed jackals (gnolls) which have tool using abilities would be a fun exercise. Getting the attributes I would want them to have in strength, speed, and intelligence and draw up reasons for them to have evolved in such a way. Then having to defend and explain things rationally.

Effort and Work. What is so exciting about that? Well its the internet age I can easily look at human and animal performance levels. One of the things I can observe and actually measure more and more. This is thanks to the economics lessons I've been taking and how its giving me more of a handle on metrics.

Anyway, looking at soldiering, health and fitness, mariner safety guidelines and animal performance there is a VERY strong pattern that is quite tangible. There is something tying together energy recovery efficiency, and productivity in hours. Again I notice the rule of thirds in play in the 10 hour rule vs the 16 hour waking period. In basic soldier performance and fitness, there is the reduced sleep hours of 6 to 4. There is also the expected amount of drills and labor that go into a day for soldiers and animals so that that an excess of energy regeneration doesn't lead them to be a danger for themselves.

Looking and accounting for all of that, I have found a simple progression for constitution. Noting the underlying function of energy recovery efficiency should be correlated to the maximum effort one can summon up in the measurable instance.

Another thing that supports my interpretation of constitution is effort progression. As I've compared sustainable but significant effort and concentration vs maximums performances, there is a 1 to 10 relationship. A great example would be running vs walking. A reasonably fit person can sustain a pace of 4-5kph as much a day. Compare that to how fast average humans can run. If you follow the KE rule of speed exponentially increasing effort, Running at x7 your walking speed is actually performing at an effort of 10x more than walking.

This is consistent with animals as well. A horse carrying a fully armored warrior is only good for 2 hours. Thats 50% more of the effort before the horse starts visibly suffering stress and discomfort. So a Horse (which sleeps at 4 hours) puts in 20+ hours of work in just those 2 hours. Factoring in relative increase of speed, if the horse was galloping at x2 his speed that would be 60 work hours.

This is based on the KE formula and it all follows pretty closely performance consistencies per target group. I'm just happy to have it all come together to make a consistent and (relatively) simple endurance/stamina system.

As Strength is the Size and Power of the engine, Constitution is its energy generator or converter. Of course this is not perfectly aligned with the real world, BUT its a simpler formula that will do the job at the accuracy needed for the game.

What is exhaustion? What is it to productivity experts? I've noticed that Fatigue and Exhaustion affects people in their ability to intensify their work effort and ability to concentrate. Most striking for Managers is how it affects attention and concentration. Defining the condition of tiredness, fatigue and exhaustion is important in a game narrative because most of the time, it is the relative condition that makes certain mundane feats Amazing!

I've noticed that as I work while tired, I tend to make more mistakes. To make up for that I take more time. So if I had intense work, that burned up my productive hours for the day I then hit a point where I am tired and I slow down to a pace so that I don't make too many mistakes.

Considering the Roman marching pace of 5hours at 60lbs (27kg). According to KE calculation that is x3 effort march or 15 hours. An hour shy from using up the 16 productive hours of a healthy person in a day. At this point, soldiers take a break and pace themselves while the engineers start up with the labor of getting the fortified camp set up.

According to my calculations, I'm at 9 Con. Causing me to sleep 10 hours after an exhausting day. Thats a 1.5 work recovery ratio. I tend to give in to my compulsions at around hour 9-14, even more at hours 15-16, -2 penalty, (I compulsively write: There are a lot of pedantic posts I successfully save vs will that doesnt get on this blog).

Exercising and getting my con to 10 is a start. I don't know if I'll ever get it back at 11, where I was able to sleep 6 hours for a whole day of energy.

this article on sleep makes further sense of my odd sleeping habits for me.
Strange that It both educated me, gave me something useful to track my work hours with, and I can use it for the game. I plan to study up statistics at least have a better than layman understanding of it for business and negotiations, and game (and gaming) purposes. In gaming the gamblers fallacy is quite useful when playing the odds.


Dagda (Brooks Harrel) said...

Woah, hold the phone. Seems like there's alot of potential concerns here.

First, what kind of performance testing are we talking here? Unless they're tests of fundamental things like spatial thinking and reaction time, there's going to be factors affecting the results beyond the ones covered by ability scores (the equivalent of level, base bonuses and/or skill ranks)

Second, even if that's a 20% absolute deviation (I *think* that's the right term- I foolishly chose to study advanced calculus rather than statistics) for the results on tasks that'd be resolved purely via a given ability score, it's not the score itself which needs to have that deviation- it's f(score), the range of results produced by the score's input.

Third, the vast majority of roleplaying games are built to represent stories where the people and/or circumstances they're in are extraordinary. Granted, a system can actually emphasize this more effectively by not making it a fundamental assumption- take the DD example of normal people rolling 3d6 and PCs taking the top 3 of 4d6.

My bet is that you're well aware of some or all of the above, but I just wanted to make sure.

justin aquino said...

Whoa, someone read it!?

Sorry for sounding too serious or like I really know what I'm doing :P I should disclaim that I have no credentials except for personal unguided education on the matter.

With regards to deviations, Wouldn't using performance to measure actual abilities be the best method? Using performacne as an evidential method of determining what the character can actually do, vs abstracting weight and mass to determine what he can potentially do. The potentially do part is very untestable.

Animals and Humans with differences in architecture that tend to have inconsistent performance ranges when despite commonalities in compositions.

I do get that composition, and not just performance should ultimately determine what limits and capabilities unfortunately that physics level of scientific predictability even escapes biology. In the philosophy of science, I was surprised to learn by the epistemological standards of science biology is relatively less predictable than physics, making it relatively "softer". (Although I hate contemplating philo of science with all its exceptions and arguments its so much drugery as compared to pragmatic philosophy: which is more concerned with what works)

As for RPGs systems design intent. I agree there is no quantitative criticism against systems as they are: bottom line is that they worked and continue to work as well as people want it to work. I think it will continue to do so in the future.

Although, with so much information and science available why not demand or expect more out of a game system? Why can't a game system be more "sciency" and gritty? Why not use the wealth of "rules of thumb" (in their proper context) to make a game system contain them all so that the game serves more purposes in the economy of words.

A game system can be explained in probably 40,000 or less words. What is the comparison of 2 game systems when 1 system more believably reflects reality and give optimal language tools in telling a great shared story?

Ideas are continually being refined and compressed into formulas that allow us to carry around powerful critical thinking tools. Why not exercise that innovation in a game system, serving the most cost efficient expenditure of energy and time: test your understanding of something by communicating it as a game system, compress it to an easy to use formula, motivate others to innovate, challenged and re-examine old preconceived notions, and be able to have fun and play with it.

Calculus is awesome, its used a lot in economics and everything because of curved progressions/diminishing returns and fluctuations. I don't really have a knack for math and I'm using the game design exercise to relearn everything by finding uses for it that I'm very motivated to exercise.