I Made a Game

Come check out the process behind my latest prototype. I’ll talk about some of the major issue people face when prototyping and some of the strategies you can use to work through them.

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Want to hear how?

I made a game! Isn’t that wonderful?

Writing this post seems like the perfect way to kick off the two main goals of our blog:

  • One: to talk about making games.
  • Two: to share our collective experience making games.
  • Three: to promote our Meetup Group and how it helps us design games.
  • Four: to write focused and concise posts on specific topics of game design.

With these two goals in mind, I think you will enjoy the rest of this post. Yes, I know I listed four…

Rapid Prototyping

There are hundreds of ways to rapidly prototype a game. There are also hundreds of reason not to. I have built about 5 games now (counts in head… 1,2,3,3.5,4.5). I have built four and a half games now… each time, I find that prototyping is by far the hardest part of the creative process. Let me tell you why!

These three experiences (contact me for more, but I don’t think people like long blog posts) hopefully capture/prevent three major issues that can take place when your game reaches the prototype stage.

1) My game is not as good as I thought it was…

Yes.

2) … no just kidding back to “1”

Your game is never going to be as good on paper as it was in your head right away. It will never happen. The reason you should decide to prototype is because you have gotten as far as you can in your mind, notes and conversations. Expect there to be flaws.

Prototyping is where I realize most of the major issues in my games. Noticing these flaws, however heartbreaking (everyone wants their game to be perfect, you are not alone), is the best possible thing for a game in the long-term.

Whether large or small, imagine if you didn’t find a issue before play-testing? In my mind, finding flaws is why one decides to prototype in the first place.

The point is, it is never the case that your game is fundamentally worse than you thought it was, it might just need more work than you thought it did. Make sure you make that distinction early and often when you start prototyping.

2) I like this mechanic but it is not working with the rest of the game…

Try playing the game without it.

Let’s say I have the most unique idea for how players move around the board via auction biding, rolling of dice, a hand full of ability cards and resources that can be spent for further movement, more dice rolls, new cards or better position in the auction. This could be the best designed movement system in the history of fun! And… it probably still doesn’t fit in your game.

If you truly can’t bring yourself to drop something that doesn’t fit, then bring it to play testing. But, don’t be offended when your testers give harsh feedback. It is important to not play favorites when picking which mechanics fit with your game as a whole. In short, be honest with yourself about what works and what doesn’t.

3) I want to prototype but I don’t think my game is good enough yet

My current version of Nectar is nowhere near as good as the final copy will be, and yet I hadn’t had a good idea as to what to do with the game for nearly a month before play-testing last Tuesday… Now I have hundreds.

I am starting to think that the reason it is so difficult to prototype a game is because the best time to do so is when your game is still a clunky piece of garbage (like mine).

If your game plays, as in “it can be played”, prototype it. You will not find a better way to learn more about your mechanics and design. That and building a game will definitely make you a better game designer.

Once your game is in hard copy, all of its idiosyncratic atrocities will be wildly apparent! And that’s good. That’s what game designers hope for, that they will be able to see and fix all of their game’s flaws before any of their players have to endure them.

Ending Word

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please do not be shy about reaching out to me if you have had any similar experiences or want to hear about more of mine!

Before you go, what is your most useful prototyping tool? You can’t say a printer! Scissors is acceptable… Comment below!

Note:

Check out this free template I use if you need a tool for rapid prototyping playing cards or download below. And check out the free graph paper tool here, which can be used to make paper (like the ones below) in all sorts of shapes, sizes and styles (makes for a good board).

6 comments on “I Made a Game”

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