"... and part of it [the gamer experience] is also a set of computational processes, so we can have the experience of virtual objects being able to touch when we're playing a platformer. Not just because we have a presentation of the game state, which represents meaning a lot like a movie does, but because we have an underlying computational process that supports it. And these are 'operational logics' ~ these sort of fundamental units of meaning. Operational logics combine a communicative goal, like virtual objects can 'touch'; with an abstract process, something like 'when two coordinate spaces overlap, do something'; and that supports an ongoing representation of a fictional or real world, or just a presentation of an abstract game space and an ongoing player experience."
Be sure and watch the whole video, though I think this is the most important part for what I'm struggling to communicate with these posts. If we want to talk about function, specifically what the game system/game campaign is being designed to do, we need to look at its operational logic, in the same way that a bat hits a ball in a video game. The operational logic of a system describes how the system does what it does. Taking the link and retooling the phrases therein for the D&D campaign, we're looking for how the world, the interface that the players, or users, will interact with, enables the player to learn the world's nature and master the world's logic, or pattern, of that world. The player has to be able to examine the world, decide how the world both enables and obfuscates the player's intentions, sorting out the one from the other, which is then followed by the player building a strategy, or a plan, towards that goal to act towards it, as kimbo described yesterday in his comment.
Understand, however, this does not only apply to the game I advocate but to all games, even games where the interface is so difficult to understand that the users interpretation is next to impossible and where practical goals are dismissed out of hand when the functionality seizes up due to poor DMing, DM fiat, DM cheating or what have you.
The immediate question, of course, is how do we do this well? Where do we start? This all sounds great, a lot of big, barely comprehensible words, obviously very important since people with important positions and expertise are spewing them out in a steady stream, but how in the hell do I take all this explanation and apply it to the world I am building for my players?
Ah, yes. Well, here we have plenty of grist for the mill.
Let's take a common experience in D&D and many other role-playing games: combat. And let's break it down a bit according to its operational logic, on the level of a game like pong. The player hits the opponent, the opponent hits the player. Operationally, something happens. We can think of combat as each participant having a paddle that sends an "effect" back and forth between them.
We want to define the effect, so let's replace the paddles by a circle holding a stick; then let's replace the ball moving back and forth by the sticks waving out and striking the circles, which represent the combatants.
If the sticks hit every time, that's boring. If they never hit, that's also boring. We're not representing this on a computer screen, so we're not using the muscles of our hands or our physical reflexes to move the sticks (like we would in a video game), so we replace the "chance" of the stick hitting with dice.
To make it fun, taking advantage of the gambling aspect of dice, sometimes we hit and sometimes we don't.
If one hit kills, that's boring, so let's calculate that it takes multiple hits to kill an opponent. We could designate that multiple number as "four hits," but we can add another die to the mix so that we're not certain exactly how many hits it will take to kill someone.
Now, if the circles and sticks are static and can't move, that's boring, so let's figure out a way to make them move.
If all they can use are sticks, that's boring, so let's make choices as to what sort of stick they're using. This will mean special rules for each type of stick, so that the choosing of a specific form of stick matters in someway depending on the situation. Some sticks are better at a distance; some are better close up. Some swing faster and don't kill as effectively; some swing slow and are effective killers.
Having only circles to swing at seems boring. Let's increase the variety of circles that exist so that there are lots of different targets. And lets require different amounts of chance for killing each type of target. And let's make some each stick good for hitting different sorts of targets.
And so on.
Operationally, we always want to start at a point of minimum contact; where we can define exactly what happens when A interacts with B. Then, in different, imaginative ways, we want to build up a host of differently affecting variables that make the point of contact more interesting, without eliminating the point of contact.
When people talk about eliminating combat from their games, we have to ask ourselves, what have they devised that replaces this extraordinary, complex, multi-leveled sorting concept, where uncertain results are differently affected by a series of uncertain, yet measurable strategies?
By and large, the answer comes back, "We're going to replace it with player-DM interaction, supported by guarantees of reward for perceived cleverness, when detected."
This seems very fuzzy. Where is the point of contact? What is the principle manner in which the interface of the game works, when the DM speaks to my player character and I speak to the DM's player character? Where is it measured? How do we define the perameters of my strategy? If my goal is to perform a task in the game, how does failure to perform that task occur? What stipulates failure? What exterior criterion applies? Please define success for me in a manner that does not require opinion.
This is where I get lost. I hit a button and make Mario jump. I have to hit the button just so if I want Mario to jump at this point in the game and for the point of contact between Mario and the ledge to process within the game's interface.
How does talking Mario onto the ledge work?