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Professor's Lab ~ Call for Designers

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The Professor
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Good morning, BGDF Community!

I'm excited about 2021 as I have several current clients for whom I'll provide proofreading/editing and playtesting services in the new year. On 1 Dec, I'll send out a "Call for Designers" requiring assistance, but as promised, I'm opening the "Call for Designers" on BGDF today!

Please check out the website (http://www.professorslab.com) and hope that I can assist you in your endeavors.

Cheers,
Joe Pilkus
Professor's Lab
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The Professor
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Developer's Diary

Greetings!

Starting today, I'll take time a few times per week to let everyone know what's happening on several board game projects and take a glance at the past to see how that may inform the future.

Title: Orange Shall Overcome!

Background: This title, by Marcel Kohler is an exciting cooperative game in which you're Dutch citizens fighting for the resistance movement during WWII.

Development Notes: This game possesses a number of decisions from garnering resources, to furtively moving around the board (city in the Netherlands), to interacting with the local police or patrolling soldiers. I've worked on the 12-page rulebook, editing it as a native speaker of English. The designer is from the Netherlands and the stories he heard from his grandmother who passed away recently at 99 inspired him to create this game. In this time of social distancing, I've taken to Tabletop Simulator for playtesting with my team and even with the designer.

questccg
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Hmm... Funny you should mention it...

I think not too long we were debating the merits of "TableTop Simulator" (TTS) vs. "TableTopia Online" (TTO). And we couldn't figure out why TTS was just as popular as TTO because TTO literally has THOUSANDS of games online you can play FREE. And if you look at the "core" TTS, you only get maybe 8 games that have been created for the application/framework.

There were other caveats that we discussed namely "TTS" REQUIRES Steam ... Something that personally *bugs* me... Since I dislike how Steam manages updates and synchronization online, etc. It's a small application on the PC but at times it monopolizes bandwidth and CPU Cycles when it is looking for Steam updates.

But there is some appeal for TTS... In that you can DESIGN and MANAGE your own DLCs for your OWN custom games. So TTS is more geared towards the designers, they can create DLCs and send them to playtesters, friends and contacts around the world and then play with those people. That is definitely a PLUS for TTS.

TTO is more for the players themselves offering a LARGE catalog of games that players can choose from and then get into the game and test it out if it is a *NEW* game or just play some classics like CATAN or SCYTHE.

So there are PROs and CONs for both. Each geared for its own crowd too... Therefore the conclusion is that there is a marketplace for BOTH solutions. Different people will adopt different choices and some may even play/use both too...

I didn't want to monopolize your thread... Just wanted to TOUCH on this one aspect as I know OTHER Game Designers were wondering which was better TTS or TTO... And it's nice to hear that in these "troubled" times, you are still able to CONNECT and PLAYTEST together *NEW* games that are still under development.

This is an ASIDE ... But still it is relevant because JOE is STILL HELPING people PLAYTEST their games... Even in these "challenging" times. We often talk about rulebooks and editing... But "real" development work is also important and KEY for most games. Otherwise those games never reach their FULL potential.

Cheers and thank you for sharing...

The Professor
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Tabletopia ~ eliminated PnP

Kris,

You make some excellent points! I recently responded to a designer who was discussing the idea of PnP and I have to tell you that with the advent of these online platforms, it has all but eliminated PnP for me a developer. If a client has hired me for a block of time, I see no reason why they should pay my rate for me to PnP their game. It's much better for their budget to have the game produced, near professionally by Game Crafter, and send it to me for the myriad playtests. In the end, they still have a great copy which I'll send back to the designer for future use.

Cheers,
Joe
Professor's Lab

questccg
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Your time is VALUABLE

I think that's what everyone would agree about: our time is valuable. Taking time out to PRINT and then CUT 250+ cards (or even 70+) is a bit of a stretch for anyone.

I'm not sure that I agree that PnP has or will disappear. But I think the kind of games that are MADE especially FOR PnP, those games may do well as the price is low (under $5.00) and require little to no extra components with limited amount of cards to cut.

That's the KEY: limited amount of cards.

But I agree that near professional prototypes can be made via TGC and it's not overly expensive (about $20 to $30) ... And if you'll return the copy of the game, well they may need to PAY for the shipping (which is like $10) so it's under $50 bucks to make and send (plus return shipping) to playtesters with a TGC game. I think from TGC the pricing can be as low as $5.00 for shipping in the USA.

And let's be HONEST: Do you (Joe) really want to print and cut a game to playtest??? I mean even if they agree to pay you for your time... Is this an "activity" that you would engage with? I mean, I personally, would not ... I have enough time cutting my OWN prototypes. Let alone PnP for some game which might feature over 250 cards?!

It's all about working smarter ... And TGC makes that happen. Sure I do have a current prototype that cannot be made via TGC (because of size constraints) ... But I don't care. I've revised this game so many times that it is finally standing on its own. So sometimes it's not always possible to use TGC... But when it is... Why not???

The Professor
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Time is a precious commodity

Kris,

To answer your question, no, I don't want to print and cut a game into its component parts to then playtest it. While my service rates are exceptionally reasonable, I can't in good faith give service to a designer where the first two hours are spent in arts and crafts. Early on, I did so, as a service, but I lacked any enthusiasm for the game after spending several hours engaged in the PnP activity. Since then, I accept only completed prototypes.

Cheers,
Joe

questccg
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Exactly!

My sentiments exactly... Why waste time on a very intensive task which is the cutting of dozens of cards when you can be using your time for more important tasks like analyzing a rulebook or reviewing cards and their explanation... Those are the tasks of a Developer, not printing and cutting cards!

I know I've done it for "Crystal Heroes" (CH) ... But that's because the format of the cards is smaller than traditional Poker Cards. So CH is a bit special ... even though I have NOT used "The Game Crafter" (TGC) ... We are talking about 15 unique cards with multiples. So yeah, maybe 60 cards in total.

But I would never send a PnP for CH, I would cut them myself and sleeve them such that whomever is playtesting can enjoy the game not the process of having them MAKE the game (from B&W templates).

Sometimes I get the impression that designers need HELP to solve what may be simple challenges they seem to be unable to overcome. Like this 250+ cards: make a TGC prototype! What's the deal, IDK. But it seems like this is a simple solution to making the game accessible to people who would LIKE to "playtest" it.

People may think that I "push" TGC way too much. BGDF.com has a section DEDICATED to "The Game Crafter". We offered TGC the chance to have their own Forum Section for matters relevant to the TGC community and the company as well.

Anyhow I hope for all the would-be designers out-there(!?), please do not try to make PnPs of regular games ... Instead use services like TGC to make professional prototypes that can be playtested with ease...

The Professor
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Don't underestimate the digital platforms

I know that I've mentioned it out here and in my own Developer's Blog, but in the time of Covid, definitely learn the skills to create your game in the digital space. While my work with Stonemaier and Academy Games remains the same, these are more established, albeit, small, businesses, that can afford to send me a professional-level, near-publisher ready prototype with which to conduct playtests.

For folks out here, I strongly suggest using Tabletopia or Tabletop Simulator as it provides a great platform for playtesting across the internet. Two of my clients and I regularly used these platforms in 2020 and I have no doubt that the number of games playtested in 2021 will only go higher.

Cheers,
Joe

questccg
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I agree with you 100% but...

Your statement seemed to indicate that PnPs are going "away"... That the digital platforms are "replacing" them. And I think while this may not be 100% inaccurate ... I do think services like "PNP Arcade" offer an excellent avenue for games DESIGNED to be PnPs. In this context the game require a minimum of printing and cutting ... But are STREAMLINED such that they are made to minimize the amount of crafting required by those games.

As far as digital platform goes, I think TableTop Simulator (TTS) is the best "playtesting" tool for DLCs you design for exactly that: playtesting.

Meanwhile IMHO I think Tabletopia Online (TTO) is better for final product and having an online presence of a game. They have a vast catalog of games and it's a goto place for finding *NEW* and novel games that have yet to make it to market or maybe just recently after a successful KS. Like "TradeWorlds" (TW) we had a Social Goal to have the game available for FREE play on Tabletopia Online. I must have spent a month preparing the files, uploading and preparing the Decks, playmats and layouts too.

It is ONLY a two (2) Player Setup... So there is still some WONDER in playing a four (4) player game also... Or playing Solo with the Adversity AI system that YOU designed (It's true JOE was the one who design the SOLO AI module for the game...!) Talking about taking the game to the NEXT level ... Joe's definitely the man who can help you out...

I personally wonder what OTHER "Designers" think of the online digital platforms...!? Anyone else care to comment or chime in???

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