Paidia/Ludus challenge


Dang, that came out small.

Flow – A digital game in which one plays as an abstract plankton-like creature, floating through the ocean. It’s similar to games like Snake and Pac-Man, in that the point is to eat and avoid being eaten, but there are no boundaries or mazes like in Pac-Man. As the player’s ‘plankton’ eats, it becomes longer, like in Snake, making it harder to be attacked by enemies. There are certain points at which the player can ‘dive’ deeper into the ocean, encountering more food, but also bigger predators. It is very much a casual game, with no scoring system, no real character death (being consumed by a bigger creature only penalizes you by putting you back a few levels, but your creature quickly regenerates and can continue without penalty) and no real conditions for victory; reaching the bottom of the ocean and eating the creature there initiates a new game with a new creature (this one more jellyfish-like). When the player reaches the bottom of the ocean again, they encounter their original creature, and upon eating that creature, a new game initiates with a new creature type, resulting in a constant loop of different fish varieties. The point of the game is that it adjusts to the player’s playing style, creating a dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA); this game was the game maker’s master’s thesis on DDA in games.

Final Fantasy XII – A digital Role-Playing Game. While the game’s story is completely on rails (you are free to explore the world, but many forms of transport are unavailable to you, and many locations are closed off from entry until you go back to where you were supposed to go and play the next part of the story), the actual gameplay mechanics are based entirely around personal customization of characters. The gameplay system only allows you to control one character at a time, and so introduced a system of ‘Gambits‘, through which you could program the AI behavior of your party members, with the option of being allowed to switch over and manually control any character at any time. Manually entered behaviors always take precedence over Gambit-activated behaviors. With this system, it is possible to program an ally to ‘Attack the Nearest Enemy’, but ‘when an ally’s HP is less than or equal to 50%, use Cure’ or ‘If Enemy is flying, use magic’ or ‘Cast ‘Haste’ on the ally with the strongest weapon’ or ‘When enemy is inflicted with the status effect ‘Oil’, cast Fire magic’. The system includes ‘Gambit’ options for almost any contingency, and each character has up to 7 Gambit slots to program behaviors with. While the game allows the player to program the AI of their allies, it does not permit the player to break any rules, and only allows them to develop a set of rules for action in battle; it does not permit the player to order a character to stay in one place, nor does it permit the player to make the character perform actions that are not possible in the game (i.e. use an item that they do not have in their inventory anymore).

Katamari Damacy – A digital game in which one rolls a sticky ball (a Katamari) around the world, picking up items. At the beginning of the game, the Katamari is very small, and can only pick up items such as thumbtacks and paperclips. As the Katamari’s diameter increases in size, it can pick up larger objects. There is a time limit to each level, and a goal of a certain diameter that your Katamari must reach. There is nothing that the Katamari cannot eventually pick up, once it reaches a certain diameter. If the Katamari reaches sufficient size before time runs out, then any further expansion counts for bonus points.

Portal – A digital game in which the player places two-way portals on surfaces to facilitate travel. The player begins the game without access to any portals, having to rely on the game to generate portals for them in a series of puzzles meant to teach about the portals themselves before the player is given access. Then, they are only given access to one type of portal, with the computer placing the other type, leading the player to solve the puzzles with their half of the portals. Finally, they are given access to both varieties of portal, and are given harder puzzles to solve. The early stages of the game introduce game mechanics, such as the fact that there isn’t an ‘in portal’ and an ‘out portal’ (the colors do not indicate any special properties of the portals themselves), and that you can’t place portals on all surfaces (such as glass or specially indicated wall types).

D&D 3.5 – Massively based on rules. There are rules to dictate absolutely everything in the game world. Almost every possibility has a rule associated with it (there are entire rule books based around individual situations and how to negotiate them). Within those rules, however, is the potential to create some pretty ridiculous chains of events through rule manipulation (it is possible to expand the critical hit range on your weapon so that everything from a 15 up on the die is a critical hit, and if you use the weapon two-handed, then you get to add an additional modifier equal to half your character’s strength bonus, etc. Or, you could just be a Monk; 20th level monks are immune to all diseases, do not age, speak every language that exists, can fall from any height unharmed, can attack more times in one round than even a 20th level Fighter, have saving throw values of 12 for all 3 areas, can run faster than any other class, and are no longer counted as humans according to the game rules).

Tag – A children’s game of at least two players. One player is ‘It’, and continues to be ‘It’ until they tag another player, upon which they announce ‘Tag, you’re it’, and another round of play begins. Tag may involve a safe area (a ‘base’), or it may not. Related to the more elaborate game Hide and Seek, which gives the player who is ‘It’ a handicap by allowing the other players to hide, and requiring the player who is ‘It’ to find them and tag them. The Hide and Seek variant requires a base.

Konpira fune fune – A Japanese drinking game. Two players sit across from one another at a table, with a small box, overturned cup or other small object placed in the middle of the table. To the gradually increasing beat of music (played live and for the express purpose of playing Konpira), the two players take turns interacting with the item. The players may slap the top of the object, or take the object. If the object has been taken, then the second player must place their fist on the table instead of tapping the object. The object may be replaced or taken at any time, and the player’s partner must respond properly. Play continues until a player makes an error (slapping the empty table, placing their fist on top of the object, or losing the beat of the song), or until the end of the song. The losing player must drink. Popular at ‘ozashiki’ parties (parties with geisha entertainers; geisha often provide the music for the game as well).

Improv games – Most improv games have different rules, but the purpose of the rules are simply to provide a starting point for a scene; there is no requirement, for instance, that a scene that starts out as a ‘sit stand kneel’ game (one player must sit, another must stand, and another must kneel; should any character change position, the other two must as well, and all must settle into sitting, standing, and kneeling again) must remain a game of that type; the scene could be continued again at a later time outside of the original context (and is encouraged). Arguably, the only rule of Improvisation is ‘always say yes’, meaning ‘accept everything that is brought to the stage’, with all of the other rules and structures merely meant as starting points for independent scenes and characters.

Game that could go either way: D&D 3.5

Though there are a massive number of rulebooks for D&D 3.5 (my records indicate at least 45 rulebooks (not counting pre-written adventures, which often come with their own unique setting rules), and almost all of the 3.0 books can be used in 3.5 games, as well; the rules changes between them were minimal), the game is not necessarily dictated by the rules. The fact that the game is arbited by a Dungeon Master means that the rules apply only to the extent that the DM decides they apply. Rules can be applied in different ways (i.e. some DMs may apply magic as an attack, requiring the player to roll their magic casting rather than have the enemy roll against the spell, some DMs may use different dice to roll different elements, such as initiative, etc.) or ignored entirely (most DMs will only use, for instance, the Dungeon Master’s Guide 1 in their play, ignoring the other 44 books and their highly specialized rules), or will make up entirely new rules (penalties for time spent out of character, penalties for ‘metagaming’, story rewards, granting extra experience for landing the killing blow, etc.). The rulebooks for D&D are really more like guidelines to facilitate independant play. And since the story is in the hands of the players (at least with a good DM), there is no restriction on where they may go or what they may do. While the rules are useful for determining things such as order of combat, they are also free to be used flexibly or not at all. It is a rare player who keeps track of how many arrows are in his archer’s quiver, or how many spell components his wizard has before going into battle. Players’ free interaction with the DM leads to a reduction of the importance of rules. If you can convince the DM that your character should have Darkvision because he was raised by Drow, but not have the Drow penalty of being blinded by sunlight, then the DM is free to give you whatever they deem appropriate. The DM may ask that you forefeit something in return, but they may not if you manage to butter them up right. The rules only apply if the players and the DM remember to apply them.

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