Chrononauts Playtesting Results
Report #1

By Andrew Looney

Part 1: Intro (i.e. WWN July 31, 2000)
Part 2: Things I'm Changing (and why)
Part 3: Things I'm Not Changing (and why not)
Part 4: TimeLine Topics
Part 5: The Color Re-Design
Chrononauts Home

Part 3: Things I'm Not Changing (and why not)

Having just gone through all the things I've decided to change, I feel the need to address some of the ideas people have suggested that I'm not going to adopt, and give my reasons why. A lot of neat ideas have been bouncing around the mailing list, but many of them just won't work, for various reasons. In some cases, these are good ideas that we've already tested and found wanting; in other cases, they're interesting concepts that might even make for a better game in some peoples' opinions, but which I don't really feel is right, or which is simply too radically different to consider at this late stage in our production cycle.

I should also point out that when considering playtesters' feedback, a designer needs to look, not at the ideas being suggested by the players, but at the flaws, real or imagined, that the players are attempting to fix; the designer can then work out his own modifications, picking and choosing what he likes from the suggestions, like a patron at a salad bar. (And when I go to a salad bar, I pass over a lot of the fixin's...)

Finally, there's also the simple fact that you can't please everyone, so there are always going to be some players who think the design should move in directions other than those the designer prefers. Many of the ideas people have offered would add complexity to a game I've worked hard to streamline, and while I'm sure there are some who'd like it more therefore, it would make it too complicated for others, and in the end wouldn't really be an Andy Looney game.

All that said, I would like to offer some specific feedback on some of the ideas I've heard lately...

Drop Discontinuity? Discontinuity is one of those love-it or hate-it kind of cards of the sort I often put into my games, much to the annoyance of some gamers, who don't like this sort of card. But for every opinion, there's an equal and opposite opinion. Some people call for removal of Discontinuity, but others say it's one of their favorites. It's also one of my favorites. It stays in. (But if your group doesn't like it, you can always leave it out...)

Artifact Powers: Sorry Seth, these just aren't working for me - it's too strained and adds more complexity than I want to introduce, particularly at this late stage. (But I think it might make the basis for a great set of house rules...)

Multiple Patches: Many people love the 1945 nexus and asked for more stuff like that. Well, this is one of those things we already tried, and found unworkable. In my earliest drafts, multiple patches for any given paradox were common, usually with differing linchpin combos. But it didn't work... imagine needing to do all the "can I really play this here" double-checking you have to do with the 1945 patches, multiplied across the board. It was painful. The WTS-level testing proved there needed to be a one-to-one correspondence between patches and holes, with an allowable exception of one, provided no character depended on any of the 1945 patches.

Artifacts Tied to the Timeline: Here again, we've already tried and rejected this. For a long time, the artifact set included a Beatles Reunion Concert CD and a holiday greeting card from the Mondale White House. The mission, called the Impossible Objects Collection, required only these two items; but to get them, you had to first create the alternate universe in which they were playable, then play it, then change the universe again so that these fairly mundane items would be amazingly unique. It was a big failure, since what was supposed to be cool about these items instead made them a burden.

The Disjointedness Issue: Many observers have said the artifact and timeline portions of the game seem "too disjoint." While I don't deny that some sections of the game are unrelated to each other, I don't consider this a problem. For one thing, it allows the game to be split up into different modules, which some have said isn't a selling point, but others have said very much is. (And by the way, if you haven't actually played Artifaxx, you aren't allowed to have an opinion about it. It's more fun that you might think... I was surprised myself.) To shed some light on my thoughts about the disjointedness issue, here's a small preview of an article I wrote this week, for the upcoming issue of Game Trade magazine, entitled "Creating Chrononauts (or, How I Invented a Time Machine Disguised as a Deck of Playing Cards)":

"LARPs are one of the few gaming genres where I've seen time travel used effectively. Back in 1985, at the dawn of the LARP age, I was the primary writer on Reklone-3, an Interactive Literature game (that's what we called it back then) about a gathering of 75 time travelers, summoned to repair a widening hole in the space-time continuum. I thought about that game a lot as I developed Chrononauts, hoping to infuse the card game with the same sort of layered and multi-directional action one finds in a LARP. This is why there are 3 different ways to win in Chrononauts... Having several goals at once provides an interweaving of game elements not unlike the intertwining of plotlines in a movie or sitcom, while also giving the player two other paths to victory whenever fate makes one path seemingly unattainable."

Switching Identities: I've resisted putting in any ID switching cards because I don't think you should really be able to change who you are. Changing a mission is as easy as changing your mind, but changing where you come from, that's hard. Of course, brain-switching equipment will probably be common in the future, but there was a limit to how much bogus technology I'm willing to invoke.



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