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When you start a game design, conceive a game, not a wish list

This is something that should be obvious, yet despite everything I’ve written about beginners designing games I have not said it explicitly. And I know from my teaching experience that to many people it isn’t obvious. It is especially important for people who want to design video games rather than tabletop games.

When you set out to design a game it’s important to know what you want that game to do, what the impact will be on the players. But it’s much more important to know how the game is going to do that.

Too many Choices?

Several people have pointed out that a major difference between wargames and Euro-style games is the number of (plausible) choices presented to a player when it is his turn.

Impressions of the new edition of Ancient Conquest I

The Britannia "game system" has been used in other published games such as Maharaja (Avalon Hill), Hispania (Azure Wish), Rus, and most recently Italia (Phalanx) and China: the Middle Kingdom (Decision Games). Some people categorize these and other games such as History of the World as “sweep of history” games. The original game of this category may have been Ancient Conquest, which was recently reissued.

Ways to Get Started on a New Game Design

There are some typical questions that come to mind in people who want to design games but haven't really done so yet. One of these is "how do you actually start a game"?

I have written about how games originate, what element starts the thought process. This time I want to focus on questions you can ask yourself, lists you can make, techniques you can use, rather than on specific aspects of the game.

Reality Management Important for Game Designers

For a couple decades I regularly taught graduate computer management classes. One of the most important themes of those classes was that a manager/supervisor has to recognize what reality is, not what he would like reality to be or what he thinks it ought to be. If you don’t know what’s really going on, how can you make it work better? Yet a great many managers lose track of reality, and the really poor ones are often in what I call “cloud-cuckoo land.”

You might feel that this shouldn’t matter to game designers but in fact it’s very important. Game design in some sense is project management. Your project can’t come to fruition if you don’t recognize the reality of it, the true state of your game.

What’s important in board and card game design

(I was asked in 2010 to write a brief contribution for the blog of Buffalo Games, a publisher of family games. This originally appeared in January on their Facebook page.)

What’s important in board and card game design

Book contract

As some of you know, I recently signed a contract with McFarland & Co, Publishers, for a book about learning to design (video) games. I have just finished the "next-to-final" draft, which is being commented on by some people, and will need to submit the final draft by Oct 15. With luck it will be available next year. (Keep in mind how long these things can take.)

A really big playtest failure

"Playtesting is sovereign", I like to say to students. But it has taken a long time for videogame companies to recognize this, and there're still examples of complete failures to do playtesting right even when they play test.

How long it takes

Gamers are often surprised at how long it takes for games to be published. Mayfair recently published a game that one of the principles thought they had had for eight years. Once I decided to revise the Britannia took three years to revise it and get it published. The Dragon Rage reissue took a similar time, though much of that was because it was a startup publisher. I have a game with Mayfair now that they originally saw it PrezCon 2008, if I recall correctly.

Simple Versus Complex As a Game Design Philosophy

At conventions this summer I’ve watched two multiplayer fantasy wargames with many similarities but perhaps different philosophies of design. At the UK Game Expo in Birmingham England I watched Wizards of the Coast’s new game Dungeons and Dragons Conquest of Nerath being played, and at WBC in Lancaster Pennsylvania I watched a not yet published (P500) game called War Party.

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by Dr. Radut