Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Multiple Choice Magic Design Questions of the Day 28-31

28) Which source/form of complexity is the most problematic for new players?
 a) Comprehension Complexity
 b) Board Complexity
 c) Strategic Complexity
 d) Format Complexity
 e) Rules Complexity

29) Which source/form of complexity is the most compelling for established players?
 a) Comprehension Complexity
 b) Board Complexity
 c) Strategic Complexity
 d) Format Complexity
 e) Rules Complexity

30) What is the biggest benefit of complexity in games?
 a) Intricate interactions are a satisfying intellectual challenge for players.
 b) Rules that are hard to understand mean only dedicated players play.
 c) The smartest players get an advantage by finding the most obscure interactions.
 d) Having to focus so much on a game helps you forget IRL problems.
 e) It's fun to mess with crunchy systems and see what happens.

31) What is the biggest downside to complexity in games?
 a) Complexity makes playing your game feel like work.
 b) All the processing is exhausting, limiting how long you can play well.
 c) Complexity means wordiness, which means you're reading more than playing.
 d) Complexity grants an unfair advantage to smarter/entrenched/serious players.
 e) Complex games are intimidating, and so less approachable.

Click through to see the answer and my rationale.

Comprehension Complexity is terrible. It delays gratification without a pay-off (at least other than knowing you were patient enough to get there). It gatekeeps players who are unfamiliar with the language, who are having trouble focusing (today or always), or who aren't as good at interpreting turgid prose (like this). It gives players more work to do memorizing the set and playing the game. It just gets in the way.

Board Complexity isn't great either. Having a bunch of moving parts in play that you can string together to do something more or unexpected is cool, but when you have too much you are presented with a problem that you know has an optimal solution—one that you could figure out given enough time—but your time is limited, and so you feel rushed and you feel inadequate. If I ask you what 5x7 is, most of you will snap that answer back and feel great. If I ask what 57x75 is, most of you could figure it out, but it feels like work.

Strategic Complexity has its limits too—all complexity does—but is commonly either welcome or unnoticed. One way to identify strategic complexity is when you notice a secondary use for a card (or game piece or rule) that wasn't immediately obvious when you first read it. Or when you're looking two or more turns ahead to inform your immediate choices. These are things new players don't have  bandwidth to process, but it's okay because they also don't have the experience to see them.

Format Complexity is arguably just a combination of comprehension and strategic complexity on a broader scale. What I'm trying to get at with this concept is the kind of thinking required to build decks for Constructed or to Draft competitively. Looking at the spoiler for a new set and determining not just which cards are tournament-viable in the abstract, but in the specific context of the current Standard. This is very closely related to the Metagame, but not exactly. This work becomes less fun and more work as the number of cards, mechanics, and synergies in the format increase. That said, because players can spend as long as they want computing the problem, those who enjoy that can do so at their leisure.

Rules Complexity is sort of a sub-set of comprehension complexity, but specifically in reference to learning, understanding, and applying the rules of the game, where the other tends to focus more on card text. It's worse than comprehension complexity, because it requires reading a long and dry document as opposed to some beautifully illustrated cards, and failure means you either can't play the game at all or play it wrong as opposed to simply having to avoid a couple weird cards.

For #28, A & E are the most problematic for new players. B & D are fair answers. C is not a factor.

For #29, C & D are the most compelling for established players. B is a fair answer. E is weak. A is unacceptable.

#30 is so subjective. A, E & D are all good answers. I sort of think in that order, but whatever. C is fine. B is awful.

#31 is also fairly subjective, but E, A, & B are definitely better answers (again, I think vaguely in that order) than C or D (which are inaccurate).

I apologize for the squishiness of these questions and answers; I'm trying to fit in as many questions as possible in the few days we have left before the actual quiz.

These questions test your understanding of complexity in Magic and games. Useful articles: NWO, Lenticular Design & Complexity Vs Depth.


  1. Notes and answers before clicking through:

    Comprehension, board, and strategic complexity are defined in Maro's New World Order article. I assume "Rules Complexity" (not a term Maro has personally used AFAICT) refers to the rules details that make a mechanic work and how it behaves in edge cases, and "Format Complexity" (ditto) is like strategic complexity, but for a metagame.

    The NWO article makes clear that Comprehension and Board are the ones that Maro's worried about as issues for beginners. Board seems like the secondary issue, both because R&D ran into it after addressing Comprehension, and because with Board you at least get to play the cards. So I'd say Comprehension is the most problematic. 28-A.

    The NWO article also implies that pro players are all about strategic complexity. Board complexity and format complexity are also potentially compelling for experienced players, but less so, and I'd rather go with the one that Maro's picked out. 29-C.

    For question 30, B, C, and D are such mean-sounding answers that I eliminate them immediately. (Write better red herrings, Jay!) A and E are both true; A is more of a Spike take, E more of a Timmy/Johnny take. But "see what happens" is not a description of why most players are there, so the better answer is 30-A.

    Question 31 has better quality red herrings. The answers I eliminate first are C (complexity is not always wordiness) and D (yes, it grants an advantage, but not an unfair one). A and B are saying the same thing, which has a grain of truth to it but doesn't apply to most experienced players. E best captures the rationale of the NWO article, so I go with 31-E.

    1. Well done!

      I will say that 30C is a double red herring because it's the meanest way to express something that really does draw in some gamers, and that 30D—while unusual and a bit sad—is a very real thing.

    2. My answers were the same - A, C, A, E. I think that bearing the longevity of the game in mind, these are the *best* answers, namely E for 31.