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Handling numerous designs

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Steve Broadfoot
Joined: 04/25/2017

I'm having real difficulty focusing at the moment. I have 1 design that is deep into its design life and will shortly be ready for external testing. This game is the one I am certain will eventually be completed and released in something close to its current design, so I should be focusing on it. My problem is that I am constantly coming up with new ideas that I can quickly flesh out to a reasonable pre-prototype stage. Some go nowhere, but many have real potential and I find them occupying my thoughts and then my actual work time.

How do other people deal with this? I want to be purely focused on my main design, I love it and have put so much time into it but so many of these others excite me as well and I'm itching to work on them too. If my current eesign had hit a wall I'd understand but I know what I need to do next to reach external testing readiness.

It's a wonderful dilemma.

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Steve Broadfoot wrote: How do

Steve Broadfoot wrote:

How do other people deal with this? I want to be purely focused on my main design, I love it and have put so much time into it but so many of these others excite me as well and I'm itching to work on them too. If my current eesign had hit a wall I'd understand but I know what I need to do next to reach external testing readiness.

My quick answer: I deal with it poorly.

There are a lot of factors... Fear of putting it out there and having it fall flat, The outcome vs effort ratio is immense early on, getting bored with a design once I can see the end product, decision/effort around converting to a sold product, etc.

I have better wisdom from work and that I give out to my wife who writes: do something every week on a schedule to keep it moving forward, give yourself clear milestones, and DO work on your other projects to keep the engine working.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Abundance of Ideas

You're not alone. :)

Long story short, I recommend you focus on a "big three" ideas, and then file the rest away. When you reach a plateau of development with one (as it sounds like you have with your "main game idea"), you can bounce over to one of the other two. Everything that comes out, write it down and file it away for future development.

I predict that, as soon as you begin testing your main game idea with others, it will regain focus and attention. Again, this is normal.

You can sort of tell when you "hit the wall" with development of one prototype when more of these half-formed/half-baked ideas begin multiplying. Current understanding in science (...I guess) explains this as your brain still accessing it's creativity, while not having identified a way to utilize it.

So pick two more game projects to add to your stable, and then file the rest of those ideas away. Take a break from your big game until testing is possible by chipping away at one of your other two, then come back to the big idea full force ASAP.

All those additional ideas aren't going anywhere as long as you record them some way, and your two alternates will give you a place to channel your spare creative energies when there's a lull in your main project.

The Odd Fox
The Odd Fox's picture
Joined: 01/19/2017
For those of us who are scatter brained

I like everything that has been mentioned so far! I for one have trouble working on only one design at a time (I don't even read 1 book at a time, it's just how I operate). I have come to terms with the fact that this is just how my brain operates. There are some things I do to help me not get lost in a sea of thoughts, where I could easily waste time and emotional energy. Here's what I do:

Rank my design I have an A, B and C list. I like what was said about the "Big 3" above. This would essentially be my "A" list. These are the most workable and best designs I currently have. My "B" list has up to 10 games on it. These are games I definitely intend to pick up at some point. I always write up a quick description of the idea so I don't lose it. My "C" list is often made up of previous "B" list games that fell by the wayside (remember, only 10 in the "B" list)

Stick with what I feel passionate about I spend the majority of my time on one of the three "A" list games, depending on the one I'm feeling most inspired by. Sometimes I need a calculated break from one of them so I move to another "A" list game. This process makes game design fun and energizing. I'm not afraid of never getting to my "A" designs because they all take their turn in the rotation.

Review the "B" list This is critical for me. Every couple weeks or so I review my "B" list. I purge "B" games that currently feel like "C" games and place them in the "C" games file (google drive). More importantly though, I get a chance to re-remember what inspired me about the current "B" list games that remain on the list. Sometimes I dissect a "B" design and implement parts of it in one of my "A" designs that was somehow stuck. Recently I took two of my "B" designs and combined them into what is now my top "A" list design.

Review the "C" list I only do this every few months or so. There's usually mixed bag of good ideas/bad games and just plain bad ideas. I take a stroll through here and pick up pieces now and again that have a lot of redeeming value.

Hope that helps!

Steve Broadfoot
Joined: 04/25/2017
Thanks everyone, you've been

Thanks everyone, you've been very helpful, truly. I'm going to combine the suggestions and have 3 A games, then some fleshed out but largely unworked B games then C games that are just the initial idea.

I think setting some time to work on all 3 and not be concerned wih taking a break from one is the best move.

Thanks again.

WinsmithGames's picture
Joined: 01/20/2017
Hey Steve Listen to these

Hey Steve

Listen to these other designers, they provide great feedback. Here are my thoughts on the subject (which I too have been guilty off losing focus):

It seems, to me, that your lack of focus derives from a lack of direction.

Having multiple games in various stages of development allows to step away from one game to work on another, giving your brain a break from one game while still exercising your creativity. However... I am still not sure where you are on your design/development status for your main game. You say deep in the design life, but you haven't done external testing. Does that mean you've only playtested with friends and family?

If so, that game is still in early development, and I wouldn't spend much time and energy fleshing out your other back-up game ideas.
Focus on this one.

Your very first public playtest (playing with people who aren't your friends/family) will give you way more information than all your previous playtests. (Seriously, I cannot understand that enough.)

So if I were you, these would be my steps:

1. Get your game and prototype ready for a public playtest.
2. Create a Feedback Form (Google Drive is perfect for these; it's what I use)
3. Find a local group or place you can playtest.
4. Have them playtest the game, without you explaining the game or correcting issues. (Have the rules on hand.)
5. Take lots of notes. Notes on their reactions. What they got wrong. What they got right. And you will also see lots of issues with specific rules, mechanics, content (cards, tiles, dice, etc).
6. Ask them to fill out the Feedback Form.
7. Thank them very much for their time and help.

I have found that most designers lose focus when they lose their direction. (I have been super guilty of this myself... multiple times.)

So gather your bearings... come up with a game plan (and a To-Do List)... and just start knocking away at it.

Best of luck!

Steve Broadfoot
Joined: 04/25/2017
Thanks Pete, that was great

Thanks Pete, that was great to read.

You're right about my main design, its still technically early in its life, but its by far the deepest as I've spent months trialling and refining 'in house' to get a game together that is at least playable. A long way to go yet, still so much writing to do, but it is the first of my designs that really resembles a complete experience.

It's surprisingly stressful at times.

WinsmithGames's picture
Joined: 01/20/2017
My concern is that you say

My concern is that you say there is still much writing to do...

What are you writing? Rules? Content (ie cards, tiles, components, etc)?

It's too easy to get lost in perfecting rules and content, when the most important step is playtesting.

You will learn more from your first playtest than all your previous "in-house" development. So don't spend too much time on the in-house development, trying to perfect it for playtesting.

Steve Broadfoot
Joined: 04/25/2017
Writing cards etc. I do it

Writing cards etc. I do it all by hand so I have a lot to do. I've done many of them once already but my own testing identified issues that required redesign so I need to redo them before I can put the game out for external testing. I don't go crazy on them, just the pertinent details but its still a good chunk of work.

I am also writing up the current rules to see if they make sense to players without my input.

WinsmithGames's picture
Joined: 01/20/2017
Gotcha. Have you considered


Have you considered using NanDeck? It's free software that takes a spreadsheet (including Google Spreadsheets) and imports data and text in cells to create cards.

It has saved me lots of time. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get used to it. You can make sweeping changes in minutes. Then all you have to do is print and cut the new cards.

You might want to check it out. Writing individual cards by hand takes a long time. I even use NanDeck when working with a few cards at a time.

Steve Broadfoot
Joined: 04/25/2017
I've never heard of it to be

I've never heard of it to be honest. I'll look it up, it sounds really handy, thanks!

ssm's picture
Joined: 04/06/2017
What part(s) of the process

What part(s) of the process do you enjoy the most?
Try to allocate a certain amount of time to what you don't care much for doing (to make you do it), and spend the rest of the time doing what you like.

I come up with ideas faster than anything else, in everything I do. No matter what I am working on (game, story, invention, etc), I made a simple rule for myself to follow and I eventually really started to follow it- When I am working on one thing, I cannot stop to make notes for something else. If I happen to remember when I am done, I write it down, if not, oh well.

Gabe's picture
Joined: 09/11/2014
I did a podcast with Daryl

I did a podcast with Daryl Andrews a while back on this topic.

He's a professional game designer with about 100 games in various points of development.

He provides some really good advice.

Joined: 11/19/2012
Simple, do it like a

Simple, do it like a job.

Here's the thing, people tend to take one of two approaches.. neither works.

Group 1 treat it like a hobby where they try to enjoy themselves and fit it into their lives. They rarely accomplish much, often get sidetracked by other projects that are new and fun.

Group 2 treat it like an obsession. They force themselves to work on one project. The push themselves hard and shun any other activities. They tend to burn out and in the end accomplish nothing.

The only way that I've been able to accomplish anything is to set a schedule. 4 days a week are dedicated to "Major Project A". On these days, I will work on my core project in whatever capacity is needed.

On my off, 3 days I'm fully able to explore, relax and try potentially crazy new ideas. Generally, these days are what dictate my next Major Project A.

Motivation means nothing compared to a good habit. My habit is that I can focus on completing a project but doesn't try to stamp out my creativity and fun.

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
My view is, if you're only

My view is, if you're only working on one game "you're doing it wrong."

In fact, working on more than one game helps you, when you're stuck on one, you can turn to others until the dam breaks.

I don't have playtesters I can force to play a particularly game (not many designers do). So I routinely bring half a dozen to any playtest session, sometimes more. I know what I'd like to have played, but that doesn't mean it'll happen. So testing has a big bearing on what games progress.

Also, I am probably excessively patient. Not at all part of the Age of Instant Gratification. In a given year I'll have at least a dozen different games tested by others, sometimes more.

It's certainly a problem that finishing a game is MUCH less fun than starting a new one. MUCH less. At least, for me.

"How many game designs should I work on concurrently?"

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