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From: JC Lawrence <claw-WK5pfKwHs6w <at> public.gmane.org>
Subject: Re: New (?) 18xx mechanic
Newsgroups: gmane.games.railroad-18xx
Date: Wednesday 30th October 2013 23:24:43 UTC (over 3 years ago)
More directly, I think you are losing sight of the game, or at least where
the game lies within the larger system.

The 18xx are fairly simply structured from two and a half almost-complete
games bolted together.  There is a spatial route building game and a stock
market game, and they are glued together with a creative destruction
technology race to make one complete game.  Each of those components is
damn near a standalone game in its own right, and certainly other games
have been made from just those subsystems (Greentown, Lokomotive Werks,
etc), but at the end they are just mostly-isolated subsystems with the
actually interesting bits in their connections to each other (the players
sit in the connections).

The internal structures created by that glueing process are also boldly

	- There's an evaluation function which each company uses to generate a
number using as inputs the network on the board and the trains in the
company, and we call that evaluation function "running trains".  You can
get all sort of complicated here about the details of track and tokens etc,
but at the end of the day there's just a function that does something and
returns a number that is input into the stock market game.  All the rest is
internal implementation details.  Sometimes the number is a bit special in
that it expresses a liability for the president (emergency train buy), but
it is still just a number communicated from the evaluation function to the
stock market game.

	- The stock market game takes the numbers that the network game generates
and thence changes its own numbers in well known ways.  

	- And, as a back-flow, the stock market game moves some of its numbers
back into companies (withholdings, etc) via the creative destruction
technology race glue to change the inputs to the network evaluation
function (train purchases and rustings).  

And thence of course those new numbers go into the stock market game and so

And so we have a triangle: The network game informs the stock market game
which informs the technology game which informs the network game
which...etc.  And the players sit in the middle fiddling with the dials in
all three sub-games: moving the numbers around in the stock market game
(shares), moving the numbers around in the technology game (trains), and
moving the numbers around in the network game (building/changing routes),
all while the loop keeps cycling as a feedback loop, round and round and

Which I assume you already know -- there should be no surprises there --
but you might not have articulated in such a stark format.  More usefully
and more to my point, what this really basic deconstruction does is to
highlight where the game is.  The game is in the players fiddling at those
three key junctures in the triangular feedback loop while the game spins
underneath them:

	- Players can fiddle with shares
	- Players can fiddle with technology
	- Players can fiddle with the evaluation function inputs

And that's pretty much it.  Everything else is in the feedback loop
orchestrated by the rotating sequence of SRs and ORs stepping around and
around the feedback loop and relentlessly driving the game forward.

What this means however as a game designer, is that it outlines where your
interests and activities lie.  In order to do something interesting in the
18xx world you have to either alter one of the three interaction points
(shares, technology, evaluation function) in a way that substantially
changes player concerns, or you have to alter the properties of the
feedback loop itself (1880 did this latter with its new intertwingled OR/SR
model; 1846 did this by fundamentally changing the feedback loop of money
with how its incrementally capitalised companies work; 1860 did this by
allowing entities to enter, leave, roboticise and re-enter the player
interaction-space, etc etc etc).  

My general sense is that at the litmus-test level, in order for any change
to be interesting, it must substantially affect at least two corners of the
triangle in ways that provide both substantial opportunities and problems
for the players to address.  Just touching one corner isn't enough, as
that's almost instantly an internal implementation detail rather than
anything materially interesting.  And so you need at least two player
touch-points to change in a way that's substantial and different and

But more usefully (I hope), that deconstruction provides a set of analysis
tools and litmus tests for your candidate changes.  You can look at any
candidate change and ask how it affects those three contact points, how
that change to those contact points significantly alters the three stages
of the feedback loop and thence how it changes the player's competitive
lives.  And if you come up with a good answer, your idea potentially has
some good legs under it, and if you don't come up with a good answer, then
your idea is more likely just shuffling the deck-chairs around.

And, shrug, I find that useful, as it sure weeds out a lot of options that
fiddle little numbers inside one of the touch points without actually doing
anything structural.  Oh look, now this little internal number that isn't
actually a primary contact point is a little larger or smaller or different
or has little brass bells and is painted red...but everything else is
exactly the same...and...this...is...interesting...WHY?  I do that a lot,
and then I slap myself on the back of the head, say "Doh!" and move on.

-- JCL

PS BtB this deconstruction has an amusing side effect of also dropping out
the four basic types of 18xx (http://kanga.nu/~claw/blog/2013/08/03/game-observances/structural-analysis/)
by extrapolation -- which is kinda cute and unexpected (by me).

On 30 Oct 2013, at 10:37, Ian D Wilson

> I agree with Jonathan, it's just too time-consuming for little
improvement in game-play. One of the main points of a game system like 18xx
is that it avoid all the tedious book-keeping that are involved in running
a real business.
> From: Jonathan Anderson

> To: Carlos Moreno Serrano
"[email protected]" <[email protected]> 
> Sent: Wednesday, 30 October 2013, 16:37
> Subject: RE: [18xx] Re: New (?) 18xx mechanic
> Having to consult a table every run for something that has only a minor
impact on pay seems too fiddly. Make sure that it is simple.
> Jonathan
> From: Carlos Moreno Serrano
> Sent: 10/30/2013 8:50 AM
> To: [email protected]
> Subject: Re: [18xx] Re: New (?) 18xx mechanic
> Ok, guys, one more mechanic: ticket pricing.
> If you are running a passenger rail line, I am sure the price of the
tickets should play a key role in it.
> What I am going to propose below is still early days and just a thought:
> If the game has 10 corporations, to have 10 different possible ticket
prices and for marketing reasons, no company can have the same ticket price
as the rest (so that we have a pecking order).
> If you own all the track of your line and you are not interconnecting
with others, you are in a "monopoly" situation and it does not matter the
price of your ticket as you could ask for any price. This way, while tracks
from different companies do not connect, the game would like any other 18xx
game, however, if track from two or more companies interconnect then they
must choose a ticket price (in order).
> There would be a table with different bands of income (according to your
route) that would assign the lion's share to the company with the most
expensive ticket price and a smaller portion of the route proportionally to
cheaper tickets. However, most expensive ticket would have a cumulative
-$10 penalisation per turn it's the most expensive. On the other hand,
cheapest ticket would have a cumulative bonus of $20 per turn and prices in
between would have proportional bonuses with second most expensive having
no bonus. There would be a table to keep track of your current
bonus/penalty that you would add (deduct) to (from) your route's portion.
For example, if company A has most expensive ticket and their route is
worth $430 and company B has the cheapest ticket with a route worth $600
then both companies would go to the banded table, look at the band between
$400 and $450 for company A and see that lion's share is $380 minus $10
penalty, they would get $370. As for company B, they would go to band
between $600 and $650 and they would go to the second column as there is
only 1 competitor (first column is lion's share) and get $540 plus $20
bonus so in total it would be $560 for that route. If everything remained
the same for the next OR (imagine they don't lay new track), then A would
still get $380 minus $20 penalty this time, so $360 and B would get $540
plus $40 bonus, so $580.
> Ticket prices would only change at SR and they would remain the same
during ORs.
> What do you think?
> Carlos
> On 26 October 2013 12:52, Steve Thomas
> John David Galt wrote:
> > I'd be surprised if very many were there before the mid 20th century,
> > given how the last emperor's announcement that he would commission a
> > railway connecting Hunan province to the outside world caused the
> > collapse of the Manchu dynasty.  (Source: Davidson and Rees-Mogg,
> > "Blood in the Streets".)
> According to the admittedly limited research I've done the earliest
> in China opened for business in 1876, and was closed (by imperial decree)
> 1877.  The next one opened in 1881, so it's reasonable to suppose that
> (the name of the O-O game set in China) might have represented a start
> for construction.  In 1894-5 China came a distinct second in the first
> Sino-Japanese war, and the then government realised that part of the
> was a lack of basic transport infrastructure.  At this point they dropped
> their opposition to the construction of railways and there was something
> a boom.
> In 1911, China had 9 000 km of track.  In 1945, they had 27 000km, of
> perhaps 23 000km was in a usable condition.  By 1948 they were down to 8
> 000km.  They've got about 110 000km now, and a plan to get to 272 000 km
> 2050.
> The first railway in Korea started running trains in 1899, which is
> why 1899 is so named.
> --
> Steve Thomas  [email protected]
> ------------------------------------
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