What has TGIK Games been up to? #7

Update of Current Games

I feel like we have hit a new level of commitment to TGIK Games. When I am not working on a new or active designs, I feel like I should be working on something else TGIK related. I am now at a point where I want to make a nightly schedule for myself to keep on track. However, the challenge of finding a balance between life things and the time design requires is tough. But the design/business building bug inside me is starting to win and I really need to focus my commitment and work towards larger goals. Preamble done, on to the games!

Soccer GM

We were able to work on Soccer GM this past weekend and we have added to the “decision tree”. After our first play through, we found that while we would spend time building the team, we would make no roster decisions during the season. To fix this, we have added injuries to the season and what this does is to force players to think about their bench players and keep in mind overall team depth. Aidan also made up some new player cards, we added a drafting system at the start of the game and we updated the schedule system. We think there is a good game here and a system that can be applied across a lot of sports. It would be nice if this became the base to a system franchise.

2014-09-13 09.25.08 2014-09-13 08.16.30

Arrrsteroid Miners

It turns out the prototype for Arrsteroid Miners is a beast, mainly due to the fact that I have tried to build the proto while framing out the game. Maybe not the best plan of attack but it is what it is at this point so I am still working on finishing the prototype.

Charge!

Nothing new to report

Dice Inc.

Had an awesome play test last week and we believe this game is ready to have a theme worked out and then send it out to the world to be blind tested. It came together very well in the last 2-3 play tests and with no systemic issues reported, we are very happy.

Side Projects 

Chris

No side projects this week, need to focus on what we have in front of us and move those projects forward.

Aidan

I think he is in the same boat as me.

Programming!

Hey guys, this is my first post, and I wanted to share a little bit about what I’m working on. We’re in the early prototyping-and-testing phase of a “Soccer GM” game, in which the goal is to build a team by buying and selling players and choosing tactics suited to the strengths and weaknesses of the players you’ve got. Rather than simulate the intricacies of a single game of soccer, we’re interested in simulating lots of games, so we can play through whole seasons.

Now, one of the first things that we realized we were going to need for this is a boatload of fictional players. Each player would need a name, and a unique collection of attributes. (We’re also toying with the idea of individual personalities.) At first, we were making these by hand, but this quickly became tedious. But! I work as a software engineer at my day job, and with a little bit of programming, I was able to speed up the process – I generate a random name, pick a random set of attributes and a random personality.

Here’s a sample of the output:

Ramon Neal (W)

  0  |  0  |  0 
  0  | (1) | 2 (1)
  1  |  0  |  0 
Easy Going

Edgar Lopez (FB)

  0  |  0  |  1 
  0  | (1) |  0 
 (1) |  0  |  1 
Determined

Cesar Graham (W)

  0  |  0  |  0 
  1  |  0  |  0 
 (1) | (1) | (1) 
Easy Going

Kent Hart (AM)

  1  |  0  |  0 
 (1) |  0  |  0 
  0  |  0  | (1) 
Rowdy

I won’t get into what all the numbers mean, except to say that for now, they’re our abstraction of player attributes. We’re still playing around with how many attributes to use (nine is probably too many) and how to display it as intuitively as possible (some kind of iconography is probably better than numbers written in Courier font). We’ll probably keep tweaking those details for a while – which is precisely why it’s so handy to automate the process of generating these player cards. I can generate a few hundred new players in a fraction of a second, which means that when we make those tweaks, we don’t have to sit and write up a pile of new cards just to test it out again! Right now, I’m working on extending this to use PDFBox to actually generate player cards as PDFs, with some prototype artwork so it looks a little better than plain text.

On a tangentially-related note, we invested in a proper paper cutter. I’m irrationally fond of it. ūüėÄ

How to Build a Game #10 Know How to Teach Your Game

This is going to sounds strange, but learn how to teach your game. When I started out on this game design path, I would spend hours working on game mechanics and more hours working on a playable prototype, I would take the game to my FLGS and get it in front of people only to have no idea how to teach my own game. I would have to struggle through telling my play testers what each part of the game did and how players were supposed to win the game, but it always sounded different to the way I taught other designer’s published games. Why?

Aidan and I talked about this after one of our first public play tests and we concluded that the problem is we are too close to the game to know how it should be taught. What we would need to do is pull back from the game and look at it like we had never seen it before. That doesn’t mean to go down the rules and say to yourself, that step makes sense, that makes sense and so on. We really had to fully remove ourselves from designer mode and spend time teaching the game to each other before we could teach the game properly to play testers.

Think of it like your first language, your game is your language that you have created in your own head. All the context and rules are intuitive to you and to no one else. You may know why certain mechanics are required to meet to experience you want to achieve, but play testers have no frame of reference and will have lots of questions along the way and we need to be prepared to answer them as if we could answer the questions of any other game we were trying to teach out buddies.

This is such and easy trap to fall into. We, as designers, get so excited to show our games to different people, we try and cover everything about the game when it might be better to mention the scoring portion and say “at this point we score and I will cover the details when we get there” rather than trying to cover the scoring portion before we haven’t even played a game.

Know how to teach your game quickly enough to start playing  and know what details can be covered in game.

If your game is fun, players will be more than happy to cover the details as you take them on this gaming journey.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

What has TGIK Games been up to? #6

Update of Current Games

We are adding to the current games list! Now that Dice Inc is in full play test mode and Charge! is in a holding pattern for the next 4 weeks, we are moving on to our next live projects.

Soccer GM

Soccer GM is in full development mode. We spend most of last Saturday working on the basics of a prototype and working out the bugs with schedule and how to get teams to play each other two times, home and away, which was not as easy as we thought it would be. The trouble is making a schedule system that is easy enough to explain and still get the desired home and away match ups. We played through an entire season and it was a lot of fun. We wantt o play it with more people so that there can be a more realistic market for players to be moved from team to team but so far so good. I have included some photos to give you some flavor of what we are up to. I won’t try and explain what this all means now, I will leave that for a dedicated Soccer GM post.

2014-09-06 15.00.25 2014-09-06 11.01.14 2014-09-06 10.04.33 2014-09-06 10.04.23 2014-09-06 10.04.16 2014-09-06 09.44.14 2014-09-06 09.39.46

Arrrsteroid Miners

This is the other game we have decided to add to the development schedule. since there is no working prototype right now, I need to make as much of it as I can before this weekend. Wish I had more to report on this one but that will have to do for now.

Charge!

While it is live on TGC, it is in a holding pattern for now. Our artist is running his own Kickstarter soon so we are just waiting for the post KS slow down to work on the final art for Charge!

Dice Inc.

We have a play test coming up with some new victi…..testers. I am looking forward to this test because we have been trying to set up this test for months now so I know the testers are looking forward to giving Dice Inc a try. We have also been working on a theme for DI. I think our front running might be a hacker crew theme with program battles and secret transactions. Not 100% on that as the theme, we also have ideas for stock trading programs, cattle rustlers and gangster hitmen. part of our weekend work will be to narrow down and possibly choose which theme we will go with.

Side Projects 

Chris

No real side projects now that Arrrsteroid Miners is a live project for us. I do need to get into the blog habit again and I need to work on rule books…..I hate rule books.

Aidan

I think Aidan is in a similar situation. Especially due to time constraints, we will not have much in the way of side projects this week.

How to Build a Game #9 Work on Your Elevator Pitch

When the time comes to start talking about your game to people outside your core play testing group; have a well rehearsed elevator pitch.

Can you sum up your game in less than a minute? I am not talking about the full publisher pitch. I am talking about the one paragraph pitch to a slightly interested friend. What can you say that is going to grab them and make them ask another question out of interest; rather than obligation?

Note: I consider your core play testing group to be your loyal buddies that are willing to suffer through the early growing pains of your game. Outside of this group, you should have an elevator pitch ready to go at a moments notice.

There is a huge benefit to having an “at the ready” elevator pitch early in the process. In a casual setting, you might be asked what you are working on these days. If you are like me, posting your design sessions on social media, people might ask specifically about the games you keep posting about online. If this is the case, you want to be able to give a confident elevator pitch about your game. This doesn’t have to be the full description of your game, but you want to think about what parts of the game are going to peak your audiences interest. What is going to get them to question two or three about that game. Depending on the audience, you can tailor your pitch and make comparisons to games they may already know and enjoy.

Real Life Example: I was at a friends birthday party where most of the guests were outside of my regular friends. I started talking about one of our games and thought nothing of it at the time. One our way home, my wife says to me, “did you notice all the guys listening in on you talking about your game?” Honestly, I had no idea….missed opportunity to include interested people and potentially ask if they wanted to try it out at a later date.

In our experience, the biggest benefit of having an at the ready EP is when we take our game to the game store and test it with our fellow designers where store patrons can walk by and see the game. Because your game on the table is something that the gamers in the store have never seen, they will ask what you are playing. Give them your brief pitch.

If you are able to talk about your game with confidence and a well practiced EP, gamers will give you what I like to call “designer credibility”. Designer Credibility doesn’t mean gamers will think you have a good game, my experience has taught me that gamers are impressed you have brought your game to a public forum with a prototype and a group of people trying out your game.

Elevator Pitches are extremely important because you will have more chances to deliver and EP about your game(s) than you will have chances to get people to sit down and play. Mainly due to time constraints, but even when you are playing a game, people will walk by and ask what you are playing. Take the two minutes to stop and explain your game to the passer by, the people testing the game will understand. Elevator Pitches are an early form of face to face marketing for your game and a first chance to open the door to more players and more future fans/buyers of your games.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

How to Build a Game #8 Build Your Prototypes Early

Build your first prototype as early as you can. Your first prototype does not have to be pretty, doesn’t have to be seen by anyone else, it just has to exist. The benefits of producing your first prototype are numerous. A first prototype gives you a new level of focus, gives your idea a new level of realism, allows you to see pieces move around and others.

Makes Your Game Tangible and Real

We all have notebooks and other bits of paper with ideas written down about potential game ideas. Designers are really good at thinking and re-thinking about the games they want to build. We can frame out our games on paper and even write down a first rules set. This is all well and good, but if we don’t take the step of prototyping, our games never gain a level of tangibility. Taking out some index cards and color pencils is a huge step to give your game idea its first legs. What was once an idea in your head and written down in your notebook, is now a real thing that you can play and manipulate to move your game farther down the development process.

New Found Realism Provides New Focus

Designers are really good at coming up with ideas. I currently have 60-70 potential ideas in my notebook. When we take the step of prototyping our better ideas, it makes it easier for us to ignore the fringe ideas and focus on the prototype in front of us. When you have the choice of working out of your notebook or working on the basic prototype, there is a good chance you will be able to focus on the prototype. The basic prototype will become a first playable prototype sooner than you that.

Prototypes can lead to Thematic and Mechanical Discoveries

When you have your first basic prototype made out of index cards and dice, you will be able to move around the pieces and cards and get to see the logistical realities of your idea. Some paper ideas may not work as well in practice and playing around with your prototype might inspire you to take the game down a different path. Maybe you are starting with a theme and the way the pieces move around the board/table don’t really make sense with what you want the players to experience. Maybe you are starting with a mechanic and you find that your idea is close but there is a slight tweak you need to make for the mechanic to really work.

Thinking Time

When you build a prototype, it takes a little bit of time. Even if you are using index cards and card sleeves, you will be immersed in your game and there will be all kinds of ideas or directions you will generate while you are building the prototype. The earlier you start the process, the more flexibility in the design development you will have to make changes without having to rip out large chunks of the game. If you wait until late in the development process to build a prototype, then get to the prototype build and find out that the mechanic doesn’t work in tangible form, you may have to make larger changes to your game that you never intended to or want to make. This runs a real danger of hurting your focus for the game because starting over can be difficult when you really want your game to work.

Prototypes Get Played!

If you have a group of friends or know a group of local designers that are willing to give your rough prototypes a play, you will get to play your game! And that is the point of what we love to do. We want to create the sculpture that is building a game and getting to see your idea played, gets some feedback and move the game forward in the design process is invigorating. The best part of early play is there are NO EXPECTATIONS. If you have a good group of play testers, then you have nothing to worry about. If the game bombs, shelve it and move to the next game. If you and your friends can see the game but there are things that need to be added or removed, make the changes, build your next prototype and play again. If the game is good as it is and fun, there is no way you will want to jump back into your notebook of ideas, you will be hooked on the idea of your new prototype and how to get it to a public prototype stage.

Conclusion

This is just a starter list of the benefits of making a prototype early in the process. If you don’t prototype your games, they will never get played and watching your games played by other people is a huge reward. I wish I could give an award to all the designers out there who get their game played ¬†by a stranger because that is a real achievement. Prototypes are a lot of fun to make and since they are a MAJOR part of the development process, you may as well start as early as possible.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

What has TGIK Games been up to? #5

Update of Current Games

So, I was on vacation last week and I tried something crazy……I unplugged…..sort of…..by choice…..but not really. Let me explain. Turns out that not taking a vacation for 18 months means you accrue lots of vacation days. In the interest of not losing said vacation days I took last week off and it was very busy and very nice. When I told my wife I was taking a week off and the to-do list started. With the home to-do list complete, I had to figure out who of my buddies I was going to hang out with during my week free from day job obligation. Most of my buddies have weird work hours that is awesome for hanging out in the afternoon but lousy for hanging out on the weekends. I had grand plans to make great progress on game designs, I was going to blog twice a day for a week. It was going to be great. Instead, I worked on the house, napped, went to lunch once with a buddy and stayed off the internet way more than I was expecting, and to be honest, it was kind of nice.

Among the various tasks I had to take care of during the week, I had to get us ready for Strategicon. This was going to be our first con is we were going to do a little guerrilla marketing. Our plan was to go to open gaming, take over a table and make it ours. We had signs up asking for play testers, set up our prototypes so passersby could see them and we played the game with anyone that wanted a demo or a full play through. I plan on writing up a full report on our Saturday at our first con but for now just know we had a great time!

So ends the preamble, on to the games.

Charge!

Charge is still live on The Game Crafter and we are now working on the updated rule book. I think I may have said I was going to update it two weeks ago, but we have made a small tweak to the rules and we need to update the rules.

 

Dice Inc.

The Dice Inc. prototypes have been finished, all ten of them. We took Dice Inc to Strategicon and we played it 3 times and demoed once. We have a few small changes to make, unfortunately, one of those changes means I need to remake the reference boards…..the joys of prototyping and testing at the same time. I will include a fuller report this week on what we learned and what we are changing.

 

Side Projects 

Chris

I have no idea what I am up to this week. I have a list of things that I need to start working on or continue working on and I need to take the time to organize that list. I did clean my dining room table so I should be able to spend some time tonight getting my thoughts together and moving forward on what I need to do this week. Vacations really kill momentum.

Aidan

Aidan has started school so he is on his school schedule once again. What that means is that I have no idea what he is doing with his schedule and I am sure he is not entirely clear on that himself.

What we have going on this week

I have no idea!

The point of this post is to let you know that we are back and should be back on a regularly scheduled program.