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Game Developer's Circle

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Yekrats
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Joined: 08/11/2008

Hi folks...

My friend Carl told me a story of Tolkien and CS Lewis, and a few others gathered together periodically to form a club called Inklings (IIRC). They discussed ideas, kept each other motivated, that sort of thing. Carl was wondering if our local group of friends might be able to apply the same sort of "Artist's Circle" concept for game design.

So in that light, we set up a small group to meet monthly for just a couple of hours, in order to discuss and perfect our craft. We held our first meeting last night.

One thing that struck me, was the diversity of our group. I am working on board and game projects. Carl was interested in perfecting computer games, and is trying to learn Python game libraries, starting out perfecting a small learning project, a version of "Daleks." One other member, fed up with D&D, set off to create his own RPG from scratch. Another member is working on an empire-building game ("like Civilization, but less tedious.") The final member of the group wasn't working on any game, but loves to give his opinion about most everything. :-)

So, we all have a different angle of what makes games fun, what expectations are about games, and how tweaking those expectations helps or hurts the game. We talked about what makes games surprising and fresh. I think the meeting was successful. I playtested my latest proto and came away with many good ideas. I think everyone came away with some good feedback on what they had. (However, one caveat: they more stuff they brought to show, the more feedback they got.)

So, I thought I'd throw this idea out to the masses. It served somewhat of the same purpose as this forum, but the feedback was more real, immediate, and in-your face. I'd be curious to know if any other game developer groups are out there, and what makes your groups successful.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: Game Developer's Circle

Yekrats wrote:

So, I thought I'd throw this idea out to the masses. It served somewhat of the same purpose as this forum, but the feedback was more real, immediate, and in-your face. I'd be curious to know if any other game developer groups are out there, and what makes your groups successful.

We have a small group here in Boston that was started by Greg (slam). I've only been able to attend a couple of times, but they may have met a few more times than I've been there. It's been fun, and it's a good group, but I was surprised to find the feedback isn't that much different than the feedback I get from just regular playtesting. After all, though we might want to think ourselves "experts" at this craft, I think "ordinary" game players know enough to recognize balance problems or suggest alternate mechanics. In fact, some of my best suggestions for changes have come from non-designers. So, I think the real difference between designers and non-designers is more one of effort than of anything else; I think lots of players could be excellent designers, if they wanted to.

The really nice thing about it, for me, was that it was an atmosphere dedicated to testing. Whenever I playtest with my game group, despite the fact that they're all very gracious and willing to playtest, I always feel like I'm imposing on them by asking them to try the games (even when they clearly enjoy them). In the designer's group, everyone's there to playtest, so people know what to expect and have explicitly signed up for that for the evening. Also, it's just cool to see other people's game ideas -- people come up with some pretty fun games! Seeing the games other people are working on really helps spur my own creativity, just like listening to great music will help someone write even better music.

So, I agree that this kind of a thing is definitely great for those lucky enough to have a few designers in the same geographic area. But I don't think you are missing out if you can't get this kind of a thing off the ground -- your game group can provide you with the same game-specific playtesting results. It's the bigger atmosphere that makes this kind of group a hit. And as I said, I think anyone can design good games, so the thing to do is to get your other game group members to start designing, then you can have a designer's group!

-Jeff

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