Friday, December 02, 2011

Designing a new game

I've been working up a new game design for a few months now.  When I say "working up", what I really mean is that I've been thinking about it. What "thinking about it" means is that when I wake up in the middle of the night stressed out by work and money worries, I try to distract myself by thinking about this game.

I've found that during this game thinking I get into a mental flow. Where ideas build one upon another.  I'm also a bit of a writer and the I enter the same "flow" state when I'm sketching out a stories outline. It's a hard thing to describe, but it is most definitely a different state of mind. I suspect that it is almost meditative, perhaps it is meditative, I've never studied that sort of thing.

Do other game designers do a similar thing? Let me know if you do, I'd like to think that I'm not a lonely weirdo!

So what's going on in my mind during these flowing game design periods? I usually start by reviewing what I'm trying to achieve with the game, what the feel should be, and how the interaction with it should feel. From there I start going over mechanisms that could be used.  There is no order to this, I don't have a list to work from, it's just a random selection. Each one is considered, can I use it, how, where, what for, would it be better than one I've already decided on, which is best, all these questions just kind of whirl around in my head.

For example, if I'm thinking of cards within a game, there are so many uses that can be made for them I usually work my way through them all. Consider this little off the cuff list of possible uses...

Resources ... wood, sheep, computer time, interrupts
Timing .. count down, count up, increasing danger levels
Combat ... collecting combos, take that, initiation
Events ... lose all your items, an ogre attacks, you gain a gold, jump forwards to spaces

That's just a sample of what can "flow" over my mind in the middle of night, along with counters, tiles, dice, figures, tables, charts and every other game crafters tool.

I find myself considering, as I've said, what the feel I want the game to give the players, and so my mind often drifts into art, but this is a dangerous area for me, I'm no artist, and despair lies this way! Where, I ask myself, can I get public domain art, and so what Google searches can I use to find what I need....

But enough of the midnight stuff, what about the actual play testing? Well, in this case I take the ideas I've been pondering in the night and with pencil sketch out a board, then if there are counters in my idea, scissors find their way to a cereal packet, and if cards are in order, a few A4 sheets of paper are cut up.  Then these components are marked with a pencil. and finally the whole laid out on a table.

During this phase I'll put counters on the board, cards in my hand, and shuffle everything around seeing how they fit together. Try different set ups. Consider the juxtaposition of the various parts and how the board might be rearranged.

Then the cat walks across the board, sits on it, gets bored and walks off, and if I'm lucky something the cat did makes this paper and card game work!

In the case of last night, the cat didn't help. But I did rough out a play sequence for my current design and discover that the feel is right, but the game was too easy and needs to be ramped up.

That's all for now.  I just thought I'd share some thoughts about how I'm going about my current game design. Tune in later for more. :)

1 comment:

Kurthl33t said...

The same thing happens when I design a game, or come up with a story idea. "Hm, maybe I could do this. And then maybe this. Oh! Yes, because those would lead to THAT, which be really interesting! Although the players might attempt this, so I'll need a rule that..." And so on.