There are times when you are stuck in the design process and you can’t work your way out of the problem. Maybe the theme is getting in the way or the mechanics you are using might be slightly off from what you want to accomplish.
Try removing the restraints of the theme and work the problem in a free environment. Let me use an example to demonstrate what I mean. We had an auction mechanic where we could not get the full mechanic to fit inside our theme which was a real world theme based on the stock market. We stopped thinking about the theme and we instead looked at the motivations of the mechanics. We spent 2 hours talking about this problem and our solution ended up being to change the theme entirely. Most of the time was spent trying to think about a theme that would work with all the parts of the auction. This might be why we normally start with mechanics!However, the time we spent working out the auction/theme problem in an environment free of the original thematic restraints (stock market) we were able to re-theme the game and build the rst of the mechanics into the game that we are very happy with.
You may not have to change your theme, but there are times when the constraints of a theme will be too constricting to your process and you will need to look at the road blocks in a different way. This is a method we use that has worked for us.
Certain themes and mechanics will lend themselves to this kind of solution. The more robust theme or simple the mechanic, the more wiggle room you will have because robust themes offer more options to play with and simple mechanics can be easily substituted.
Designing and building a game can cause us to get tunnel vision from time to time and sometimes the solution is to take a step back and work the problem in a different way.
If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.