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Author Topic: Review Episode of CthulhuTech  (Read 4578 times)
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Meg
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« on: March 31, 2008, 08:38:14 AM »

We veer from our normally scheduled episodes to bring you a review of CthulhuTech.  If you know the game, do you agree with Josh's sentiments?  How would you rate the game?

Also, should we continue with game reviews?  We have only 1 more planned (4e), but want to know if this is a decent bonus segment and should we continue to add them?
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Weathertop
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2008, 12:50:18 PM »

I enjoyed your review of CthulhuTech and encourage you to review other games that you think are noteworthy, either in a positive or a negative sense.  Don’t feel compelled to review on some regular schedule, though. If you find yourself mentioning a game frequently, I think that justifies a review so that the listeners understand what you mean when you reference it. 

For example, Burning Wheel and Firefly are both games that have come up in discussion, and I know your opinion of them, but I really don’t know why you came to that opinion.  I’m looking for something more objective, more concrete.

This is something I noticed in your latest review, as well, so I’ll throw it down as a general observation.  I would enjoy more examples drawn directly from the text.

You offer the criticism that “The game rules are pretty much forgettable.”
“The game is almost worse than having no system at all.”  While these are amusing and incisive, they don’t convey much to me beyond that fact that you didn’t like the game system much.  They’re good summarizing statements, but I would enjoy chewing on something more specific.

Later, you observe that “The authors come across as amateurs.  They don’t have very good design skills.”  This is a pretty harsh criticism.  I’m not saying it’s unjustified.  Some examples would go along way toward conveying what you mean and also separate your review from mere name-calling.

When you talked about setting, I was getting all I asked for. Your observations about the Nazaadi were excellent examples of why the game design is poor.  And I begin to see what you mean about the design being amateurish. 

Again, with Vitality/Structure, another good example of design failings. Gave me something to think about. 

Then, just as you were beginning to get into it, it was time to wrap up.  At just under 15 minutes, it seemed to end too soon.  You could easily take 5 or 10 more minutes to get more specific if you wished.  At the end, it felt unfinished; more like the quick reviews you gave in your survey of genre-typical good games - not quite long enough for a serious in-depth review.

 “Without really getting in to it…”  Why not?!  Get into it!  That’s why we’re here.

Loved the rating system.  Makes it very practical because it really reflects how people buy books and give them a way to think about the process.  If you’re only going to buy three gaming books in the next six months, this probably isn’t your book.  I liked this process very much.
 
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Josh
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2008, 04:36:17 AM »

The rating system is something I have been kicking around for quite some time.  It actually come from a specific incident with Zeke and Meg when I had a new book.  I said to Zeke that I just finished reading this book and he should read it.  Meg said "wait I am looking for a book to read, should I read it?"  Meg only reads a certain number of books a year, a fraction of the number that Zeke and I read.  There are dozens of better books I could suggest for her so I would never suggest this book to her.  I realized that the more books you read, the lower your standards are. 

Most of the other comments you make are very interesting because they are in regards to choices that we consciously made.  I have a number of problems with other reviews and this was my attempt to address those problems.  We may do a show on reviews in general. 

I can certainly see your point about examples.  I included examples when they could be clear and succinct.  The problem with examples is, some people might disagree with the specific examples and extrapolate backwards that your premise might be wrong.  An example of amateurishness is the inclusion of a sidebar that talks about CT being a "storytelling game."  The author lays out a bit about how CT is more of a storytelling game than D&D and then proceeds to lay out a game that is no more a storytelling game than D&D is.

So there are two things here.  You may disagree with my assessment and this is really only a small part of the issue.    Dozens of tiny points scattered throughout the book lead me to my conclusion. 

What might work is to give the review and then have an appendix were we delve into some of the murky points. 

I started to write up a bit on the system itself, but then I realized that I would just be ragging on designers about how incompetent they are.  No one wants to listen to that. 

I think in the next review we will try to err in the other direction, being wordier.  We also might do a regular show about reviews and a show about "good" games vs. "bad" games.  Also I hadn't thought of doing older games as reviews, that is something to consider. 
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Meg
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« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2008, 12:03:40 PM »

Weathertop- I think your analysis is great.  That is exactly the type of feedback we need.  Thank you!
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Graf
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2009, 10:12:40 PM »

Though I realize this is an old episode I'm a new listener, working through in order and I love your show.
I also like your analysis but.... I agree with the earlier poster... you need to actually show your work.

It's fine to say the system sucks, and it doesn't work, etc etc but you should say why you think so. The easiest way is to give an example.

>The problem with examples is, some people might disagree with the
> specific examples and extrapolate backwards that your premise might be wrong.
I think, frankly, this is a very weak argument.

If you have confidence in your assessment then you shouldn't have fear of putting it out there.
Saying, "the rules design is weak, but I don't want to say why because you might not agree" isn't going to convince someone.
Would you have confidence in my argument if I said "game X's rules suck, but I don't want to tell you why I think so because you might disagree with me?"

Having an actual conversation about rules with an actual analysis is more interesting to me as a listener.
If you want people to be able to do this for themselves (I.e. if you want to advance gameology) then you "owe" it to the hobby to participate in the dialogue. IMHO anyway.

Obviously, it's an old show, but I kept thinking "I think Cthulhutech's rules were weak, but why doesn't he say why he thinks so."
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Josh
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« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2009, 12:18:36 AM »

Though I realize this is an old episode I'm a new listener, working through in order and I love your show.
I also like your analysis but.... I agree with the earlier poster... you need to actually show your work.

It's fine to say the system sucks, and it doesn't work, etc etc but you should say why you think so. The easiest way is to give an example.

>The problem with examples is, some people might disagree with the
> specific examples and extrapolate backwards that your premise might be wrong.
I think, frankly, this is a very weak argument.

If you have confidence in your assessment then you shouldn't have fear of putting it out there.
Saying, "the rules design is weak, but I don't want to say why because you might not agree" isn't going to convince someone.
Would you have confidence in my argument if I said "game X's rules suck, but I don't want to tell you why I think so because you might disagree with me?"

Having an actual conversation about rules with an actual analysis is more interesting to me as a listener.
If you want people to be able to do this for themselves (I.e. if you want to advance gameology) then you "owe" it to the hobby to participate in the dialogue. IMHO anyway.

Obviously, it's an old show, but I kept thinking "I think Cthulhutech's rules were weak, but why doesn't he say why he thinks so."

Here is the age old problem. The same one we ran into when writing the episode and the reason we have not done reviews in some time. 

We have an issue with many aspects of the system and when you put those elements together you get a result.  Now how do i succinctly report on those elements? 

What about emotional investment? 

What about the problem of proving a negative? 



The way to report on these things involves a bit of back story.  And that's what I'm working on here
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 12:24:25 AM by Josh » Logged

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Meg
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2009, 04:21:25 PM »

Obviously, it's an old show, but I kept thinking "I think Cthulhutech's rules were weak, but why doesn't he say why he thinks so."

Thank you for your input!  Don't ever hold back even though the show may have come out a while ago.  It's all good!

This is great information- thank you.  The reviews are what we are most passionate about but also need the most crafting.  We'll definitely take all of this into account when we do our next one. 

I think it just hasn't really hit us that people want to know what we personally think of a game.  It's not a confidence issue, it's just assuming everyone will have such a different perspective, our individual, subjective view isn't as worthy as the more impersonal, top down approach.

I think the answer is that we need both. 
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Graf
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2009, 09:11:19 PM »

Thanks for responding.

Having trouble posting clearly today.

>Now how do i succinctly report on those elements?
I am not sure that I see the problem.
For example I can say: I think GURPS/oWoD is a bad system because their flaw mechanic adversely impacts the game. Specifically characters with flaws get lots of extra points in character creation and are much more powerful than characters without them. Effectively it requires a given player to take flaws to be on parity with the other party members. The system also rewards people for taking roleplaying flaws that are annoying but have no game effect over more debilitating flaws with serious mechanical effects.
Effect: You wind up with a bunch of characters who are maxed out on flaws that make them annoying.

That's the sort of thing that I think you ought to put out when saying "these rules suck".

In particular, I think, when you're hinting at things like probabilities (like you did with the system for BG and Firefly roleplaying games) the elements are fairly easy to explain. But just saying "so-and-so designer's a math idiot because their probabilities are bad" isn't, to my mind, so useful/interesting.

It may be that you need to do an episode explaining how you think probabilities should be dealt with before you can do succinct reviews, but I don't really think that roleplaying games are so complex that you can't talk about them succinctly.

>What about emotional investment?
I'll read through your links, but at the current time I am completely confused about how this is a response.

>What about the problem of proving a negative?
Saying, "this is bad because..." isn't proving a negative.
It's explaining your thinking.

What sort of negatives are you trying to prove. Here you've said Cthulhutech game system is poorly designed relative to other game systems. I am not sure that I can see any negative that needs to be "proved" to support (or at least explain) your conclusion.

>I think it just hasn't really hit us that people want to know what we personally think of a game.
I may have been confusing.
What I mean is that I do care about what you think, because you're bright people who are very invested in the hobby. If you've spent the time and effort to read through the Cthulhutech system (which made me vaguely ill and annoyed when I tried to look at it) then I'd like to know what you saw, what you think about it and how you feel about it.

I agree that it's personal, but that the "what is the system is about" and "what are the effects of the system on game play" are as-objective-as-roleplaying-games-get. The personal stuff can/will come out during that discussion but it's not the crux of what I -personally- as one person in the thousands that listen to your podcast think.

Anyway, thanks very much for responding!
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Josh
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« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2009, 09:42:20 PM »

>Now how do i succinctly report on those elements?
I am not sure that I see the problem.
For example I can say: I think GURPS/oWoD is a bad system because their flaw mechanic adversely impacts the game. Specifically characters with flaws get lots of extra points in character creation and are much more powerful than characters without them. Effectively it requires a given player to take flaws to be on parity with the other party members. The system also rewards people for taking roleplaying flaws that are annoying but have no game effect over more debilitating flaws with serious mechanical effects.
Effect: You wind up with a bunch of characters who are maxed out on flaws that make them annoying.

That's the sort of thing that I think you ought to put out when saying "these rules suck".
Ah.  You see I have been down this road many, many times. 

If you say that, people argue with you.  I'll leave it at that.

Quote
In particular, I think, when you're hinting at things like probabilities (like you did with the system for BG and Firefly roleplaying games) the elements are fairly easy to explain. But just saying "so-and-so designer's a math idiot because their probabilities are bad" isn't, to my mind, so useful/interesting.

It may be that you need to do an episode explaining how you think probabilities should be dealt with before you can do succinct reviews, but I don't really think that roleplaying games are so complex that you can't talk about them succinctly.
Let's put it this way.  I am trying to find any other gamer who knows math well enough to have a conversation on the topic.  If you know one let me have their email.  My biggest stumbling block is I don't have anyone to talk with at a high level.

Quote
>What about emotional investment?
I'll read through your links, but at the current time I am completely confused about how this is a response.
People who play WW are emotionally invested in the game.  So are unwilling to hear how bad it is.

Quote
>What about the problem of proving a negative?
Saying, "this is bad because..." isn't proving a negative.
It's explaining your thinking.

What sort of negatives are you trying to prove. Here you've said Cthulhutech game system is poorly designed relative to other game systems. I am not sure that I can see any negative that needs to be "proved" to support (or at least explain) your conclusion.
Not as good is a negative.  You need to explain it and then compare it to another game and show why one is better.
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Graf
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« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2009, 09:15:41 AM »

Let's put it this way.  I am trying to find any other gamer who knows math well enough to have a conversation on the topic.  If you know one let me have their email.  My biggest stumbling block is I don't have anyone to talk with at a high level.
I am extremely sympathetic to the idea that most game designers don't pay enough attention to the mechanical repercussions of their mechanics (i.e. math).

Having said that... the math's is not, by mathematical standards, "hard" or "high level". I haven't seen anything that's more complex than compound probabilities.
And... there are a lot gamers with scary math skills floating around. I'm not passing out emails or anything but if you're serious I doubt you'll have trouble finding people who know enough math, have graduated from the right program, etc. to meet your requirements to speak with you.

Broadly speaking there is evidence that makes me hopeful...
  • 4e's been pretty explicit about the "sweet spot"; it was a big deal to me that they're emphasizing that "you hit x% of the time". Once the idea that the roles and their results can be compressed down into some really simple numbers get out there I think general awareness is going to rise.
  • Mearls has indicated they do damage modeling (I think he said so on atomic array). I.e. Comparing phb 1 & phb2 character's damage output in the same set of scenarios.
  • I swear I remember hearing that White Wolf brought in a math guy who got them to change their target number system.
The WW core system, IMHO, is decent now. You could use it to run a crunchier, sanity-less version of Call of Cthulhu, without changing the feel too much (i.e. it's swingy and you can fail roles and die easily).
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