Friday, 5 July 2013

Game Design Thinking

The ability to craft a gaming experience for a set of players that is fun in all the various facets of 'fun' is highly challenging. There is a reason we put a board game designers name front and centre on the box - it is their talent and dedication to the dreaming up and refining of the player experience that we applaud. While I do love my computer gaming (currently diving into Guild Wars 2 again), there is still something wonderful about gathering around a table with friends (tonight's after-work-game is looking like Stone Age)


In my efforts thus far to create the Lock Maiden based game it has been quite an eye opener on how complex this endeavour is. I am looking forward to having enough of the mechanics at version 1 so I can run my first playtests - until then it really is just a theoretical board game.
My Galaxy Note 8 has a growing number of notes files full of various details on how the game flows, the specific mechanics, tables of values and thematic controls. Rather than hide away in my own thinking there are plenty of resources out there that I need to make greater use of than I have thus far. This post collects some that I have already started to use in various ways or specific things that I need to use more.

SITES
First up, BoardGameGeek is the golliath of board game sites and with the RPGGeek there as well they have the tabletop experience covered.  This site is the locus of board gaming for the entire board gaming community, can manage your collection (see mine) and facilitate discussion around all aspects of board gaming including design.
There are a range of review sites and play sites that are worth noting as well as they not only give us an incite into a large number of games quickly but delve into the experience, the mechanics and show how fun some of these game are to play.
Some worth mentioning: Tabletop (seeing Will and his friends play is outstanding); The  Dice  Tower (Tom and co with an army of videos on all facets of board gaming; Starlit Citadel (quick game reviews) and there are even DnD Next playtests...

GAME DESIGN
One site that I have only skimmed the surface of thus far is the Board Game Designers Forum (BGDF) which has some fascinating threads covering interesting mechanics, ideas for building certain mood or handling player psychology.
I am still using my Jesse Schell Art of Game Design and the app which gives me roaming access to the cards. They give me a heap of new lenses to see my game through, to tidy up elements, edit, refine, improve and enhance.
The recent Top Ten Tips for Game Designers by the Dice Tower crew was helpful as well.

  1. Playtest
  2. Design the game your way
  3. Listen to play testers, but don’t design by committee
  4. Streamline, streamline!
  5. Listen to developers and publishers
  6. Match your theme and mechanics
  7. Play other games, but don’t steal ‘em
  8. No one is going to steal your ideas
  9. Don’t expect money or fame
  10. Research

NARRATIVE
When thinking about the more narrative side of the game or any short videos/trailers I may craft for it I was looking at other resources. The 36 Dramatic Situations as described by Georges Polti covers things like Disaster, Revolt, Loss and many more. Combine that with 22 Rules of Pixar Storytelling as posted by Emma Coats and I am inspired to inject as much narrative feel as I can into the game.

VISUALS
Even though Polycount is digitally-centric, all the incredible concept work in 2D and 3D on display is all about fleshing out character and location ideas for use in things like games. Many of the artists think through their pieces in a way that has many parallels with how I would like a superb board game to go. Check out their recaps to get a long scrolling page of inspiration. The Video Game Art (VGA) site offers something similar, even if its focus is a little more to the finished product. Lastly, the LiveWorkshop guys make for some inspirational viewing - seeing these artists crafting away.

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