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Level 2: Homeplay

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let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011

Level 2: Iteration and Rapid Prototyping
For this week:
Iteration & Rapid Prototyping

Have any thoughts on this week's Homeplay assignments?

Before next Monday, read the following. I will be referencing these in Monday’s content when we talk about the formal elements of games:
- Challenges for Game Designers, Chapter 2 (Atoms). This will act as a bridge between last Monday when we talked about a critical vocabulary, and next Monday when we will start breaking down the concept of a “game” into its component parts.
- Formal Abstract Design Tools, by Doug Church. This article builds on Costikyan’s I Have No Words, offering some additional tools by which we can analyze and design games. While he does use many examples from video games, think about how the core concepts in the article can apply to other kinds of games as well.

Share any thoughts you had regarding this week's homeplay reading assignments in this thread.


let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
This Week's Readings

Some thoughts on this week's Homeplay materials:

I strongly recommend the rapid iterative design process, though primarily for a reason the author hadn't mentioned. The Rapid Iteration Process helps prevent perfectionism as a barrier. Have you ever heard of someone "afraid of their own success"? The way I see it, it's more like the person is afraid of criticism, or having their own shortcomings pointed out by someone else. Not only will rapid iteration allow for more improvements to be made in the long run, but it will also prevent immaturity and/or anxiety from holding back someone's design efforts.

If there's one thing that designers need less of, it's an entourage that constantly says their games are great and fun and awesome and they want to play them all the time. By being willing to accept criticism, and actively listening to what the playtesters report, a designer can squash their anxiety about how their game is, as well as start the long process of improving it... so that it really DOES become a game that's fun and awesome and is played all the time. :)

I enjoyed this reading, and took away a lot from it. Primary among these takeaways would be the identified tools: Intention, Perceivable Consequence, and Story/Narrative. I'd translate these a little bit more in terms of developing a Universal Vocabulary:
Intention = WHY a player is doing things. Their motivation.
Perceivable Consequence = WHAT HAPPENS when a player attempts a tactic.
Story = The BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and END of a tale.

Also of interest is the reminder that the END of the game's Story can be brought about by either the player(s) or the game itself. It's difficult to confidently state that one option is more thrilling/engaging than the other, in terms of creating a gripping Story as part of a game, since even in the mildest of Eurogames there can still be some immense tension in the final round or two.

Finally, I agree with his closing points that indicate the tools should be used to maximize the player's ability to carry out their own decisions. Games are different from movies or books specifically because they allow the player's input to affect the outcomes. The Intention to carry out a tactic produces a Perceivable Consequence that influences the Story. This leads me to believe that, without the Perceivable Consequences, it's likely there is very little of an engaging game for players.

DifferentName's picture
Joined: 09/08/2013

I like the idea of developing more language of game design. It allows you to convey so much information so quickly, like if you mention the alpha gamer problem in a co-op game.

The talk about finding design tools was interesting. I'm sure it's something we all do all the time, collecting game mechanics in our minds to use in our games, but the way the FADT article described it got me thinking about some of my game designs. But the details of the article really got me thinking about some games, like what could work in some of the game ideas I have. And why the last level of the game I just played got me kind of stuck, because suddenly they introduced new rules that hadn't been around for the entire game, messing with the whole intention -> perceivable consequence thing that was working so well in the rest of the game.

He also had a quick comment about how RPG's haven't really learned anything from RTS games, and I had fun thinking about what they could use. Essentially an RTS game is giving you way too many things to manage all at once, so you have to decide how to split your attention, between managing your resources and infrastructure, or your army and how you could split your army. I could see an RPG using that method of giving you too many things you need to do, forcing you to decide between them, without the need for an RTS army.

Joined: 11/27/2017
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Yort Watson
Yort Watson's picture
Joined: 11/12/2017
This is exactly what I've

This is exactly what I've been trying. I call my iterations "Exercises", and so far I've had no objections trying them out twice. I'm making some changes to try it out again soon. In the past however I had many gamer friends (reluctant play-testers) say they didn't want to try anything until it was a complete game. This was frustrating and really slowed things down since I would have to re-think large parts of it. I would have to make it look semi decent for anyone to try them as well which took some effort that I would change each time. Ultimately I had some success. I think finding the people cool with trying iterations fairly often is the way to go. It can take a while to find the right people however.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Game Design Exercises

Yeah, we tried this a few years ago. Unfortunately there was too little involvement and the result was a lack of effective critique. We abandoned it after maybe three modules, which I feel was a disappointment. Not enough people seem willing to take "the work of making things fun" seriously enough.

I have the book around which the course was built at home, and I revisit it often to help inform my own efforts. Fortunately I cross paths with a number of designers in person so I have an easier time that many in terms of putting my designs in front of willing playtesters.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Just a small comment

I don't know what kind of designer you are, but most playtest the game ALONE first. And you can go through various versions of the game without even putting out a complete prototype.

Why you can even POST information on BGDF and people will give you feedback and comments... Have you tried this?

I know you want to work with people - I get it. But if you can't find the right people to playtest with, why not explain your game in a Blog and then add forum topics related to the challenges or difficulties you've been having with your WIP (Work-In-Progress)??

Anyways I wish you success - just keep in mind the forum is not here to "hook you up with people". It's here so that you can dialog and exchange with various members with various backgrounds, knowledge, experience in the domain of game design.

While your mileage may vary, from my experience there are a bunch of good game designers who offer good criticism and share insight into the topics posted on this forum. So you can expect to get at least one or two people and maybe attract a larger crowd depending on your response.

Just sharing can help unlock an idea or give another path to explore.


Joined: 01/28/2017
As a fledgling designer, and

As a fledgling designer, and a closet delivery methodology nerd, I was intrigued when I saw familiar methodologies transcribed to games design (Waterfall vs Agile) but the more I thought about it, the more I'd like to challenge whether it really makes sense.

A waterfall approach says that you know what the game looks like (its a card game, made up of 52 cards and there are 4 suits). You then work through a process to fill in the gaps. I don't think thats applicable - you typically set the rough frame work (its a card game but I don't know how many cards yet) and then flesh it out, refining as you go. You certainly can go backwards in Waterfall - you just reset the process so its not the most efficient way of operating.

So its Agile!

Pure iterative design means you start with nothing and then make decisions as you go, firming up the concept. You start with the idea that you want to make a game, and then freely make decisions until you end up with the final product. You work with a multidisciplinary team on each aspect (be those your playtesters and a single designer, or a designer, artist, sculptor for minis etc - you could extend this to be truly Agile/Iterative)
Point is though, this approach isn't ideal at delivering a "design". It delivers a game, as long as you are open to what that actually finally ends up as.

So I'd argue there's room for something else. Something in between the two that uses the idea of a concept (done during a Discovery phase) which lays out some broad brushstrokes. A Definition phase which then highlights the success factors of each of the component parts (eg it must play in 30 mins or less, it must fit in a single tuck box, it must be manufactured for under £6k for 1000 units etc, it must be high fantasy themed with magic and fantastical races).
Then an Execution phase where you deliver on the production - and this could be iterative.

Actually what I've described is fundamentally the methodology I use to deliver in my day job - and is very heavily based on Rational Unified process and DSDM. Clear gated phases to steer the project, and iterative process WHEN IT MAKES SENSE are powerful tools.

Key value points for me - and you may disagree - are the feedback loops used during this Execution phase to ensure the decisions made are the right ones. Thats usually where designers (including me) fall down - we get hung up on an aspect we really like and unless we listen to the user, we can fail to ditch poor decisions.

A good example of my own game is Knossus - a maze game where I originally had a randomly generated maze. I worked out rules for it, it generated very nicely and I had a brilliant magnet based component set that worked really well. Trouble was it added nothing to the game ultimately and would have cost a fortune to mass produce. Took me three prototypes before I finally got rid of it. Now I actively seek out people who will try to rip my games apart in playtesting. I hate it - really hard to hear criticism! - but I always try the suggestions and I am very confident about what I accept and don't accept.

What I've also found is that when you've playtested a game over a hundred times with people you realise that most of the feedback you get is similar. So if you try it all and have a good answer for what you keep and what you don't, your game is better and people appreciate knowing why you have made the decisions you have.

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