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Great mechanics and nice game flow... but no objective?

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Aquinas
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Joined: 10/27/2008

This happens to me way to much. I've got a fantastic idea for the core mechanics of the game, and an idea of how a turn would go. The problem is, I have no idea why you're doing it.

Must a game design start by having an objective? There are lots of games that were made based on a cool mechanic (Macao for instance). So I guess a game doesn't need to have an objective to start off; but in order to test the mechanics, you have to be doing something, aiming at something.

Now ofttimes I know the objective is "get the most points." That's boring and unhelpful. The better question is "how do you get points?" (I am, quite frankly, tired of "most-victory-points" games, and I like the idea of games with other objectives, such as "first to this many points," or "first to do this," like Attika. But I must say that victory points is mostly the only way to go, since it tracks your progress nicely.)

If you have really neat and interesting mechanics, then the objective (or manner of getting victory points) can be simple. On the other hand, if the mechanics are very elegant and simple, then the objective or scoring system can be more complicated.

Anyway, thoughts would be appreciated. How do you get an objective for good mechanics and game flow?

innuendo
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Joined: 05/25/2010
I almost always design

I almost always design mechanics first. I have a scrap book of Ideas that I think would make nifty interactions for my players. What I usually do is sit on them until I can fit them to a theme. Basically I ask, "this mechanic is great at representing what?" or alternatively, "This mechanic simulates what real world event/scenario."

For instance, I had a communal resource system in a game where each point you spend on cards move a token on a slider one point closer to the opponent and vice versa. So every point you spend your opponent then has access to spend it back. I loved this idea a lot but struggled with out to make it fit a game. So I shelved it until I realized it was very much like an electrical system where energy is conserved. One player was a positively charged player and then moved the charge up, the other was negative and moved the charge down. That made me think of gizmos and circuitry and little robots and what not. So from there it was pretty easy to get the rest, I had a solid underlying mechanic to build off of, a basic theme with which to constrain my design, now I just had to ask, what would a bunch of robots be doing? Obviously battling for control of the circuit grid.

Viola, I have a game.

So boiled down I almost always go like this: core mechanic>>what theme this mechanic fits well>>what would this theme of game be trying to do

Once you have a theme you can pretty well figure out what makes sense for the win condition to be. But I rarely like coming up with my win condition first, it always evolves out of whatever theme I'm perusing.

I'm sure others go about this differently, but I hope this helps.

Relexx
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Joined: 05/31/2010
I more often than not think

I more often than not think of an idea for a game, then build a mechanic. This does not mean that the game has a goal yet. It then sits in my head for a while, a lot of the time I am trying to work out balances which typically leads to mechanics. As I am more into games that have random elements I am more inclined to work towards a mechanic that will create a form of controlled randomness. The end game solution sometimes comes out as a result of the mechanic or is added after the core design is complete. The trick with the latter is to not make the end game have an "add on" feel.

Kaelesh
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Joined: 11/16/2010
I have a mindless job

I do a mindless job for 8 hrs most day, so I think of pretty much everything in that period of time. Ussually it'll be concept, then mechanic, then aim, as previously mentioned.
But thats not to say i havent gone mechanic, concept goal and so on. I dont think there is a surefire way of doing it. If you have a goal, or what not in mind, then you will inevitably be able to design a concept for it, and mechanics will come into play then. I think as long as you have 1/3, and enough time on your hands, you will eventually know the other 2.

ReneWiersma
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Like you, I have a ton of

Like you, I have a ton of ideas for game mechanics, but not a game to go with it. Usually, for me, it doesn't come together until I stumble across an interesting theme. For example, when I read a book about ancient cities and what exactly constituted a "city" in those times, I thought: "Hey that would be a good theme for that tile-laying, auction mechanic I came up with a couple of months ago".

Also, having a theme gives direction and purpose to the design. It is something you can fall back on when you come across a hurdle in the design process. You can look at the theme and it may give you some hint at how you could solve the problem.

Aquinas
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Gratias vobis

Thanks, guys. This helps to make me feel better about my position.

Any other thoughts? There might be some interesting ones out there still...

Kirioni
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Joined: 09/20/2009
Game Experience

I have a background in Psychology. I usually think of a Mechanic first, and while I am on the look out for a theme I think about player experience. What would feel motivating (positive and negative). What would make a player feel a good stress. If a Mechanic gains a player something, how can I make that something feel valuable (Building etc) I find by asking these questions it helps to form a goal for the game. Also I like being able to play within a system in various ways, so I try to build in at least two paths towards the goal. I hope this helps, a mechanic must add to the "fun" which comes from feelings of accomplishment, or standing up to a challenge (either presented by the game, or other players, or both).

irdesigns510
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Since I went to art school,

I usually have a sketchbook of images, and think of how to best implement it.

For instance I created a really cool planet where people are in a long distance race. So I needed to think of a bunch of mechanics that could implicitly or explicitly represent what was going on, engine speeds, town interactions, player interactions when they pass each other, etc.

The trick for me is blending mechanics together in such a way that relevant actions are taken so players aren't lost between them.

mogluk
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Joined: 11/21/2010
when to know to patent?

so How do you know when to patent or trademark or copyright?

I have a game that I want to publish, it has what I believe to be a unique and novel playstyle and mechanic? But is it patentable? What benefits do I gain by a patent? what benefits do I have by trademarking it or copyrighting it (register)?

irdesigns510
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Joined: 06/24/2009
all i know about the difference between copyright and patents...

...is that copyrights protect the characters, the titles, the imagery (i.e. The Skins)

and patents are for the actual mechanics, like the functionality of a trading card game, or a pop-o-matic bubble.

i could be wrong, but i think that is the basics.
as far as your "when to do it" question, i'd copyright the visual art and title and such when you are comfortably finished, as visual art copyrights werent expensive, last i checked.

ReneWiersma
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mogluk wrote:so How do you

mogluk wrote:
so How do you know when to patent or trademark or copyright?

I have a game that I want to publish, it has what I believe to be a unique and novel playstyle and mechanic? But is it patentable? What benefits do I gain by a patent? what benefits do I have by trademarking it or copyrighting it (register)?

This question pops up very often.

When you write a piece of text, or you create a piece of art, you automatically have the copyright for it. This means other cannot duplicate your creation without your permission. Copyright is free and automatic. When you create something, you automatically own the copyright on it. The problem is, of course, proving that in court should it ever come to it. That's why you can register your copyright at some offices for a relatively small fee, which could help your case in court.

When you have a kind of mechanical device, or a specific working of a thing (yeah, it's pretty vague) you could patent it. When it comes to game design, just forget about patenting. Patenting is hugely expensive and with the margins in board games it is just not worth it. Also, it always remains to be seen just how much a patent is worth in court. A small change to your invention could invalidate your patent.

Finally, trademarking is about protect a certain unique name, or a brand. Coca-Cola is a trademark, for example. Monoploy and Axis & Allies could be trademarks. Don't worry about trademarking your game's name, I don't think it is very useful, unless the game becomes very big.

pelle
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TM vs (R)

ReneWiersma wrote:

Finally, trademarking is about protect a certain unique name, or a brand. Coca-Cola is a trademark, for example. Monoploy and Axis & Allies could be trademarks. Don't worry about trademarking your game's name, I don't think it is very useful, unless the game becomes very big.

You can trademark for free, just add TM. It's not as good as a registered trademark, marked with (R), but it offers some protection (I never bothered to learn the details, but looking at how many commercial products are only protected by unregistered trademarks they can't be completely useless).

tridagam
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Much of the above is very

Much of the above is very well said...They sound and say just what my IP lawyer. And you can hear it all again...most lawyers will have a short talk with you "consult" for no fee...tell them that you are interested in IP rights for your property...but don't know if it is worth pursuing....

email from my lawyer to me will give you an idea.

Shane A. Vannatta to me
show details 4/27/09

Dear Bob:

In follow-up to your questions, please see the following:

COPYRIGHT

I have reviewed the U.S. Copyright Office's website, and note the following instructions for the registration of board games:

To register the copyrightable portions of a game, you must send the Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20559-6000, the following elements in the same envelope or package:

A completed application form. If your game includes any written element, such as instructions or directions, we recommend indicating "Literary work," which can be used to register all copyrightable parts of the game, including any pictorial elements. When the copyrightable elements of the game consist predominantly of pictorial matter, we recommend indicating "Visual arts work."
A nonrefundable filing fee (Current Fees)
A deposit of the material to be registered. The deposit requirements will vary depending on whether the work has been published at the time of registration.
If the game is published, the proper deposit is one complete copy of the work. If, however, the game is published in a box larger than 12 x 24 x 6 inches (or a total of 1,728 cubic inches) then identifying material must be submitted in lieu of the entire game. (See “identifying material” below). If the game is published and contains fewer than three 3-dimensional elements, then identifying material for those parts must be submitted in lieu of those parts.

If the game is unpublished, either one copy of the game or identifying material should be deposited.
Identifying material deposited to represent the game or its 3-dimensional parts shall usually consist of photographs, photostats, slides, drawings, or other 2-dimensional representations of the work. The identifying material shall include as many pieces as necessary to show the entire copyrightable content of the work, including the copyright notice if it appears on the work. All pieces of identifying material other than transparencies must be no less than 3 x 3 inches in size, and not more than 9 x 12 inches, but preferably 8 x 10 inches. At least one piece of identifying material must, on its front, back, or mount, indicate the title of the work and an exact measurement of one or more dimensions of the work.

For further information on registration, see SL-35. For further information on copyright, deposit requirements, and registration procedures, see Circular 1, Copyright Basics.

Whether or not you seek a copyright registration for your game(s), you should immediately put a copyright disclaimer on your game instructions, major pieces, boards and cards. The copyright disclaimer should look like this:

© 2009 by Tridagam LLC. All Rights Reserved.

As I've mentioned to you before, you have basic copyright rights upon reducing your creative thought to a tangible medium (i.e. writing it down, drawing the board game art, typing in the design on a computer). The disclaimer only forewarns others of your claim to that copyright.

PATENT
Please note that Tridagam may be able to obtain a design patent on the board, and possibly a utility patent on the game. (Monopoly was an example of a successful game patent.) A utility patent covers something that is creative, novel, and useful. It is a very broad category that covers many different things. If your board game is original, creative, and not disclosed for more than a year from now, it may be eligible for utility patent coverage.

However, the cost of obtaining a patent would likely be in the neighborhood of $10,000 or higher. Most often, it is not practical for first time inventors or for people not already in the toy and game business to see patent protection. The book, "Patent It Yourself" by David Pressman, published by Nolo Press, can explain it further. It should be in your local free public library.

FYI, I am not a patent attorney and could not assist you with searching for or developing a patent application.
TRADEMARK
To trademark your game name and related logos or slogans, you would file for such trademark protection at: http://www.uspto.gov/teas/index.html. I can assist if necessary. Before starting the application, you should make sure you have reviewed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website for the preparation of specimens and the required information you'll need for the application.

Whether or not you seek a trademark registration for your game name, logos and slogans, you should immediately put a trademark disclaimer near your names, logos and slogans. For instance, if you were claiming a trademark in Tridagam, you would use the following:

Tridagamä

After you have received a federal trademark registration, you should begin using the circle R disclaimer, as follows:

Tridagam®

As I've mentioned to you before, you have basic copyright rights upon reducing your creative thought to a tangible medium (i.e. writing it down, drawing the board game art, typing in the design on a computer). The disclaimer only forewarns others of your claim to that copyright.

* * * * *
I hope you find the above helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.

Sincerely,
Shane

Shane A. Vannatta
WORDEN THANE P.C.
111 N. Higgins Ave., Suite 600
P.O. Box 4747
Missoula, MT 59806-4747
(406) 721-3400 (voice)
(406) 721-6985 (fax)
svannatta@wthlaw.net

Now I found Shane a very good person to work with...If you are in this part of the USA give him a call...he is worth the money.

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