Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What is the 'Fun Now Manifesto' ?


Bankuei over on his blog posted something very interesting. He calls it “The Fun Now Manifesto.” Have a read:

1. Not everyone likes the same thing
2. Play with people you like
3. Play with rules you like
4. Everyone is a player
5. Talking is good
6. Trust, not fear or power
7. It's a game, not a marriage
8. Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes
9. Fix problems, don't endure them

Now, it refers mostly to play. It gives good guidelines for selecting your fellow players, what you’ll play together, and how you’ll play. So what does it have to do with design? Well, there’s some important stuff designers can take from this.

#1: “Not everyone likes the same thing” this tells us that no matter how hard we try, we won’t please everyone. So don’t try. Target an audience with your game. You’re an indie game, not a mega-corp like WotC or Wizkidz. Realize that there will be people who don’t like your game, and that’s okay. Design it for the people who will like your game.

#3: “Play with rules you like” I could just as easily say, “Design with rules you like.” Don’t add in junk just because you think other people will not buy your game if you don’t have it. Design a game you’d like to play with rules you’d like to play with. Chances are very good that others have tatstes very similar to yours. Those are the people you’re after. Adding equipment lists, falling damage tables, setting ficiton, or whatever else to your game to make it “more marketable” will end up making it less so.

#4: “Everyone is a player” this includes a GM. For designers, it means if you’re going to have a GM, make the game fun for him too. Give him explicit instructions and then the tools to help him carry out those instructions. Very few games incorperate explicit GM rewards. Why is that? Come up with ways for the GM to earn extra currency/influence/whatever in your game. Don’t leave him out of your design.

#6: “Trust, not fear or power” Don’t fear spreading power out among all the participants. And don’t fear letting all the players have a say in each other’s characters. Also, don’t include horrific punishments in your game for charactes and/or players who “don’t play the way you want them to.” If they’re looking for a good time, they’ll stay pretty close to the rules you’ve written. If they’re looking to ruin everyone’s fun, there’s not a thing you, as the designer, can do about it anyway. Trust the playes to play your game.

#8: “Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes” Every ten minutes, especially if a group is very sociable, may be a high goal, but never-the-less, your game should provide avenues for action, engagement, and resolution often and in a powerful way. Rules for travel time, equations for fuel tank capacity, or encumberance tables often bog down play. If during playtesting they get in the way of getting to what the game is really about, then drop them. No one’s gonna miss them.

#9: “Fix problems, don't endure them” playtest, playtest, playtest! And then revise. Don’t leave unsolved issues in your game just because you saw them in another game. Don’t ignore a problem that you think players won’t run into very often. And lastly, don’t give up. Your game is good. It has potential. Don’t settle for a half-assed project. A designer can’t be afraid to change things that need changing no matter how long they’ve been in the design or how dear that broken little mechanic is to their heart. If it causes problems, it should probably go.



PS: I really want to thank you, Chris, for coming up with this, and I hope you don't mind me expaning on it here.


Bankuei said...

Hi Troy,

Neat take on pushing the Manifesto for design. Only thing I'd add (for design) is: Support and encourage a functional social contract (aka, Fun Now). Encourage & remind folks that everyone is a player, to trust (and respect trust), etc.

Lots of the older games would probably play out very differently if they had this advice for the players & the GMs.

Troy_Costisick said...


I agree wholeheartedly, Chris. In every game I design I plan on including explicit instructions to players and GMs as well as usefull tools to carry out those instructions. Hopefully in every game I offer advice on, I can encourage that designer to do the same. Your Conflict Map is an excellent example of a GM tool, btw. I plan to use it. I hope other people do too.



Jorge o mis alias said...

( First post on any of my recently-discovered Forge&surroundings: i´m an Argentinian gamer, you know... Forgive my english if it slips... )

Watch out with "Rules for travel time, equations for fuel tank capacity, or encumberance tables often bog down play. If during playtesting they get in the way of getting to what the game is really about, then drop them. No one’s gonna miss them."

You seem to go on a "very-detailed-simulationism-is-boring" type of answer, and to some people, some time, it may be not. To use your own example, rules for encumbrance and fatigue might very well be very in-focus in a game that attempts to capture the emotional experience, in terms of "me and the mountain" of pro hikers/climbers...

Any way: great blog. Learning as i read, and i´m reading it all from 0 to now...

Gorsh ( Jorge )

Troy_Costisick said...


Welcome to Socartic Design, Jorge! You may have a point. Sim is great fun, but let us think about it for a moment.

Take Star Wars for example. If you are playing a rebel pilot, which of the next two choices would you rather do: 1)Do math computations to discover how much fuel you will need for your X-wing based on the distance of your trip, more math to calculate how much money it will cost, and then while you are fighting calculate how much fuel you are currently using so you know how much you will need when you get back OR 2) Would you rather just have the game say "refueling your X wing costs 1000 credits per trip" and get strait to the fighting?

Perhaps some people would enjoy playing with numbers as was described in the firs choice, but there are also a good many people who don't consider that play at all and who find it very tedious and boring. Rather than making players pass through a lot of small obstacles just for the opportunity to get to the fight, Chris (bankuei) is saying get to the fight right away!

That's why it's called "Fun Now." The idea is to remove as many barriers as possible that prevent immediate enjoyment. Some people do like the barriers, and that's fine. However, the play those people enjoy are not the kind of play Chris is talking about.



Jorge o mis alias said...

Darn, it was right there for me in the begining and never saw it! :
"If during playtesting they get in the way of getting to what the game is really about".

That pretty much auto-answers my point; and you have done too. Just jumped before re-reading.

Thogh sometimes fuel, money and such may be what´s worth detail ( i´m thinking WWII bomber runs ) we agree, it seems: Sim or not, rules layering ( high points of contact, in GNSian ) is only interesting if it aims at the game´s target. That´s what defines if it´s a bogging-as-hell barrier or a "delicious level of detail", in the end... ( to us hardcore simmies, at least )


PS: Funny you´ve mentioned SW. SW d6 is my home-game, my first rpg book and all; and with it i discovered my own way of GNS (GDS, or any ), after killing a whole party of Rebels for strictly in-game causalities... Not the best approach for a Star Wars adventure, i guess :)