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Design prosess, I show you mine you show me yours

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hulken
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Joined: 04/18/2009

I usualy get a idea for a game into my head, more often than not it seams this process is compleatly random. It can very from just a name for a game or a theem for it. Often also I have a general idea of one or more game mecanis that should fit nicly in the game. Or I have a feel for how I want the gameplay to unfold and what the players should be able to do in the game. Sometimes I even get "complet" games poping up in my head. Then I write this doen in my "game idea" document. This baby is at a wopping 23 pages at the moment. Then it sits there until I at some later point comes up with a "hey this is how it should work" moment. This part is usualy the most anoying part, this is becaus it seems this always hapends when I am about to go to sleep. So I have to go up, start the computer and so on al over again. It is ither that or trying to sleep with the fear that I might have forgotten this when I wake up in the morning.

After the game is mor or less compleated this way I make up a prototype for it. The last two games I have done have bin card games. So I have bin able to play them with siply altering a normal deck of cards. After I have played th egame severl times, and tweeking the rules a litle. I make up a new prototype a more flashy one. This usualy take a lot more time. For the last two cardgames this took about 30 hours for both of them. Then I print them at artscow, I have one game hopfully coming in tomorro, monday. This I do to be able to playtest the game in its final form, with the maximum number of players. And also to get feedback from the playtesters on the feeling of the game. Most prototypes do not give of the same feel as the final prodoct as you al know. So I try and make a nice prototype so I can get more correct feedback from the playtesters.

After this is done I usualy type up the rules. Untill now I have keept the rules in my head and the difrent versions in the computer. Also when I make the early prototype I usualy create a seperet file for the game and moves al things gamerelated in to it from the "game idea" document. Typing up the rules is realy tedius work. Al the spellchecking and translating. Do note it is just a "rules for.doc" so it is no rulebook at this moment. It often have "insert pictur of XXX here" in it but that is just for me.

When it comes to board games, I usualy spend a litle more time on the first prototype. In the two I have created I have used maps for the gameboard and I have spend maby 15 to 20 hours on creating them each.

Relexx
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I usually start with an idea,

I usually start with an idea, that floats around in my head for a period of time. Interestingly enough the idea of the moment is what I think about as I go to sleep, either that is good for my game design, or just a method of forgetting about the days activities.

It then gets to something like anydice, or a spreadsheet to work out probabilities and mechanical balance ideas, then rule writing.

From that point I do rough prototypes, and try and convince people to play test with me.

Pastor_Mora
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Research and Rules first

Game ideas happen to find me most times. It's not like I have a favorite theme and I go around making games about it. Most likely, I'll run into something I think would be interesting to develop a game about and start from there. This is how I end up with games about medieval china, cryptozoology, modern egyptology, some local historical event, finance, alternate history, etc...

Then I research a lot, going back and forth in wikipedia with all related articles and stuff. In the mean time, I develop a way to fit all pieces of information with some clever simple mechanics.

Then I do the rules, that usually begin with some notes about all the elements I would like to include and how will they be relevant to a particular mechanic.

Once a get a general view of what I'm trying to do, I do the board (I love boards). This helps me portray the whole scenario and start working in the details.

My alfa prototype usually features a board in a single A4 size sheet and really tiny cards with text only. I start solo playtesting and brainstorming with my gaming group around here.

I usually don't add any art untill a very late stage. I almost never depend on color-coding.

I write small reports of what I've learned and changed from version to version. I also keep all files from all versions in case I have to rollback.

Hope this helps. Keep thinking!

ichbin
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Joined: 09/21/2010
I'm just an amateur game designer

So I start always with what if.
What will happen if instead of using one pawn to move I use two (linked by some symbol or color)?
And then I imagine the consequences of such mechanic.
I use paint to build my diagrams. I start with minimal board (5X5 or 6x6).
I try to play the game with minimal rules. If something is blocking somewhere or at some step then I introduce a rule to solve the problem. And so on until I produce the game " Twins" ready for playtesting : an abstract game based on capture where a player in turn have to move 2 pawns and try to capture all the opponent pawns.
I will publish it one day.
I hope this will help.
Always what if is my first thinking.
What if I use the water?
What if I split the board onto 3 or 5 territories?
What if I use food (peanuts) in my game?
and so on.

sedjtroll
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Should have come to RinCon!

Last weekend at RinCon I hosted a 2-part Game Design Workshop in which I and James Ernest talked a little bit about the process of designing a game - from deciding what story you want to tell to deciding who your audience is, to how to get that across with the game mechanics. It wasn't completely comprehensive, but it also included "homework" - 4 people took a game design kit home with various bits to mess around with:

In each of 4 "player colors":
2 Meeple
3 Wooden discs
4 Wooden sticks (roads)
5 Wooden cubes
8 Gray wooden sticks
10 Gray wooden cubes
10 Natural wooden cubes
some index cards
some paper money
a piece of posterboard
Pens

In the second half of the workshop on Sunday, we took a look at the 4 games people had begun to work on and discussed them. Some really neat ideas and some really good starts!

pelle
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design process

Get an idea of a theme (most often) or a mechanic (rarely).

Think and plan. Usually for several months. Most ideas never get past this level.

Start writing down notes in a text files on my computer. Many more ideas get killed here.

If I keep working on an idea, get the text file(s) into some kind of version control system to keep track of things (and a simple way to get backups of all changes, and make the files easy to access from all my computers).

Research. Since so far all but one of my designs have been wargames, reading everything possible on the subject of the game is important. Most projects get stuck here for a long time (or forever).

Map. For the current project only a very small partial map so far, but large enough to be able to try out different mechanics of the game. Good to have some idea what the final map will look like, but no need to spend time on all the details before the rules etc are sorted out.

Counters (and/or cards). I have my countersheet effect for Inkscape, so predictably it is something I work from very early in a new project. In my spreadsheet document where I put the text for the cards/counters I also keep other notes for each one. It will just be silly placeholder counters with fake values on to begin with, but it is enough to have something to push around to try out mechanics.

VASSAL module. This is very easy to do and really useful for playtesting (even solitaire). I just make a very simple one with a map and some dumb counters you can move around on the map.

Then, well, it's just small incremental changes, more research, playtesting, etc, over and over, I guess. Only one of my games reached this stage (and then blind playtesting and publishing) so I don't know a great deal about this. I know a lot more about the earlier stages of development.

rcjames14
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What If

ichbin wrote:

Always what if is my first thinking.
What if I use the water?
What if I split the board onto 3 or 5 territories?
What if I use food (peanuts) in my game?
and so on.

Even though I love the feeling of coming up with a game design sui generis ex nihilo... I often find it just as refreshing to be prompted by the what Ifs of others. That is what a call for submissions usually does to me... it prompts me to think in a way that I have not been thinking. And, what comes out of a new link in my neural network of thoughts is usually fascinating and beautiful, whether or not it works in the end.

I think that I excel at figuring out how things work and making sense of things. I can even make things work pretty well. But, I am mediocre at seeing things differently in the first place... so I have a lot of respect and admiration for those who ask the 'what ifs' regardless of how feasible they are.

doho123
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Running a conference talk

Running a conference talk with James Ernest? I had no idea. You are in the big leagues now. That's pretty cool.

Yamahako
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Joined: 12/01/2010
sedjtroll wrote:Last weekend

sedjtroll wrote:
Last weekend at RinCon I hosted a 2-part Game Design Workshop in which I and James Ernest talked a little bit about the process of designing a game - from deciding what story you want to tell to deciding who your audience is, to how to get that across with the game mechanics. It wasn't completely comprehensive, but it also included "homework" - 4 people took a game design kit home with various bits to mess around with:

In each of 4 "player colors":
2 Meeple
3 Wooden discs
4 Wooden sticks (roads)
5 Wooden cubes
8 Gray wooden sticks
10 Gray wooden cubes
10 Natural wooden cubes
some index cards
some paper money
a piece of posterboard
Pens

In the second half of the workshop on Sunday, we took a look at the 4 games people had begun to work on and discussed them. Some really neat ideas and some really good starts!

I was one of those people - the limitations on pieces made it a really interesting process. An enterprising Board Game bit manufacturer could probably make a good business model by running a game design contest with overstock bits for a prize with an entry fee (that covers the development kit). I would certainly enter as many as I could.

I'm still developing the game I started from that - Streets of Venice.

My process is usually one of two starts:

What lesson do I want to teach? Since nearly all really old games (500 years+) existed to teach something. So I like to create games where learning the lesson allows you to win the game - like an economics games dealing with supply and demand where you are trying to increase the number of points of different commodities by limiting their number.

And sometimes, I start with an interesting interaction - and want to explore it. For example a game with limited resources with a R-P-S-L-Sp style interaction. And then I come up with a theme it could fit into, and then a victory condition.

irdesigns510
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Joined: 06/24/2009
Individual mechanics, then sketchbooks.

rcjames14 wrote:
Even though I love the feeling of coming up with a game design sui generis ex nihilo... I often find it just as refreshing to be prompted by the what Ifs of others. That is what a call for submissions usually does to me... it prompts me to think in a way that I have not been thinking. And, what comes out of a new link in my neural network of thoughts is usually fascinating and beautiful, whether or not it works in the end.

i usually come up with rules for games by attempting to be as intelligent as the people on this forum!
(i had to look up what your latin meant BTW rcjames14... :) )

honestly though, i dont come up with games completely, i come up with mechanics as individual items.
What i do is i keep a binder of ways of creating movement, combat resolution, trick-taking, etc.

for me, this is usually done by seeing how ONE thing works, and finding out multiple ways how to represent that particular thing, whether it be driving fast, throwing acurately, aiming a gun, or whatever. Then i ask myself things like "how do i represent that with dice....how about with cards...how about tiles...etc." My favorite one is, "how do i represent that physically" (like sorry sliders, or paper football, or pogs).

An important thing for me to do, is not only find a way with different mediums (dice, cards, tiles) but also have a spectrum of implicity and simulation, or how simple or involved i wish to take it. another VERY important thing to do is find an organization method to sort these ideas!

While i do this collection of mechanics, i consult my sketchbook. this book holds drawings of creatures, machines, lands, whatever - even synopses to stories! Since i have an art background, this book is more a collection of books, all filled. This part is generally where i do my "what if's", as its easier for me to do that while sketching, rather than calculating!

After that, it works out to be kind of a "pick-and-choose" where the mechanics described above become main assets (i.e. what is the engine, what is the wheels, what steers it, etc.) and the art becomes an integral part of the design aspect.
(to give an example: settlers of catan would have the dice odds collecting resource cards as the engine, accounting with the cards to build to other resource hexes as the wheels, and trading would be the streering...."longest road" and "biggest army" would be air conditioning! hehe)

Although, I definitely have to go back to the drawing board multiple times, as the individual mechanics dont always see eye to eye! Sometimes this is for the better, because its sometimes easier to manipulate something rather than create from sctratch.

SUKIROO
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My Design process

I'd like to say that I have a process, but the truth is; my game came to me in the middle of a conversation with some friends. Our conversation was nothing about games. But something triggered in my brain setting off a vague visual of the layout of the boardgame, and within minutes I had the format outlined in my head, right down to the basic rules. Since I was driving at the time and unable to write anything down, I shut my friends up by rattling off everything that was exploding in the grey matter. Thankfully, my friends are used to me and they just waited, unoffended, till I calmed down again, then proceeded with their former conversation.

Today, it is a year later and I am working on finishing up the graphics (that's been the hardest part); I have NO graphics training. And just when I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel on this boardgame, and my good friends thought they might finally hear the last of it for a while... A new boardgame visual, complete with it's format, showed up out of the clear blue and, well, I guess I know what I'll be working on next year. BTW, The new boardgame idea came to me while I was having breakfast out with the same friends, they laughingly accused me of not paying any attenion to our conversations. At least this time I could stop and jot some things down.

I am planning on self publishing and have been reading as much as I can online about anything boardgames, that's how I ended up on this forum.
Good Luck to all of you on your games!

rcjames14
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Tools of the Trade

Yamahako wrote:
I like to create games where learning the lesson allows you to win the game - like an economics games dealing with supply and demand where you are trying to increase the number of points of different commodities by limiting their number.

I am reminded of some of the learning exercises that I developed as a teaching assistant. By setting up the rules well and laying out a goal, I was able to turn over the task of learning to the students themselves. However, I was frequently surprised by what they actually learned. In the end, substance was actually not as important as method, and these types of games seemed to be the best way to teach skills (as opposed to knowledge).

I wonder if that same observation is true of casual games? Whether all games teach skills, regardless of their substantive theme? And, what those skills might be? I don't usually pay attention to this in my casual game design. But, it is an interesting question.

irdesigns510 wrote:
for me, this is usually done by seeing how ONE thing works, and finding out multiple ways how to represent that particular thing, whether it be driving fast, throwing acurately, aiming a gun, or whatever. Then i ask myself things like "how do i represent that with dice....how about with cards...how about tiles...etc." My favorite one is, "how do i represent that physically" (like sorry sliders, or paper football, or pogs).

The more that I design, the more I am intrigued to hear how others design, especially how they practice design. Whereas I tend to practice in a holistic way... writing a set of rules and rewriting. Rewriting and oftentimes abandoning the rules that I wrote. I can see how it might be fun to just focus on one particular mechanic: like movement, or card draw, or scoring, or piece placement and think about all the different ways that it could be done (absent any other mechanics). I guess it's because I see rules are extremely contextual. But, sometimes that means that I get stuck on particular mechanics and can't escape the contextual box I have created. It's definitely during those times that I wish that I practiced your isolated lateral type of thinking more.

I know people teach design classes. I wonder whether they focus on this type of undirected brainstorming and imagination. I bet it would be fun (either to participate in or to organize).

irdesigns510
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Addition by subtration, and Analogous Thinking

rcjames14 wrote:
The more that I design, the more I am intrigued to hear how others design, especially how they practice design. Whereas I tend to practice in a holistic way... writing a set of rules and rewriting. Rewriting and oftentimes abandoning the rules that I wrote. I can see how it might be fun to just focus on one particular mechanic: like movement, or card draw, or scoring, or piece placement and think about all the different ways that it could be done (absent any other mechanics). I guess it's because I see rules are extremely contextual. But, sometimes that means that I get stuck on particular mechanics and can't escape the contextual box I have created. It's definitely during those times that I wish that I practiced your isolated lateral type of thinking more.

I know people teach design classes. I wonder whether they focus on this type of undirected brainstorming and imagination. I bet it would be fun (either to participate in or to organize).

When i went to Hussian School of Art (in Philadelphia) we started things in a very isolated way. (Mind you, these were all art & design projects that had nothing to do with gaming.) Starting with the very beginning, we weren't allowed to do anything in colour, everything had to be in black and white and gray scale. This helped people, who understood why they had taken away colours, how to push and pull "information" (images, text boxes, etc.) to the foreground or the background. Other classes would teach things like antique printing methods, or layout, but still in black and white. It wasnt until a couple MONTHS later that they introduced colour, and when they did EVERYONE's projects were tremendously better than their entry highschool portfolios. The isolation away from colours (at least for a time) was more than educational.

i also had the good fortune of having a close relationship with my father, with which we would do ALOT of projects together. when i was a child, he would always try to make analogies for various things that i could relate to, so i could better help him. the one that stands out to me right now was his explanation of "modem bandwidth" - he said that our modem was like a funnel, and the information was like a big bag of rice, the faster the modem, the larger the funnel's mouth would be, the more rice we could consume. i find myself constantly doing this now (probably too much,) and use it as a system of analogous thinking when i approach new things. haha, i did this on Larriena's post: http://www.bgdf.com/node/4006 , now that i think of it.

rcjames14, thanks for the compliment :). i'd like to recommend a book to you (as well as everyone on the forum) that ive been having alot of fun with. its called:

"Challenges for Game Designers: non-digital exercises for video game designers"
by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber.

...i know it says video game designers, but a game is a game, and all of the challenges are non-digital. Their are 4-5 challenges at the end of each chapter, and they actually help strengthen your ability to design by giving you only a little bit at a time (like the black and white allowance in my "life story" above.) i admit that the first couple of challenges i was like "whatever", but when i gave into their method of teaching, things started flowing easier for me.

rcjames14
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Je Ne Sais Quoi

irdesigns510 wrote:
i admit that the first couple of challenges i was like *"whatever"*, but when i gave into their method of teaching, things started flowing easier for me.

Thanks for the book rec. I'll put it on my 'gift to myself' list for this Christmas and see if I can set aside some time for practice. At the very least, the book should be good for spontaneous design tests for those who might want to design for me.

As I find myself transitioning into a producer more and more these days, I wonder how well I'll be able to spot other people's talent at what I have relied upon myself to provide. Of course, I firmly believe that an excellent game can be spotted easily (by almost anyone). But, as we all know all too well, an excellent game is always first a design and it is much much harder to gauge/prove to others your ability to create that. Perhaps even harder than anyone else involved in the entire process, a designer has only their thoughts (and maybe a mockup) to sell. And since not even a good thinking process can always arrive at a commercial solution, a design or a designer is always a risk.

But, I've noticed over the past few years how much practice really helps, as well as honesty and curiosity. Honesty about the marketplace, what sells, what people want, whether your designs size up, where you fit in and how difficult it is to make games. Curiosity about what other people are doing, how you can improve, what is going on in other games, meeting people, taking risks, spotting opportunities. All together, they seem to have elevated my skills much as your experience at the art school.

Speaking of which, do you have sketches to look at? I'm curious. ;)

irdesigns510
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only a couple.

rcjames14 wrote:
Speaking of which, do you have sketches to look at? I'm curious. ;)

unfortunately my north bridge burned out in my mac, good thing all my game stuff is on CD's and external hard drives. However i had my sketchbook scans on my mac :(. its just the northbridge and not the hard drive though so i should be able to get them off of it eventually.

otherwise, i posted a couple of things that were on an external drive, you should be able to find them by clicking on my profile name. the most interesting one might be the "Mizer progression" as it shows a "design process" (though not the complete process).

and *sigh, i dont have a website for my own art! (i neeeed to do that)

rcjames14
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Graphic Design

irdesigns510 wrote:
the most interesting one might be the "Mizer progression" as it shows a "design process" (though not the complete process).

The use of light and the composition of the space in the Mizer image is quite good. But, I think your Blog Rough is probably the most impressive of the ones you've posted. You seem to have a good eye for graphic design, which really elevates your artistic abilities.

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