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Design process: Stuck at the same place, OR cannot improvise

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

A quick summary of the design design process could be defined in 3 steps

1-Conception: Get an idea and try to find the right mechanics to make the game work with the desired theme. At this step, little testing is done.

2-Design: Create the game by finding the right mechanics until the game is playable. At the end, the game will be boring, unbalanced or buggy but it will be playable with real players.

3-Refining: Playtest the game with real people to improve the mechanics of the game to avoid unwanted issues and make the game fun.

For step 1, I have no problem at all. I generally can come up with some good idea on how to implement a particular theme.

For step 3, I still have no problem because I am used to design variants. So making modification to improve a game is actually one of my strength.

But for step 2, all my design get stuck there. After the initial concept is done, I play test, make a few changes, test again to realise it does not work much better and stop the process. In order to continue, I must wait more than a year until I finally stumble on an idea and try to test it, then I will eventually get stuck again until the new idea comes in a year later.

Now the problem is that the game design is too early to be playable with real players. So I cannot playtest the game with real people and ask for comments. So I get in a situation where all my game ideas are stuck at the same place without really progressing. I don't really mind if some ideas progress faster than other but when they progress once a year, it's really annoying. Here are some example (you can skip the examples if you want):


Dragon realms: It's a game where each player controls an clan of dragon for the domination of the world. Problem, the combat resolution between dragons that are resolved as duels end up being a dice fest with almost no strategy. More than 1 year later, I recently realized that I could use a fighting game card combat mechanic to resolve duels. Not tested yet, but still found me more than a year to stumble on that idea that could still not work in the end.

Deep Space Colonization: Players colonize a stellar system and the goal is to build up colonies faster than the other players to finish the construction of their interstellar colony ship. The latest idea was to use a San Juan card system to place buildings on a planet and develop technologies. The problem is that San Juan buildings modifies the effect of roles(action) played, but in my game, there are not enough actions and there is not enough possible permutations to design a good amount of buildings. Finally, placing buildings on multiple planets is much more annoying than in San Juan where all buildings are simply in the player's area. So I will probably need to replace the San Juan card mechanic by something else, so I suspended the project until I found a solution.

Rats Craft: Concept of the game, a parody of Starcraft board game consisting of rats faction invading a house while the family is in vacation. Rats try to control various rooms for resources while the cats are guarding the corridors. I have a mobility problem. Because a player starts by breaching a room, in a 3 player game where there are 4 rooms, it create the effect where each player camp their starting room. Even if rooms can accommodate the presence of 2 or 3 players, there is no reason to move to other rooms because either the presence of other player is intimidating (he have 10 rats in his room, I will not move there), or moving through the corridors is risky (cats are waiting to bite). Finally, I cannot test the game with real people considering that I don't have designed the units for the combat resolution, so I am currently improvising the combat results on the fly.


According to my girlfriend it could be due to an improvisation problem. I might be able to get around for data design by using for example number sequence to setup unit stats or assigning random value. But when it's about trying and combining mechanics, I fail to improvise.

I remember that in my game Fallen Kingdoms, I had no idea what to use for intimidation so I tried to mix and match various system. But the difference is that the rest of the game was working. I had a map, production and combat system making the game playable. So I only needed to add 1 mechanic, but when you do not have a working core, it's a bit harder to mix and match mechanics.

So I am trying to find solutions and I am writing this message to get additional suggestions. What I found so far is.

1. Develop sub system: If a game could be split in a sub system, design and make functional sub system for the game so that after designing a few sub-system, you would get a somewhat working core making it easier to mix and match mechanics later.

2. Random Mix and Match: Select a random game in my closet and borrow 1 mechanic from that game and try to use it in my game. See the results and repeat the process until the right mechanic is found.

3. Brain storm needs: Try to list criteria that would be required for the mechanic and try to isolate the mechanics that would fulfill best those needs.

If you have any other solutions or working method, please let me know.

Mirror Threads

JustActCasual's picture
Joined: 11/20/2012
"A Whack on the Side of the Head"

"A Whack on the Side of the Head" is the classic book to check out if you're having improvisation problems. I would highly suggest reading it if you haven't already (although some of the ideas seem commonplace now: a hazard with most classics).

You seem on a good track though: once you are able to articulate a problem you are halfway to solving it. Take Rats Craft: you already know the issues that the issues are high defensive troop buildups, the cats being a high risk psychological barrier, and low rewards for moving to new spaces. Why not use the Starcraft method and incentivise aggression through unit caps (or upkeeps)? Having a unit cap per room (per player) helps all your problems: you eliminate the possibility of overwhelming turtling; the cats are less scary since losing units in the halls becomes low-risk (as it frees up new slots in the room the units leave); you've created a valuable new resource carrot that draws players into more rooms. You even get the bonus of a powerful balancing dial (MegaRat costs 3 cheese a turn while LittleSqueaker costs 1).

This solution also used the very powerful problem solving of analogy: although being unique can be good, it is valuable to look at how similar systems have solved their problems. I would say it works a LOT better than random mix and match.

I would also say, as a corollary to your sub-system method, don't be afraid to start simple. For Rats Craft why not just make a bunch of vanilla or french vanilla critters and test them out? Even if all the rats are 1 Att/1Def/1Mov creatures it can give you a sense of your system and its dynamics. You can always complexify later if you wish.

Having said all that, as an independent designer sometimes time and space is the answer. Patience and multiple projects can solve many problems.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Thank for the reply, I'll

Thank for the reply, I'll take a look at the book you mentioned, might order it in my next book order.

As for rats craft, I did not realized that was the reason for unit limit in the original game. I thought of something similar by having a room limit where the most populous player gets kicked out first so you could send in unit to pop out your opponents unit.

Which leads to another method not mentioned: using BGDF. When I am stuck, I often ask for help on forums.

"This solution also used the very powerful problem solving of analogy: although being unique can be good, it is valuable to look at how similar systems have solved their problems."

True, but sometimes, you do not know what were the original problem they had, so you don't know that a certain mechanic in a game is actually a solution to the same problem as you.

As for sub-system, in the case of Ratscraft, I was thinking more of designing only the combat system and ignore the rest of the game. When the combat system works and is solid, I have something ready to work with.

Joined: 06/07/2012
I think the problem might be

I think the problem might be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Creativity is a very personal thing and it manifests itself differently for different people. However, one thing that is common to all creative output is the barrier of being uncomfortable.

For me my creativity flows best when I’m comfortable and unrestricted; an outlook that matches my own particular personality. While I have a very rational and methodical side I feel more comfortable, and in tune with myself, when I’m flying by the seat of my pants into the unknown.

I’ve never read a game design book, then again I’ve never read any form of “how to” design book. I just pull ideas out of thin air and play about with them in an amused child like manner – without any real expectations regarding the final output.

Then, after I've got something workable I move into rational, methodical mode and trim, snip, test, evaluate, re-evaluate, and re-work until my reasoned analytical nature is satisfied.

I think that might be part of your innovation blockage, a reluctance to let go of established systems. The problem with utilising existing subsystems is that you are taking something that was designed to fit within a complete system and employing it elsewhere. Imagine taking engine parts from several different cars and then trying to assemble them into a full working engine.

The parts all have the right names, piston, manifold, fuel pump and so on, but when you try to assemble them they just don’t fit. So you have to shave bits off, bolt bits on, apply gaffer tape and then when finally crank the engine it shudders, judders, oil shoots out and it either explodes or works in a very inefficient manner.

Whereas, you can take the basic principles of something, like a piston that moves up and down under pressure to initiate movement in something else, and then build a piston from the ground up the way you want – and in a way that will fit with your overall vision for the completed whole.

In relation to my design endeavors, in this case game designs, I suppose you could say I develop ideas in an organic flow. If I start out with a theme that I want to simulate I look at the theme and pull it apart, trying to distill it down to its basic elements. Once that’s completed I re-build it in a new form using materials to hand (materials which have their own particular elements and features). Cards work one way, dice work another, auction systems follow one path, resource management systems another. And again, I understand these materials because I’ve distilled them down to what they do and how they function.

And more interestingly, I play around with what they might be able to do if they where approached in a slightly different way. So an auction mechanic involves two or more people competing for something and each person has access to a common or communal commodity that affects the balance of ownership between the participants. So a first thought might be, what if I introduce abstinence into the equation and give it a value that affects the overall relational forces in the system – what would happen if not bidding had a value and what value could it have?

Children are generally more creative and innovative than adults and I think part of the problem is too much book learning. When a child approaches a cardboard box they don’t read a book about the constituent materials of cardboard and its application in the world, along with methodologies for improving its strength via the introduction of other material components or its combination with other items. They just jump on in there and play about with it. They look for its basic patterns and then imagine what it could be - and all of a sudden they are standing in a castle preparing to defend the ramparts from incoming invaders.

Books are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. I love books and I have shelves full of them, relating to all manner of topics and subject areas, but sometimes when you want to experience flight you have to tear out a page, and then fiddle and fold it a bit to make a paper airplane.

Examples sometimes speak louder than words, so I will have a quick go at your Dragon Realms design.

First off, the dice rolling doesn’t work – check. Are dice a bad inclusion in games? No, so it isn’t the fault of the dice that things aren’t working.

What am I trying to simulate here, aha, a battle between to entities, check.

Next, how is a battle between two entities frequently done with dice? Hmm, attack and defense values, roll over a number to hit, do some damage, and repeat until one entity falls.

Does the world need another instance of this, err probably not.

So what else do dice do? Well they can be used to form sets of matching symbols – like poker hands. Cool, I’ve played that and its kinda fun. I’ve also played Dice Town which adds a little spin to the idea and that was fun as well. So I can roll other things with dice than hit rolls – they are in essence number and sequence generators.

Okay, so what does a battle between two entities involve? Hmm, it involves making offensive and defensive decisions in a fixed time frame.

Cool, so I need my number and sequence generator to fuel tactical battle decisions with an established window of opportunity – which may be fixed or variable.

Hmm, what other system replicates a battle between two entities. Well video games do, I’ve played games where you push circle, square, plus and triangle buttons to make attack or defensive moves. In those games the individual buttons had a basic attack, but you could string together sequences to make combination moves.

Wow, dice rolls can stand for singular values or they can be combined with others to form sequences. Has anyone put button markers on dice faces and used them for combat, maybe not.

Hmm, but what about the window, I haven’t included the window. Well, in Dice Town the random nature of the dice was infused with tactical strategy by paying dollars to affect the rolling and keeping of dice.

What if I name my window time and have it so the players can spend time to affect their dice rolls?

The moves (dice sequences) could also have a performance time cost. So the players could be try to form move sequences with random rolling, they could also spend time to influence those rolls, but if they spend too much time then they wont have enough left to actually perform the move.

This is quite realistic, if you spend to much time setting up your move your quicker re-acting opponent will hit you first – maybe with a quick jab while you are buggering about.

Okay, what next? I need attack and defense moves – what about red and blue dice. But, I’m forgetting the window – they can’t do both at no cost.

I could restrict the players in their dice choosing. At the start of each round they can only have five dice. 5 red and 0 blue, 3 red and 2 blue, 1 red and 4 blue or 0 red and 5 blue (any combination as long as it has a total of 5 dice).

So, each player picks heir dice in secret before each round of combat and then they roll away. Hmm, but I’ve got dragons here. Well what about dice sequences for different attacks, a tail attack, a breath weapon attack, a bite attack. The greater the damage the harder the sequence required – thus taking more time to roll (if probability holds true).

Yup, that will do. And I could add in different creatures with different dice.

What else can I do?

Well I could have sequences that supported feints and the like. Rolling the sequence wouldn’t give the player an attack or defense move if they succeed, but it could affect the number of dice their opponent gets to roll in the next round or limit how they interact with their dice in reference to their time window.

Yup, that could offer up lots of potential options for game play.

Hmm, battles usually have some form of initiative and I have a time window. Well players could opt to allocate some of their time at the start of the round, in secret, to stand as initiative (fools rush in). This time cost would be deducted from the time they have available to perform the moves – that would work fairly well.

Oh, and different creatures, lets play with that idea a bit.

Different creatures could have different moves (dice sequences) available to them and different time windows. Yup, that will give a lot of variety for generating different opponents.

Hmm, what if I have a single adventurer facing different monsters, how would that work?

Well the mechanic would support it and the different creatures could give experience points when defeated. These experience points could be used to level up our adventurer(s) granting them larger time windows and access to more powerful move combinations.

Gaining levels could also allow them to knock off some of the requirements in a sequence making the sequences easier to pull off. As the players gain more knock offs the simpler sequences will become easier to achieve, but the more powerful moves will have more difficult sequences which will create a sliding scale.

I could even make it so that the players put experience directly into skill trees instead of simply leveling – that might be a cool idea.

Players could also learn new spells, which would introduce new sequences – that might be fun. Or they could pick up items from defeated opponents that affected the time window, affected their opponents dice rolls, added sequences with associated affects or affected the players own dice rolling.

Oh and the attacks would have damage done values, defense would have damage negation values, the adventurers and monsters would have hit points. These stats and associated sequences would have to be on character cards – shouldn’t be a problem and it will allow for some nice eye candy artwork and components other than dice.

Well, things are shaping up a bit, what about a name for the mechanic/game – Dicing with Death (yup, that’s a start).

Okay, that’s enough for now, better have a look to see if anyone has done anything similar to this – which would force a rethink (partial or complete).

And that’s pretty much a walk through of my seat of the pants idea generation process.

And the time it took to write this post in word and then copy/paste it? 50 minutes in total and not a book or mechanic search involved – just a free thinking, kid in a cardboard castle, playing around (woah, who stole my Cullinder of Anticoh helmet and Spatula Staff of Chicken Supreme Power, lookout Trolls, man the Ramparts).

svenne's picture
Joined: 01/06/2013
When I get stuck, I am

When I get stuck, I am checking out games that have similar mechanics that I want to have. By picking up some here and there, I mending my own version. Then I am testing it in my brain and if it is FUN, I am testing it irl. If it is still fun I am testing it some friends or my kids. If they think the mechanic is fun, I am starting to implant it to my my game.

I think fun is the key to most things. Is it fun to learn and use, it is probably a good mechanic. Sometimes it can be hard to combine two fun mechanics, then I am trying to replace one of them with a standard, somewhat boring one.

I agree with BubbleChucks "Creativity is a very personal thing" and it can be very hard when someone thinks your creation stinks or very fun when they thinks it is great. But the most important thing is why they think so. It can be most inspiring to know why and often it leads to a better mechanic or game.

I don't know if this gives any answers but it just my reflection.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Thanks for the input so far.

Thanks for the input so far. (responding to both thread at the same time)

I know that in the early part of design, you should be exploring extremes to know what are the limits your game should fit in. I think it's that exploration that I have problems with.

My girl friend said that I have a problem in having spontaneous thinking. Everything I do have to be carefully calculated and evaluated. This could be a my problem.

Like BubbleChuck said, playing with ideas like a kid does with his toy consist in improvising with what you have and that could be what I am missing.

I do sit down and write down ideas and solutions, but I think they are still too rational for that kind of exploration. This is why it is more suitable for game refining than exploration.

I think so far, when I got stuck with such things, I just asked on forums to seek advice. But that generally work only when you have a specific question. Early exploration is just too vague for such exploration.

So in the end, I would need to find an exploration method of my own. This is why I thought of taking a random mechanic in the closet and trying to fit it in.

Else I am considering the idea of playing a game with no rules, like a kid would do with toys. I am not sure if I could be capable of doing such thing again. Second, I don't know what I could be looking for. What will I note down when playing?

Maybe playing as a kid allows me to play the game like I want it to be what ever of how the game is played. That could give me a model that I could later attempt to convert as rules. This is somewhat touchy because you generally need components to play with and it's hard to define component for a game you do not know how it works.

But for example, I made a Civilisation with magic game in progress. I could take magic the gathering cards and ignore the rule text on the card. I would only use the theme. I could for example, grow my civilization, wage war and I decide to cast a spell form my hand and improvise the effect:I won the battle because I cast this spell. No dice rolls, no bonus, just that happened because I wanted it to happen this way.

So from that point of view, it would consist in playing a game like a toy. And the important element required for playing is having components to play with that could be either generic components or another game's components.

That kind of exploration seems interesting, I might have to try it first to know how I can draw information out of it. I might try it with my girlfriend who has much more toy play capacity than me.

Does anybody have done that kind of exploration before?

Joined: 06/27/2012
One thing I like to do is

One thing I like to do is envisage the theme and mechanics of a game in a "real" setting. For example, if you think of Magic the Gathering in a real life setting(putting yourself in the position of a mage), you would think about how the mages are going about casting and reacting to spells. You think about the systems that would fuel them, the possibilities that could take place with a given magic, and then you think about how you have to simulate that concept and dumb it down into a game system in the most enjoyable way possible.

Of course, that can take a lot of thought and many of the answers do not come quickly. Additionally, when the answers do come, it always seems to be in the shower when pen and paper is across the house.

To help with that thought process I like to put all the mechanics for a given system in one place such as a spreadsheet. I then try and compartmentalize all the given components for that system so that I can find any holes in the design. I find that when I have all the components visually located in an organized manner I can think about the entire structure all day long, moving pieces in and out and testing them out in my head. A lot of my spreadsheets end up acting like a Rubik's cube where I am constantly rotating the design until all the pieces fit together. Many times after putting all the ideas down in one place, I realize(sooner or later) that it is missing some key piece of theme or mechanic.

For me, organizing all the information in one place greatly aids the mental iteration of design. As long as I know the main goals of the theme, I can lay it out in a spreadsheet and iterate until I have most of the bases covered. That at least gives me a solid foundation from which to proceed with the rest of the design.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Hmm! spread sheet. How do you

Hmm! spread sheet. How do you structure your spreadsheet? You mentioned that it contains thematic elements and components. Do you have an example you could show here?

I have a game in design that has tons of thematic concept I want to include, but I can never find a way to see the game as a whole.

NASG's picture
Joined: 10/15/2012
Take a leaf our of natures book..

I've skimmed-read some of the in-depth replies - so apologies if I'm just parroting any of the above!

I think ProCylon had a good point when talking about thinking in terms of a "real" setting. I would suggest that one of the best designers around is nature, it makes random changes to it's rules and then sees how things pan out, some things don't and go extinct, some do and thrive.

So it might not be straightforward with all 3 of your concepts above, but sticking with RatsCraft (which is great IMHO) - why would rats leave their room and spread out? One thing would be Food, in the real-world it would be limited, they'd eat all the food (and sometimes each other) in their own room and need to find food elsewhere, sure cats are dangerous but better than starving to death.

For the Space Colonization game, these folks are basically pioneers, why not research/think about what various pioneers through history - think the U.S., Australia, etc.. need in their settlements - and then come up with space-age equivalents. Technology advances but people's basic needs stay the same.


larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
On the other thread, somebody

On the other thread, somebody made an interesting comment

In discussing this we've come up with the terms "discoverer" and "developer" for the styles of game design. I'm a discoverer - I get an idea stuck in my head and discover how to "translate" it to a game. They are developers - they see the potential for improvement and do so, over and over, until they've "grow" a new game out of their work

I find it very interesting and somewhat true.

I tried a toy play test tonight, the results were interesting. I might make a thread about it tomorrow. It gives me a rough idea of what the game needs.

Joined: 06/27/2012
Design Skeleton

I don't have a ready example, but maybe I will throw some of my concepts into Google Docs later and link them.

I structure the spreadsheet by function and type and when useful, I use colors to make groups stand out.

For example I am working on a living card game concept. A kind of cross between MTGO and DnD.

I have a spreadsheet I call my design skeleton. I use this design skeleton to figure out how many of each type of card a set will have. So if my set has 120 cards, I break it down into X creatures, X abilities, X equipment, x "lands", etc.

I then use a class spreadsheet to plot the ratios for a single class. So my first test class has X damage abilities, X control abilities, X defensive abilities, X of this and that type of equipment, and so forth. I then get a picture of how the class will be built and I can tinker with certain numbers if I want to move a class in a certain direction.

So I have all this down on the spreadsheet, and I realize that I want to add crafting into the design, but there isn't much room in any of the decks. My spreadsheet tells me that the crafting cards have to replace abilities or I need to increase deck size, or find some other solution. So I modify the design skeleton, and that naturally leads to modifications in my class spreadsheet.

I have tons of other spreadsheets relating to attributes, classes, equipment, and even breakdowns for the keywords that will appear on the cards based on attribute, color, class, etc.

Each spreadsheet helps me to organize each piece of my design into a single structure which aids the mental organization when tying all these systems together. I make a change in one sheet and I can consider the consequences to a completely separate one.

If I want to add a new mechanic, I can look at my spreadsheets and see how each structure interacts with the new mechanic individually or as a whole. If it works, I lay it out in a spreadsheet to flesh out the concept and I get an even better picture of how it interacts.

I still get stuck, and creativity is still required, but I find the organization and visualization invaluable. Sometimes I use word docs(larger lists), MS Paint(diagrams), or other programs if I need a different type of visualization.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
So you use a spread sheet to

So you use a spread sheet to know the distribution of your cards, tokens,etc.

So on 1 side you have ability types, on the other side you have component types, and in the middle you have the quantity so that you can easily know that there are too many cards powering up attack but not defense.

It's interesting. I am not sure I could put a single game in a whole spreadsheet I think it depends on what you put on the column. For example, in my toy play test, I noted down thematic concepts and components. I could so a spread sheet with this with a check mark to indicate which thematic concept is represented by which component.

I'll give it some thoughts

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
OK, so I made another thread

OK, so I made another thread about my first toy play test session. They can be found here:


Joined: 06/07/2012
When I look at a game,

When I look at a game, through my analytical eyes, I see a network of possibilities and choices. It’s the same with life itself, each moment we are faced with decisions, if we decide on one course we proceed in one direction (which has resulting consequences) and if we proceed in another direction then different choices open up before us.

This transition isn’t linear or lateral, it’s holistic. So there are cases where we might end up at the same junction point, even though the constituent choices we made to get there where very different.

At its core a game is a microcosm of life. It is a section of reality beholden to its own rules, a world within a world. To a large extent the rules of a game define its existence, its boundaries and the course of involvement within it.

A game like chess has very few rules. The basic reality of the simulation is the movement of pieces in space – that’s it. However, the rules associated with it engender a more focused shape and form; forced limitations which segment the experience making it manageable, while at the same time creating choices and diversity in the game play.

The space has a boundary, an 8 x 8 grid and the pieces can’t move outside this boundary. This rule defines the area of the simulation, without it the pieces could move outwards to infinity.

The squares are black and white, this segment the movement of the pieces, forcing the players to make decisions about which pieces to move in order to alter their spatial relationship with other pieces.

The pieces are split into two contingents, one black and one white – one for each player. These pieces also have different movement rules and appear in different numbers. Once again this restricts general movement and by doing so creates tactical choice.

If the rules stopped here the pieces would simply be moved about around the board, forever.

So another rule is present, the potential to take other pieces. This creates tactical choice in relation to the pieces a player has at their disposal and the relationship between the two sides.

If the rules stop here then the game would still continue without end, eventually leading to the two Kings wandering around the board alone, forever.

So a final rule is introduced (in the basic game) and that rule is ‘Capture the King’. This rule provides the game with an end objective, he final shaping of the boundaries for the simulation.

And there you have it, a few very simple rules that lead to a simulation with an immense amount of tactical depth and strategy with numerous decisions to be made in each and every instance of play.

To me, stripped of all the theme and distraction, every game follows this development cycle. As in life the design allows for free choices to be made even though the overall experience obeys limitations and is subject to enforced boundaries.

When a game is created the designer is making a world for others to experience. The designer imbues the game with the capacity for tactical or strategic choice, albeit within a rigid framework. And the manifestation of this idea, the boundaries we create in our games and the decision networks we include generate the simulation the future players will experience when they enter our games.

A spreadsheet is an excellent way to keep track of these boundaries and decision points (or logic gates as they might be seen as). We can also keep track of them in note form, via descriptive writing, or we can simple free wheel through the thought process (keeping track of the ideas in ones mind as I frequently do, eventually recording them in a physical form when the core is established).

A form of notation you might consider, one that intersects the aforementioned recording mediums, is the mind map.

This form of notation (frequently used by programmers) offers a way to record ideas logically and in sequence while retaining an air of fluidity and exemplifying the links between the various decision gates.

Like a program multiple maps can be linked together. A main program map which details offshoots to other sub maps – which when taken together represent the system (or game design) as a whole.

When an artist is painting a picture they sketch some simple rough lines, then they pick out the ones that convey the impression they wish to achieve, then they ink the lines to make them more obvious, then they add colour, and then they work into the colour adding shading and tone.

For me a game design is very similar, I limit myself to what I want my world to simulate in its basic form. I start small and work up.

Some designers approach the development from the other end of the spectrum. Throwing everything into a pot and cutting back what doesn’t work or isn’t essential.

Either approach works well, but I’m uncomfortable with the latter because it doesn’t strike me as being very efficient. It’s akin to throwing everything at a stick and seeing what sticks. Personally, I’d rather not tax my throwing arm by propelling a host of things that have a limited opportunity for usage.

That isn’t to say I don’t generate ideas that fall by the way side (I definitely do), but I start my pictures small, sketching out the ideas and then colouring them in with additions that develop the core ideas and colour them with theme.

If you start big it’s easy to get lost in the morass of information you generate, but if you start small it’s easier to keep track of things and develop a solid core – like deciding on the basics that will be required to support a great expedition.

Once you have that core you can add as much as you want to it and the process will be a lot easier because you have a fixed point of origin (a starting point) from which to move forward – and more importantly keep things in line as you constantly look back.

With a hazy collection of things (which occurs when you throw ideas at a stick) the task of creating a journey and detailing the decisions within it is a lot more difficult to accomplish (for me anyway).

I read your notes that arose from your improvisation playing and the decisions trees contained within them are very elaborate. I would suggest that the next step would be to chop everything down to bare minimum and then slowly build it back up from there.

A game doesn’t have to be complex to be great; it just has to be interesting or fun.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Thanks for the feed back

Thanks for the feed back (both PM and thread).

When I look at a game, through my analytical eyes, I see a network of possibilities and choices.

That is one thing that I might view differently, is that generally what drives me to design a game is a theme. So the notion of possibilities and choices are not even considered at that point.

When I toy played, I wanted to focus on what the player would have liked to do. A bit like an tabletop RPG where players can do everything they want. It's just that in a board game, you need to set restrictions. So you must select a groups of actions that the players in that theme would love to do.

Some designers approach the development from the other end of the spectrum. Throwing everything into a pot and cutting back what doesn’t work or isn’t essential.

I think I am in that kind of category. Some famous quote:

"You do not know how much is enough, until you know how much is too much"

"A design is finished when there is nothing else to remove"

Follow that philosophy of expanding first to include everything you dream of adding to a game and then shrinking it down to make it playable.

I would suggest that the next step would be to chop everything down to bare minimum and then slowly build it back up from there.

I'll eventually be making components to test the game, and for sure I know that I will not be able to do everything. But at least I know what could be in the game and plan ahead that something is going to fill up the empty space when the game progress.

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