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Hello, I'm new to board gaming but not game design

7 replies [Last post]
okutnik's picture
Joined: 06/18/2013

My name is Oliver and I just found this amazing site!

I've been working in video games for the past 9 years but after being introduced to real board gaming only a couple years ago I knew that I wanted to be part of this community of designers. I've started prototyping a board game about a year ago and have found the journey to be very tough, board game designers have my full respects!

I've been introduced to these forums and am excited to contribute my opinions and findings along the way.

Joined: 07/11/2012

It will be interesting to see how and if your experiences in video game design affect your board games.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Board game design is much

Board game design is much tighter. If there is a flaw, the results are going to be much more disastrous than in video game design.

After designing board games for some times, you'll also find all the flaws in strategy video games like civilisation and company. But I think designing board game should be a must for video game designers especially when making strategy video games which is the most crucial type of game.

Having design flaws in an FPS (ex: weapon too strong/weak for example), will not kill the game, only make it easier or harder to play. In a board game, players will abuse this flaw and make the game unfun for everybody reducing the chances it gets played again.

okutnik's picture
Joined: 06/18/2013
I find board game designing

I find board game designing very fun and frustrating at the same time. It's definitely challenging. There is a huge chunk of technical skills and experience that goes with vg design but at the same time it's a lot more process driven and predictable.

Larienna is spot on. I do feel that board game design is "tighter", as in more precise, well integrated mechanics. While commonly videogames focus more on the meta experience, how to commit a player to hours and hours of play (of course I'm generalizing).

The most challenging aspect I've encountered so far on my own board game is testing. VG design is more predictable, you can build the tools, collect the data, and easily play test any of the moving or complicated parts of the design. Even for a small mobile game, before its release it would have been tested for well over 9,000 hours of play time.

Meanwhile I'm struggling to get my own game tested more than once a month! With no predictable (ie repetitive) analysis to work out such complicated and random-data driven game systems, I'm sometimes amazed of the designer's pressure to release a non-patchable product without its bugs and flaws. I tip my hat.

Unless developing a digital prototype is quite common (which I haven't really seen talked about much)? I started out with a physical prototype to focus on player to player interactions, but more and more I'm thinking that I will need to invest a good amount of time in a digital prototype.

Any thoughts?

Joined: 04/08/2012
Welcome to the forums.

Just as you suspect experts in the vg industry, there are many here as well in the bg industry. They will give great out of the park suggestions and concepts that seem to make you say, "Huh?" But the experts in this field are helping you think in and out of the design box and even around the design box. Take your time. Don't let it fustrate you in your game designs. Come back to it later. An answer is always there that didn't present itself in the first place. Good luck and welcome.

Joined: 11/19/2012
Hello there, good to see

Hello there, good to see another video game dev here. I was a programmer in the industry a while back, now I make board games.

My advice on prototyping is to do whatever is fastest and most efficient for you. You and I both know the amount of time and effort that goes into a "Simple" computer version and that's why I rarely do them.

My own method is to make prototype out of index cards and paper. This is an excellent method because you can modify the game WHILE PLAYING. During a playtest yesterday I realize the balance was off... so I immediately added a new "Rule". I didn't need to update code or clear the board... I simply tested the fix. In one game, I updated the rules about 12 times.
Between coding time and compile time... I don't miss my old methods. By the end of ONE game, it was actually fun and reasonably balanced.

But because most of my friends are out of state (Game devs don't live in maine)... I NEED a computerized prototype. But, to save time, I don't write software for it. I spend 15 minutes building a "ZunTzu" module which allows me to play the game online with others.
No AI and no fancy rulesets. It's simply an interface that lets me move pieces, roll dice, and draw cards.

While AI could help you test it, it'll be far less effective than human beings. The AI is limited to your own thoughts and plans, but is a terrible judge of "Fun". Other players will see the game in a very differently and they will update their play styles based on their own methods of thinking.

The ONLY time I go through the trouble of writing software is when I need to test something a MASSIVE number of times such as "How will the results of this awkward die roll be after 20,000 rolls." Even here though, I focus on simple text based windows that take me an hour or two to write.

We both know how much time is wasted in video game development. Everything from waiting on assets to rewriting MASSIVE parts of the game that "How could we have known it wouldn't be fun"... my advice is to avoid making those mistakes. Seriously... if your prototype takes you seven months before you realize the core gameplay isn't fun... something is wrong with your methods.

Learn to focus on rapid and efficiently development methods. Rather than building your full game... test each major aspect of the game individually and combine them a bit at a time.
My upcoming published was based on a 24 hour prototype. The entire development time was a relaxed month or two. Obviously, the publisher put in far more development over the past 5 months... but the core was good enough to sell very quickly.
Another project that's gained quick some interest from publishers was LITERALLY made in about 4 hours and balanced over the next couple days.
OF course I have some other projects that have been in development for months, but the reality is that I wasted very little time with them. When a game was broken and I couldn't find a fix... I work on something else so that I could look at the project with fresh eyes in a week. Unless I'm under contract with a publisher... there is no rush. Why waste effort spinning my wheels? (Just be sure to actually come back to the original project)
Efficiency is a beautiful thing.

Overall, as I game developer I'm finding board game design rather simple. I don't need to worry about animations, graphics, sound, dialog, save systems etc. I can focus on the player experience and nothing else.

The only real trick is learning to focus on the core game play instead of the aesthetics that make up modern video games. There are plenty of mistakes that game devs (Board and Video Game) make that cost them time. The better you learn to avoid the distractions of "I need to work on the backstory" and "I need to make these prototype cards pretty"... the faster you'll find the real gem in your work. Polish that gem and it won't be long until you have something beautiful.

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008
I actually made a playable

I actually made a playable digital prototype (HTML5 Canvas) for a boardgame, with an ok AI that could play one side (in an asymmetric game where one side was much easier to make an AI for). Definitely helped me quickly make iterative changes to balance the game (even though many many games involving real players were needed to fine-tune later before the game was published). Also a few times made scripts to simulate some mechanic in a boardgame to calculate probabilities (exactly or by Monte-Carlo simulation). A few times used VASSAL to quickly set up prototypes for playing online.

If nothing else if you have some programming experience, you can probably find use for that to do all sorts of useful scripts to help with making boardgames, and you will know about the importance of version control systems and all that. My boardgame projects are always set up with version control and build-scripts and tool-chains much like I imagine computer games have (but on a smaller scale of course). Makes it possible to quickly make iterative changes and "re-compile" everything to produce new prototype components and rulebooks, and sometimes automatically upload to a playtest site. The more I can automate the more I feel free to experiment and tweak, and of course having everything version controlled adds an extra layer of security (especially by always pushing any small change up to an off-site repository).

okutnik's picture
Joined: 06/18/2013
Thanks for the support. I

Thanks for the support.

I agree that developing a prototype in digital takes a lot of effort and time. Its not simple either. I definitely find that at the concept stage making a paper prototype has the advantage of very fast iteration. Whole game systems or mechanics can be changed, adapted or removed at the drop of a hat, which makes full use of "prototyping".

But I find that when I've gotten to a stage where the mechanics are getting finalized, what remains is bug and balance testing. This is where I would invest some time in a simple digital version. Specifically the biggest advantage is tracking data. Since a lot of games depend on random elements, being able to track WHAT made a player win and lose for the past 20 games played is a big advantage. Although its completely possible to track data for a paper prototype, the inconvenience to players far outweighs their commitment to the free testing they are providing you with.

Pelle I agree with you, the more tools that can be utilized for development allows you to focus on what's important, design.

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