Boardgames in Blighty – Lessons and top tips from game designers about the design process
So I asked board game designers (including some notable names who graciously responded…) to share their lessons learned and top tips about the game design process and here is what they said…
David J. Mortimer – Design within enforced constraints to drive creative solutions.
Gary Dicken of Ragnar Brothers – Think about solo play from the beginning, it will greatly help the multiplayer design process.
Jen Freeman – 1. Be open to ditching the mechanic you really like. 2. Writing rules down helps, you’ll often find ways to simplify the game.
Paul Grogan – 1. You cant please everyone all of the time. 2. Do independent testing and adjust based on feedback.
Jackson Pope – 1) Playtest, playtest, playtest 2) Not all playtest feedback is right, don’t let it take your game where you don’t want it to go.
Michelle Travis – 1. Complicated =/= complex. 2. Document the evolution of your game. ESPECIALLY why you made certain rules/design decisions. 🙂
Page West – 1. Don’t know if I fit here (yet) but I’m working on it!Anyway 1. Don’t force anything. Let it be natural, you’ll have a much better flow in it. 2.Make your own game. Don’t let playtesters do it for you. Try some things they suggest maybe. But don’t add it in every suggestion.
C. M. Perry – Rapid Prototyping & Iteration Testing are the heart of design. Finding & Developing the FUN for the target audience are its soul.
Manuel Correia – 1) Until you play it, it’s not a game. It’s an idea. 2) Listen to the playtester’s problems, but not their solutions.
Concrete Canoe Games – 1) Playing gives you more info than anything so get a proto to the table asap. 2) Your game is not your baby, be willing to listen.
Christopher M. Hamm – 1) What worked in early versions may not work now. 2) Warping your game for one thing means the thing is the problem.
Sarah Reed – 1. Playtest with designers – both your games & theirs. 2. Know your design goals & target audience from beginning, but be open to change
Tony Miller – 1. Graphic design matters when it comes to prototypes art does not 2. Playtest with a specific purpose in mind
Jon Moffat – 1. Be open to ditching a design 2. Players are horrible at suggesting fixes, but they’re great at breaking things
Iain McAllister – 1) your rulebook won’t be looked at by anyone but you for a long part of the design process 2) prototype early and often
Rob Harper – 1) A crappy prototype on the table is worth more than a week of thinking it out. 2) Listen to all feedback but don’t act on it immediately.
Tommy Girard – Don’t leave your idea as an idea. Get it into a hard copy as soon as you can. The longer it bounces around in your brain, the more you feel attached to it and afraid to break it. Have a bric a brac drawer full of game bits too. Very helpful for rapid prototyping. Also design a game for you and at least person will love it.
Carl Frodge – 1.Let your theme drive your design and let your design drive your theme. In other words, mechanics aren’t a game, I can come up with mechanics all day long and never come close to making a game out of them, the mechanics have to have meaning, they have to have a purpose and that purpose has to come from your theme.
2. Know your theme. If you’re gonna design a game about pirates, you better do some research on pirates. If it’s about ballet, you better learn about ballet.
Bonus: Don’t write down every idea you have, if the idea is really good, you’ll remember it, if you don’t remember it, it wasn’t important for the design.
David Brashaw, Backspindle Games – Balance. Leave no man or woman behind…
Barnslig Park – 3 golden rules: Testing, testing, artwork
Michael Fox – Test, test, and test again. Then do some more testing! Ask the players to focus on one thing at a time that you really want to investigate. Also, don’t worry if something doesn’t work. It may not be right for the game you want to make, but it may be perfect for something else!
Ignacy Trzewiczek, Portal Games – I want too much. Sometimes less is more. Essence of experience is the northstar. I must learn a lot. I can do better.
Cohort VIII Games – 1) Don’t get lost in mechanics or the latest hotness; chase what’s fun for you. 2) If it’s in the way of the fun be able to give it the axe!
Benny Sperling – Some themes are a tough sell. Designing games is a joy, it should be fun-not a chore 😉
Mark Herman – Be true to your topic and it’s easy to start a design but a lot of hard work to publish a game.
Issac Shalev – My theory theory is inspiration only hits when you’re hungry, tired, or holding a baby. Seriously though, 1 – the playtest isn’t wrong, don’t ignore uncomfortable feedback. 2 – Be bold! Make things that excite you and move you! 1 – work with 2 – profit!!!
Chris Kirkman – Creation requires hard work & discipline, but don’t forget to have fun. 2) Sacrifice food, sleep, & whatever else when inspiration hits! food, sleep, & whatever else when inspiration hits!
Corey Young – 1) Don’t just design one game. 2) When you get stuck, put the game away for a month or two. Intentional procrastination, spurs new ideas.
Daniel Skjold Pedersen – 1) Look for & follow the core experience whatever it is. 2) If you want to make games for a living treat it as work w/ all implications.
Dan Letiman – 1. Design something that you are passionate about (theme or mechanisms), it’ll be more fun that way! 2. Get it to the table early and often
Tony Boydell, Surprised Stare Games – 1. Take your time; it will be ready when it’s ready 2. You can NEVER playtest too much. Not EVER.
Tristan Hall – 1) pay close attention to informed, constructive criticism. 2) filter out entitled bullshit criticism. 3) carefully work out which is which!
TC Petty III – Start boring. If the game is boring & ends up being fun, you have gameplay. Throw out your 1st couple designs. Your next game will be better.
Brian Lelas – Perfect math is not a fun game. Balance is all well and good but difficult decisions are better. Fun comes from the experience, not the stuff making it all work in the background.
PLAYTEST A LOT.
Also, playtest by yourself first, multiple times – you will find all the stupid bullshit obvious stuff immediately within the first 10 mins of moving pieces about. Only when you’ve iterated on this a few times and are not seeing stuff you know are broken, move on to getting others to try the game. The more you can do to avoid comments like “ignore this” or “that’ll be different later” the less confusing a situation a playtest will be for others.
Giuliano Draguleano – My 2 cents…. tell a story. A nice story, maybe not unique (no such things since 3000 years ago), but something that gets the imagination juices flowing.
Byron Collins, Epic Wargames LLC – 1. Simplify. It’s hard to do. 2. Avoid kitchen sinking your design (see 1).
Robert Burke – 1. Don’t hesitate to kill your babies if playtests show positive results without them. 2. Make the game you want to make.
Bez – 1- whatever your desires/objectives are, keep them (and your target audience) in mind. That helps you filter out the conflicting feedback. 2- shut up during post-game discussion. Don’t defend choices, explain previous versions or (even worse) tell someone how they played badly.