Nindomonogatari Design Pillars

Discussion in 'Core Development Information' started by Liger, Apr 22, 2018.

  1. Liger

    Liger Administrator


    Nindomonogatari Design Pillars

    These are the main pillars that the NM game system is designed around; the design vision and intended experiences we wish to give the players. Of course the players will make their own experiences, and through playtesting we may find that some of these pillars need to be modified. It helps to have these in writing because it lets us vet all of our design decisions against these tenets for evaluation.

    Complexity Control

    Game content should provide more value than the complexity they introduce

    Every time you create a system, mechanic, or any kind of content in a game you introduce a new opportunities for your players. This is the value of the thing you've designed. What positive points does it have? What new opportunities does it present, etc. If you have strong answers for those questions then the thing you've created has high value and interest.

    However everything introduced also has increases the game's complexity; there's always some layer of it that's added with your new design. Whether it's a new synergy with an existing mechanic, a new option the player needs to think about in combat, or overhead that occupies the player's mindspace. This is especially true of character-system driven games like NM (or any P&P game), and is the primary pitfall of any designer in this genre. Complexity can kill a game by causing problems with the day to day interaction and understanding of the system. Many players (especially in creative games) get disinterested if their experience is too complex or there's too many knobs to turn and buttons to push around how they play the game.

    Nindomonogatari is designed to balance this value vs complexity equation. Everything that is present in this system and everything that's present in the future answers two questions:

    What value does this bring to the players?
    What complexities does this add to the players?

    If the value added is not greater than the risk that the complexities present, then it is not added, or it is modified until that value is higher. It's not that complexity itself is terrible; some is necessary for an interesting and deep game. Complexity cannot run rampant, however, and without constant evaluation from the player's perspective we might drive the system to an unmanageable point.

    Experience Cohesion

    Player factions or mechanics will not sequester experiences in drastic ways

    The core idea of this pillar is that no matter what a player's village, power level, or system build is they can have a similar game experience to everyone else. This sounds like an obvious design goal, but as is often seen in amateur RPG design where the players are separated by factions, problems of experience separation can crop up very quickly. Often times a player in one village can have wildly different opportunities on how they play the game than a player in a different village. The same is often true based on character classes, or character levels (though this one is slightly more flexible to grant for experience scaling).

    Another problem that crops up with these fashions can grow antagonistic toward each other, and can develop toxic inter-faction relationships. Nationalism is a problem that previous RPGs built on this faction-based system has developed, which causes a myriad of experience problems for the players just wanting to write and create and have a good time.

    We want to make sure that any system created is available either directly--or an equivalent--to all players. It's fine if a village wants to have a unique implementation for a system, or their own politics or a modification of a structure, but that thing should be evaluated and allowed to either be dispersed to all villages, or an equivalent system/modification should be available for the other villages.

    We don't want full homogenization, just an equal level of opportunities for all players.


    Players should feel empowered to be creative with the system (within reason)
    Moderators should feel empowered to allow players to have their own fun with the system (within reason)

    Players need to feel like the system is theirs to work with and not just a set of rules and constraints that they are forced to comply wholeheartedly with. We are a creative game based on running with your character and building upon your writing to have fun and meaningful experiences. We want to make sure the players feel like the constraints presented by the rules, while not deliberately meant to be broken, are not completely infallible and the system can attempt to support their creativity. There will always be things a player cannot do, but they need to feel confident that when we tell them they cannot do something it's because we have clear internal rules on why they cannot (typically related to creating bad or unfair experiences to others).

    Secondarily, moderators working with the system need to feel like they can help the players they're working with create a good experience. NM's system is designed to have moderators function similarily to Game Masters in other games; they are utilizing the system to help the player craft a fun experience. If the player wants to do something unique the mod should feel empowered to help facilitate that creativity while also understanding when it needs to be reigned in. A mod should feel like they have the power to make minor tweaks to the system to fit their and their player's current situation.

    Transparency and Purpose of Design

    Development should be transparent, and always be iterating with purpose and focus

    The last pillar is about the development process that we want to have around the game. Because the development team are a rotating group of (mostly) nonprofessional volunteers, it's inevitable that content will take time to iterate upon. The goal is that all development; whether it be new content or revising existing content, should have a clearly stated goal and intention. These goals should be publicly stated, along with some short words on the thought process behind the development towards those goals.

    There shouldn't be too many goals open at one time as to not overburden the team.

    Every time a new goal is to be established the dev team should evaluate player feedback and see where their focus should be given. There are no clear rules for this kind of thing, but the following are good questions to ask:
    • Is there any content that is causing problems or negative player experiences?
    • Is there any content the players currently under-utilize that could be revamped for new opportunities?
    • Is there any new content that the players have been heavily requesting?
    • Is there any new content that provides players brand-new opportunities?
    In addition to goals and mindsets of development being public, the development team should provide constant updates as to their process and progress. This doesn't have to be on a schedule or very detailed, but something that can give the players an idea of what kinds of irons are in the fire.


    There are deeper nuances to the above, and more minor or secondary goals that Nindomo is designed around, but the stated pillars pretty well describes the tenets of how this system is designed and how future design will be evaluated against. Being able to keep a coherent vision not only strengthens our game but strengthens the community and players' faith in the game. It allows them to latch on and keep on it, even if they get different experiences out of it.