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Reality Management Important for Game Designers

For a couple decades I regularly taught graduate computer management classes. One of the most important themes of those classes was that a manager/supervisor has to recognize what reality is, not what he would like reality to be or what he thinks it ought to be. If you don’t know what’s really going on, how can you make it work better? Yet a great many managers lose track of reality, and the really poor ones are often in what I call “cloud-cuckoo land.”

You might feel that this shouldn’t matter to game designers but in fact it’s very important. Game design in some sense is project management. Your project can’t come to fruition if you don’t recognize the reality of it, the true state of your game.

What’s important in board and card game design

(I was asked in 2010 to write a brief contribution for the blog of Buffalo Games, a publisher of family games. This originally appeared in January on their Facebook page.)

What’s important in board and card game design

Book contract

As some of you know, I recently signed a contract with McFarland & Co, Publishers, for a book about learning to design (video) games. I have just finished the "next-to-final" draft, which is being commented on by some people, and will need to submit the final draft by Oct 15. With luck it will be available next year. (Keep in mind how long these things can take.)

A really big playtest failure

"Playtesting is sovereign", I like to say to students. But it has taken a long time for videogame companies to recognize this, and there're still examples of complete failures to do playtesting right even when they play test.

How long it takes

Gamers are often surprised at how long it takes for games to be published. Mayfair recently published a game that one of the principles thought they had had for eight years. Once I decided to revise the Britannia took three years to revise it and get it published. The Dragon Rage reissue took a similar time, though much of that was because it was a startup publisher. I have a game with Mayfair now that they originally saw it PrezCon 2008, if I recall correctly.

Simple Versus Complex As a Game Design Philosophy

At conventions this summer I’ve watched two multiplayer fantasy wargames with many similarities but perhaps different philosophies of design. At the UK Game Expo in Birmingham England I watched Wizards of the Coast’s new game Dungeons and Dragons Conquest of Nerath being played, and at WBC in Lancaster Pennsylvania I watched a not yet published (P500) game called War Party.

WBC, Dragon Rage, Tabletop game design book

I was at WBC in Lancaster PA for three days recently. My Thursday night talk about game design had a pretty good attendance, perhaps slightly less than when it is on the weekend (I couldn't be there at the weekend this year).

A review of Dragon Rage appeared in a British blog:
http://rivcoach.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/review-dragon-rage-from-flatlin...
Also on BGG:
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/684165/boardgames-in-blighty-reviews-dra...

Math in games--bad idea

At one of my game design talks at Origins I said that designers should avoid requiring players to do math, because so many younger people are very poor at doing math in their heads. One member of the audience let out odd shrieks of laughter: he just couldn't believe me.

Ruminations about why empires last

Sweep of history games, such as Britannia and its spinoffs, History of the World, and others (Eurasia and Rise and Fall of Assyria are two of my prototypes), are never far from my mind. I have two all-of-Europe games as well, and have dabbled with several all-of-China games. (China's current boundaries, and Europe, are close to the same size.)

A problem in an all-of-Europe sweep of history game is keeping the small nations extant. Historically, small nations tend to hang around in Europe, complete with separate languages and sometimes separate cultures. The problem in a Chinese sweep of history game is that the dynasties dominated (at times), so getting rid of the chafe is necessary. The small nations can't be allowed to stick around TOO long.

What makes a game “Epic”?

(This originally appeared in "Against the Odds" Magazine.)

While I don't believe a game designer can deliberately set out to design a "great" game, I DO believe a designer can set out to create an “epic” game, though this effort is just as subject to failure as any other game design.

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by Dr. Radut