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Salutations from A Round Tuit

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A Round Tuit
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Hi, I'm Glen!
I'm a self-employed accounting student with way too much free time.

►What brings you here?

I took an interest in game design after play-testing and critiquing a friend's prototype. I didn't care much for his game (still don't), but it was a lot of fun discussing and tweaking the mechanics.

I had already been keeping a business/invention/design brainstorming journal for a while where I'd write down anything that made me go, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" or "That's a problem... Is there a way to solve it?", so I started brainstorming any zany game idea that would pop into my head. It didn't matter how ridiculous. That wasn't the point. I could worry about if it was viable after I had it on paper. More recently, I've been watching videos and listening to as many podcasts as I can about game design, publishing, and the industry in general.

My inclination in designing games at the moment is "Easy to learn, hard to master." I like games that can be explained (and understood) in a few minutes but still have strategic depth.

When I first got into gaming about 5 year ago, I wanted to play EVERYTHING. Heavy, light, whatever. But as time went on I found I couldn't be bothered to learn or play "complicated" games anymore. The learning curves presented by heavier games deterred me from even trying. Why spend an hour learning the rules to a game that I'm going to get frustrated at and feel like I have no idea what I'm doing when there are so many more accessible games at my finger tips? Where I used to not mind (or even welcome) the record keeping and busy-work of worker placement and resource management games, it now felt more like homework that was in the way of the game underneath that I really want to play. I have settled into the nest that is "gateway games".

►What games are you working on?
•I've got a real-time dice game that's ready to be play-tested. The working theme and title is "Truffle Scuffle - Pigs scrambling up a muddy hill to scrounge for truffles (victory points) at the top while the other pigs try to knock you back down." King of the hill, frenetic dice-chucker. There is dice-building involved as well (gearing yourself to be better at knocking people back down the hill, climbing the hill faster, etc) but I don't think it's very balanced yet. The main mechanic is similar to how you accumulate certain die faces in the Escape games.

•I also a time travel themed dice-builder (could be a deck-builder, for sake of cost) where you play as competing scientists trying to develop the most impressive tech... by using a small portal generator and stealing inventions/upgrades from your future self, thereby becoming the reason your future self had the invention in the first place (Don't think about it too hard). The more you can charge your portal before it overheats and collapses, the further into the future you can reach and the better the equipment you can snag. Opponents can try to destabilize your portal or concentrate on their own portal. In theory, your dice should "expire" when your past self eventually steals them from you.

•My current project is a abstract strategy/programmed movement game that plays like a mix of RoboRally and Bomberman (video game). It currently has a loose time travel theme... Players take turns playing movement/timed-bomb cards until someone gets hit. Upon dying, you respawn and get to start over, but a clone/previous timeline version of yourself spawns as well. The clone will mindlessly follow the sequence of movements and bombs that you inadvertently programmed for it in your last life. Each of your lives (after dying) will spawn a new clone that will mimic your last turn and each of those clones can spawn it's own clones. If you're not careful and don't plan ahead, your clones will blow you or themselves up instead of your opponents. I have a bunch of Bomberman-style power-ups drafted up, but the clone tree can get complicated very quickly. I'm having difficulty figuring out a good way to label/keep track of which clone is which and how far down the program each one is.

•I've also got some ideas I'm really interested in developing further but that hit major hurdles right out of the gate. I know what I want the games to do, but I don't know how to do it.

►Any questions about game design?
Is it worth is to branch out and design games in genres that you don't normally care about in order to round out your skills as a designer? Or is it better to stick to you guns and design the styles of games that you're most interested in or come easiest to you?
I forget who said it, but someone on a podcast (Board Game University, maybe?) recommended that if you tend to design social deduction or trick taking games, design a CCG. If you like tactical war games, design a party game.

polyobsessive
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Welcome

Hi Glen!

Great discussion there. Sounds like you are on a really interesting path, and the games you are working on sound promising. Keep at it!

A Round Tuit wrote:
Is it worth is to branch out and design games in genres that you don't normally care about in order to round out your skills as a designer? Or is it better to stick to you guns and design the styles of games that you're most interested in or come easiest to you?
I forget who said it, but someone on a podcast (Board Game University, maybe?) recommended that if you tend to design social deduction or trick taking games, design a CCG. If you like tactical war games, design a party game.

I think getting out of your comfort zone is really useful and can open you up to new ways of thinking. Remember, not every game you design will ever be worthy of publication -- many will just be exercises to help you develop your skills, or attempts that just don't work out as well as you hoped.

Last year I took part in several of the 24 hour design contests on BGG, which I found were a great way to focus intensely on something interesting for a relatively short period of time. Each one resulted in a playable (though not necessarily good!) game and I tried to do something different in each one so I could stretch my design muscles. I am definitely a better designer thanks to doing those, and hope to do some more again, though my focus at the moment is developing some of the projects I already have on the go.

Cheers!
Rob

let-off studios
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Welcome!

Welcome, Glen!

Keep riding that wave. :) Sounds like your enthusiasm has sent you on a heckuva journey into game design, and you're determining your own tastes and preferences. If your nest is gateway games, then make it your home.

I do like polyobsessive's recommendation that you stretch your capabilities every once in a while. Making a game in 24 hours may seem daunting, but if you follow the restrictions and stick with one of those amazing, bizarre ideas that pop into your head, chances are you will end up with something worth showing. Every finished project will help you with your craft (and just might attract the attention of a legit publisher).

Keep on truckin' and you'll find success. :)

let-off studios
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Knizia, Restrictions, and Innovation

Here are some words of wisdom from Reiner Knizia, who suggests that one ought to be uncomfortable to innovate:

http://www.andhegames.com/how-reiner-knizia-makes-games/

Maybe this is what's meant by designing a game drastically-different from your favourite kinds of games? Worth considering, definitely. And a fun read. :)

A Round Tuit
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Follow Up Questions

Thanks for the warm welcome. :)

Rob: Oh I know. I'm new to this and I already have some garbage game ideas. I wrote them down anyways. Maybe something will spark my imagination and they'll come back more powerful than... they'll come back.
The idea of contests (let alone 24 hours ones) sounds kinda intimidating. Not that I don't want to, it's just a mental hurdle for me to balance effort spent and fear of failure/disappointment.

let-off: Thanks! Run with my stupid ideas. Got it!
Took me a while to read the Knizia interview but it was cool to see some of his thought processes. To be honest, he seems a lot more boring than I would have expected. :D
Boring but indeed wise.

Follow-up questions:
►How do ideas formulate for you?

Sometimes it starts when an idea pops into my head, I'll do some scribbling to give it shape, then I'll listen for and research existing games that have similar mechanics or theme. The robot/clone game started as an idea about being going back in time to warn yourself and tag-teaming with your younger self because you're stuck in the past. I couldn't figure out how to implement the idea until Robo Rally came up in a podcast. Then I ran into Gravwell (which I ended up buying), Twin Tin Bots, and Volt: Robot Battle Arena (Which is the closest to my current design), which have all inspired me in some way. The current design is very different from the original premise, but I still may revisit it someday.
Other times an idea will start when I hear about a game with a mechanic or theme that gets my brain contemplating different possibilities. The concept of a dice-builder was completely foreign to me until I heard of Rattlebones, which led to me hearing about Quarriors, which inspired me to draft the initial version of that 'time travel invention' game.

►Do you tend to buy games that share similarities to your designs to get a better idea of how they play?

I was making a real-time dice game so I did some research and bought Fuse and Escape: Zombie City. I thought they were worth buying anyways and I wanted to see how they implemented certain ideas and get a feel for how the games played and the social dynamics. I've learned a lot of dos and don'ts from playing those.

polyobsessive
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Fail more, fail faster

A Round Tuit wrote:
it's just a mental hurdle for me to balance effort spent and fear of failure/disappointment.

And for us all, I'm sure. Most of us have been trained that failure is unacceptable. But if you actually manage to recalibrate your expectations so that failure is not just acceptable but to be applauded, then you can make amazing progress.

I'm not saying that all failure is good or that you should strive for it, but that you can learn a lot more from failing at things than by succeeding. If a game design doesn't work, that's totally fine, learn what you can from the experience and move on.

I'll leave you with the Extra Credits mantra: fail faster.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDjrOaoHz9s
Well worth a few minutes of your life to check out.

A Round Tuit
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Extra Credits

BGDF completely took the back burner for a couple months but in the meantime I've watched dozens and dozens of the Extra Credits videos alongside a glut of design and industry podcasts.
Thanks for the link! They make solid stuff. :D

Tedthebug
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Try out the challenges

I haven't entered any of the bgdf challenges, or the ones on bgg (I started to but never finished) but I still check them out to see what I can do with the theme & restrictions. Same with the ones on the game crafter as well.

I'm studying digital game design & we have 3-4 48hr game jams a year & in January I did the global game jam(GGJ). Usually we turn out a digital game but for the GGJ we ended up doing a Boardgame which we are about to revisit as we think there is something good buried in it, & the last school jam the rest of my team couldn't make it so not having a programmer or artist i ended up doing a Boardgame instead.

So, keep an eye out for competitions & try to do them even if you don't actually enter in the end.

Good luck,
Sean

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