Friday, December 26, 2008

Simplicity vs. Complexity

I've been involved in attempting to make my game designs better (this is pretty much what I am always up to, but it's been a little more with school out for the holidays, this gives me more time). Anyway, I've come to realize a couple of things that I just wanted to put down here.

Firstly, I've really enjoyed designing Peril in the Promised Land. I like the game a lot and think it has a whole lot of potential. The problem has become that it requires a lot of play-testing and tweaking. I don't have a lot of time to do these things so I'm not sure how quickly the game will evolve and progress. I want to see it happen, I just don't have the time or resources right now. But I think this is mainly due to the fact that the game is very complex. First off it's a cooperative game. This means that a system has to be designed that challenges the players, who are working together. Normally there is some balance because players compete against each other. We have a pretty good system. Sometimes I just wonder if it's too difficult to overcome and then, how to make it a little easier. Not an easy task. Secondly, there are a bunch of rules. I'm still trying to put together the rulebook. It's very time consuming! And every time I explain the game to someone else, I think to myself, "wow! there are a lot of things to remember!" With this complexity comes more time to make sure it all works together "perfectly."

On the other hand, simpler games don't require the same time commitment (in my limited experience thus far anyway). We've currently got Hagoth: Builder of Ships that we're working on. It's competitive and a whole lot simpler. I've been keeping track of the rules as we've designed and played the game. I've just about got the rulebook put together (ready for review by friends anyhow) and it's only 3 pages long! Quite a difference. I'm struggling through the rulebook for Peril in the Promised Land and it's already 5 pages long, with several more to be added.

I guess I'm throwing this all out because I've pretty much decided that I'm going to attempt for now anyway, to work on designing less complex games. You know, the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Sometimes simpler is better (as long as the game is immersive, and therefore fun)!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tweaking & Iteration

Yesterday I was able to play Peril in the Promised Land with a couple of friends. It's interesting how getting other people's perspectives on the game is very insightful. I have felt like the game is in a pretty good stage. I think things work pretty well and it's pretty balanced. Then they had a few insights as we played and after we finished (we lost!!) that really were completely logical and very helpful in making the game a lot better (at least it seems like it will be, I need to play it more with the changes to see how it all works). I guess you can tweak a game and go through iteration after iteration and, my question is, how do you know when you've finished or reached an end? Like I said, I thought things were good, but now, I wonder if other changes can be made to improve things. How much should a game be play-tested? How does one know that the game has reached an end of the design phase and needs no more tweaking?

On Board Game Designers Forum someone asked a similar question (here). Some of the response is that you can't really say how many times a game needs to be play-tested before it is "ready." It's important to make sure you are changing things up each time you play-test. One response in particular said: "remember your trying to break the game through your playtests try and find strange loop holes and other such things that will need changing to prevent certain outcomes or maybe even new strategies that you think need defined more so they may work." I hadn't thought of it that way before, but I think it is true. Each time I am able to play one of my games with a new person I get a lot of new insights that I hadn't even thought about before.

As a result I think I need to get my games to "a good point." Then I need to enlist several people at different times to play-test, with me as a player and with me as a spectator. Then I'll be able to get lots of different perspectives and the play-tests won't be the same all the time. I can also take it upon myself to attempt to play differently every time my wife and I play. It will reveal new things that haven't come up before.

I'm so glad that there are so many people out there willing to share their insights and experience, and that the internet offers us a place to do that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Learning & Resources

12:09 PM by Mike · 0 comments
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I've been looking around for some ideas about mechanics. I first looked on boardgamegeek under mechanics. The list they have is a lot smaller than I had thought would be there. I've also found a blog on Board Game Designers Forum by KrinkleChip about game mechanics. And of course, there is the wikipedia article. I've also come across some pretty good ideas regarding putting together a nice database of mechanics in forums here and there, but I'm unable to really find anything like that currently. It would be a huge undertaking.

The reason I'm looking into all this is that, with the restrictions I've placed upon myself (discussed here), I'm working on a card-based game (calling it Korihor: Anti-Christ right now), attempting to keep the components down to cards, one die, and some tokens. In this attempt, I'm trying to become more familiar with the kinds of mechanics that have been implemented with cards before. Having that kind of knowledge definitely provides a great benefit. In fact, I think I'm going to join the effort to provide such a thing to others. Mainly because it would be a great resource, but also because it will help give me a lot more knowledge of game mechanics.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Guild

Last night I went to SLC to my first meeting with the Board Game Designers Guild of Utah. It was pretty much a blast! All us new guys (that's right, there wasn't a female in the room) introduced ourselves. There were 6 or so of us who were there for the first time. Overall, about 35 or so attended the meeting.

I played Dave Bailey's creation Igor. Players compete to build a monster and score points by doing so. It was a fantastic game. Dave said he had been working on it since about April, and that after deciding to join the group to play games and not design them. Only after members of the group convinced him to design one did he put together Igor. And now he's even been invited to send his game to FRED for play-testing and possible publication. There are a number of members of the Guild who have been published and who will soon be published.

One thing I very much liked about Igor was a mechanic for determining who gets what resource. There are 3 locations in the game where players go to collect resources. To do this there are a total of 5 tokens for each location. The tokens are numbered 1 through 5. Therefore, the town has 5 tokens that correspond to it, numbered 1 to 5. These are mixed up so that each player gets 1 token for each location. At the beginning of a round players decided, based on the cards showing in that location, among other strategies that can be used, which location they would like to visit. They choose that token from their 3 and place it face down in front of them. Once everyone has done this, all players turn their tokens over, revealing where they will visit. If 2 or more players choose the same location, they are able to pick their resource card based on the number on their token. So the player with the number 1 picks first, number 2 second, and so forth. Once that has happened, players then trade tokens using the following pattern: the player who picked first at their location trades with the player who picked last; the player who picked second trades with the player who picked second-to-last; and so on. It adds a lot to the strategy in trying to get the resources you need. Plus, once you've picked first, you have to give up that token. Very ingenious!

Overall, I felt completely comfortable meeting and playing. Those there seemed very enthused to play games and provide the designers with feedback. The designers who decide to bring their games need to be ready for both positive feedback as well as criticism as other members will be honest in sharing what they think are ways of improving the game. I don't have a whole lot of experience designing games, so I don't know that I'll be able to provide too much feedback, but I'm definitely going to join in and try to contribute as much as I can. It will be a great learning experience!

Friday, December 5, 2008

So Much To Do

I've come to realize that there are so many different places to discuss game design on the internet and so many more resources than I had previously even imagined. I find it difficult to focus on writing here on my blog. I mean, the forums at Board Game Design Forum and at Boardgamegeek.com, both offer a lot of insight into the world of game design. Not to mention the opportunity they afford to getting involved. Not to say that I've got much experience in this realm, but I am making an attempt to contribute in any way I can.

Game Journal for Peril in the Promised Land

Sharing my experience submitting to LDS/Mormon publishers

Plus, all of this has helped me meet others who are interested in this realm of designing games with LDS/Mormon themes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

So much for that idea

3:49 PM by Mike · 0 comments
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I got a nice form letter response from Cedar Fort regarding my Armor of God submission.

Dear Mike,

Thank you for submitting your game, The Armor of God. After careful consideration, we have decided we will not to be able to produce your game at this time. We do however, encourage you in your endeavors to get it produced and into the market, and hope you will find great success.

Sincerely,

The Editorial Board
Cedar Fort, Inc.


This is in stark contrast to my experience with Covenant Communications. I've had a lot of interaction with Phil and been able to get his feedback and input. This is pretty much the only thing I've gotten from Cedar Fort since I've submitted the game. Not that this is a bad thing, it's just not even close to the experience I've had and been able to learn from with Covenant. I would guess though, that this is more the kind of experience you would have with other game publishers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Let Me Just Add This...

11:05 AM by Mike · 2 comments
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Well, I have found another restriction within which I must work: Mormon-themed games must be designed for more than 2 players. Yesterday I got an email from Phil Reschke at Covenant Communications and he said that 2 player games are a negative. He wanted to know if we could redesign Armor of God for up to 4 players. Well, it will take some doing, but that's fine with me. I've got a couple of ideas that I just need to try out with my wife and see how they go. Then I can take them to friends and get more feedback.

So be sure to remember the following if you decide to start designing Mormon-themed games and seek to get them published:
1) Include a minimal number of components; the easier and less expensive to produce the better
2) Make sure the game will accommodate at least 3 to 4 players
Other than that you should be good.

Happy designing!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Updates

Reviews
So, I was looking back over the 2 reviews I had written (It Came to Pass and Settlers of Zarahemla), and I discovered that they were pretty bad. I mean, I thought to myself, "If I were to read these, do they really tell me anything of value or something that I would be looking for in a review?" Well, I thought that they didn't do a very good job of that, so I updated them accordingly and now they are a lot better; still probably not what might be considered Superb Reviews, but definitely good enough to get the points across.


Peril in the Promised Land
Due to the Thanksgiving break and our trip to Nevada, I have had no internet connection for the past 4 or 5 days. But now that we're back I want to update our activities with Peril in the Promised Land. I ended up going to Kinkos and having them just print the board in two halves on 11" x 17" paper. It came out so much better than my inkjet at home. Then I used a glue stick (I'm still trying to figure out a better way of attaching the printouts to the board) and glued the printouts to the Trivial Pursuit board. It wasn't easy, but at the same time it wasn't really very hard. Once we got them glued, I used a utility knife and cut the edges, as the printouts were a lot smaller than the board itself. Once it was all finished I was extremely pleased. I actually felt like I had reached a point of not needing to revise or redo the board anymore. It felt fantastic!!

I ended up printing out the Captain cards on sticker paper and sticking them to one of my kids puzzle boards that we were going to get rid of a while ago (it was old and some of the pieces were missing). I didn't like the way they looked, but having them on the thicker cardboard was definitely cool. I'm going to revamp the look of the Captain cards and print them out one more time.

Other than that, I've got to finish the rulebook, which is turning out to be a lot more difficult than I had ever imagined. I'm glad that I found Board Game Designers Forum. It's given me the chance to put my ideas together in written form. I've also been able to get some guidance from others there on the forum. I'm in the process of finishing my Game Journal for Peril. Once that's finished, I'll use it to put together the rulebook. Hopefully that won't be too far into the future.
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