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Board game design: It's all about mechanics searching

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larienna
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I just took a glance at the threads on BGDF and it confirms me that board game design is all about mechanic searching.

Quote:

- Optimal Card Hand Size
- Simple, RPS-like mechanic
- Combat System without dice
- Cooperation incentives in game mechanics?
- Dodge vs Block mechanics for turn based combat system
- A change in taking cover
- Bidding on Semi-Secret Items
- Detection and spotting mechanics
- Approximating the urban planning process & local politics
- Combat with Reverse Deck Building/Pooling?

Creating new mechanics is very hard, so either you search for a mechanic or find a similar mechanic and adapt it to your needs. This is why I am currently another working method (still in progress) in order to avoid mechanic searching since finding the right mechanic for your game can take from 1 days to 1 year which is very unreliable.

One of my friend also told me that war gamers are most likely to become war game designer and they are rarely desiging new mechanics. Instead they re-use mechanics or systems (ex: coins, state of siege) and apply it to a different historical scenario. It reminds me of a war video game that included a map editor to make different scenarios.

laperen
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In a broad sense that is to

In a broad sense that is to be expected. When a field gets extensive exploration, some common components get generalized and catalogued. I guess in that view of game design, eventually the list grows and becomes a pick-and-choose fair of combining stuff.

But I wouldn't say that is completely true. Creating new mechanics isn't the only thing which can drive game design forward. Neither is game design only about picking and choosing what is already available

And in all fairness, I'm quite certain the recent forum post topics lining up with design questions were picked and chosen to begin with. the topics in themselves however are discussions on how to implement the topic mechanic, and not a blind question with a yes or no answer.

larienna
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What I am saying is that 80%

What I am saying is that 80% of the game design process seems to be like this (when you start from theme):

"OK, I have this cool theme idea but have not idea how to make it as a board game. So I search for a mechanic by playing other games. When I find something that could work. I test it, try to adapt it. If it fails, I search again and repeat the process until the right match is found."

So this si why all questions looks like "What is the best type of mechanic for that type of game/theme" or "how can I addapt this mechanic for a game/theme", etc.

That is the bulk of the work. Once you have your mechanics and a working game, now you can work on other things which takes the rest of the 20% of the work.

laperen
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Finding the mechanics you

Finding the mechanics you want isn't all there is to making a game function. A whole lot of balancing and testing and re-iterating needs to be done before a game can be considered ready for play, let alone ready for sale.

I guess i don't understand what is bad about it. Even if we assume someone has compiled a list of all known game mechanics to reference from, it is merely a shortcut.

Right now to me, it sounds like a cook bored of the ingredients he uses, when what truly matters is the portions and combinations of those said ingredients.

mulletsquirrel
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Game design should be first

Game design should be first and foremost about delivering a fun experience. Games need rules/mechanics to function. I don't see what the problem is. Any good designer will look to the past and what's been done to leverage things learned. If I am not mistaken, this forum's purpose is to provide some of that knowledge.

Experimental Designs
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larienna wrote:What I am

larienna wrote:
What I am saying is that 80% of the game design process seems to be like this (when you start from theme):

"OK, I have this cool theme idea but have not idea how to make it as a board game. So I search for a mechanic by playing other games. When I find something that could work. I test it, try to adapt it. If it fails, I search again and repeat the process until the right match is found."

So this is why all questions looks like "What is the best type of mechanic for that type of game/theme" or "how can I adapt this mechanic for a game/theme", etc.

That is the bulk of the work. Once you have your mechanics and a working game, now you can work on other things which takes the rest of the 20% of the work.

It goes on the same premise when designing anything else that needs the appropriate materials, apparatus and whatnot to make it work. You do not want to design a car made of plastic and an engine that runs off jet fuel.

Theme is alright but sometimes a strictly theme based mechanic seems too gimmicky especially if it is executed poorly. To design the game with little consideration to the mechanics needed to make it playable is like putting the cart before the horse. The mechanics make the game, period.

larienna
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Quote:Finding the mechanics

Quote:
Finding the mechanics you want isn't all there is to making a game function. A whole lot of balancing and testing and re-iterating needs to be done before a game can be considered ready for play, let alone ready for sale.

That is the "fun" part of game design that I don't seem to have any time to spend on because I am busy searching for mechanics. If board game design was only that, it would not be a problem.

Quote:
Even if we assume someone has compiled a list of all known game mechanics to reference from, it is merely a shortcut.

We have tried, it's impossible, there is too many possibilities and variations.

Quote:
Right now to me, it sounds like a cook bored of the ingredients he uses, when what truly matters is the portions and combinations of those said ingredients.

If it would be amount mixing random ingredients and cooking it to see the results it would be not so annoying, because you input stuff in a machine and see the results. But now it's like if you want to make a cake, not only you need to build the oven but also the bowl and the spoon before starting to mix the ingredients.

Quote:
Any good designer will look to the past and what's been done to leverage things learned.

The problem is that it is very unreliable. You need to mix and match until you find the right combinations and if you are not lucky enough to stumble on the right solution, you'll continue searching forever.

Quote:
To design the game with little consideration to the mechanics needed to make it playable is like putting the cart before the horse. The mechanics make the game, period.

Like explained in another thread, and currently the core of my new method I am exploring, I am comparing board game design to computer software development. In CPU software, anything can be implemented as an application. To do so, you gather the information you need, model your application and implement it. There is a strict process to follow to get the results you want and It works all the time. No searching or trial and error is required. It might not be the most convenient app, which could require usability adjustment (The fun stuff we talked above), but it will be working. In board games, unless I clone and adapt another game, I am unable to achieve this.

By experimenting my new technique, I ma thinking that I have more problems with abstract aproach this is why I could disgust mechanic searching. Another thing I realised with my new approach is that I get into the details of the game in early design, which is good thing for me because my strength lies in refining detail. I suspect It is also possible that due to the lack of mechanic searching, once a prototype will be made, only minor changes would be made to it. Preventing the need for larger exploration, so no need to scrap everything and start over again because you changed some mechanics.

I'll keep you informed when I have more results.

mulletsquirrel
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larienna wrote: Like

larienna wrote:

Like explained in another thread, and currently the core of my new method I am exploring, I am comparing board game design to computer software development. In CPU software, anything can be implemented as an application. To do so, you gather the information you need, model your application and implement it. There is a strict process to follow to get the results you want and It works all the time. No searching or trial and error is required. It might not be the most convenient app, which could require usability adjustment (The fun stuff we talked above), but it will be working. In board games, unless I clone and adapt another game, I am unable to achieve this.

You must not be a software developer. Sure almost any application imaginable may be created, but sorry to burst your bubble, the design of software can get very complex very quickly. Note that not anymore are any major software companies just making software from scratch. They always use existing software and tools. There are many companies that exist for the sole purpose of creating those tools!

It seems software development is a lot like game development now that I think of it.

X3M
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For software development.

For software development. They start with a clear goal. They plan first for reaching that goal. Then they start writing. Big programs have chapters too in this regard.
And each part they have written is tested before they continieu.

If it was to be chaotic like some designers that I have met (not here ;) ). Then programming a washing machine would take years.

Perhaps scrap my "Change of Cover" from the list? I wasn't searching there. I proposed some variations that I thought could be good. 3 path's to choose from. And simply asked, which one would be best? Either way, it was going to be changed any way, since I had a clear goal there.
Meanwhile, the choice was made by play testing with my friends.

People should try to design with a clear goal. Then you will know what ingrediƫnts are possible. Then you play a bit (play testing each) with them to see what is the best for your game.

But then again, it is a hobby for me. So please correct me if I am wrong. And if my approach is wrong.

PS.
There is no place for a post about Theme discussion?

mulletsquirrel
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To be honest, lots of

To be honest, lots of software development starts with an unclear/very loose goal in mind that usually changes many times before the final product is released.

larienna
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Quote:You must not be a

Quote:
You must not be a software developer.

I studied and I know how to programm. I just did not work in that field.

Yes there are tools available. For example, there ware various options for data storage: Relational Database, Object Oriented Database, Registry, Simple text file. Sure you are going to make some test and chose a solution.

But most of the time, all solution would work, it's just that it could be less convenient or take more time to accomplish. For example, you could program a web site with C++/cgi-bin. It is probably going to take twice more time than if you made you site in PHP, because it was designed to do websites.

While in board games, I don't think that a mechanic can do all types of games. Even a mechanic like deck building which covers a lot of game type: From resource management to war games, there are probably some games that cannot be done with it.

So you could decide to use deck building for one of your idea and end up not working forcing you to search again.

Not sure if it quite make sense, it's late and I got a busy week.

X3M
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Indeed all about mechanic searching

I have been looking into this matter. And have to correct myself a bit in my last post.

There are indeed a lot of mechanic searching posts. Several are camouflaged too.

I suggest:
There should be a clear difference between the several stages of searching though.

Quote:

1 - You don't know what mechanics are available.
2 - You do know some mechanics, but don't know which one is the best.
3 - You do know some mechanics, you know exactly which one would be best. Only the test and adjustment remains. Where the adjustment means, searching for the optimal use of the mechanic.

Designers with experience will start at stage 3. But if that one fails. They fall back to 2. Then after some more fails they fall back to 1. They clearly need to search again, or think of something anew.

That is not all. There are 3 important thinking tools to help you get through the search.

A goal:
Having a clear goal in mind does help you advance in the stages rather fast. And even inexperienced board game designers (like myself) can take leaps this way.
A search for something that you know is easier than a search for something that you don't know. So you need to have a goal, no matter which stage you are in.

For the silly;

Quote:

0 - You don't know what your goal is.

A plan:
Having a clear plan in mind gets the exact same story as having a clear goal.
If you don't plan your search, it can take much longer. Planning is often done in stage 2 and 3.

An history:
Having an history of what you did. History is very important when you design your game. You know what you tried. How you tried. How you failed. Or how you succeeded in some aspects.

***

For those who studied board game designing. Feel free to correct my post.

devaloki
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larienna wrote:I just took a

larienna wrote:
I just took a glance at the threads on BGDF and it confirms me that board game design is all about mechanic searching.

Quote:

- Optimal Card Hand Size
- Simple, RPS-like mechanic
- Combat System without dice
- Cooperation incentives in game mechanics?
- Dodge vs Block mechanics for turn based combat system
- A change in taking cover
- Bidding on Semi-Secret Items
- Detection and spotting mechanics
- Approximating the urban planning process & local politics
- Combat with Reverse Deck Building/Pooling?

Creating new mechanics is very hard, so either you search for a mechanic or find a similar mechanic and adapt it to your needs. This is why I am currently another working method (still in progress) in order to avoid mechanic searching since finding the right mechanic for your game can take from 1 days to 1 year which is very unreliable.

One of my friend also told me that war gamers are most likely to become war game designer and they are rarely desiging new mechanics. Instead they re-use mechanics or systems (ex: coins, state of siege) and apply it to a different historical scenario. It reminds me of a war video game that included a map editor to make different scenarios.

Larienna, I think it depends really on how advanced one is as a game designer. For the majority, it's hard to come up with new mechanics so it's better to put a spin on old systems instead. Also, one something doesn't have to be original to be GOOD

Masacroso
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For me mechanics is a

For me mechanics is a exploration on evolution of a game, freedom and so.

But if I want design a game first I start defining what situations I want to live in with a game, and after I choose the materials and mechanics that can adapt to what I want.

The same happen if I want to write a story: the first thing that I need is the end and the subtext, after I create all the steps (episodes or so), the characters, ambient, structure of feelings (dialoguing texts, not-dialoguing text, descriptions, etc...)

I like very much to explore mechanics and, sometimes, I design a game just to see how a mechanic work, but this isnt a serious designing process, it is just an experimentation.

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