Goal Zero: Enjoying the game

In the play test response file there is a list of play test goals and unlike most lists this list starts at zero. Goal zero is: Did you enjoy the game? This is entirely a subjective question. Enjoyment can take many forms. Enjoyment may come from a feeling of satisfaction of mastering the capabilities of your chosen army, from winning against the odds, from coming back from a serious setback to success, or just from making the best of a bad situation.

In comparison there are many reasons not to enjoy a game. Spending too much time checking over complicated rules can drain enjoyment from a game. Playing a game where you have no game position advancing moves you can make,such as a standoff or a force mismatch, can prevent players from enjoying the game experience.

Another common cause of discontent is dissonance. Dissonance is a sense of wrongness about a situation. Dissonance is the feeling you got in 90’s sci fi movies when the special effects couldn’t compare to reality and the alien felt like a rubber suit instead of a living creature. If a playing piece does not function as it appears it should then a dissonance is created. A large imposing model should not have paper thin armor for example without a very good reason. For the same reason a small fast model cannot have heavy armor without a very good reason. Dissonance can also be caused by changes to the function of a model by changes in the rules. A good example of this is the Northern Cheetah, probably the benchmark model for pushing the extremes of defensive agility. If the Cheetah is not the hardest model to hit with aimed shots then clearly the dissonance of that will cause dissonance and that dissonance can shock the players out of the enjoyment of the game.

Many of the design decisions of Heavy Gear were created in previous editions of the game. Roles and variation have become standards that cannot be modified significantly without significant dissonance. There are exceptions where the dissonance existed in the previous editions and can now be corrected. A good example of this is the Mammoth where it had barely adequate armor before and has now been modified to match the expectation of players. It is now a walking tank, which matches player expectations.

An attack that would destroy a Mammoth outright should be a rare or exceptional case in a game. In reality in modern military's most vehicles can be knocked out or destroyed in a single hit and are virtually immune to attacks below a certain caliber. We can explain this with high tech advancements of future armor plate technology but regardless of the details the important fact is that no one would put a Mammoth on the game table if it could be destroyed by a single strike. This level of dissonance from reality actually improves enjoyment of the game unless you are the kind of player who enjoys movie scenes like Saving Private Ryan where a guy shoots a tank with a pistol and sees it explode (before we know it’s an airstrike).

Another way that enjoyment can be measured is by the willingness to repeat an experience. Whether you enjoy Heavy Gear because of the story elements, the challenge of the contest, or the feeling of success when your game choices reward you with an improved game position. Winning a game is important to the joy of the game but the challenge and details of the game itself and the fun of sharing that with another person is where I really want to see people enjoying the game. This is why enjoyment is goal zero, because it shapes the game development decisions from a fundamental standpoint. Any rule or model that does not advance or support goal zero needs a very good reason to exist.

Speaking of enjoyment the guys at Arkrite Press (Jason Dickerson and Greg Perkins) have announced they will be developing the Heavy Gear Universe RPG. There will soon be many more ways to enjoy Heavy Gear when not playing it as a tabletop miniatures game or building and painting models. See the announcement on the web site and the forum for details.

Next week will be the new update with corrections and errata to rules and lists.

forum handle: dave
Currently painting: Heteroi Long Fangs and Heteroi Sparks
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