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Building worlds and interactions - 36

I wrote this for a casual discussion on game design in shared virtual spaces, and wanted to capture it here.

Make your lore[1] accessible and changeable

Ideas are cheap. Execution is expensive because that is where costs of time and energy tend to concentrate. The brain is engaged in an almost constant stream of ideation, so much so that practices have grown out of learning to silence the chatter[2].

What does this mean to me in the context of worldbuilding and making your lore interactive and engaging? In particular for a collaborative community that engages through forum media?

To me it means that it's very easy to make something "cool", something which on the surface appeals but which further probing reveals has little substance. Because execution is what makes the substance; it comes later, after ideation.

In the digital age with countless generators to use as starting points or for inspiration and unparalleled accessibility to information, from the full text of public domain and open source works, to samples or snippets of commercial products, to analyses of texts and shared knowledge on YouTube, Wikipedia, news websites, etc. Ideas as germs are in hyper-abundance. Having a cool idea is not enough to make it popular because cool ideas are actually very common. On its own a cool idea is just a pitch. A pitch needs to be developed into a full work before it can hope to actually compete.

So in this context, what makes an idea valuable? How accessible it is to players and how much it can be transformed via that interaction. In terms of following paths of least resistance, I speculate that more players are more drawn to lore they can easily change or adopt[2], and that they can see the realization of this change as a result of their character's actions.

1: Essentially "intellectual property"

2: Meditation

3: In video games this translates to the open world and sandbox games steadily gaining in popularity; in the analog world we see this with TTRPGs like D&D and Pathfinder. Another more recent and more direct example is Gloomhaven, where character actions physically alter the board game equipment.


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