Skip to Content

Designarrhea and discerning what's worth working on/keeping?

6 replies [Last post]
matthulgan
Offline
Joined: 10/07/2008

Ideas are fun but design is work. I have a TON of game sketches/concepts/rules and a backlog of about 30 games that might be worth prototyping and playtesting.

Right now I'd say that I prototype and solo-play 10% of my designs and maybe 3% of my designs get to the point of a "shiny" prototype to share and play with others.

For other designers with a lot of potential games, how do you decide which is going to be your next real world project?

Does anyone have system for choosing other than going with your gut?

If your core mechanic is compelling but the shell is creaky do you redesign the shell or transplant the core to something else?

bluesea
bluesea's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008
Firstly...Designarrhea... I

Firstly...Designarrhea... I really hope that you trade mark that. Only 61 hits on google...so somebody should take hold of the IP on it!

Anyways...I've found that your gut will lead you in the right direction or give you a very good idea of yes/no, here/there, true/false questions. But once you get that information, that feedback, there is still a lot of rigorous design to do (and I'm speaking to all sorts of design...not just game design). So maybe let your gut point you in the right direction...

...As for a case of a good mechanic and bad thematic application...your gut may tell you this, so you just press on through trial and error what might fit. The more you dive into the project the more you will be thinking without knowing you are thinking and your gut will tell you when it is "right". But the bit in between is just ol' fashioned hard work.

InvisibleJon
InvisibleJon's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/27/2008
As with everything, the answer depends on your goal at the time.

matthulgan wrote:
For other designers with a lot of potential games, how do you decide which is going to be your next real world project?

Does anyone have system for choosing other than going with your gut?

Like the subject says, it depends on what your goal is at the moment. For example, my current goal is to get 10 games licensed and published by game companies. Consequently, I'm focusing on following up with the games I've received the best response from companies on and the games that I think are the most commercially viable. I'm also giving a little preference to games that my play testers have liked.

Picking out the games that received the best response from companies and play testers is easy to do, but selecting commercially viable games is subjective. I use the following criteria:

• Is the game (relatively) inexpensive to produce for its size and depth of play? / Could it be priced inexpensively? (Cards, standard components, few components, etc.)
• Is the game positioned to take advantage of a current or rising cultural meme? (Pirates, zombies, upcoming movies, etc.)
• Is it accessible to non-gamers? (Rule complexity, length of play, theme, etc.)
• Is it fun? (Do I enjoy playing it? Do play testers enjoy playing it? Do they want to play it multiple times?)
• Can it act as a vehicle/showcase for art and theme of the publisher's choosing? (Art and theme sell a game. Mechanics don't sell a game, they simply encourage repeated plays. You can have fantastic mechanics in an ugly game and it'll be very hard to move into store and off of shelves. You can have fantastic art on a lousy game and it'll sell initially, then fade into oblivion. Great art on a great game is what you're shooting for.)

When I'm designing games for other reasons, I use other criteria. I recently designed a game for a friend to give to his wife for Christmas. In that case, I had some very specific design constraints. These constraints acted as a handy guide to keep me on track. (No tokens; cards only with minimal dice rolling; quick-playing; some conflict, but not too much; etc.) The goal guided my design priorities and decisions.

In short: I ask myself what my goal is and evaluate what it'll take to get there. Once I know this, I can create criteria to guide my process of selecting and prioritizing what projects I want to work on.

matthulgan wrote:
If your core mechanic is compelling but the shell is creaky do you redesign the shell or transplant the core to something else?
If I was being contrarian, I'd assert that these are the same thing. A lot depends on how much effort has been invested in the shell. It also depends on which one is more important to you. If your game concept started with the mechanics, or if your goal in creating the game was to use a specific mechanical set, then you're far more likely to abandon an imperfect theme. If your game started with a specific theme, or if your goal is to make a game with a specific theme, then you're more likely to try to make an imperfect theme work.

Again, it depends on your goal. It depends on how attached you are to each element; what its value is to you. There really isn't a "one size fits all" answer. This reminds me of a friend asking how I could tell if I was designing a game that would be fun to play. Specifically, he wanted to know what the "formula" was for making a game that's fun to play. I laughed when I realized that he was asking what the formula for "fun" is.

Going back to your initial question: You're prolific, and that's good. Lots of people have trouble just getting ideas to start with, so congratulations on that. You have 30 games that are prototype-viable. You want to figure out which ones are the most worthwhile to work on and prioritize them. My advice to you is to get a goal and target it. "I want to design and develop games," is not a sufficient goal. Figure out why you want to work on them. Do you want to self-publish? Do you want to shop them around to publishers and try to license or sell them? Do you want to sell them or give them away on the internet as print-and-play games? Do you just want to enjoy the experience of making the games and sharing them with your family and friends? Do you want to use the final product in your resumé or portfolio to show your skills off to potential employers? Every one of these goals implies a different set of criteria for selecting and prioritizing games to develop.

I hope you get what you want out of whatever path you choose.

matthulgan
Offline
Joined: 10/07/2008
Thanks guys. Defining goals will help me narrow the field!

InvisibleJon wrote:
matthulgan wrote:
If your core mechanic is compelling but the shell is creaky do you redesign the shell or transplant the core to something else?
If I was being contrarian, I'd assert that these are the same thing.

Touché! When I wrote that it felt different but reading it back... same thing. Let me try to ask a different way. If you have an interesting mechanic that's not currently working as a hub of a game; do you find yourself re-creating a contest for it, shoehorning it into a different design you are working on or do you shelve it for later?

Most of my games begin with a mechanic and a related problem. I then keep things as abstract as possible through the first prototype. Once it plays decently I try to see if there is a real world analogue that might work as the theme.

I don't think I've ever successfully started with a theme and ended up with something fun.

Also- thanks for the good advice about trying to define what it is that I'm after.

I find that as soon as I make a game that works and other people enjoy my interest immediately shifts to something else. I'd love to get published some day just for validation but really I enjoy coming up with game questions and seeing if I can solve them in a fun way.

My current "Holy Grail" project is to create a cut-throat card drafting game. So far trying to solve this problem has led to the creation of 2 fun games that involve drafting but are more about bluffing than depriving you opponent of what they need. It's born fruit, just not the flavor I was looking for, you know.

At any rate- thanks for you time!

Matt

InvisibleJon
InvisibleJon's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/27/2008
A short follow-up...

I was talking about this topic with my wife and she said that she'd choose to develop the project that she felt would be the easiest for her to complete. She asserts that it's important to establish a pattern – call it a habit – of success. That's a really valid point. When I started the Game of the Month, I selected the first seven games because they were easy for me to complete.

So, that's another way to establish selection criteria. Go for the low-hanging fruit (even if they're not quite the flavor you're looking for)!

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Poll the audience

I know a couple of times in the past I have made a post on BoardGameGeek describing a couple of games I was workign on and asking people which sounded the most fun or interesting in order to determine which might be the best received. Here's an example thread:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/92684/would-you-play-a-game-with-thi...

I feel like I've done that more than once, but I can't find any other threads on BGG :/

Pastor_Mora
Pastor_Mora's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2010
I'll go with the mechanics

Games design for some of us does not include full development. I don't sell games, I sell ideas. So, I tend to overrate mechanics over theme. At some point, this makes me flexible. More often than not, I do not design about a particular theme I personally like. I'm working on a Hamunaptra game concept and all I know about egypthology is what I saw in "The Mummy" film.

I know most designers start with a theme that appeals to them first. But in fact, my current closer-to-hit design is a remake from a theme that I did like, to a theme I knew little about. If you see an oportunity, put up a theme VISION on your mechanics and let those that do the others things do their thing. As unusual as it may sound, board games design is no longer a one-man's job. The same happened to videogames on another scale. They were developed by some few talented guys back then, and now require a 100 specialists per project. You do whats expected of you: create a simple, versatile and dynamic mechanics. The rest will fall into place as a project matures.

Keep thinking!

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut