So this year’s Game Chef is up, the competition started ages ago Gaming Outpost where you throw together some ingredients and, much like Iron Chef, make an RPG (only in two weeks, not an hour). Now before I decide what I’m going to do about that, I’m going to hang shit on it so if my game doesn’t work, I have the perfect excuse for not entering, and I look too cool for school.
Not really. But I was having an interesting conversation with a friend about both Game Chef and the 24-hr RPGs and he made the excellent point that it’s not the best idea to transfer the concept of the 24-hr comic over to RPGs, because, as he so perfectly put it, “comics are stories, but rpgs are engines”. Stories benefit from tight time frames. Panic and desperation fuel flights of fancy that a calmer brain would never have thought of and the need to produce output sharpens the writer’s skills in doing what is really the mark of a good and successful writer: producing output.
RPGs though – even story ones – are a kind of engine. They need to be wound up and left to produce awesome in the hands of an unskilled user. Time limits don’t really help with that; instead they teach you how to jury-rig something that looks okay and handles for the moment. So time-based RPG design is more like Scrapheap Challenge or Junkyard Wars – it’s fun to watch but the end result is kind of a trainwreck. And it’ll get you around the park, but it’s never going to handle very well as an actual piece of machinery, or win any awards for design, because it cannot be anything but incomplete and imperfect.
But as long as we KNOW that, we can think about what you CAN get out of Scrapheap Challenge which is an insight into what engineering looks like when massively speeded up. In other words, of course the end products are weak, but that’s not the point. The point is to observe the process and learn about processes as a result.
And also, occasionally, to watch machines explode.
With that in mind, I’m going to post every day about tackling Game Chef. The ideas I have, where they lead me, and why it all falls apart. And hopefully we’ll get some midly entertaining blogging out of it.