Theory: Don’t Whistle Past Graveyards

While in law school, I was advised never to “whistle past a graveyard”–to ignore a potential problem. It’s equally good advice in game design. If you can imagine a problem, players will certainly encounter it, and in its worst possible form.

Playtesting today reminded me of this in no uncertain terms. I knew it was possible to move one’s general in Phalanx to awkward places in the middle of formations, and thereby prompt weird behaviors–but who would do that?

Everyone. Everyone will. And why not? The game allows it, so surely it’s good sometimes . . . .

I’ll be taking that ability out of the game. More importantly, though, I’ll be taking the lesson. Don’t whistle past graveyards. You’ll always have to go back and deal with them later.

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