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Video Game Design vs Board Game Design

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Redcap
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So I am currently designing both board games and a video game and find it interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two. I am creating a monster fighting game call Duel Beasts and the more I explain the game to other people the more I realize I am using board games to explain my inspiration and logic behind how it works.

It is coming along nicely but I wanted to get some feedback from this community and see if I could get some questions answered. And these questions do have to do with board game design mechanics so I hope you can all indulge me. ;)

First question I have had lately is in regards to playtesting. When designing a board game I can easy print of some rough draft cards and give the game a play, but with a video game you can't do that as easily for obvious reasons. I know some of you here also design video games and I am wondering if any of you actually tried to distill your video game mechanics into a board game and tried playi testing it as a board game before investing to much time into development just to find your game wasn't any fun?

I wonder if more companies did this if there games would actually be funner to play, or if video game design is so different from board game design that the two couldn't really work together. I mean there are some obvious restrictions in board games, but I would imagine that they could mimic some design elements of video games really well; such as combat mechanics and skill mechanics.

Second question is in regards to size. I love seeing boardgames limit their size because of production cost because in more cases than not it leads to a more elegant and simple game. Even large and complex boardgames are substantially more simple than most video games. How do you decide what content to keep in a boardgame and what to cut when designing, and can this be applied to video games or not.

For example, when designing board games I usually cut a lot of content to ensure that the pace of the game is quick, that is my main way to know if my game is to big or not; the pacing. But in video games a lot of the pacing can be resolved by calculations of the computer. I can fight 1,000 monsters just as easily as 1 or 2; but does that make for a more fun game? Isn't simplicity and meaningful choice more fun that a deluge of complicated rules and options? So is there anything I can learn from board game design that can be applied to this?

Last question is in regards to number of players, and is more me wondering why almost every game has a single player element in video games and barely any board game has single player options. I for one hate single player board games, but mostly because I haven't found a good one really. I find most video games offer a single player experience, and I wonder if this is because of good design or rather because it is easier to make it single player than it is to make it multi-player. Some of the most popular games in the world right now actually don't even offer single player options and I am wondering if the board games actually have something to show about the benefits of multiplayer that people just take for granted.

I think most people just assume board games are multi-player because they are board games, and not because that is a good design decision.

Anyways, thanks for the replies and thoughts.

Also if anyone is interested to see my game it is found here: www.duelbeasts.com

Orangebeard
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Thoughts

Hi Redcap,

I have also been thinking along the same lines as some of your thoughts recently and decided to throw my 2 cents into the discussion...

It seems to me that most board games (all board games?) can be converted to a video game. As such, I suspect the reverse is true IF the video game was designed as a "board" game. Today, it seems many video games are developed as story boards where the players are immersed in the world and play the role of a character. The story has already been laid out for the player and they simply need to overcome the challenges. By way of comparison, the players in a board game are writing the "story" as they play.

In regards to some of your specific comments, I think you are correct that a mechanic can be tested in a board or video environment, but a story board based video game is probably too dependent on the imagery and overall experience to be easily playtested with a board.

However, I don't believe that board and video games need to be mutually exclusive. Or perhaps a better way to say this is that I believe the "story board" approach to game development can be integrated with the "mechanic" approach more so than it currently is today.

Tough call on the "why are board games rarely single player" question...If I had to guess I would say it has more to do with the long standing history of games being played as a social events and the difficulty of developing an "opponent" that is not completely random for the single player version. With regard to single vs. multi player in video games, I would guess that multiplayer is significantly harder to develop and test.

I checked out your website; I love the concept art although I swear I was attacked by Tiger Mosquitoes every summer in Michigan...

larienna
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I am somewhat in the thoughts

I am somewhat in the thoughts of video game design lately. I have re-opened the Wizardry Legacy project, and with the comming of tablet PC and the new OUYA console, I am thinking more and more to either make strategy games I could not make as Board games, or port my board games as video games. I am still thinking if it could be done in a reasonable amount of time. Probably I will try to port my Fallen Kingdom board games as a video game first.

Quote:
First question I have had lately is in regards to playtesting. When designing a board game I can easy print of some rough draft cards and give the game a play, but with a video game you can't do that as easily for obvious reasons.

Even if does not see so, normally they make paper prototype for video games too. I have tons of pictures in my book. I have even see a first person shooter paper prototype, so yes it's possible. Still, video games tend to be what I call "loose design". If the is a bad number in a certain area, it won't break the game. It will make the game easier or harder, but that's it. But in board games, the design is so tight that a simple error can break the game. Strategy video game are much more fragile to design errors, but most of the time, you can get around it. For example, in ogre battle 64, the new feature called legion were actually uneffective. So people still managed to finish the game without using them.

In video games, I would say that much less playtesting is done because a lot of time is placed on production rather than game design. Once you go in a direction, it's hard to move back without serious cost increase. This is why you can end up with video games that has flaws, especially for strategy games. Like I Once said, board game design is 80% design and 20% production, while video games is 20% design and 80% production.

Quote:
Second question is in regards to size. I love seeing boardgames limit their size because of production cost because in more cases than not it leads to a more elegant and simple game. Even large and complex boardgames are substantially more simple than most video games. How do you decide what content to keep in a boardgame and what to cut when designing, and can this be applied to video games or not.

Video games has the advatage to hold much more information and automate calculations. This has the effect of saving processing time. Consider that a player can handle a certain amount of information and process. Video games simply compress that information into something smaller allowing the player to be able to handle more. But too much could lead to other problem.

Pacific storm had that problem when you managed large fleet in the pacific and you could also know the morale condition of individual pilots on your squadron. Too much information.

I don't have time to answer the last question. Maybe later.

oltyan
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Video to Board

I am a video game designer that recently went on to try my hand at board games, and while there are a lot of similarities, they are happening at higher levels than I think you're looking at. Any video game designer worth their salt (IMHO) can create a paper prototype of their game. It may not capture the full mechanics, but it allows them to test the concept quickly and easily. Sid Meier of Civ fame is pretty hardcore about making a paper prototype of all his games, even though the end automated mechanics are certainly beyond the scope of a typical board game.

The fundamental questions are the same, you're looking at issues of:

Scope - What is achievable with these designs and mechanics. What pieces/systems can I design and implement?
Layout - What information can I present/how can I present it. Is there too much information?
Flow - Is there a lot of complication in the game, can my players figure out what to do next

The tools you have to solve these problems vary by a huge amount depending on the medium you are using for your game.

For instance, when I've designed TCG's as video games, you can dynamically change the card template depending on where it is on the screen (in your hand, zoomed in version, on a map version). This is simply not a mechanic that makes sense in a board game. You have to solve that problem differently depending on your medium.

And the single player question is generally a process of flow. I can setup an AI to calculate a million variables in a few seconds and algorithmically solve for a best move. If I wrote all that out, you'd need to read a book, spend 1/2 an hour calculating numbers, and then moving to have the same AI in a board game. That's not good flow. Truly random opponents are generally not fun either. It's certainly possible to design a streamlined AI for boardgames that could work based on a set of rules, but computers are better at stepping through those rules quickly. Think about playing robo rally, except instead of a player laying out moves, you had a text book that would go through 100 different scenarios to determine the order of cards based on what the board state was and what cards you had in your hand. Not good flow, and not a good boardgame.

My current boardgame is a paper prototype of an MMO that I was developing once upon a time (never got close to market). I found it incredibly useful to test concepts and emotions I wanted to invoke in players on paper, as that iteration was something I could do in a day as opposed to 3 months of programming. Finding the right translation were it ever to go to a digital version would be challenging, but as long as the core fundamental gameplay is fun, and you're willing to invest the effort, I believe you'll be able to translate that experience to a different medium.

oltyan
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larienna wrote: In video

larienna wrote:

In video games, I would say that much less playtesting is done because a lot of time is placed on production rather than game design. Once you go in a direction, it's hard to move back without serious cost increase. This is why you can end up with video games that has flaws, especially for strategy games. Like I Once said, board game design is 80% design and 20% production, while video games is 20% design and 80% production.

I'm happy to disagree with the above statement almost fully. While there certainly are harder budget and schedule considerations in most video game projects than board game projects, it doesn't automatically translate to a lack of design or playtests. Look at Firehose Games out of Boston for an excellent example of a studio that pretty much scrapped their design 8-9 times through playtesting to come up with a direction and gameplay vastly different from their starting point. Furthermore, a well designed framework allows fast iteration and every game company I've worked at has the ability to iterate on many mechanics. (Firehose is 1 example in a long list that I could give, but is probably the best example of a design/playtest driven studio I know of. Heck, even Zynga is playtest focused, as every decision they make is a response to player feedback of their games)

I would argue the management of vision on video game projects has been the main culprit of "oh crap" moments that I've had over the years working on video games. Coordinating 50+ or 100+ people towards a single goal is an incredibly complicated problem. Just because you have a great design doesn't mean you can implement that vision and share it with a large team. When you are doing a boardgame, you have the luxury of being the designer, producer, programmer, and often times concept artist all in one go. This gives you incredible control over the vision and direction of your project.

Also, fundamentally, playtests do not make your game better. They provide you information, and you can use that information in many different ways. Depending on who is processing it, how it's collected, and what is done with it will dramatically change the usefulness of that feedback. Zynga, as a playtest obsessed company, is interested in making money, not fun, and their games reflect that fact.

I guess at the end of the day I'm saying that good companies/people who make good games. You just need a lot more of those people in 1 place to make it happen for a video game versus a board game. I've played plenty of really awful boardgame prototypes as well as released products, video games just get more press because a lot more time, effort, and money was wasted getting to that point.

larienna
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Quote:Last question is in

Quote:
Last question is in regards to number of players, and is more me wondering why almost every game has a single player element in video games and barely any board game has single player options.

The advantage of board game is the presence of AI, which makes it easier to play single player games. So players expect to play single player games as a video game. While for board games, it is possible to play alone, but many games would require and AI script and it is not always that fun. I played my starcraft variant as solitaire and it was fun. I tried rune age and it was average. So yes solitaire board games is much more tricky.

The second reason is that today, video games are interactive movie, that makes it much harder to play it multi-player.

Quote:
Coordinating 50+ or 100+ people towards a single goal is an incredibly complicated problem.

It's true that working as a team is a totally different experience. Communication being the major problem. If we could do telepathy then working as a team would work much better.

Quote:
Zynga, as a play test obsessed company, is interested in making money, not fun, and their games reflect that fact.

Zynga making money, yes. I don't think their game could actually be called "games", I would rather call them "work". The worst part is that they re-theme the same game. So yes they have a couple of games, but it's basically the same game with different artwork.

My girlfriend explored a bit the facebook games and showed them to me. And I was horrified that people liked to play but especially pay a fortune for these games. There are games as old as the NES which are actually 5 times more entertaining than what can be found on Facebook.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Meanwhile, I will be studying the possibility to make a board game engine to make video games more easily. Probably I will implement the library as components, for example cards: Manage hand, deck, playing field, display, etc. And ass I progress, I could add new components. My objective would be to make a board game as video game in less than 6 months when the engine is complete. Not sure if it could be done, but that would allow me to release directly to Android instead of Print And Play.

Even if I do intend to make strategy video games like those made by KOEI, I think I am going to focus the mechanics of the game as a board game. For example, random values will be expressed as dice. This will make it easier for the player to see the impact of the stats in the system.

Redcap
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Wow really good thoughts and

Wow really good thoughts and input all, I am actually really excited to see more comments; I know many board game designers also are video game designers and I don't think this is a coincidence.

I will write some more when I get a minute. :)

HandwrittenAnthony
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oltyan wrote:larienna

oltyan wrote:
larienna wrote:

In video games, I would say that much less playtesting is done because a lot of time is placed on production rather than game design. Once you go in a direction, it's hard to move back without serious cost increase. This is why you can end up with video games that has flaws, especially for strategy games. Like I Once said, board game design is 80% design and 20% production, while video games is 20% design and 80% production.

I'm happy to disagree with the above statement almost fully. While there certainly are harder budget and schedule considerations in most video game projects than board game projects, it doesn't automatically translate to a lack of design or playtests. Look at Firehose Games out of Boston for an excellent example of a studio that pretty much scrapped their design 8-9 times through playtesting to come up with a direction and gameplay vastly different from their starting point. Furthermore, a well designed framework allows fast iteration and every game company I've worked at has the ability to iterate on many mechanics. (Firehose is 1 example in a long list that I could give, but is probably the best example of a design/playtest driven studio I know of. Heck, even Zynga is playtest focused, as every decision they make is a response to player feedback of their games)

Faster iteration cycles is a significant advantage video game development has over board game development. Particularly for gameplay balancing. (Not especially so for content adjustment.)

Adjusting mechanics in a video game (with a well-made framework) can be a matter of adjusting a few variables and deploying a new build for immediate playtesting. Adjusting mechanics with board game means house-ruling, printing new components and gathering another round of playtesters to sit at a table.

Logistically, I find iteration and playtesting easier with digital games, but creatively not nearly as fun. There's an inherent joy in wading through scraps of cardboard, trying to balance a tangible game mechanic with your hands.

(As an aside, Valve is a great studio for playtesting culture. Check out their Publications archive, particularly this gem from Mike Ambinder.)

MarkKreitler
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Don't be fooled!

Redcap wrote:
I know some of you here also design video games and I am wondering if any of you actually tried to distill your video game mechanics into a board game and tried playi testing it as a board game before investing to much time into development just to find your game wasn't any fun?

I've been a video game developer for 20 years, and have never seen a paper prototype. Some designers do it, but it's the exception rather than the rule.

There are two reasons for this (maybe more). First, most video games involve a real-time dexterity component. No amount of paper prototyping can simulate the behavior of camera and controls in the final product, but that "feel" component is integral to the success of the product. Second, for games that could be prototyped on paper, the interaction of components and rules are usually more complex in the video game version (for better or worse).

This isn't to say one shouldn't prototype videogames. On the contrary, it's hugely important to prototype early and often. Generally, though, one prototypes in the engine one intends to use. Alternatively, one might do early prototypes in a different engine, but either way, it's more common to prototype in the medium one intends to use.

Redcap wrote:
Second question is in regards to size. I love seeing boardgames limit their size because of production cost because in more cases than not it leads to a more elegant and simple game. Even large and complex boardgames are substantially more simple than most video games. How do you decide what content to keep in a boardgame and what to cut when designing, and can this be applied to video games or not.

"Video game" isn't a genre, it's a medium. One can produce chess as a board game or as a video game, but it's the same game. So it's unusual to ask a question like, "...can this be applied to video games?" The rules of chess are the rules of chess, regardless of the medium in which it's expressed.

It's true that computers can crunch numbers faster and more accurately than people, which means the "video game" medium can render high-fidelity simulations more quickly, but that doesn't mean board games can't be huge simulations with many components (Advanced Squad Leader, anyone?).

Redcap wrote:
Last question is in regards to number of players, and is more me wondering why almost every game has a single player element in video games and barely any board game has single player options.

This gets back to the advantages of the medium, and a little bit of history.

Many of the earliest computer games were multiplayer: Space War and Pong, for example. They were multiplayer for exactly the same reason board games are primarily multiplayer: human opponents supply better AI, more cheaply, than one can generate from an algorithm.

As computers became more powerful and more people owned them -- but few people knew how to network them -- single player games rose in popularity. Sure, it was *possible* that friends could share a keyboard, but a single player experience was guaranteed to work, even if you had no available friends. Algorithms became sophisticated enough that single player games could challenge and engage the audience. This development hasn't happened on a large scale within the medium of board games because it's too time-consuming to manage the algorithms that make deep single-player experiences possible. At least for *most* games.

Here again, though, the distinction between "video" and "board" games isn't real. Games are games, and one could theoretically make the same game in either medium. Some people have already started to mix genres by supplying tablet and phone apps to crunch the numbers for complex tabletop games. Another classic example is "robot chess," where a single human plays on a "real" board with "real" pieces against a computer that moves the pieces via a robot arm.

Is that a "board" game or a "video" game?

larienna
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Quote:Adjusting mechanics in

Quote:
Adjusting mechanics in a video game (with a well-made framework) can be a matter of adjusting a few variables and deploying a new build for immediate playtesting. Adjusting mechanics with board game means house-ruling, printing new components and gathering another round of playtesters to sit at a table.

Personally, I think it's the opposite. Sure if you are near the end of the design, you can change a few values on the fly, but you can do the same thing with BG too. Adding new rules and mechanics requires much more programming. I have experienced this with my Wizardry Legacy video game where I changed combat system at least 3 times during the project and this is what killed the project.

Quote:
There are two reasons for this (maybe more). First, most video games involve a real-time dexterity component.

Like I said, I have pictures of paper prototype of a FPS in one of my books (best dexterity/realtime game you could have). I could make scans of the book pages to show these prototypes.

Awaclus
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I usually playtest video

I usually playtest video games I design much more than I playtest board games. A board game almost always works, and if it doesn't work, I can spot the problem as soon as I find out that there is a problem because discovering a problem happens by running into it. However, there will always be typos and temporary brain freezes while programming, so even though the mechanic works, the code necessarily doesn't. Fixing things like this is easy when the previous version worked and I have added only 20 new lines of code, but it's much more difficult to spot the problem after 200 new lines of code.

For this reason, I might re-write 60% of the rules for a board game before playtesting it again, but I will always run a video game after every little change I make to the code.

It's probably different for professionals though. I'm only a hobbyist at both video game and board game design (and not very good at programming, but usually good enough to do what I want after some test runs).

MondaysHero
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I use the book "Challenges

I use the book "Challenges for Game Designers" to "get back to basics" and will be using it again with a couple of friends to do some hard work at a co-op. It is definitely marketed toward the Video Game Designer, if only because there is not a market large enough for board game designers. That being said, the book IS about board game design. It does a great job of show how both types of design are similar and require the same mental tools.
-Monday

MarkKreitler
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Yes, but...

Quote:
There are two reasons for this (maybe more). First, most video games involve a real-time dexterity component.

Like I said, I have pictures of paper prototype of a FPS in one of my books (best dexterity/realtime game you could have). I could make scans of the book pages to show these prototypes.[/quote]

Yes, people *do* make paper prototypes of video games. My point is that you can't capture the dexterity component in those prototypes, so they, alone, are not sufficient to judge whether the game will be any fun. Some elements like level layout and the inventory system can be mapped out in this way, but it won't matter a whit if your camera and controls render the game unplayable.

In the end, prototyping an FPS -- or other action game -- on paper is like judging a musical performance by looking at the score. You can get some information out of it, but most of what makes a performance "good" or "bad" is not represented in the data.

larienna
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Quote:I use the book

Quote:
I use the book "Challenges for Game Designers" to "get back to basics" and will be using it again with a couple of friends to do some hard work at a co-op. It is definitely marketed toward the Video Game Designer, if only because there is not a market large enough for board game designers.

Is it a good book? I thought it was more a practical book. So I was not sure if I would like it.

As for paper prototype no testing the dexterity element, that is true. I think they play tested game mods or levels.

Redcap
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Okay I have a little bit more

Okay I have a little bit more time to talk, and want to weigh in on what has been said.

Concerning prototyping I actually remember now playing a board game prototype for Elemental War of Magic that the developers put together to test out some of the mechanics. It ultimately fell through because we were trying to play the prototype on skype and it just didn't go over well with people missing their turns and the like. But it was interesting because I actually liked the board game version more than I liked the actual game that came out. (In fact I hated the video game, but they are making amends with their new one)

I almost forgot about this, because I have never seen that ever again or before. But it was a bad example of play testing because the board game was a different game/ mechanics then the actual game at the time.

The current game we are making I have sketched out a lot of the rules with paper and pencil like I do with my board game designs, but don't think I can reproduce the same feeling as a video game because much of my game mechanics will revolve around twitch reflexes and split second decision making; which can't be reproduced in game.

In regards to why boardgames are typically multiplayer I think you all hit the nail on the head. It is hard to get a challenging AI in a boardgame, but a computer game you can. This makes complete sense, but I also think boardgames because of this have developed a personality about them that it would be awkward not to play with someone else. We have been conditioned to think it normal to spend hours playing video games by ourselves, but anyone playing a board game by themselves would be lumped in the same category as the old lady with 60 cats living in her home.

larienna
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Consider that negotiation is

Consider that negotiation is harder to implement in a video game. They somewhat managed to implement trading in catan as a video game, but the trading options are some what limited. You cannot plan future trade or make complex trades like ATM trades.

I first thought I could make a video game version of Dune express, but I realized that the negotiation aspect could be hard to implement.

AI development seems easier for a board game implemented as a video game since the design of the game is much tighter and restrictive than regular video games.

MarkKreitler
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Can't agree

larienna wrote:
...since the design of the game is much tighter and restrictive than regular video games.

I think you're right about some designs being tighter, but I disagree that this is because a game is implemented on a computer.

There are "big" games and there are "small" games. Big games -- like Advanced Squad Leader ("board game") and World of Warcraft ("video game") have many systems and usually resist small changes. Small games -- like Tetris ("video game") and Settlers of Catan ("board game") -- have fewer rules, and are proportionally more sensitive to change.

To say that "regular video games" are bigger begs the question, "what is a regular video game?" In terms of strict play time, it's not safe to assume that big budget console games (i.e., "regular" video games) garner the most play time. In fact, casual games' popularity has skyrocketed, and mobile phones have reinforced this trend. If anything, "regular" video games have gotten smaller, on average, over that past 5 years (disclaimer: I'm basing this on trends I've seen in the industry, but haven't looked up hard numbers).

Which gets back to computers being a medium, not a genre. "Settlers" is "Settlers," whether it's rendered in cardboard and wood or bits and bytes.

As for trade being harder to represent in a video game, I doubt this is true. I believe your specific example of trades in Settlers Online being clunky compared to the tabletop version, but suspect this has to do with the specific implementation, rather than a limitation of the medium. I know I could create a version of Settlers on the ipad that simply simulated the pieces and die rolls and let the players manipulate them any way they like. This would just be a computer-simulated representation of the board game, and would support trade to the same degree the board game does.

Makes me wonder why the screwed it up when changing to the video medium. :(

larienna
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Quote:There are "big" games

Quote:
There are "big" games and there are "small" games. Big games -- like Advanced Squad Leader ("board game") and World of Warcraft ("video game") have many systems and usually resist small changes. Small games -- like Tetris ("video game") and Settlers of Catan ("board game") -- have fewer rules, and are proportionally more sensitive to change.

Somewhat true,
I have not played squad leader, it is sitting in shrink in my closet, but Even if it's a big game, I think it would still be much more easier to implement and design and AI for it, than world of Warcraft or Warcraft 3 to compare 2 similar game.

So yes size matters, but board games are more structured than video games which makes implementation of AI and other stuff easier.

MarkKreitler
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After this, I'm out

larienna wrote:
Quote:
There are "big" games and there are "small" games. Big games -- like Advanced Squad Leader ("board game") and World of Warcraft ("video game") have many systems and usually resist small changes. Small games -- like Tetris ("video game") and Settlers of Catan ("board game") -- have fewer rules, and are proportionally more sensitive to change.

Somewhat true,
I have not played squad leader, it is sitting in shrink in my closet, but Even if it's a big game, I think it would still be much more easier to implement and design and AI for it, than world of Warcraft or Warcraft 3 to compare 2 similar game.

So yes size matters, but board games are more structured than video games which makes implementation of AI and other stuff easier.

A couple quick clarifications, then I will post no more on this as we have hijacked this thread for long enough.

Advanced Squad Leader (not "just" Squad Leader), when you include its expansions, is enormous. Check out http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/243/advanced-squad-leader, find the "Expansions" section, and hit "show more." I stopped counting at 100 expansions, and that was about 1/2 way down the list. I think that's more content and rules than any Age of Empires or Starcraft game.

Saying board games are "more structured" doesn't communicate much. What do you mean by "more structured"?
Along those same lines, can you answer these questions:

If Chess is implemented on a computer, does that make it a computer game?
Is Tetris "less structured" than a game like Age of Renaissance?
What makes a "board game" a board game -- having a board (either digital or cardboard), or having a constrained ruleset (in which case, being on a computer has nothing to do with it), or something else?

What I'm driving at here is the use of the word "video game." For some, it seems to imply a very specific genre of game, like RPG or FPS, but these are genres which comprise only a tiny portion of all "video games."

Which brings us all the way back to the OPs questions. It's misleading to ask about prototyping "video games" as opposed to "board games" because you can implement board games in both chipboard and digital form. It's *not* odd to ask about prototyping FPS games as opposed to board games because these are devilishly hard to prototype outside of the computer medium. But -- and this is the point -- FPS is a *genre*, not a medium, and computers are a medium, not a genre.

Once one makes this distinction, most of the OPs questions answer themselves.

RAVaught
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Paper Prototyping

I have really enjoyed this thread and I think I agree with the most salient points.

Yes, you can prototype practically any game in any medium.
Yes, some mediums are more efficient at prototyping certain games or gather certain data from play testing.
No, you will not get the same 'feel' if you play test a game in anything other than it's final medium.

All of that being said, there is are a couple of huge advantages to prototyping a game on paper before turning it into a video game that have not really been covered. The first, and to my way of thinking, one of the most important, is finding out what players want to do. When you are playing a paper prototype there is generally discussion happening around the board; questions are being asked and ideas are being exchanged. If you are any good at reading people, you can get a LOT of information out of this quickly and cheaply. (Yes, the cost factor is a major consideration. A pack of paper, a cartridge of ink, a few dice, two large pizzas and a case of soda is far cheaper than 40 man hours worth of programming + paid play testing time.) Depending on the type of game you are prototyping, you will also get a lot of information about rule ambiguity and core mechanics that can save headaches before being presented to a programmer to code.

Another big advantage is that board games force us to slow down. That may not seem like an advantage, but consider this, if you are wanting to see where the break down is in your play by play combat mechanics, being able to see the outcome every swing and every block and the impact it has in slow motion can give you some insight into your mechanics. One thing I have noticed is that, in general, when you are making paper prototypes of a video game, you are only going to prototype one small system, not the whole game. This allows you to zoom in on one set of mechanics and see where they work and where they don't, something that IMHO often get's lost when you have hundreds of systems working together.

Conversely, it is also possible to prototype some elements of a board game electronically, and with amazing results. Consider the case of a board game with certain spaces set up as event spaces. (Monopoly's community chest and chance spaces for example.) If you wanted to know the probability of a player landing on one of those spaces, on their first turn around the board, you could write a small program that could calculate and iterate through the scenario a thousand times, recording the results, much faster than you could manually play test it. Similarly, using a modulo formula, you could get a feel for how often those spaces would be landed on through subsequent turns. i.e. A thousand laps around the board shows a probability of landing on one of the two community chest spaces as X%. These can be really useful for getting a lot of data really quickly to help you determine if your layout is good.

larienna
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I have explored lately the

I have explored lately the idea to make a framework to make board games as video games, and one idea that came to my mind, is that it could be possible to implement the video game, before the board game design is finished in order to ease the playtesting.

The idea would be to implement a board games as a video game when it is running but requires a lot of testing. At this phase, you generally need to do a lot of test but make only little modifications to the game design. In this case, if the game is implemented as a video game, you could playtest your game much fasters since there will be no need to change the prototype, build the board, move pieces, make calculations, etc.

So a video game prototype could help in the end of a board game development to run many playtests fast.

pelle
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solitaire board games are fun too

I have hobby-designed (and implemented) board and computer games for about 30 years (most of my life really), but only have one completed computer game (made for a programming competition) and one published board game to show for it so far (plus a number of small board games made for design competitions ... and a billion incomplete games never released).

I have done some amount of AI programming, and the "AI" in board games have been an interest of mine since the early 90's (when I discovered Ambush!) and I have collected and played a number of solitaire board (war)games since then. I think there is a lot of interesting ideas in such games that would transfer well to computer games, in particular that the enemy is usually "part of the system" rather than "another player". Computer (turn-based war)games often try too hard (imo) to pretend to be some kind of fair two-player simulation of a game-simulating-war, instead of being a one-player simulation of war itself. The one-player board games rarely end up like that, but rather enemy units (and sometimes friendly units) are part of the game-world instead, and feel more real because of that (even if the simple random mechanics are known to the player). From all accounts of real wars I have read about (or seen in movies) randomness is perfectly accurate for games with a war theme, from the point of view of anyone on the battlefield. I think the same can probably be said for many other themes as well. Very few things in life are like fair two-player games. Of course for theme-light abstract games little of this applies.

My long-term goal is some kind of computer games inspired by all the solitaire board games I have studied, but I need to do a few more years or decades of further experiments with board and computer game design before I feel prepared for that ultimate game I envision. :)

pelle
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prototyping

I actually prototyped board games on a computer (both in VASSAL and once even programming the complete game with a basic AI and rules to be able to fine-tune some parameters much faster than playtesting the game repeatedly with my paper prototype). Also prototyped computer games using cardboard counters.

But saying that the two forms are only different media only go so far. I think there are many things that make a good computer game design that do not work well in a board game and vice versa.

I found the Computer Gaming World archive a few days ago and one of the old scanned articles from the early 80's was by Chris Crawford discussing computer game design. He had many good things to say about how much more ought to be possible on computers beyond straight ports of board games, and it is amazing how it seemed the article would apply equally well not 30 years later by replacing "home computer" with "tablet". It's the same move to a new platform, and the same problem of designers not yet having figured out how to make best use of the new platform (how could they?), instead relying on designs taken from old platforms. I'm sure we will see much more interesting "board games" on tablets 5 or 10 years from now, and have a good laugh at games simulating hands of cards or 3D dice rolling across the screen (although as a novelty I understand such things can help sell games in the near future to some catrgories of gamers).

Was happy to read above in this thread about making a card game that represented cards in different ways in different views. Far too many games just show cards as cards, focusing more on simulating a card game than on being a good game. This is particularly true about VASSAL modules that use scans of original cardboard markers instead of using better ways of representing information on a computer screen. It is bad enough to have to move cardboard status markers aside to examine a stack of counters in a real boardgames, much worse to have to drag simulated markers around a screen when the status information from the marker could instead have been rendered in more useful ways.

For some reason I find it much easier to come up with ideas and mechanics that I think work for board games, and when it comes to software I end up focusing way too much on programming and not having enough good ideas what the game should be like. Maybe I need to do more cardboard prototyping to figure out how I want a game to work before I start coding.

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