What is bad game design?

I frequently encounter posters who declare that one or more aspects of one or more editions of a RPG are in their estimation "bad game design".

How would you prove that something is bad game design and do you have an example of this? 

My only thought would be tic tac toe is bad game design in that it can result in a perpetual tie.  But that conclusion depends on the assumption that a game must have a winner and loser. 

What is the result of bad game design? 
Bad design is the game not working as advertised. If the game advertises X and delivers Y, that is bad design. If the game advertises X and fails to deliver X, that is bad design. To a lesser extent, if the game advertises X and delivers X, but in an unecessarily clunky and convoluted fashion, that is bad design.
...whatever
The result of bad game design: players not having fun.
Here's a good article on bad video game design, since tabletop cooperative games with referees are the exception rather than the rule, but many of the philosophies carry over.

Here is another huge list with lots of links. Some of these translate over and some don't.

The reason we can use video game design articles is because you could technically play the mechanical parts of the games sitting at a table with a calculator and it would almost exactly resemble a table top game minus the creative DM. Since the creativity can't be planned for, the game rules don't have to take it into account except where it interacts with the mechanics.

Hope that helps you understand what the professionals are talking about when they say bad game design...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
"Bad game design" tends to be a statement people use to describe decisions they don't see as correct, or just plain disagree with. Same thing with "bad DMs".

My advice? Take everything you see on the boards, attacking the designers credentials or competence, with a grain of salt. It's easy for people to disagree with anything. I disagree with some of the Presidents policies, but that doesn't mean, by any stretch of the imagination, I could come up with better policies. But some people have no problem thinking they know better, and they will let you know it. 
My two copper.
"Bad game design" tends to be a statement people use to describe decisions they don't see as correct, or just plain disagree with. Same thing with "bad DMs".

My advice? Take everything you see on the boards, attacking the designers credentials or competence, with a grain of salt. It's easy for people to disagree with anything. I disagree with some of the Presidents policies, but that doesn't mean, by any stretch of the imagination, I could come up with better policies. But some people have no problem thinking they know better, and they will let you know it. 



So you are saying there is no such thing as a bad game design? So spaceships and submarines with screen doors aren't badly designed?

I think this falls into that category of posts that attacks any criticism as bad even if its constructive. There are in fact bad ways to do things...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
"Bad game design" tends to be a statement people use to describe decisions they don't see as correct, or just plain disagree with. Same thing with "bad DMs".

My advice? Take everything you see on the boards, attacking the designers credentials or competence, with a grain of salt. It's easy for people to disagree with anything. I disagree with some of the Presidents policies, but that doesn't mean, by any stretch of the imagination, I could come up with better policies. But some people have no problem thinking they know better, and they will let you know it. 



So you are saying there is no such thing as a bad game design? So spaceships and submarines with screen doors aren't badly designed?

I think this falls into that category of posts that attacks any criticism as bad even if its constructive. There are in fact bad ways to do things...


No, there is such thing as bad game design. I was more responding to this
I frequently encounter posters who declare that one or more aspects of one or more editions of a RPG are in their estimation "bad game design".



I'm merely sharing my opinion like anyone else. No attack here.
My two copper.
Bad design is the game not working as advertised. If the game advertises X and delivers Y, that is bad design. If the game advertises X and fails to deliver X, that is bad design.


That's not bad game design.
That's misleading marketing on the part of whoever wrote it. Since the "game" can't advertise anything, the fault falls on whoever wrote the advert that is in question.
If the person/people who write what the expectations are for Scrabble write "this game is an excellent property-buying game", it's not the game at fault. it's the guy's fault that wrote the incorrect intent of the game.
In relation to D&D, if DDN is touted as being an edition that will allow the exact same style of gameplay as whatever your favorite edition is, and fails to deliver that, it's not the fault of the game. It's the fault of whoever said it would be able to do that. It has nothing to do with game design, and everything to do with improper or misleading marketing.
To a lesser extent, if the game advertises X and delivers X, but in an unecessarily clunky and convoluted fashion, that is bad design.


This is much closer to what bad game design is.
If the game states that you can multiclass, but the multiclass mechanics are unintuitive, unbalanced, and poorly implemented, that makes it bad design.
"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H.P. Lovecraft
Bad design is the game not working as advertised. If the game advertises X and delivers Y, that is bad design. If the game advertises X and fails to deliver X, that is bad design.


That's not bad game design.
That's misleading marketing on the part of whoever wrote it. Since the "game" can't advertise anything, the fault falls on whoever wrote the advert that is in question.
If the person/people who write what the expectations are for Scrabble write "this game is an excellent property-buying game", it's not the game at fault. it's the guy's fault that wrote the incorrect intent of the game.
In relation to D&D, if DDN is touted as being an edition that will allow the exact same style of gameplay as whatever your favorite edition is, and fails to deliver that, it's not the fault of the game. It's the fault of whoever said it would be able to do that. It has nothing to do with game design, and everything to do with improper or misleading marketing.
To a lesser extent, if the game advertises X and delivers X, but in an unecessarily clunky and convoluted fashion, that is bad design.


This is much closer to what bad game design is.
If the game states that you can multiclass, but the multiclass mechanics are unintuitive, unbalanced, and poorly implemented, that makes it bad design.



That wasnt what I meant by advertising. I mean the system working as intended. 
...whatever

Great thread. Its an interesting topic in D&D. Most of what people dislike in D&D isn’t obvious like the many flaws in a video game. You ask people to name the worse three things about each edition and you can expect many different and conflicting answers with thoughtful arguments behind them.


Understanding that I would say the worse flaw in D&D is the lack of variety in classes yet at the same time we have never had more variety and I expect Next to have the most. Unfortunately I also expect this variety to be largely superficial thus it will continue to be the most flawed aspect of its design.

I frequently encounter posters who declare that one or more aspects of one or more editions of a RPG are in their estimation "bad game design".



Way too often, people call "bad game design", or "outdated game design" or "relics of the past", etc... any kind of game design that doesn't suit their playstyle.

There is more than one way to design a game. Your choices usually depends on what you want your final product to look like.
  
4th edition is a good example of "good" game design. The designers wanted to emphasis on the tactical war game aspect of RPGs and created a set of rules aimed at this type of game. Everything is highly codified and balance is very important for this type of game. The game plays fairly well if this is the type of game play you like. The rules aren't that great for people that like rules lite open-ended story-driven RPGs.

Daily resources is another example of "good" game design. This is perfect for those that want to have a game where each encounter, no matter how small or trivial, is all part of a single big challenge: the adventuring day. Your typical adventuring day is composed of a combination of small and big, combat and non-combat encounters. Some of these will be 5-minute long skirmishes, others will be long tactical fights. A lot of people on these boards will call them outdated mechanics or bad game design because they prefer having stand alone encounters independant of one another.


How would you prove that something is bad game design and do you have an example of this? 



The game designers were nice enough to give us design goals. If they present mechanics that contradict these design goals, then you can prove that it's bad game design within the scope of the game.

There is however one absolute in game design:
Keep it simple and consistent. If Sleep requires a saving throw, there's no reason for Deep Slumber to get an attack roll. If you have ability modifiers, you don't need to create rules that don't use them like rolling 1d20 and roll below your ability score (like 2nd edition ability checks). You don't need complicated charts with wound location and wounds that have various wierd results. A good game is one where the rules book stays closed during most of the game session.
    

What is the result of bad game design? 



You're constantly looking in the rules book trying to decipher how something works.
There are quite a few examples...

(1) If they, for instance, decided that TWF was too difficult to fix or figure out, and they couldn't fit it into the MDD paradigm so instead decided to just cut it out entirely.  That is lazy design.  Solving a problem by removing a feature almost always is.  Even if an option or feature is removed, there should be a reason, and the concept that drove that feature to be a part of a previous core ruleset should be reflected elsewhere. 

(2) Balance through homogenization.  This is also lazt game design.  Obviously you have to start (in a class based system) with a set of common assumptios for each class so they can all work in the same system.  A separate system that provides a chance for commonality among classes is great; it allows for features and abilities that intuitively seem appropriate for lots of different classes (reflected best by feats).  But when it comes to the classes themselves, calling an ability by a different name while providing too similar a benefit is just lazy.  It is the easiest way to balance, but it destoys the individuality of each class.... a rose by any other name is still a rose, and we know it, and we would like to have classes that are markedly different.

(3) A lack of meaningful options and a dirth of distinguishing features.  Having a threadbare system for creating characters is another cheap tactic for lazy balance.  It is an attempt to keep the standard deviation from the baseline to a minimum and it denies players the opportunity to explore a robust system.  Balancing that robust system is difficult (as 3e will show) but if done well, it  results in a better game.  Avoiding the issue altogether is just lazy.

(4) Complicanting the uncomplicated.  Actions in a game that occur with regularity need to be streamlined.  They often need to be universal as well.  If it takes four charts and eight dice rolls to make an attack in a game that assumes a lot of combat.... this is just bad design.  Systems need to be intuitive, and they need to expand logically to include other systems.  (EG you roll a D20 to attack, you hit if you meet-or-beat the target AC.  This basic system expands to include saving throws and skill checks)


So those are just some examples...  please note that these are not necessarily in reference to D&DN, just TTRPGs in general. 
An example might help.

One of the things 3rd edition introduced is the full attack. The idea is that high-level characters, as well as anybody who is fighting with two weapons or archers with certain feats, can spend their whole turn (forgoing their move action, essentially), to make a full attack that includes multiple attacks. In fact, that's the primary way to attack with multiple weapons in 3e; you spend your whole turn (not moving), and you can attack with both weapons. For a low-enough-level character who only has one weapon, there's no difference between full attacking and making a regular attack after having moved.

I don't think that full attacks are a great idea, but I'm not going to argue that here. What I will argue is that integrating TWF and the way monks work into the system had poor consequences.

Consider five characters:
Moll, the Maul Fighter, is a strong power-attacking character who uses a big two-handed maul.
Drazz, the Scimitar Ranger, is a TWF ranger who is totally original.
Bruce, the Monk, is a monk who fights barefisted
Archie, the Bow Ranger, uses the archery combat style
Harry, the Wizard, is a wizard

Now, archetypically, which ones among those five characters would most people expect to be more mobile? I think most people would expect the guy with two light weapons, the monk, and the archer to be more mobile than the heavy-weapon guy or the wizard -- but thanks to how the game works, it's actually the reverse.

Moll, at least until level 5, loses nothing by using his move action. He can go whereever he wants, all over the battlefield, and still hits just as hard. When he hits level five, things do change for him. Now during any round in which he needs to move a significant distance, he gives up almost half his offensive power - but only a bit less than half.

Harry has the property that his primary offensive action in combat is something that takes only a standard action (for the most part). He can use his move action every turn! He can zip around and get out of the way and reposition himself every round without giving up any of his offensive ability.

The other three? Any round in which they don't sit there like a lump is a round where they sacrifice a chunk of their offensive power - and increasingly larger chunk. Despite the fact that they represent archetypically agile and mobile concepts, they're pressured - to a much greater extent than the other two, proportionally - to get themselves set up such that they don't have to move at all. Heck, the monk even gets a speed bonus, but he's kind of boned on any round where he's actually making use of that, because his dumb single fist bop of a regular attack is so pathetic compared to the flurry of blows he could be making if he engineered a situation where he got to just stand stock still for the round.

I consider that one of 3.5's most egregious issues, not because its effect is so great (it's effect isn't that great), but becuase it's saddening that they didn't take the one mental step beyond "let's integrate TWF into the full attack rules" to think about the actual consequences of it.

(In case you're wondering, I don't have an easy better solution. Getting TWF to work right is kind of hard.)
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
(In case you're wondering, I don't have an easy better solution. Getting TWF to work right is kind of hard.)



Make minor actions interesting and have full attack = standard + minor action?
To begin with I am assuming 'game' refers to table top RPGs.
I disagree with some previous posts about 'bad' and 'lazy'. It is 'bad' to assume one choice in character design is superior to another option. It is 'lazy' to not present equal options to all concepts. I would like to see a system where style choices do not negatively effect mechanics. Let me use an example.

The Kensai devotes his life to his blade. If he used a shield his AC would be better. If he wielded a second weapon he would attack twice. If he wielded a different, heavier weapon he would do more damage. But that is not the concept. Why is another style choice make this option inferior?
I feel all options should be viable. 

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of any failed saving throw, including but not limited to petrification, poison, death magic, dragon breath, spells, or vorpal sword-related decapitations.

I frequently encounter posters who declare that one or more aspects of one or more editions of a RPG are in their estimation "bad game design".

How would you prove that something is bad game design and do you have an example of this? 



Proving bad game design is easy,  it's game design that causes the game to degenerate.  I'll illustrate two examples.

1.  Asheron's Call (MMORPG) - The game was designed with a mix-n-match skill system.  It's first mistake was that skills were arbitrarily priced according to "Class".  The intention was that everyone uses magic,  so there were some magic skills geared towards melee (Item magic),  others geared toward Mages,  and one was meant to be common.  Mages were meant to be Glass Cannons as traditional.

What happened was that due to poorly costed skills,  Mages could easily take all 4 magic skills,  and the Item Magic let them buff their defenses to the point where they were taking virtually no damage.  Further,  they had a spell Drain Life,  which let them refill their health by stealing a large percentage of a monsters.

Their second mistake was that spell Drain Life when combined with their experience system.  The experience system gave you a percentage of experience based on how much of the health of the target you had removed.  Drain Life didn't require line of sight,  so Mages sat behind walls,  drained critters down to 10%,  then moved on and waiting for a melee to take the time to kill it.  So melee's would get 10% of the experience and the mage 90%.  You'd literally walk into dungeons and find every critter with 10% of it's health and no choice but to finish them all off for virtually no reward.

Their third mistake was melee weapons had to penetrate armor and damage type resistances,  getting damage reduced twice,  while Magic only had to penetrate damage type resistance.  A Mage would do 100 to 200 points of damage with a spell,  and in the same time period,  a melee did maybe 20-30 points.

Over time,  content was implemented and balanced so that it threatened a mage,  which generally meant it was unsurvivable for a melee,  and unkillable by a melee.  The only type of character worth playing was a Mage,  because otherwise,  you'd never be able to kill anything or find anything good.

2.  The Elder Scrolls

The Elder Scrolls "Learn by use" system has always been bad design.  Casting fireball at a tree 24/7 lets you become high level,  the best way to travel between towns is to jump up and down the whole way there.  Nevermind Oblivion's system which was so badly designed,  the best skills you should take as your primary skills were the ones you never used under normal circumstances.  It's the worst leveling system ever introduced to a game.  If it were an RPG system,  every game would consist of "I attack a tree for 8 hours..."      

My only thought would be tic tac toe is bad game design in that it can result in a perpetual tie.  But that conclusion depends on the assumption that a game must have a winner and loser. 

What is the result of bad game design? 



The result of bad game design is degenerate gameplay.  Where either there's only one possible choice in play due to it being overwhelmingly better in comparison to all other choices,  or where the mechanics make some of the most ridiculous actions highly rewarded.
One of the primary examples of bad design, and one that ran rampant in 3e, was cost-value imbalance. A character had 2 primary resources to spend on their advancement, levels and feats. The problem was that while generally every feat cost as much as every other feat, and acquiring a level in each class cost the same as getting a level in any other class, for the most part, you did not recieve equal benefits for your expenditure.

This is what created the class teirs and allowed for the creation of so many OP builds, and class combos, you think Cleric is problematic power wise look at the combo casters, and even there there was a hierarchy with combo casters like the base theurge on the bottom, and more potent combos like the true necro, or the eldritch theurge on top.

Then you have things like skill focus armorsmith costing the same resource investment as craft magical arms and armor. IT creates a situation where you either don't have as many actual options because a handful are simply that much more important, powerful, or versatile enough to nullify the other options, or players are gimping themselves (and by extension the party) if they don't take the specific OP options.

Another design issue 3e had was incohesion, and sheer sloppiness, but those wouldn't have been so bad without the general cost-value proportions being so out of whack.
I know about bad design because as a freelance consultant, I get paid to fix other people's games. The sad truth is that if you work in games and meet me it's probably because your game is badly designed. It might also shade my view of how dysfunctional the industry is, but the problems I deal with still seem ubiquitous.

Bad design is many things. There's no way to list them all here, although several posters are already getting at the heart of the matter. My key three good system design principles are Clarity, Reliability, and Simplicity. Generally, if your design violates one of those three principles it should have a darn good reason for it. Clarity, Reliability, and Simplicity are interlinked though. Simplicity creates Clarity which creates Reliability.

The crux of the matter is that badly designed games lack reliable and transparent rules. Without clarity the player or GM doesn't intuitively understand how the rules and game mechanics work. They simply have to trust that options that are presented as equivalent truely are, and that actions will behave exactly as they are presented stylistically. The fact that RPG's frequently have rolls where players and GM's don't know what the percentages are for various outcomes means that lack of clarity is a common problem in RPG's. The biggest problem is that if you don't know how a rule or mechanic works, then there's a good chance that they might be acting in a way that you never intended. Encounters can be harder and deadlier than GM's intended, classes can gain and lose power regardless of other player choices, and players can even accidentally punish themselves. That's why reliability is important.

Finally, simplicity isn't a virtue in itself, but many of the problems I describe above can be solved by keeping mechanics within the designer's level of mathematical acumen. If you're one of those designers that thinks that math's role in game design is overstated then you probably need to keep your systems very simple. Because if you don't know the basics of Game Theory, Combinatorics, and Probability then you're probably making some of these mistakes routinely. Theoretically, playtesting should reveal your mistakes, but it can take a lot of playtests and collected data before problems are revealed. Most development teams can't dedicate that much time to playtesting, especially if the game mechanics keep changing and evolving in the process. That's is why it's important to have good design happening from start to finish.

Now, the above is just on general system design. There are lots of specific situations that we can bring up of course. There's also tons more to be said on narrative design such as how to write to get player characters involved in the setting, or how a system shares participation equitably. I'll leave those topics for others to tackle.
I'd say the easiest way to see what bad game design is simply requires looking at how MMOs have "evolved".

20+ minute cool downs have gone away.

Potion chugging is non-existent due to potion cool downs.

Talent trees are geared toward providing fun and interesting options instead of flat +X% damage.

Players gain both combat and non-combat abilities without needing to choose between the two.

Classes are all given interesting options in combat.

Classes have unique capabilities and resource management systems.

Subclasses help determine what your classes role is during combat.

These changes have nearly universally crept into the MMO world and it is very interesting to see how many me table top RpGs take on many of these features.

Bad game design tends to be design that has proven to be unsuccessful or inefficient in an MMO that is still being used by a tabletop. Look at the Vanilla WoW Paladin compared to the paladin today and you will easily see how game design has changed.

Yes TTRPGS and MMOs are different, but they do share many similarities, especially in regards to the basic game framework and class design principles.
Asking what bad game design is, especially in an RPG, is like asking which professional writers are bad?  They are all bad or good depending on the reader.  Such is the same with RPG's, it just depends on the players (DM included).  

There is one exception to this rule - FATAL.   
One aspect of bad game design I haven't seen mentioned yet is the "Band Aid effect".  There are mechanical issues in many TTRPGs.  Future editions can attempt to fix these issues, but more often than not I see these issues either altered only slightly or replaced with other problematic mechanics as opposed to the actual issue being addressed.

If I were to point to a D&D Next example, I would have to point at the Advantage/Disadvantage system.  Designed to go hand in hand with Bounded Accuracy, it is supposed to limit the number of flat +x/-x riders on attack roles (which helps curb numerical inflation) while still providing a meaningful bonus at both high and low levels.  What it adds is an incredibly "swingy" effect on dice rolls that can be subjectively used as a reward/penalty by any DM at any time.  Advantage frequently leads to a default success, and disadvantage can lead to a player feeling success has been unfairly taken from him.
Rather than fixing numerical inflation issues within the D&D rules (an issue present in many editions that does need addressing, lest anyone accuse me of edition warring), the D&D Next developers have decided to simply add in a new mechanic that doesn't actually address the basic mechanical issue.
I think in a TTRPG context, the "best design" is the optimal way of simulating the experience you're trying to simulate (whether that be "verisimilitude," cinematic narrative, tactical combat, or something else). "Bad design" is anything that distracts from or degrades that experience.

Reinhart's keystones - clarity, reliability, simplicity - tie in nicely here. The problem with an unnecessarily complex system is that it often distracts from what you're trying to simulate - but of course, that depends on what exactly you're trying to simulate. So for me, barbarians having 2 rages per day is unwanted complexity, because when I'm playing a barbarian I want to be brash and impulsive and not worry about conserving my daily rages. But a wizard having a bunch of spells to memorize, even though it's more complex, isn't unwarranted, because when I play a wizard I'm simulating a more cerebral, strategic character and I expect to make some higher-order tactical and strategic decisions.

An overly simplistic system causes problems as well, if it fails to capture the intricacies of a situation. If my bard, who is trying to get the king to sign a treaty, spends hours making contacts, spying on people, intercepting diplomatic messages, and seducing politically powerful ladies, and then when the time comes the DM just has me roll a Persuade check to see if I convince him, that might be anticlimatic for me - just as it'd be anticlimatic for a fighter character to resolve all his battles with a single "Swordfighting" check.
Better Game Design leads to more enjoyment by the participants and a greater number of participants.

I have to disagree with many of the examples of Bad Game Design.  Most are not bad game design.  They are simply mechanics that are not subjectively preferred by the person writing the post.

Good and Bad Poetry are often subjective.  Some of the most famous poems in my mind are simply not interesting to read and not thought-provoking. 

People should be clear whether bad game design is a subjective determinant or if there are definite results which are contradictory to those desired.

I remember one video game where I simply maxed out invisibility and could then run amok anywhere I desired.  Another bad video game design would be getting stuck in a position with no escape but to restart the game. 
From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.



Bing Bing Bing we have a winner...Your prize: cue someone saying your absolutely wrong and don't know anything about game design, and that their way is objectively better in some kind of provable way...even though it isn't

From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.



Actually bad design is any design that does not work with the design goals. For instance standing alone with no design goals vancian casting is fine, no problem. When you take the design goals into account though vancian casting becomes a problem. This is because the design goal to support all play styles is not supported by vancian casting alone. If vancian casting were an option among many swappable casting systems there would be no problem. Its also a problem when you take into account the design goal of balance. Vancian casting as implemented is only balanced between level 3 and 12 give or take a level or two. In the early levels the at-wills don't scale fast enough and there aren't enough spell slots for the Wizard to keep up. At higher levels the Wizard is able to cast extremely powerful spells every round of every fight every day and they have the variety to choose a spell for any situation. Now alone there is nothing wrong with vancian casting, but when you take the design goals into account it doesn't really work. Now they can alter the current implementation to work with the design goals by adding a swappable alternative casting system and balancing out the number of spells known and spell slots to be more even across all levels...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.

Mar 2, 2013 -- 1:10PM, ankiyavon wrote:

From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.




Actually bad design is any design that does not work with the design goals. For instance standing alone with no design goals vancian casting is fine, no problem. When you take the design goals into account though vancian casting becomes a problem. This is because the design goal to support all play styles is not supported by vancian casting alone. If vancian casting were an option among many swappable casting systems there would be no problem. Its also a problem when you take into account the design goal of balance. Vancian casting as implemented is only balanced between level 3 and 12 give or take a level or two. In the early levels the at-wills don't scale fast enough and there aren't enough spell slots for the Wizard to keep up. At higher levels the Wizard is able to cast extremely powerful spells every round of every fight every day and they have the variety to choose a spell for any situation. Now alone there is nothing wrong with vancian casting, but when you take the design goals into account it doesn't really work. Now they can alter the current implementation to work with the design goals by adding a swappable alternative casting system and balancing out the number of spells known and spell slots to be more even across all levels...Smile


I personally think the opposite in relation with the at-will cantrips. I actually think that the damage ones scales too much and overall damage of the at-will cantrips should be lowered (they are already saying that they will reduce the damage of martial characters). 4d10 is higher than most 1st and 2nd level damage spells. At-will cantrips should never overshadow their other spells.
But overall the design should meet their designs goals, I agree with that. I also agree that balance is needed across all levels. But I think that balance can be achieved with Vancian magic (with and without at-will cantrips, but that's another story), but I'm not opposed to alternative casting systems, by the way.
Basically a large part of what people consider "bad design" is design that they don't like it, it's true.
From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.



Actually bad design is any design that does not work with the design goals. For instance standing alone with no design goals vancian casting is fine, no problem. When you take the design goals into account though vancian casting becomes a problem. This is because the design goal to support all play styles is not supported by vancian casting alone. If vancian casting were an option among many swappable casting systems there would be no problem. Its also a problem when you take into account the design goal of balance. Vancian casting as implemented is only balanced between level 3 and 12 give or take a level or two. In the early levels the at-wills don't scale fast enough and there aren't enough spell slots for the Wizard to keep up. At higher levels the Wizard is able to cast extremely powerful spells every round of every fight every day and they have the variety to choose a spell for any situation. Now alone there is nothing wrong with vancian casting, but when you take the design goals into account it doesn't really work. Now they can alter the current implementation to work with the design goals by adding a swappable alternative casting system and balancing out the number of spells known and spell slots to be more even across all levels...




optional casting systems you mean those things they are doing?

also nice one true way of balance

and balance has never been a chief design goal.  They want to make sure nothing is explicitly broken sure, but they've danced around that balance question every time it came up.  They'd give some foggy answer where they say balance isn't as important as parity.  Their less concerned with making everything balanced in all ways and more concerned with making sure the options do explicityl what they are supposed to do, making sure the option does what it is supposed to.  Think of the most current L&L they didn't say the archer specialty would be balanced they just said it would definitely make you an archer.  They didn't say every single specialty will give you all the exact same ammounts of capabilities (all specialties give you 3 skills, 4 powers, and a bonus to your defensiveness).  They said no the archer specialty will make you an archer.  They have never said that balance was a chief design concern in fact every answer they gave made it seem like it isn't explicitly a design goal.  They try for it where they can balance purely quantitative data and make no value judgements between even slightly non comprables.  Then from there they leave us tools to fix the balance to where we want it. 
From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.

If this were true the words "good", "bad" and "design" would have no meaning in this context.  Games are planned things.  The plan can be of poor quality, as can the implementation of said plan.  If that were not the case, rolling dice on occasion just to see what the dice rolled (taking no numbers into actual account in any decisions) and coming up with a collaborative story would be just a good a TTRPG as any version of D&D.  There would be no reason to buy any books ever.  We might as well be listening to a man telling sagas by a campfire, asking him questions to drive the storyteller to talk about the parts of the saga we enjoy the most.
Games are structured playing.  That structure can be objectively analyzed for quality.
Better Game Design leads to more enjoyment by the participants and a greater number of participants.

I have to disagree with many of the examples of Bad Game Design.  Most are not bad game design.  They are simply mechanics that are not subjectively preferred by the person writing the post.

Good and Bad Poetry are often subjective.  Some of the most famous poems in my mind are simply not interesting to read and not thought-provoking. 

People should be clear whether bad game design is a subjective determinant or if there are definite results which are contradictory to those desired.

I remember one video game where I simply maxed out invisibility and could then run amok anywhere I desired.  Another bad video game design would be getting stuck in a position with no escape but to restart the game. 



As an artist, I really have to point some things out here about subjectivity.

It is not a substitute for standards of taste or objective qualitative analysis.

You may not like some famous poems.  This is neither an objective viewpoint OR an aesthetic judgement that is useful to anyone.
We must be cautious not to mix up our personal tastes with our ability to make judgements about quality.
You may enjoy a cheap wine, but  that does not make it a good wine.  Even for you it is not a good wine.  Good is a qualitative term that must respect certain standards of judgement.  What those standards are is a long and difficult debate that will always continue, but subjective experiential evidence is not applicable.  True judgements must be grounded in logic and formulated with a particular care to respect universality.

In the art world, these lines have been deeply blurred.  Ego, ambition and large quantities of cash have prompted people to destroy standards for personal gain.  They have eliminated common sense and universal intuition.  In other areas of art such as music and film, we seem to understand the separation of subjective and objective judgements of quality.  We can listen to music that we know isn't good but it entertains us, and we like it despite its shortcomings.  This does not mean that the standards of quality must flex to absorb that content.  We simply have a reaction to something that is not predicted by the standards.  The standards do not change until there is a universal cultural shift regarding the basis for qualitative judgements.  

In short, you can like something that isn't "good".  You can dislike something that is "good".  Your like or dislike does not alter the quality of the subject. To have a discussion about these things we must learn to divorce our subjective view of reality from the objective view, even when it comes to aesthetic judgements.



Mar 2, 2013 -- 1:10PM, ankiyavon wrote:

From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.






Actually bad design is any design that does not work with the design goals. For instance standing alone with no design goals vancian casting is fine, no problem. When you take the design goals into account though vancian casting becomes a problem. This is because the design goal to support all play styles is not supported by vancian casting alone. If vancian casting were an option among many swappable casting systems there would be no problem. Its also a problem when you take into account the design goal of balance. Vancian casting as implemented is only balanced between level 3 and 12 give or take a level or two. In the early levels the at-wills don't scale fast enough and there aren't enough spell slots for the Wizard to keep up. At higher levels the Wizard is able to cast extremely powerful spells every round of every fight every day and they have the variety to choose a spell for any situation. Now alone there is nothing wrong with vancian casting, but when you take the design goals into account it doesn't really work. Now they can alter the current implementation to work with the design goals by adding a swappable alternative casting system and balancing out the number of spells known and spell slots to be more even across all levels...


I personally think the opposite in relation with the at-will cantrips. I actually think that the damage ones scales too much and overall damage of the at-will cantrips should be lowered (they are already saying that they will reduce the damage of martial characters). 4d10 is higher than most 1st and 2nd level damage spells. At-will cantrips should never overshadow their other spells. But overall the design should meet their designs goals, I agree with that. I also agree that balance is needed across all levels. But I think that balance can be achieved with Vancian magic (with and without at-will cantrips, but that's another story), but I'm not opposed to alternative casting systems, by the way. Basically a large part of what people consider "bad design" is design that they don't like it, it's true.



Unfortunately it has nothing to do with preference. The design goal is to 'support all play styles of all editions' and vancian casting leaves out an entire editions play style. Its a yes or no question. Does vancian casting support all styles of play of all editions and the answer is a simple no.

The second part is the damage, now without running 4,000 tests to see how dealing damage compares to inflicting status effects, we can't really compare the usefulness of status effects, but going with the spells that deal straight up damage, we can compare those with the other classes damage and for the first few levels the Wizard falls well behind and at the higher levels the Wizard skips well ahead. So mathematically speaking, yeah they aren't balanced in comparison to other classes. Without having to even entertain my like or dislike of the current system. Now could they alter vancian to be balanced at all levels? Sure. They just haven't done it. They simply don't meet the design goals and therefore it is bad design...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
I am not opposed to other magic systems, I said that. I just said that Vancian can be balanced. But yes, I think that low level wizards are now underpowered, but I don't think that the cantrips have anything to do with, quite the opposite. At high level, their cantrips are better than most 1st and 2nd level spells, that should not happen, and even in low level a d10 is the damage die of a melee martial two-handed weapon. The wizards have it ranged one-handed with an effect. I think the problem is not the cantrips.
The designers have said that they will tone down the damage of martial characters. I'm waiting to see that.
From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.



Actually bad design is any design that does not work with the design goals. For instance standing alone with no design goals vancian casting is fine, no problem. When you take the design goals into account though vancian casting becomes a problem. This is because the design goal to support all play styles is not supported by vancian casting alone. If vancian casting were an option among many swappable casting systems there would be no problem. Its also a problem when you take into account the design goal of balance. Vancian casting as implemented is only balanced between level 3 and 12 give or take a level or two. In the early levels the at-wills don't scale fast enough and there aren't enough spell slots for the Wizard to keep up. At higher levels the Wizard is able to cast extremely powerful spells every round of every fight every day and they have the variety to choose a spell for any situation. Now alone there is nothing wrong with vancian casting, but when you take the design goals into account it doesn't really work. Now they can alter the current implementation to work with the design goals by adding a swappable alternative casting system and balancing out the number of spells known and spell slots to be more even across all levels...




optional casting systems you mean those things they are doing?

also nice one true way of balance

and balance has never been a chief design goal.  They want to make sure nothing is explicitly broken sure, but they've danced around that balance question every time it came up.  They'd give some foggy answer where they say balance isn't as important as parity.  Their less concerned with making everything balanced in all ways and more concerned with making sure the options do explicityl what they are supposed to do, making sure the option does what it is supposed to.  Think of the most current L&L they didn't say the archer specialty would be balanced they just said it would definitely make you an archer.  They didn't say every single specialty will give you all the exact same ammounts of capabilities (all specialties give you 3 skills, 4 powers, and a bonus to your defensiveness).  They said no the archer specialty will make you an archer.  They have never said that balance was a chief design concern in fact every answer they gave made it seem like it isn't explicitly a design goal.  They try for it where they can balance purely quantitative data and make no value judgements between even slightly non comprables.  Then from there they leave us tools to fix the balance to where we want it. 



They stated they were doing the optional casting systems, we haven't heard a peep about it since. Forgive me if I don't believe known "change direction"ers.

Here is an early article on the design goals where they talk about being able to support all play styles.

This article says that "Keep the classes balanced. All of the classes should feel competent when compared to each other at all levels, though we're OK with classes being better at specific things."

So their design goal is literally that the classes are balanced when compared level by level. So if the Wizard is not balanced at levels 1-2 and 13-20 and the Fighter is, then they are not meeting their own design goals. Its just that simple. I'm also talking specifically about the latest play test packet which we can compare. Again, there is a such thing as bad game design and we are seeing some of it right now. Its a good thing we can point it out and show them where they are messing up and point out ways to fix things...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.



Actually bad design is any design that does not work with the design goals. For instance standing alone with no design goals vancian casting is fine, no problem. When you take the design goals into account though vancian casting becomes a problem. This is because the design goal to support all play styles is not supported by vancian casting alone. If vancian casting were an option among many swappable casting systems there would be no problem. Its also a problem when you take into account the design goal of balance. Vancian casting as implemented is only balanced between level 3 and 12 give or take a level or two. In the early levels the at-wills don't scale fast enough and there aren't enough spell slots for the Wizard to keep up. At higher levels the Wizard is able to cast extremely powerful spells every round of every fight every day and they have the variety to choose a spell for any situation. Now alone there is nothing wrong with vancian casting, but when you take the design goals into account it doesn't really work. Now they can alter the current implementation to work with the design goals by adding a swappable alternative casting system and balancing out the number of spells known and spell slots to be more even across all levels...




optional casting systems you mean those things they are doing?

also nice one true way of balance

and balance has never been a chief design goal.  They want to make sure nothing is explicitly broken sure, but they've danced around that balance question every time it came up.  They'd give some foggy answer where they say balance isn't as important as parity.  Their less concerned with making everything balanced in all ways and more concerned with making sure the options do explicityl what they are supposed to do, making sure the option does what it is supposed to.  Think of the most current L&L they didn't say the archer specialty would be balanced they just said it would definitely make you an archer.  They didn't say every single specialty will give you all the exact same ammounts of capabilities (all specialties give you 3 skills, 4 powers, and a bonus to your defensiveness).  They said no the archer specialty will make you an archer.  They have never said that balance was a chief design concern in fact every answer they gave made it seem like it isn't explicitly a design goal.  They try for it where they can balance purely quantitative data and make no value judgements between even slightly non comprables.  Then from there they leave us tools to fix the balance to where we want it. 



They stated they were doing the optional casting systems, we haven't heard a peep about it since. Forgive me if I don't believe known "change direction"ers.

Here is an early article on the design goals where they talk about being able to support all play styles.

This article says that "Keep the classes balanced. All of the classes should feel competent when compared to each other at all levels, though we're OK with classes being better at specific things."

So their design goal is literally that the classes are balanced when compared level by level. So if the Wizard is not balanced at levels 1-2 and 13-20 and the Fighter is, then they are not meeting their own design goals. Its just that simple. I'm also talking specifically about the latest play test packet which we can compare. Again, there is a such thing as bad game design and we are seeing some of it right now. Its a good thing we can point it out and show them where they are messing up and point out ways to fix things...




"... though we're OK with classes being better at specific things."  

That's the part you miss where they say it is fine for one class to be better at some things than others.  In other words not a balanced contribution in those areas.

when they say balanced level by level they mean:  if they are both good at the same thing they do it equally well.  Clerics and druids will be equally skilled with magical healing.  Fighters, Barbarian, and Monks will be balance when compared in combat capability.  In no way will clerics be doing as well in combat as the fighter because it is okay for the fighter to be better at that specific thing.  In no way is it required that the fighter class and the rogue class be equally capable in skill usage.  They are OK with classes being better at specific things.  In order for someone to be better someone needs to be not as good as them.  Meaning things are allowed to be unbalanced in their capability.  The devs have literally never actually said that balance was of a chief concern in all respects.  they didn't say they should be balanced on all levels they said balanced at all levels meaning a level 5 wizard doing something and a level 5 cleric doing the exact same kind of thing will be balanced against one another.  Just that when they are doing a similar kind of thing they will both be similarly effective.  Thats all. 

"The next iteration must stretch the system to cover a wider variety of play styles through character and DM options."

Seems he said a wider variety of play styles not all play styles...


SOOOO not missing any design goals.  Not even your definition of bad design is filled.  You just keep calling it bad design because you don't like how it is being designed.  
@sleeps: I'm giving you a hammer so you can keep hitting the nail on the head. 

Well said. 
Also, not matching up with you Design Goals does not automatically = bad design in and of itself either. Your Goals may have been what was bad to beging with (as I believe in some of the case with Next). Thus, the Design not matching up with the Goals in the end can and does at times still bring about a good design.

It is still a matter of personal like/dislike. Just because they in the end ONLY use Vancian (as an example) and that does not match up exactly with the stated goal, does not mean that the end result is a bad or flawed design.
You Learn Something New Every Day!
I guess I should have stated bad game design for who? 

Some might argue that bad game design for WOTC is that no one buys the game and they lose money.

Others would say that bad game design for the players is that they are disappointed for spending money on it and don't want to play it.

There are probably arguments for these points as well but perhaps people don't buy a well-designed car or a well-designed outfit because of cost.  

It could be the marketing as well.  Good movies do poorly with bad marketing and bad movies can do well with good marketing.

   

     
From an objective point of view, bad game design almost does not exist.


I say 'almost' because it is possible to design a feature which is universally bad.  Deprecated elements are the most common version of this; 3E/3.5 and 4E are both extremely guilty of this with feats, where two feats with the same prereqs exist and one of them is better for every single character.  The weaker one might as well not exist and that is an example of bad design.



Things that are NOT an example of bad design include Vancian casting, encounter powers, different XP charts for different classes, healing surges, the full heal extended rest mechanic, the SW saga edition talent trees, and many other things.  I dislike a number of these things.  Other people dislike a number of them.  They are not bad design.  They simply reflect a design that I, or someone else, does not want.



Roughly one hundred percent of things that are called bad design on this board are, in fact, simply an element the poster doesn't like.



Actually bad design is any design that does not work with the design goals. For instance standing alone with no design goals vancian casting is fine, no problem. When you take the design goals into account though vancian casting becomes a problem. This is because the design goal to support all play styles is not supported by vancian casting alone. If vancian casting were an option among many swappable casting systems there would be no problem. Its also a problem when you take into account the design goal of balance. Vancian casting as implemented is only balanced between level 3 and 12 give or take a level or two. In the early levels the at-wills don't scale fast enough and there aren't enough spell slots for the Wizard to keep up. At higher levels the Wizard is able to cast extremely powerful spells every round of every fight every day and they have the variety to choose a spell for any situation. Now alone there is nothing wrong with vancian casting, but when you take the design goals into account it doesn't really work. Now they can alter the current implementation to work with the design goals by adding a swappable alternative casting system and balancing out the number of spells known and spell slots to be more even across all levels...




optional casting systems you mean those things they are doing?

also nice one true way of balance

and balance has never been a chief design goal.  They want to make sure nothing is explicitly broken sure, but they've danced around that balance question every time it came up.  They'd give some foggy answer where they say balance isn't as important as parity.  Their less concerned with making everything balanced in all ways and more concerned with making sure the options do explicityl what they are supposed to do, making sure the option does what it is supposed to.  Think of the most current L&L they didn't say the archer specialty would be balanced they just said it would definitely make you an archer.  They didn't say every single specialty will give you all the exact same ammounts of capabilities (all specialties give you 3 skills, 4 powers, and a bonus to your defensiveness).  They said no the archer specialty will make you an archer.  They have never said that balance was a chief design concern in fact every answer they gave made it seem like it isn't explicitly a design goal.  They try for it where they can balance purely quantitative data and make no value judgements between even slightly non comprables.  Then from there they leave us tools to fix the balance to where we want it. 



They stated they were doing the optional casting systems, we haven't heard a peep about it since. Forgive me if I don't believe known "change direction"ers.

Here is an early article on the design goals where they talk about being able to support all play styles.

This article says that "Keep the classes balanced. All of the classes should feel competent when compared to each other at all levels, though we're OK with classes being better at specific things."

So their design goal is literally that the classes are balanced when compared level by level. So if the Wizard is not balanced at levels 1-2 and 13-20 and the Fighter is, then they are not meeting their own design goals. Its just that simple. I'm also talking specifically about the latest play test packet which we can compare. Again, there is a such thing as bad game design and we are seeing some of it right now. Its a good thing we can point it out and show them where they are messing up and point out ways to fix things...




"... though we're OK with classes being better at specific things."  

That's the part you miss where they say it is fine for one class to be better at some things than others.  In other words not a balanced contribution in those areas.



Not really. He said if you compare them at each level they will contribute equally, but some classes will be better at specific things. Like Wizards are better at magic and Fighters are good with weapons and armor, but they both contribute to combat equally. That's what they mean because that's what they said. Its balanced but different which is what anyone is saying when they advocate balance.

when they say balanced level by level they mean:  if they are both good at the same thing they do it equally well.  Clerics and druids will be equally skilled with magical healing.  Fighters, Barbarian, and Monks will be balance when compared in combat capability.  In no way will clerics be doing as well in combat as the fighter because it is okay for the fighter to be better at that specific thing.  In no way is it required that the fighter class and the rogue class be equally capable in skill usage.  They are OK with classes being better at specific things.  In order for someone to be better someone needs to be not as good as them.  Meaning things are allowed to be unbalanced in their capability.  The devs have literally never actually said that balance was of a chief concern in all respects.  they didn't say they should be balanced on all levels they said balanced at all levels meaning a level 5 wizard doing something and a level 5 cleric doing the exact same kind of thing will be balanced against one another.  Just that when they are doing a similar kind of thing they will both be similarly effective.  Thats all.



As I said above, you compare different classes at the same level and they should be able to contribute equally. Its pretty clear what they meant and its not what you said above. It almost seems like you don't understand what we are saying when we say the word balanced. We don't mean that everyone can do everything all at the same effectiveness. We are saying that they should do different things that when compared are equally effective at overcoming an obstacle. A Fighter might jump over a pit, a Wizard levitates over, a rogue climbs down and then up the pit, a cleric uses divine might to gain advantage on a jump, a monk throws a pail of water and walks across. Different but all equally able to overcome the challenge. Balanced not equal to sameness.

"The next iteration must stretch the system to cover a wider variety of play styles through character and DM options."

Seems he said a wider variety of play styles not all play styles...


SOOOO not missing any design goals.  Not even your definition of bad design is filled.  You just keep calling it bad design because you don't like how it is being designed.  



You need to look further down where they say "The new system must create a mechanical and mathematical framework that the play experience of all editions of D&D can rest within. One player can create a 4th-Edition style character while another can build a 1st-Edition one. Complexity and individual experiences rest in the players' hands. That experience is more important than the specifics of the math. In other words, if the math works but the game doesn't feel like D&D, we've failed. If the system is sound, but it can't replicate D&D's classic adventures or seamlessly support any of D&D's settings, it isn't the right system for D&D."

They specifically say they want to include the play experience of all editions of D&D and then as their example they use a 1E and 4E style character sitting at the same table. I'm going to assume they mean that they want to include the 4E play style if they are using 4E examples...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
Sleeps, you're drunk. The cleric is just as (if not more) useful in combat as the fighter. Sure te cleric isn't doing as much damage but healing and lockdown like hold person are way more beneficial to the group overall.

Balanced does not mean doing the exact same thing people!!!! Get that through your heads.

In combat the cleric and fighter are balanced. The fighter is better at the specific thing called single target damage. The cleric is better at the single thing called support. Both are equally important to overcoming a combat task.
"Bad game design" is an attack phrase. It and every variation on the premise should be replaced by a forum code parser to read "design I don't like".
Sleeps, you're drunk. The cleric is just as (if not more) useful in combat as the fighter. Sure te cleric isn't doing as much damage but healing and lockdown like hold person are way more beneficial to the group overall. Balanced does not mean doing the exact same thing people!!!! Get that through your heads. In combat the cleric and fighter are balanced. The fighter is better at the specific thing called single target damage. The cleric is better at the single thing called support. Both are equally important to overcoming a combat task.



Sleeps: " Clerics and druids will be equally skilled with magical healing.  Fighters, Barbarian, and Monks will be balance when compared in combat capability.  In no way will clerics be doing as well in combat as the fighter because it is okay for the fighter to be better at that specific thing."

I'm having a difficult time seeing what you're saying.  I read his statement as the clerics will be supporting and the fighter will be doing more damage.  He never really stated they weren't balanced.  He stated they would be balanced with classes similar to their own on any given level.  Thus, the cleric and druid being balanced, the fighter and barbarian being balanced, etc. 

If you are taking his "as well in combat" as being more useful, I guess I see your side.  But, you should understand it's not meant to be taken that way.  The context of his sentence implies a different meaning.