The Mindstorm Weekly, Dec 13–19, 2021

A roundup of the things I was checking out this week.

Memex

The Memex Method, by Cory Doctorow

So, I think the appropriate way to start this post is with an explanation. I was written about in the Lawful Indifferent newsletter, specifically this post, and in the tweets talking about it, the author mentioned Cory Doctorow’s Memex method. I wasn’t sure what it was, but he did say that he was trying to browse the internet more thoughtfully, and I’m all about that, so I thought I’d take a look.

A quick search brought me to the post and reading it over was pretty inspiring. I think what he’s doing here is essentially a zettlekasten, which is another thing that I got kind of big into a year or so ago. Unfortunately, the programs that would do what I wanted are pretty expensive (Roam specifically is quite a lot), and now that there are good alternatives (Logseq) I’m a little less enamored with the zettlekasten, as it were.

The post essentially goes into detail about using a blog as a place to store your thoughts, find the things you like, and write about them. It is not for building a brand, growing your platform, and all those other buzzwords. That’s certainly how a lot of blogs feel these days, and I think the nostalgia-induced look back to what I remember blogs being has me wanting to try.

So, that’s what The Mindstorm Weekly is going to be! I’ve got a document saved, ready to publish on Sunday, and as I go about my week I’ll link and write about the things that interest me.

Intrigue Games and Factions

Some Thoughts On Intrigue, by Michael Prescott

I really enjoyed this post. I think it might have gotten missed a bit, since the angle was intrigue, but I would argue that the entire post is relevant for anyone wanting to deal with some sort of factions in there game. This is me. I’m dealing with factions.

It goes into some really good detail but my favorite part is the random strengths / weaknesses table, and how generating two weaknesses and one strength can really spice things up. The whole post emphasizes the need for leverage if you want to do anything—since you’re hamstrung and can’t use violence, you need to go about things in different ways, discovering weaknesses and hammering in on it.

I’m also very into the “infinite magnification” thing that is described, in that you can constantly “look deeper” into a faction, splitting it over and over again, until you’re essentially left with just say… one person. Which you can then apply leverage too.

I’ve been thinking lots of a game that takes place entirely in a city, with lots of moving parts and faction elements, and this post is giving me lots of thoughts to chew on. I didn’t see it get too much traction, so I recommend checking it out if you haven’t seen it already.

Asymmetric Classes & Table-Wide Participation

Collaborative Subsystems, by Ava Islam

A quick post that digs into asymmetry between classes in Errant, and also details out why playing connect 4 instead of chess as a mini-game makes way more sense. Focusing on creating mechanics that invoke backseat participation, but not backseat gaming is a powerful way to increase overall group buy-in.

Game Mechanic Pillars

You Got Narrative in My Game Mechanics (Part 2) by Monte Cook

A relatively short article discussing the creation of game mechanics. I like how he’s framed it up with the purpose of mechanics:

  1. Fun
  2. Simulation / believability
  3. Consensus / order

In the article he lays out how most mechanics should fall under at least two of these, and if it isn’t the first one, the mechanic probably needs some justification. A good article, that feels a bit like it’s just setting up for part 3.

Failing to Fail

Failing to Fail: The Spiderweb Software Way, by Jeff Vogel

We don’t write hits.

We try to service a respectable niche with competent games in order to sustain a pleasant sustainable middle-class income.

Talking about video games, but there’s some interesting questions that are prompted: how do you make a full, continuous career in the indie games business? (Few have. If any.)

Another interesting bit: talks about how new this form of art we’re working in is. “Nobody knows anything.”

My design process: I will recall every RPG I loved as a kid. Then I will steal the best idea from each.

He then goes on to talk about creative process, and gives some practical advice. Find your creative process. Then defend it. He’s thinking not in terms of 1-5 years, but in terms of 40 years. If there’s something in your process that annoys you, or rubs you wrong, it’s going to wear you down. You must remove it.

Everything is now about two things:

  • Fan base.
  • Back catalog.

Talking about making the next game, and the next:

I look for the 25% of it that’s the worst and I redo that.

Talking about dealing with people, and the long view of 40 years, he gives the advice to “shelter your brain.” If something is going to hurt your mindset, affect your work, and make you miserable, it needs to be cut out. Dealing with something on the short term is fine, but if you look at it from a 40 year perspective… shelter your brain. The first order of business is your work, and producing it.

Talking about stagnation:

It’s important to keep growing as an artist.

Brains crave variety.

Overall, a really good talk about what it means to think about art on a scale of decades, instead of the typical short term.

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