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Game Design Checklist/Guideline

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sedjtroll
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While looking through Jeff Warrender's journal entry about the 30 Years War, the format struck me as a good way to organize thoughts about a game, a good guideline to keep the game on track. I have boiled down the format and made it a bit more generic here. In additional posts I'll apply this guideline to a game of mine and see if I've addressed these issues. This is more or less a first draft, so please comment on how the list could be improved. Also feel free to quote this message and fill in the blanks for your own game.

Scope of the Game

What is the theme of the game? What will the players accomplish, collectively?

Player Representation

Who does a player represent? What will players accomplish, individually?

Core Mechanics

What is/are the core mechanics for this game? Do they match the theme?

Combat

Is combat appropriate in this game? Is it a major or minor aspect? Do the mechanics reflect that?

Politics

Are Politics (negotiations) appropriate for this game? Are they a major or minor aspect? Do the mechanics reflect that?

Winning the game

What are the player goals? When is the game over, and how do you know if you’ve won?

ensor
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Game Design Checklist/Guideline

Player representation has always intrigued me. In my designs, I try to make sure each player has a specific role, something to latch onto as who they are in the game.

But then I look as some of my favorite light/medium games, Carcassonne, Citadels, Ticket To Ride, Samurai, Attika, San Juan, etc... and NONE of them seem to have this type of association between players and roles.

While it's worthwhile to think about this when analyzing a design, it seems like this is not a necessary condition to make a successful game.

sedjtroll
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Re: Game Design Checklist/Guideline

First I'll go through the exercise with a published game that everybody is familiar with (Puerto Rico), then I'll do so with All For One, the game I've put the most thought into, and talked about the most on these boards. Aww heck, I might as well do it for Terra Prime as well.

Scope of the Game

What is the theme of the game? What will the players accomplish, collectively?

Puerto Rico: The theme is city building and production. Players will be building up Puerto Rico with plantations and buildings, and producing recources to sell for money or ship for VPs.

All For One: The theme is doing missions in the world of the Three Musketeers. Players will be manipulating board elements in an attempt to meet the criteria on their mission cards.

Terra Prime: The theme is space exploration and colonization, as well as resource collection. Players will be searching for and colonizing planets and bringing resources from those planets back to their home base.

Player Representation

Who does a player represent? What will players accomplish, individually?

Puerto Rico: The players represent individuals who have their own section of Puerto Rico in which to build buildings and grow crops. Each player will attempt to make their section better ("worth more points" so to speak) than their opponents.

All For One: Players dont associate directly with characters. If anything, perhaps the players represent writers, writing bits of the story as the game goes on. The players are attempting to get their missions completed - which is to say they are writing parts of the story based on the cards in their hand. Each player favors one of the characters, and so wants that character to be in the story as much as possible, but mostly wants to get their own storylines completed.

Terra Prime: Players represent members of the Terran Federation, the body responsible for charting and colonizing the far reaches of the galaxy. Each player will be exploring and colonizing, upgrading their ship and delivering resources. Players are in competition for promotion, so each wants to act efficiently. Players can try to do things on their own, or utilize other players' colonies, thereby sharing points with them.

Core Mechanics

What is/are the core mechanics for this game? Do they match the theme?

Puerto Rico: The core mechanic is Role Selection, which does not correlate much to the idea of running a building or production franchise on the island. One turn you're the Mayor, the next you're a Tradesman.

All For One: The core mechanic is pickup/deliver. The theme involves bringing particular items/people to particular places. Chasing Plot Tokens around the board and bringing them to the correct locations represents this fairly well.

Terra Prime: The core mechanics here are Pickup/Deliver and action management. There is an economic system as well which should drive decisions about which resources to deliver. The action matches the theme well.

Combat

Is combat appropriate in this game? Is it a major or minor aspect? Do the mechanics reflect that?

Puerto Rico: There is no combat in Puerto Rico, it is not needed.

All For One: There is combat in All For One. It is intended to be a minor aspect of the game. As such, the resolution is quick and easy. However, so as not to be trivial, there are incentives to drive combat decisions.

Terra Prime: There is combat in Terra prime, and it is a minor aspect of the game. In order to make exploration dangerous, there are Hostile Aliens on some tiles. The further out you explore, the more likely (and the more difficult) aliens you will find. To add strategic depth, there is a way to prepare aand fight aliens, in which case they are worth points toward winning. Since the combat is not intended to be a major portion of the game, it's resolution is quick and easy. There are no decisions to be made during combat, only whether or not to persue combat.

Politics

Are Politics (negotiations) appropriate for this game? Are they a major or minor aspect? Do the mechanics reflect that?

Puerto Rico: There is no politics or negotiation in Puerto Rico, it is not needed.

All For One: There is no politics or negotiation in All For One, it is not needed.

Terra Prime: There is no negotiation between players in Terra Prime.

Winning the game

What are the player goals? When is the game over, and how do you know if you’ve won?

Puerto Rico: Players are accumulating Victory points through building buildings and shipping goods. the goal is to accumulate the most victory points. the game ends when one of three triggers occurs, after which the player with the most points is the winner. Points are hidden to help prevent Analysis Paralysis and to obscure who is winning until the very end.

All For One: Players and characters are both accumulating favors from the king or cardinal by doing missions (and fighting duels). The game ends when the pool of favors (or victory points) is exhausted. Players add their score to that of the character that they favor, highest score wins. It's unclear who is winning before the endgame because noone knows which character's score will go to which player.

Terra Prime: The game ends after one of three triggers. These triggers are based on player action - when one player places most of his Colony markers, or if all players place some of them, or if 'enough' space tiles are explored. Once this is done, players count their score. Scoring comes from delivering resources, colonizing planets, and defeating aliens.

doho123
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Game Design Checklist/Guideline

Here's another for the checklist:

What makes this game unique from all other games out there? While it doesn't have to be completely innovative, what makes the game special that one would want to add it to their library (the "hey, it's another Medieval European build up your territory with resources" game syndrome).

jwarrend
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Game Design Checklist/Guideline

Thanks for the plug for my Thirty Years War journal entry!

I started a similar thread a while back in the TiGD, it's here. It focused primarily on converting an idea for a theme into an actual game.

ensor wrote:

While it's worthwhile to think about this when analyzing a design, it seems like this is not a necessary condition to make a successful game.

I agree completely, but I do think that it's a necessary condition for a well-themed game. Games like Citadels or Ticket to Ride do a decent job of creating an "atmosphere" that is consistent with their themes, but because their player representation is so abstract, the theming of the games is quite weak. Games like Puerto Rico or Acquire or Axis and Allies where the player's role is more plausible do a better job of "selling" their themes.

-Jeff

zaiga
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Game Design Checklist/Guideline

Nice checklist. I do think that the headers Politics and Combat are a bit too game specfic for a generic checklist. I'd merge Politics and Combat into one and call it Interaction: in what way do players interact with eachother?

sedjtroll
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Game Design Checklist/Guideline

zaiga wrote:
Nice checklist. I do think that the headers Politics and Combat are a bit too game specfic for a generic checklist. I'd merge Politics and Combat into one and call it Interaction: in what way do players interact with eachother?

I agree... in retrospect an "Interaction" category, with the subcategories of Negotiation and Combat as they occur would be a better organization.

Sen
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Game Design Checklist/Guideline

Wow, first thread I've read as a new member and already I'm learning things.

I think my design partner and I always talk about these aspects of the games we're trying to create, but never so explicitly or succinctly.

Like coding, proper documentation/coding, is becoming more and more a crucial element of board/card game designing from my point of view.

My partner and I are going to be starting to use a forum/blog Tto organize thoughts, to keep things on track, and to have a history of events that lead to the final products being what they are.

These aspects will definitely be an over-arching framework for each design.

Thanks for the ideas!

phpbbadmin
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WoW!

I actually created a list almost exactly like this one a few years ago. It was just a list of questions I asked myself whenever I started to work on a game design.

I agree with Zaiga's interaction idea. I took it a step farther though:

Quote:
How do the players interact with each other and the game world?

Some games actually allow players to move things around or other similar actions. This manipulation of the game world allows players to indirectly interact with each other. For example, if I knew you wanted to buy bricks, and I bought them all, well then I have indirectly interacted (or affected) you by manipulating/interacting directly with the game world.

Another question I like to ask is in regards to resources:

Quote:
What resources do the players have access to? How do these resources progress them towards reaching their goal?

Sometimes this is as simple as cards in a game like poker, sometimes it's individuals units a la war games.

Great list Seth! This is definitely a good list for the wiki? Perhaps call it something like Design Questions for the Themed Game?

-Michael

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