Posted by Jesse, gamura bibliophileous.
I am a software designer and engineer. One of the first things I was taught when designing software was to always K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid or Keep It Stupid Simple). Basically, this means to not add too many features or bells and whistles to what you are working on. Try to accomplish the necessary task with as few items in the interface as possible. Now, you may be asking “What does this have to do with gaming?” I have found the K.I.S.S. pinciple to work in many facets of life outside my chosen field and I have noticed that game designers do not always follow it, sometimes to the game’s benefit and sometimes to the game’s detriment.
The game that brought this to my mind was a new role-playing game that I am trying with my gaming group, Traveler. Well, new to us anyway; in fact the game itself has been around for a long time, but it is our first time exploring and adventuring in space with Traveler (5th edition). Anyway, the thing that got me thinking was that, instead of using decimal numbers (1, 2, 3 . . . 10, 11 ,12 . . . 19, 20, 21 . . . ), they decided to use an eHex system. Basically, you can specify any number between 1 and 32 using either a number or letter (you know, 1, 2, 3 . . . A, B, C . . . K, L, M). Now, using this does save space as they claim, but it really raises the barrier for new players. I may be going out on a limb, but I think most of us do not add up pips on 3 or 4 six-sided dice and come up with D, K, or M in our heads. The thing it does do is give the game a very futuristic and technological feel, which does fit with the game. Whether or not this is a good or bad deviation from K.I.S.S. depends on your point of view.
Another game we have talked about before in this blog is Heroes of Graxia. What is interesting with that game is that when playing it, you would think that K.I.S.S. was as far from the designer’s mind as possible. It is an extremely complex game with about a hundred things to keep track of as a player. But remnants of even more complexity suggest that K.I.S.S. principle must have been applied at some point in time. The game comes with miniatures—six various colored minis!?! Now keep in mind this is a card deck-building game. Miniatures just don’t belong. The only reason for this that we have been able to come up with is that they were included as part of the game play in the original design (maybe you used them to block card stacks or something), and remained after some subsequent revising. Who knows exactly, but I think someone K.I.S.S.ed this game!
Mostly these were just the random thoughts of a software designer applied to game design. I hope next time you play a game with extra random pieces, remnants of strange rules, or just things that you think are more complex than they need to be, you will think about K.I.S.S. and decide to simplify the game yourself (you know, use decimal numbers) or come up with your own rules to add that complexity right back in.
Have you experiened the pitfalls of failed application of the K.I.S.S. principle, or seen where it was elegantly put into play? Please share your favorite K.I.S.S. gaming moments below.