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How important is world building to you?

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TidalGames's picture
Joined: 01/04/2014

When I first started working on Code Mage the idea was pretty simple: Tron with Wizards.

The idea evolved. I came up with a backstory about the first Code Mages being humans whose genomes were translated into machine code and how they were raised in a university lab and transferred to a government research facility where they escaped. Well all that back story is fine but... what's going on now?

So, I started thinking about how people would choose to live in a virtual reality if they could do anything. How many people would chose to live in a world of high fantasy. How would the world of tech creep into that? How many people would try to seize power by utilizing their vastly superior skills in modifying that world?

The Code Mages became the feudal lords of the Simulacrum. The fantasy elements took over in the virtual world. The world progresses. In every element of fantasy there is a hint of science fiction, and in every element of science fiction a hint of fantasy.

This is not Pathfinder, it is not Warhammer, it's (at hear) a CCG. But the creation of a world that is not just novel, but intriguing and complex, is really important to me.

My question then is: how hung up does everyone get on world building? Do you feel that games that are heavily themed require a lot of forethought in the creation of the world in which they exist?

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
A couple of things...

CCG designing is a LOST CAUSE... More CCGs don't get enough traction in the marketplace. Only the ones with HUGE following that have rights to television (Such as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!) make it...

That being said, I am a big fan of CCGs. Having designed a simple CCG for kids aged 9+, I'll say that the market is not very receptive... You need to design games for people with *Credit Cards*. So if you do design a game, people will be interested in playing/buying it (enough of the money spiel).

I usually like to focus on *mechanics* first... So what kind of mechanics will my game use. Once I get that part, I move on to *theme*. But I don't create a *world* for my games... I usually focus on trying to properly BLEND mechanics with the theme... And from there figure out what is the BEST aspect of my game. In my current WIP, the original concept was going to be about *Trading resources*. However I found while playtesting the war (or combating the opponent) played a more interesting part... So I made the focus of the game about "Space Battles". It's lead the game to be better adapted for casual gamers while still appealing to the more hardcore gamers it was originally designed for.

I didn't have a *backstory* to my game until another designer who helped me out with my manual added a couple of paragraphs - that I eventually edited (but kept the same concept)...

After I marry mechanics with theme, I am usually focus on the artwork (which is what we are currently working on). I want my games to have GREAT artwork... Things that draw people in to the game... I design mainly *Card Games* so card artwork becomes a big focus when the game has been playtested to a more mature state...

But I don't give my games extensive *backstories* or do any *world building*... I try to focus on the game itself and then see what can develop further (like expansions) should the game be well received - I want to build on the existing community of gamers and expand with newer elements (that come with expansion)...

What this does is offer GREAT replay value to the game (especially if it's not a one-off game)! Players can use their existing game sets and buy additions to play newer scenarios, other races, etc.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
About Quest AC

Again I just wanted to quickly comment further about CCGs and my own experience.

When I started way back in 2009, I had a *simple* idea: I want to design a card game that was about QUESTS.

That was the basic concept. I knew that I wanted it to be a CCG and that I wanted to design the game for kids aged 9 or older... BOTH were HUGE MISTAKES! Having gone through the process and self-publishing the game, I have learned a lot since then... Mainly about the tabletop game industry and what I (*me*) need to put out as a game that will be successful.

In 2009 I was very naive about the process and how to go about developing the CCG. I live in Montreal, which is a *bi-lingual* city (French and English), I wanted LOCAL APPEAL, so I created a *bi-lingual* game. AGAIN BIG MISTAKE... The market is the US and then if distribution to Canada happens, so be it.

Getting back to Quest AC, I knew that I had a BRAND with Quest Adventure Cards(tm). And I still do... I have been thinking about a Second Edition, but I want to *change* the game... I want the Second Edition to be something *special* (I obviously have ideas - but they are not 100% yet). I invested a good portion of money to produce the game (Self-Publish) - only to learn that kids aged 9+ will never even hear about Quest Adventure Cards(tm) because we have no way to COMMUNICATE with them! We're not the Pokemon Franchise that advertises on Teletoon via their cartoons...

If I could I would design a television series about the game... I have ALREADY discussed the possibility of releasing a Comic-book about the game. But as you know *Comic-books* are not as popular as they were back in the 1980s. Back then you had the Atari, the C64 or the Amiga... Computers and especially consoles were not yet the rage. Comic-books used to be more popular...

BUT that hasn't stopped me from LIKING CCGs. On the contrary, I have a NEW CCG concept that isn't married to a Fantasy theme. Again something in early development/design... I am also interested in Quest AC - but instead of making it a CCG, I would sell it as a GAME.

That's part of my advice - SELL A GAME. An adult may buy a GAME for his children to play. He most probably will not spend the time buying boosters for a CCG because only him and one of his friends has the game... Changing from the CCG world to the *Card Game* world has been cool... I have come up with novel game concepts that have interesting mechanics. It's a world of difference.

However I still *cling* to Quest AC - The Second Edition... If I can fully develop the game. It still isn't in a state which I consider sufficiently mature enough for me to develop it further. And my other CCG idea is also in its infancy. I encourage you to pursue your CCG concept and think about how you could BETTER monetize it! ;)

Note: If the goal is to publish more games or to EXPAND your game... Finding ways to make money off your product is something to think about... It's not because I'm in it for the money (yeah - right as if) but I would like to see my games be successful in the global market!

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Game as story

Thanks TidalGames, it's a good reminder for me. In fiction writing there is a lot of advice about writing back stories for characters, world creation, etc. The key advice being to count on only a small percent of it to be directly in the finished product. I think having that sort of content empowers design decisions such that descriptions can be smaller with a real deftness to their presentation. It is very hard to write a sentence that evokes a whole world without knowing what that whole world is.

If a game can evoke that sense of a bigger world, it may be a more memorable game. It's likely part of what helps with licensed products.

I'm glad you posted this, I have a couple of game designs stalled that I'll try to reinvigorate by writing out stories and world building with them.

Joined: 09/21/2008
two cents worth

I'm still going through the hey this is a great idea for a hobby (two kids kind of stopped things for a while).

I like to have a story for the world to give it some 'physics' that the world has to obey, once rules start breaking the physics it is a trigger fro me to go back and either look at the rule or world, either might change but the world must still be internally compelling (or put on the back burner until I can accept it's new form)


Joined: 06/27/2012
I get pretty hung up with

I get pretty hung up with world building. It depends on the game of course, but the games I gravitate towards building require a solid foundation to build upon.

It kind of goes in cycles for me. Ideas about better world design in fantasy gaming leads to ideas about better mechanics to support the world building which leads to more world building and more mechanics. Quite often I come back to previous work on mechanics and world building with fresh eyes and change much of the design.

In some cases I can mesh mechanics and world building so that they are one. Mechanics that world build. More work with less design space is the goal anyway.

Of course I have the same problems many hobby designers have; 2 kids and a 45+ hour a week job. Sometimes it can be an effort just keeping the entire project straight in my own head. :p

Joined: 11/19/2012
I've been making games for

I've been making games for too long to care about world building. It's too easy to lose time when focusing on "Creative Writing" aspects instead of the game itself. I know there are many people who only make games to be an author or director... but I'm not one of them.

That said, for a thematic game it is important to understand your world so you can link the mechanics and setting... OR be willing adapt your setting based on your mechanics.

Usually, I just come up with a few "Key Features" of either mechanics or setting:
- Setting: Dark world... people people sacrifice their followers to cast their magic.
- Mechanical: Always draw to a full hand to keep options open

Throughout the rest of the dev cycle I make sure that everything fits those details. Specific factions or timeline details will change as I make the game, but the core features will be unchanged. I can create the theme I'm looking for... without a full world designed.

Last thing... If your mechanics work well but don't fit your theme don't be afraid to change the theme. In the end, all the matters is the final product. A perfect blend of mechanics and world will be superior even if the theme isn't what you intended.

This is the other reason I'm against up-front world building... the more work you put into something the more attached you will become. You need to be willing to cut ANYTHING that is holding your game back.

KrisW's picture
Joined: 01/15/2013
My 2 Cent's Worth

If you love the world building then do the world building - Players will understand.

If you could care less about world building then do not do the world building - Players will understand that, too.

It's all about sharing what you love.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Backstory - Edit

I'd imagine the *idea* of having a Publisher "EDIT" your backstory would be something that you would probably oppose. In my case, this is one aspect of the game that I think I'd like my Publisher to *re-think*. My backstory is a quick three (3) paragraphs in the game's rulebook - and I would want them to edit it!

Perhaps what I am hinting is that I would be okay if they would want to add MORE backstory to the game. Maybe stating things that "Mankind has spent generations to reach a new world" ... etc. Things that I omitted from the backstory.

It's the same thing like determining what should be present on the BACK of the Box Cover?! To me, I have no clue what should be there... And not knowing means that the artwork cannot be done - because the artwork will be subject to layout...

So there are definitely aspects of the game that I would want input from the Publisher...

zmobie's picture
Joined: 11/19/2008
I think the level of detail

I think the level of detail of your world, and the feel of the game play are intrinsically linked.

The question is, why is someone playing your game in the first place? Was I interested in pathfinder adventure card game because of its mechanics... Absolutely not. That game is all about theme and telling a story with a simple push your luck card game. The reason people play that game is to have an evening of stories with their friends. World building is important to have in this case because without it, the game is honestly kind of boring.

In the case of a CCG, the purpose is competition. The theme matters much less here because the reason for play is totally different. You still want to have nice looking cards, and a good theme can give you an idea about how some rules work if the story is a good analog to the mechanics, but overall, a CCG without a huge backstory isn't a big deal.

On the other hand, we have L5R CCG. This game oozes story and world building and they frequently have tournaments that decide how the story will go. In this instance, they make the story important for the meta game, which is an interesting approach that has mixed results.

Personally, I'd ask, why are people playing this game? I am makings game now that is an adventure game with hundreds of cards. The focus is on exploration and fun, and I think my theme and world building is going to be fairly important.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Quote:I've been making games

I've been making games for too long to care about world building. It's too easy to lose time when focusing on "Creative Writing" aspects instead of the game itself.

Totally agree. For an RPG, world building is good because there are many things the players are going to interact with. From Geography, to folklore, to history, etc.

But in a board game, you only design what you need. Board games are like a window to a world, you only see and use a portion of the world. That is what you need to design, everything else does not matter. It's like stiing a stage where you only decorate the angle the people will see.

The more thematic is your game, the larger will be the window. But there are still a lot of details you could simply ignore. So you could only design your worl in your head and it would be enought for a board game.

Still, if you do have an already developped world that you used for playing RPG and that is now available for BG, you could use that world for your game. But don't bother creating new world for board games even if you intend to make multiple games about it.

For example, in a series of game of mine, I have an idea about the theme and history, but actually have no geography of the world and I don't intend to make one.

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