The Dao of Orendao, pt. 1
We (and by “we”, I mean “me” and everyone that took the time hear out my crazy ideas over the years) love fast-paced, tense, strategic games.
We found ourselves dissatisfied with them. It took a while to figure out exactly why. A key challenge was what we termed “the endless pursuit of novelty”. It’s endemic to this format (largely deck-builder, card-trading types). The urge for more, more, more never seemed to let you relax and love what you have.
How do we get away from the endless novelty? How do we create something more timeless without being as rigid as chess? Or aesthetically sanitary as Go?
We knew wanted a game that felt vivid, alive, moving. We wanted what so much concept art promises, but can’t quite deliver. And yet not over-theatrical. A game that encouraged a calm, primitive, and ready mindset.
That was the challenge. image.jpg
The Iriquois concept orenda is easily expressed as a myth:
When you hunt the beast and you defeat the beast your orenda is greater than the beast’s. When the beast defeats you the beast’s orenda is greater than yours. When nature defeats you both, nature’s orenda is greater than you both.
This compelling theme endured every stage of the game’s development. Our flame in the dark. The way
There was an eye-opening article written by Zach Gage about teaching players how to play your game.
In essence he lays out the idea that you can run players through a typical guided tutorial, where they only learn the “steps” of your game.
Then he lays out an alternative: what if you plopped players right into your world, and let them know what elements were there — “drop players by a lake with a boat, and a fishing pole and see what they do”.
He noted that absent a model people will invent their own problems to solve, and, in the process become expert problem solvers.
So we asked: what if we created a game this way?
What if we dropped ourselves into an environment with: a loose theme (the ebb and flow of power), a few game elements (paper, blocks, eventually tiles), and a basic motive (duel with elements). Then come up with problems to solve.
This resonated really well with another design method we reference: force-based resolution. Simplified, it’s Christopher Alexander’s idea of forces being the context of a design problem and form being the resolution of forces.
In other words: what you make (form) is a byproduct of the problems (forces) you can identify, and solve. A context first, approach. Ryan Singer is a stellar exemplar of this approach to design.
Distilled: For us, orendao is a game and a way to make games.
We did exactly this. Pushing around elements, inventing problems, and solutions (which in turn generate more interesting problems) and resolving those problems, until finally orendao formed.
We wanted something that felt timeless, and alive. Something that rewarded reflection. Orendao, for us, is a beautiful first step.
We (I) hope you enjoy playing it as much as we have enjoyed making it. Jared Chapman