Paradigm—Design History

Paradigm was inspired by Patterns II, a Sid Sackson game which appeared in his book A Gamut of Games. (He called it Patterns II because the name Patterns had already been used by an earlier game in the book.) In Patterns II, a pattern-designer uses paper-and-pencil to draw a 6×6 pattern using a mix of four symbols. As a player, you have your own sheet of paper with an empty 6×6 grid. At any speed you like, you mark a few spaces that you want to view and pass your paper to the pattern-designer, who fills in the correct symbol and passes it back. At some point, you decide to stop viewing spaces and instead try to fill in the rest of the pattern yourself. The pattern-designer gives you a point for every correct symbol you guessed and a negative point for every mistake. There are some extra complexities to the scoring (including a way to give the pattern-designer a score), but that’s the basic gist of the game.

I always loved this idea, but I wasn’t too excited by the implementation. I felt that colors would be more attractive than symbols, and that other types of patterns besides square-grids would be fun to explore. These things are possible with Patterns II, but are logistically more difficult. Each player would need a set of colored pens or pencils, and the pattern-designer would need to draw an initial outline for each player.

But my real complaint about Patterns II was that it’s more of a puzzle than a game. Each player works on the pattern in isolation, and then everyone compares scores. Not only do you not need to play in the same room as your opponents, you don’t even need to play on the same day as your opponents. I wanted something more interactive, with all players gathered around the same unfolding pattern.

I initially designed Paradigm as a tabletop boardgame. The pattern-designer would set up a pattern of face-down colored discs, and the players would gradually flip them up as the game progressed. I loved the tactile experience of playing the game this way, but setting up a pattern took way too long—especially if the pattern-designer was designing it on-the-fly. After I finally settled on a rule-set that I liked (which took a couple of years), I decided to take the plunge and implement the game in Java.