Pig-Faced Orcs: Design lessons from Old-School Roleplaying Games
James Reffell
  • This is not a gamification talk
  • photos: first convention badge at age 11, awesome map he drew of a dungeon as a kid.
  • Old School Roleplaying Games
    • Chainmail – 1981
    • D & D – 1974
  • There were army games before, but you played an army. The twist was that then you played an individual.
  • D4 version:
    • Give them something to manipulate.
    • Use randomness to generate a story.
    • Use sandboxes and railroads.
    • Enable risk-taking.
  • Give them something to manipulate
    • if you’ve ever done pen and paper rpg, people fiddle with the dice. They are there for randomness, but people play with them, build towers with them.
    • random number generator: you have to move the mouse around a whole bunch to generate a random string.
    • ipad app: for etch-a-sketch. you shake it to clear the screen.
    • Having things to fidget with helps you concentrate without distracting you
    • But we need more things..
      • Texture
  • Use randomness to build story
    • dice/randomness are used, in a very exposed way, to build narrative and build tension. you worry if you will win the fight.
    • Example: rumor table – from d&d adventure. rumors are given out to players at random.
    • One of the classic examples in social media is asking people to contribute content. what should they write about? they often don’t know. sometimes they use a “topic of the day”. but what is that is randomly generated?
  • Use sandboxes and railroads
    • In a sandbox game, players can explore a world. But you really don’t know what is going to happen next.
    • A railroad game has a plot. You don’t know exactly how it is going to go, but it’s got good guys and bad guys and you know who they are.
    • Amazon 
      • A sandbox world. From a product page, you can do anything:
        • you can buy it, you can see other objects like that, you can see stuff that other people who liked that thing liked, you can read reviews, you can go to forums or to wiki, you can see stuff you bought. 
      • A railroad world. From the shopping cart page, there are no distractions, no navigation links. You are heading toward purchasing the product.
  • Enable risk-taking. (Carefully.)
    • In RPG, sometimes characters die. You become even more attached to the characters who don’t die. Characters who die create memories.
    • We don’t want to risk user data, or risking their privacy exposed.
    • Good examples:
      • Bidding on eBay. You have the risk of losing – not winning the bid.
    • Fun failure is a way to prolong the game experience.