Getting playtesters together is hard work. It gets harder if a game is long or if you’re past testing with friends and are looking for more input from strangers. Playtesting is the most critical part of making your game any good, it’s not somewhere that you can cut corners. Playtests are a valuable opportunity so it’s important not to waste any of them.
A giant rat approaches! Roll for initiative! Time for a fight – you win or you die. Victory brings experience and treasure and the power to move on to greater threats beyond this innkeepers basement. Defeat brings death and … er … the end of the game I guess? No more fun? Time to pack up and go home?
I’m coming towards the end of my latest set of blind playtests for Escape the Nightmare. The testing was divided into three waves and the feedback from each wave lead me to change things for the next wave – one of the things that changed every time were the questions that I asked. I thought that it might be interesting to share the questions that I’ve ended up asking the third and final wave and have some discussion of how our choice of questions influences the quality of the feedback that we receive as designers.
At the UK Games expo I picked up a copy of XCom, I’ve played games before that have used apps to enhance the experience, but I was curious to see how well the game held up with a mandatory one. Now I’ve enjoyed it a lot and think it does a load of really neat things, but in order to contextualise my love for it I feel the need to rant about how awful an idea app supported gaming is and how much I hate smart phones.
Every now and again I briefly recall that in my first post I promised that this blog would talk about what it’s like to go from being an academic to a full time game designer and all of the experiences that I’ve had along the way. It seems that in general people enjoy my broad and unsolicited advice on the subject more, but today there’s a chance to do both. I ran a stand at a big convention for the first time ever this weekend!
I’ve been seeing a lot about Tabletop Simulator recently, a virtual environment for playing board games that some creators have been using for easy prototyping. I thought that for today’s post I’d crack it open and throw a recent prototype into it, in order to see how it works and gives some impressions of the thing.
So there’s this conversation I keep seeing on game design forums:
Enthusiastic_Newbie “I’ve come up with a great new mechanic for my game!”
Old_Hand “There are no such thing as new mechanics, what is it?”
OH “That’s been done before in (Game) (Game) and (Game). Perhaps once in a generation someone comes up with a new mechanic, the odds that it’s you are millions to one.”
OH “Don’t try to invent new mechanics.”
Unenthusiastic_Newbie “Oh, okay. Thanks I guess.”
Last weekend I was invited by the University of Birmingham Tabletop Gaming Society to do a workshop on game design. I’d like to write about how that turned out and some of the surprising things that happened in it – so if you’re planning on running this sort of event or if you’re a new designer who’s interested in hearing what information most surprised new designers, read on!
Apparently I’m bad at twitter and have to write everything in long essay format. This is probably true, but for practice let’s try getting some thoughts down in less than a bajillion words. I’ll do a quickfire analysis on my gaming shelf of supreme disorder. Let’s go!
Cash and Guns Yakuza
Neat Design Decision: Getting players to physically menace each other with foam guns and swords pretty much holds this game together. I play abstract games and often undervalue the importance of components compared to game-play, this is a perfect example of when it really matters.
Room for Improvement: The first time we played this we misread the rules and thought that players had to throw the shuriken at each other, rather than the card representing their character. Leading to feints and dodges and dives. This proved more enjoyable than the actual rule and we refuse to fix it.
I’ve achieved an important milestone in my ongoing campaign to ruin the youth of today, for the crime of no longer counting me amongst their number despite me having continuity of experience from a time where I could eat constant junk, barely sleep and experience no ill effects: I’ve been invited to a university board gaming group to tell them about being a board game designer.