Muse of Design

Omnipotent vs. Omnipotential

"If God is all-powerful then why is there evil? Either God is all-powerful and chooses not to stop evil, which means that he is not good, or God is all-good, but he is incapable of stopping evil, which means that he isn’t all-powerful"

This argument is flawed for a few reasons:

  1. it is based on an “either/or” fallacy.
  2. The assumption behind this argument is underdeveloped

The problem that arises is that we are only directed to look at two of God’s character traits: his omnipotence, and his omni-benevolence. If you take out His omniscience, then God cannot be God. Just because someone has the power to do something, doesn’t mean that they are doing that thing all the time. I can play the piano, just because I am not currently playing the piano doesn’t mean I lack the ability. Similarly, God can wipe out all the evil in the world, just because he isn’t currently doesn’t mean he lacks the ability. If someone has the potential to do something, they are not considered stupid or impotent for using their discretion when exercising that power.

Often times, the decision not to do something can lead to greater good. For example: A parent tells a child not to touch a hot stove. The parent has the potential to keep the child from touching that stove. Theoretically, they have the potential to stop the child every single time that they attempt to touch the stove. However, if a parent allows the child to touch the stove, would you consider them evil just because they let something harmful happen to their child? Many times this one experience of pain will teach the child much about safety in the kitchen. The parent used their discretion, choosing when to act and when to let their child experience the consequences of their decision. 

There is an assumption underneath this argument that also must be addressed. It looks something like this: “I see evil in the world, therefore God is not stopping the evil in the world.” I agree with the first part of the statement, yes, there is, evil in the world. However, the second part of the statement falls flat because this assumption needs to be developed further. Yes, there is evil in the world, however you cannot assume that God hasn’t stopped any evils from happening. That would require omniscience, to know every single act committed in history, and then the discernment to know whether they were evil or good. A better statement would be “There is evil in the world, therefore God is not stopping the evil that I see.” This statement does not preclude the fact that God may have stopped countless other evils, or that the evil that you’re seeing is significantly worse than what it could have been due to God’s wisdom and grace. 

Just some food for thought, 

The Poison of Education

The title of this post sounds a lot more cynical than it actually is. Maybe that’s a little misleading but I have spent enough time within the public education system to know that it can feel like that sometimes. The question I want to answer is: why is that?

When we were young learning was exciting, everything was new and our curiosity wouldn’t let us get enough of novel experiences. Compared with the apathy and boredom (two very separate and many times unrelated problems) that we see in the public school system and you’ve got to ask yourself where the public school system went wrong. 

When you want to poison someone, the critical component is dosage. Innocent things can become dangerous when ingested in large enough quantities. You can even die from water poisoning if you drink too much! On the other hand, there are some substances which are incredibly dangerous, but taken in small doses they are very beneficial for your body and can cure disease. The point is, whatever you are putting into your body you have to put the correct amount no matter how good you think it is. 

In the American public school system we have something good (education). There is an idea that if every minute that the student is required to be in school isn’t being used for education then the school is being irresponsible and wasteful of the time and money the state has given them. That’s just foolishness. Something that might be interesting in small doses becomes a complete and utter bore when it’s discussed ad nauseum for 45 minutes or even an hour. 

I have more ideas but they’re not fully formed yet. I’ll have an update to this later. 

Doing the Right Thing [The Dark Knight]

My older sisters, Sara and Catherine, and I were watching The Dark Knight the other day and we were talking about Batman’s rule: he never kills anyone. Specifically the conversation centered around the fact that even though batman is considered “above the law” by some he submits himself to “his one rule”. On top of this, even though Batman acts outside of the law, he submits the criminals that he captures to the authority of the city. 

Yes, Batman is a vigilante, but if we look deeper he isn’t the lone wolf that we see initially and in his alter ego: Bruce Wayne. Even though Batman is a superhero, he doesn’t consider himself the exception to the rule. It would be easy to look at his character and say that he has the discernment to carry out justice, but his commitment to justice is what keeps him from doing that. 

Some would argue that if Batman had killed the joker when he had the opportunity he could have saved a lot of people. It’s easy to say this when we know the end of the story. What makes batman heroic though is the fact that he sticks to his promises even when it doesn’t look like there are any benefits and it is making everything harder. He recognizes that the ideal of justice is so valuable that its survival is worth pain and loss, even the loss of his most loved friends.

The Role of Luck in Games

Luck.

Quite an interesting concept to think about. If it is just considered as a word, it has a completely different meaning than randomness. However, in game design what is often meant by the word “Luck” is Randomness, or Percent chance. However, colloquially we still use words like “Luck of the draw” or “dumb Luck” or even “beginner’s Luck”. So really, there’s two aspects of Luck when considered in the context of video games:

  1. What is the role of Luck in games?
  2. What is the affect of Luck in games?

The reason I chose to talk about this specific topic, is because I was recently working on Planet Control (the old version of my game) which I had considered to have a small amount of “Luck” (I called it randomness at the time) in one of the game-play mechanics. I was heavily influenced by an article that I had read which talked about randomness (Luck) and stated that, it was effective, not when it changed the outcome of the game for skillful players, but rather it had the chance to bump the game in favor of one player or another in closer games. That sounds a bit abstract, so let me offer an example: Two players are playing a board game, one is very experienced, and the other has only played the game once. Ideally, the experienced player should beat the novice every single time even with a factor of Luck involved, because he has mastered the game’s systems and deserves to be rewarded for that skill. Let’s now take a different scenario: two very similarly skilled players are playing the same game, however one is slightly better at the game than the other. With a “balanced” factor of Luck, the better player would win most of the time, however in some occasions the Luck factor would help the worse player win so that the outcome was uncertain. 

I bought into this ideal wholeheartedly, and I thought that I had implemented a system in my game which exemplified this scenario perfectly, except that it hadn’t. One of the primary mechanics of the game was combat, and the victor was determined by a dice roll (although there were many contributing factors). There were several reasons why this was a major mistake:

  1. The mechanic which Luck was added to was extremely prominent, therefore affecting much more of the game than originally planned for
  2. The mechanic was repeated numerous times every turn and every combat, which further compounded the problem. 
  3. The mechanic was the most time consuming part of the game, and adding any amount of Randomness not only increases the time needed to complete that action, but also the perceived time  that the game takes to complete. 

Because the dice rolling portion of the game was so central to victory, it often created a significant amount of tension during the playtests, which I misinterpreted as: the players having fun. While it is true that tension can be fun, when the primary game mechanic causes tension throughout the whole game it leaves the player worn out emotionally (which I finally figured out). On top of this, was the more egregious problem that Luck had removed many elements of skill necessary to win the game. If the combat was decided heavily upon luck, the player could never be sure that he would win, even if he had an overwhelming advantage numerically. It is true, that this is representational of real life warfare, it wasn’t the attitude I wanted the game to create, and didn’t add any meaningful complexity to the game, it just led to stale game-play and players second guessing their decisions. 

I will go over how Luck affects gameplay in my next post,


Thanks for reading,

Matthew Silkwood 

Purpose of this Blog

What do I do?

My name’s Matthew, and I am an amateur game designer. Currently I am working on my first board game, that’s I’ve been developing on and off for the past 2 years. This blog is primarily a way for me to bounce thoughts around that have been floating around in my head, and to develop them into better, more effective ideas. 

This blog has two primary purposes:

  1. As aforementioned: To get my ideas out into the open, so that I can better refine them and have them percolate.
  2. To have an open line of communication between myself, and the play-testers of my board game. This site will have things like upcoming play test dates and the latest version of the game rules for people to download and look at.

I’ll say it up front and right now, there’s nothing better for creative people than critical feedback, however if I find that something isn’t up to a standard of quality or  ethical behavior I will delete it. However, just because I don’t like something does not mean I will delete it. My belief is that every idea, no matter how correct or wrong, developed or young will stretch the mind (usually for the better.)

Significance

It seems to me that someone’s first post should contain something of substance. However, when someone comes to view this post many months or years in the future, they will find that the first thing on my mind was the epitome of mundane life. 

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