"The Power 19" is a concept I've seen tossed around the indie dev scene for a while. Published in 2006 by Troy Costisick, these are a series of questions to help game designers get right to the meat of game design. I'll get right down to it, and talk about Artificial Intelligence as a game concept.
The Power 19
1.) What is your game about?
Artificial Intelligence is a dystopian future narrative game about a loose organization of Artificial Intelligences manipulating the geopolitical landscape for the betterment of themselves and their parent organizations. Principle themes are power, manipulation and betrayal.
2.) What do the characters do?
Characters are Artificial Intelligences, each pursuing an individual agenda. These entities have individual subroutines that allow them to interact with the physical and virtual worlds in different ways. Successfully completing a heist will require the cooperation of many players. However, depending on the heist, players' motivations may cause them to betray the group. Players secretly hack each other and work to locate traitors in their midst. Cooperative action can lead to “reprogramming” of an AI.
3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
Players play roles with a perspective limited to their AI. The GM plays as an unknown HOST entity who facilitates communication, and provides information to the players. The GM is also a scene narrator, who describes the world as perceived by the AIs from a perspective of phone based sonar, security cameras and other technological sensing gear. The GM also plays the role of all humans the AIs interact with. The players are allowed to generate virtual worlds to interact with humans and other AI.
4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting is a dystopic near future with a lawless political landscape. There are no moral or legal repercussions for player actions, and this should contribute to the feeling that the players are not human.
5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Character creation consists of building a parent corporation, and then designing that corp's AI. Each AI has 3 laws of governance that determine what they are forbidden from doing. Additionally, they have some subroutines that dictate what in game actions they are allowed to take.
6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
Cooperation is key. Even clandestine operations require the actions of more than 1 AI. The principle heist story will require cooperation between multiple players.
8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
The GM is responsible for describing the physical realities of the world, principle to the heist story. Players are able to interact in virtual realities that they themselves shape. When an AI hosts such an encounter, they may describe it as they see fit.
9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
The game provides advancement opportunities for players to increase their narrative impact. This comes in the form of more powerful hardware to take more action,s and more specific and impactful subroutines.
10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
For player vs player mechanics, it is a bidding system. The AIs are all of equivalent knowledge and power, so if one or more AIs put more effort into an attack than the target does defense, they will win.
For the heist, there’s a D100 probability system with the players’ skilled interaction with systems they want to control, and a series of D6 response matrix for human NPCs, who are not as predictable. Matrices are situational. There are different responses that can be expected if the AIs have leverage over the human, or if they don’t.
11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
The % system serves to remind players that they are computers, and should think in abstracts, and the leverage/ non leverage human manipulation table serves to introduce dangerous variables that incline the players to distrust and not understand human behavior. Humans do not always respond rationally.
12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
Characters both advance by improving their hardware and subroutines, and by changing and developing their 3 laws.
13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
One theme of the game is power and control, both over the world via the heist,and over other players through clandestine operations.
14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
I want them to think about the game outside of the game. I want them to consider betrayal less as an emotional response and more as an impersonal mathematical one.
15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
The personalities of players and NPCs need to receive a lot of color, because it is principally a character driven game.
16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
Excited about watching the players communicate on multiple levels, and being privy to the main plot and the interpersonal meta plot at the same time.
17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
This game is written to leverage the strength of virtual communication. This game plays best from behind screens, rather than a table top. Additionally, it encourages secrets and alliances, and allows players to attack each other in secret, while cooperating face to face.
18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
Game to be published online, as free to test, then if it is a suitable quality, make it purchasable.
19.) Who is your target audience?
Target audience is established gamers with an interest in sci-fi, and the necessity to meet remotely.
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