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[GDW] Game Design Workshop: Year in Review

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 08/03/2008

Well, the first year (or 4 or 5 months, anyway) of the Game Design Workshop have come and gone, and it's time to review how things have gone and decide whether anything should change!

First, thanks to all who've put their games up for public scrutiny. It's our nature as designers to be secretive, so I appreciate all of our willingness to go a little outside the comfort zone here. I also appreciate people being willing to "take the heat" -- this isn't supposed to be a happy-happy process, but I think it's been enjoyable and useful to all who participated!

The one major format change we made was going to one week sessions. I think this was a good change, and since we're already booked through March, I think that my one concern, that we'd run out of games too quickly, will prove to be unfounded.

All of the games we've had have been great, and it's been really fun to see the wide variety of games that people are working on. It would be great to see some of these in print someday! I think, though, that some have been more "appropriate" than others for the GDW, and that perhaps we can use these as "lessons" that will guide future submissions.

It's always been my opinion that the games that can benefit the most from this process are games in their early stages of development, with only light playtesting having happened so far, and with a fairly straightforward gameplay. I continue to feel this way. I think that some of the "best" examples of what my personal GDW criteria are were games by, for example, Scurra, hpox, and FastLearner. And this leads to a new criterion that I hadn't thought of before -- it's worth spending some time making your rulebook understandable! In some cases (my own included, I think), failure to adequately communicate the rules of the game necessitated preliminary discussion about how the game was actually played before the analysis could begin. That's fine, but in one week sessions, there simply isn't much time for us to edit each others' grammar. So, let's all do our best work on those rulebooks!

I have always felt that "really complex" games would probably be difficult to evaluate in a useful way in the short time period of the workshop, and thus, I'd be interested to hear what Brykovian and IngredientX thought of their sessions. Their games sounded great, but were very involved, and thus, I for one wasn't able to invest the time in really understanding the gameplay. I think, as a guideline, having a rulebook that goes much beyond 8 pages or so is probably pushing it. On the flip side, what I didn't anticipate is that games like zaiga's or super's, which have fairly simple and clean rules, are also difficult to workshop, because there's not much to comment on.

I'd be very interested to hear comments from those who put up games in the workshop this year. Was it worth your time? Did you get the kind of feedback you wanted? Would you put the same game up again?

None of this should be construed as in any way critical of the games themselves, so much as to try to identify, for future reference, what kinds of games really work well as GDW entries, in terms of maximizing the useful feedback that "you" get, and the interest level that "we" get out of looking at and critiquing your game. I know that for myself, seeing other people's designs and design process has taught me a lot about game design, and so again, my thanks to all who've participated and made this a success!

And finally, just an administrative note -- if you've signed up for a slot, PLEASE check the schedule in the GDW forum and find out when your game is up and have it ready to go on that date.



Scurra's picture
Joined: 09/11/2008
[GDW] Game Design Workshop: Year in Review

I'd like to thank Jeff for acting as the administrator for this exercise - it's been a fascinating insight into how other people approach the process of design and development (which are two distinct phases that inevitably get hopelessly intertwined :))

And I'd certainly second his comment about "clean" designs (even if I'm planning on submitting quite a big design next time around!); one of the lessons I drew from my submission (and from blind testing of other games) is that things that seemed self-evident to me are sometimes interpreted in a way that has a seriously adverse effect on the flow of the game.
So I urge people not to be afraid of spelling certain things out, even if it doesn't appear to be that important; even something as simple as stating if a card is face-up or face-down can be crucial to understanding the intent of a game - especially in the context of the GDW when we only have a rule-set to consider.

I'm certainly looking forward to seeing the next crop of games - we're a talented crowd and I think we're all getting better by learning from each other.

Brykovian's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Re: [GDW] Game Design Workshop: Year in Review

I'd also like to thank Jeff for taking the role of admin and making sure the schedule was setup and encouraging something of a style to develop from the GDW process. And also to eveyone who submitted games and/or commented on those ... I truly think everyone wins in cases like these.

jwarrend wrote:
I'd be interested to hear what Brykovian and IngredientX thought of their sessions. Their games sounded great, but were very involved, and thus, I for one wasn't able to invest the time in really understanding the gameplay.

I got a lot of benefit from my session. While what seemed like the biggest hitch for the evaluators -- too many components -- wasn't really that big of a deal for me, the process and comments helped me to (re)define exactly what I wanted out of the game (and the answer was different *after* GDW than it was before it), and how to make everything as simple and clean as possible ... allowing the player interaction and mix of different systems to "make the game". I hope to have a newly re-written "Dirty Business" done in January, with some playtesting to following. I will be sure to let everyone know how it goes.

Finally, I'd like to say that I've learned a lot from the other games presented in the GDW and how the evaluators reacted to different aspects of them. That may have been more valuable to me than actually having my own game in the process.


IngredientX's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Re: [GDW] Game Design Workshop: Year in Review

jwarrend wrote:
I have always felt that "really complex" games would probably be difficult to evaluate in a useful way in the short time period of the workshop, and thus, I'd be interested to hear what Brykovian and IngredientX thought of their sessions.

I did get a great deal out of the GDW, but part of that is because I knew what it was going to be: criticism of the ruleset in theory, which was exactly what my game needed at its early stage.

I had a couple of more polished games, but they needed playtesting, which the GDW can't help with. This isn't a fault of the GDW; it's just a matter of knowing the workshop's scope.

With the GDW's help, I was able to consolidate a bunch of rules and eliminate several sets of components from a bit-heavy game. So I'm very happy with my GDW session, and I'd gladly do it again (once I get off my lazy tuckus and hammer a couple of my concepts into basic rulesets).

Jeff, I know it's been said, but let me repeat it: the job you do here is excellent! I know I'm not the only person the GDW has helped, and I'm sure there will be plenty of demand for the GDW's services. Also, you're not afraid to dole out the "tough love" when necessary :), and that's crucial (though sometimes difficult) when providing criticism.

I look forward to 2004's designs!

Joined: 12/31/1969
[GDW] Game Design Workshop: Year in Review

Very positive experience. My game was in a very rough stage and I wish I had developped the rules a bit more with examples of play and pictures.

I might revisit the game soon and the suggestions/critics I got will help greatly.

Joined: 12/31/1969
[GDW] Game Design Workshop: Year in Review

I like the format, and I had a great experience. Other than what I've suggested in the past I don't really have any comments. Thanks, Jeff, for doing such a great job, and thanks to everyone for participating. I'm sorry that I can't comment on every game as some weeks I just don't have the time to get into it, but I try to comment on every other one (roughly).

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
[GDW] Game Design Workshop: Year in Review

I had a very positive experience with 8/7c, and will do it again one of these days (probably with Flatball). My situation was that the game had been playtested some, but there were rules and mechanics I wasn't sure about. The Workshop really helped find the best way to do what I wanted to do.

Jeff, as has been mentioned, you've been doing a fine job of organizing the GDW. I'm sorry I haven't been as prolific Ias I was at the beginning, but that's just the way it goes sometimes.

- Seth

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