Example of Play

Commentary on Games Design

Depth in your design stable

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Games design attracts creative folks. Whether they be creative with ideas, mechanism concepts, spreadsheets, economic theory or arts and crafts there is a spark of creation in a person that looks at the games they are playing and thinks:

“There isn’t a game that does _exactly this ‘thing’_ and if there were, I would play it”

-and then does something about that.  🙂

One of the curious things about the game design process, specifically, is that is requires different types of creativity at different stages of the process. Over-simplified, the main watersheds in getting a game published might be listed as:

  • Idea
  • Usable rules set
  • Playable prototype
  • Pitch-able game

SqDepThe ExPlay games stable. We love ideas.

The hours upon hours upon hours of tweaking and fiddling have obviously been removed. The need for creative output is self-evident from that list, but looking at the physical things that need to be generated by the different parts of the design process you find they take quite different skills to produce. The process ranges from to analysis to design, graphic design and then to sales pitching and marketing.

Analogy time. Warhammer: a games for statisticians, tacticians and painters. What a Venn diagram that is. You have to have a decent army list, know how to use it and it should look like an army of soldiers rather than featureless swamp monsters. Unless you’re playing swamp monsters (Hmm, is that a game idea? A miniatures game for the artistically challenged: Swamp Monsters versus Yetis versus Mud Men…?). Using a list from the ‘net, playing regular games and finding people who will paint your army for money are ways to short-circuit the system and those options certainly exist for games designers too.

Now, speaking entirely for myself here, I find some steps in the design process easier than others. The result is that I have a moderate number of game ideas that have not progressed further (not a wild amount, but there’s a few there), a lot of usable or nearing usable rules sets (I like that bit), a few prototypes and even fewer pitch-able games.

Having a few games ‘on the boil’ as it were, seems to be a useful tactic in getting people interested in YOU as a designer rather than in any specific game. This post


really hit home for me the need to keep the excitement up in order to stay positive about game design and getting your designs to a wider audience. The value of having a Plan B is huge. Have fall backs in your game design stable that might need a different part of your brain to work to progress.

In short, if a single problem seems insurmountable: get more problems.


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