I’ve been thinking a bit about resolution mechanics over the last few days… random, I know — but that’s what kind of crazy crap comes into my head when I’m not working.
By “resolution mechanic” I’m referring to the behind-the-scenes method by which a game resolves its core gameplay mechanic.
The three I’ve been thinking about lately (there could be more, but I’ve only really been pondering the three) are twitch (resolution through a player’s skill with the interface), fortune (resolution by luck), and karma (resolution by value / stats / strategy). Examples of games based on each of the three mechanics are Whack-a-Mole, Chutes and Ladders, and Chess, respectively.
(Note: For interesting reading, check out Ron Edwards’ article on RPG theory — link goes to the section where he coins the terms Fortune and Karma — http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/5/)
The reason I’ve been thinking about it lately is that I’ve been trying to find my favorite combination of the three. Not many games really use any one exclusively, so I’m just been trying to figure out which I prefer.
When playing a pen-and-paper RPG or board game, I think I prefer a game that was a lot of Karma with a bit of fortune rolled in. A game that was entirely karma-based might simply have you compare two values together and the highest person wins. Such a game might involve a bit of karmic strategy as well — where you can use certain set abilities to buff your values by a static amount or to debuff your opponent similarly. I prefer, usually, if there is an additional bit of randomness that “makes things interesting.” Kind of like Magic: The Gathering — where players can use strategy in every aspect of the game, except for the inherent randomness of the shuffle and first draw.
If I were playing a video game, I think I’d prefer a mixture of all three — maybe in the following order: Twitch, Randomness, Karma. My favorite games tend to be those that are twitchy enough to make me enjoy using the control mechanism, but which are random enough to throw surprises at me. Adding an element of karma to it might add a bit of depth, strategy, or replay. A good example of this would be a game like Deus Ex (the first one). The game was an FPS, first and foremost, but threw in a bit of fortune with the aiming. You had abilities and upgradable tech trees that allowed you to take some of the randomness off and added a layer of strategy on top of the experience. Thief was similar, though less random, in my opinion.
If you’ve got em, post YOUR favorite combination of resolution mechanics in the comments or in the forums. Or post more mechanics if they don’t fit into the three I mentioned. I’m interested in seeing what other people think about their favorite types of games when they break it down that way.