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At what point do you scrap a game concept?

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Trickydicky
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Joined: 12/31/1969

Hi,
I'm new on the forum as of a few days ago. I've got 3 games in prototype form. Two of which have been playtested and are very fun. The third one we've sent back to the drawing board a couple of times, but every time we play test it it just isn't much fun. I like the idea of the game and I think it could be fun, but is there some point at which as a designer you just have to scrap the game, because it never turns out to be fun.

Here is the info on this game in particular. Its called TAG, like the field game we all played as kids. The board is made from square cards that have T shapes, l shapes, Right angle shapes and cross shapes. These shapes connect from card to card and make paths that the players can move on. Each of the players have cards that have movement number on them, or allow them to rotate or switch the position of the board cards. On each players turn they are allowed to play two cards and draw two cards. If the players would like they can also skip playing either of their two cards and discard 1-2 cards and draw back up to 3 cards.

Up to this point the game did, and still does sound fun, at least to me. I think the problem I've run into is that we've tried a number of different ways to score the game and none of them have made it urgent enough to get rid of the "it" status as quickly as possible. I want to try to make a scoring system that counts the number of turns a player is it and whichever player has the least number of turns as "it" at the end of the game wins. I still don't know if that will make the game "fun". I think it will provide the urgency that a game of tag should have. I don't like this scoring system because it means you've got to keep track through the entire period of the game how many turns total each player has been "it".

I'm really not that emotionally attached to this game idea, but I do like it for its versatility. With just the game board and the cards we were able to think of a number of variants to tag that could be played. One of which, the fugitive, has a scoring system much like the above described. The difference in that variant is that you want to have points so the person "it" is the one trying to avoid all the others, and all the others are trying to touch the person who is "it" so they can begin to gain points.

I guess I have two questions, first does there come a point where you just have to throw a game design/idea out the window. because it never seems to be fun (which is the point of games)? Second, do you think the above mentioned game idea could be salvaged?....I lied I have a third quesiton. If you think it can be salvaged what changes would make a fun and exciting game? That is what I want it to be. Because when I think back to when I played tag as a kid, it was both fun and exciting.

thanks,

lar
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Joined: 12/31/1969
At what point do you scrap a game concept?

Just a couple of thoughts of things you could do. What if each player started off with so many tokens, we'll say 8 for now. Each turn the player is "IT", they loose a token. So there is only so many turns they can remain "IT". But along the way, maybe you give certain bonus features as you loose tokens. Like maybe at 3 tokens you gain an extra card or you can move twice in a row.

When we played TAG, we always had a home base. Maybe you can have a concept of a home base, but at a certain distant away from the home base you can regain some of your lost tokens. Or maybe you have "taunt" moves where you don't move at all and that gives you an extra token for standing still and basically taunting the "IT" player to come after you.

You could also add other features, like burst of speed or maybe a "wind" counter, where each player as something like an energy bar that when in trouble, or to catch another player they can use.

You could also throw in other actions. What if players who are not "IT" could trip each other so that they can get away from the "IT" player by giving up a friend.

When do you give up on a game? Never really. I keep notes on all the various ideas I come up and sometimes, when you least expect it, it hits you on what you need to do. Or maybe a combination of failed games come together to give you an idea that takes all the best parts. Either way, keep a log book of some sort and the next time you are on vacation or if you have a good free weekend in 6 months, look back through your thoughts on the game. You'll probably have several new ideas that will come to you after being away from it for awhile.

Good luck, Lar

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
At what point do you scrap a game concept?

I would agree with lar, never give up. If nothing else take a break from the game and maybe time will help solve the problem (think of it as writer's block for a game designer).

lar offered some great options to alter the game, one thought you could try, is a timer. If you have some timer that "ends" a round, whomever is "it" when the timer sounds gets a counter. Maybe a game will last X rounds and when the X rounds are completed, the player with the least "it" counters wins. The timer might add an additional twist to speed up the movement/choices a player makes. Might add the "chaos" factor for what to do next, who to go after, etc.

Now the above suggestion has some limitation, since if one player takes their time playing a move, it could hinder the "it" player. Maybe with the above option you figure out a simultaneous move mechanic so that all players are "runnning" around the board at the same time. Using the movement cards to move to the desired location, or not moving at all. If the moving player and "it" player, pass through the same spot during a simultaneous move, the "it" player changes to the new player. Simultaneous movement can be very hard to implement, so this might not be possible.

I think the game still has potential so dont give up, maybe just take a little break if you really feel stuck.... good luck.

OldScratch
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Joined: 12/31/1969
At what point do you scrap a game concept?

I agree, never give up on a game. If I'm having trouble, I shelf the game for a while. Sometimes out of the blue I'll get an idea for it and I bring it back out and work on it again. I'd never completely get rid of an idea I had.

Especially with this board as part of your arsenal, you shouldn't have to can the game. Lar gave some good ideas for your game. I think the It Tokens is a great idea, and it does sound like the game would be fun.

Joe_Huber
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: At what point do you scrap a game concept?

Trickydicky wrote:
I guess I have two questions, first does there come a point where you just have to throw a game design/idea out the window. because it never seems to be fun (which is the point of games)?

Time for me to disagree again, it appears...

Yes, I think there does come a point where you throw out an idea. I've done so many times, sometimes even after just a single play. Of course it's your option, but I find that some game designs just don't work; it's worth remembering anything you liked about them, but I've never seen a reason to keep pushing on a design that's not working.

And there is one big advantage to throwing it away - playtesters are generally more willing to volunteer if they know that you won't keep bringing out a dead horse of a game...

Joe (who completely scraps about one game out of every six that make it to playtesting)

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Re: At what point do you scrap a game concept?

Joe_Huber wrote:
... it's worth remembering anything you liked about them, but I've never seen a reason to keep pushing on a design that's not working....

I see Joe's point, but I guess I personally could never really determine the difference between, a game that should be thrown out or modified?

There can be a fine line between the two and I think if nothing else, I would keep all the content I created for the game around for as long as I was interested in game design. You just never know if those "issues" might one day have a solution, and if nothing else I might have some reference material for another game.

I do agree that there are many times that you must move on and concentrate on new games. Once I do that, I usually never go back to a game that I have put on the shelf.

Scurra
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At what point do you scrap a game concept?

I have to join Joe's camp here: yes, there are times when you simply abandon an idea because it just isn't working. (I'd say my strike rate is pretty similar too: maybe 1 game in 6 or 7 are complete failures at the first playtest, but of course that doesn't include the games that don't even make it that far!)

Anonymous
At what point do you scrap a game concept?

I think you can abandon a game, and do so with a clear conscience. I mean it is you ridea after all. I would recomend you keep your prototypes around though. You think of a new idea in the future using the same pieces, or mechanics, or whatever.

Or you could come back to it and redesign it later. I find getting my mind off of a topic helps me focus... and sometimes lends itself to a break through or two.

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
Yet Another Thought

I agree with Joe that there sometimes comes a time that you realize a game just isn't going anywhere and you "scrap" it.

However, don't actually throw out the design or any of the work you've done on it. File it somewhere. Odds are that someday you'll be working on another design, and you'll find yourself thinking along different lines and suddenly the original idea may be more compelling.

As for your Tag idea, you could try wrapping a bomb theme around it. Make it all cartoony, with players playing characters running around trying to pass the bomb before it explodes. Throw in some special cards/events to emphasize the "funny" factor - maybe a "fuse" on the bomb - and who knows where it could lead. Score explosions, maybe add some scoring variations based on where the explosions occur, how many people are affected, who was the last person to handoff the bomb, etc.. Without having played it, it sounds to me that the core card concept (ala "waterworks" ) is pretty strong.

Trickydicky
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Joined: 12/31/1969
At what point do you scrap a game concept?

Thanks for all the advice. I actually got excited about the game for a brief moment right after starting this thread. Your proposed ideas if nothing else will make excellent variants for this game. The variantability (is that a word...should be) of this game is one of the things I like most about it.

I think for the straight tag game I will use score tokens. You are given one each time you become it and each round that you remain it. The person with the fewest score tokens at the end wins.

Secondly, I'm thinking of making a time element per turn. Say 20 secs. This would fit the TAG theme better, since in tag you don't have a lot of time to think of what you're going to do or where you're going to go. This ought to speed the game up, and make it more exciting.

Thanks

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