Programming Note – Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving week is like Sunday, No post for Thanksgiving week…

This week is Thanksgiving. What that means for the blog is that I will have friends and family floating around and I am not really sure what I will be able to do for posting to the blog this week. I should have written a bunch of posts last weekend and scheduled them, but available time did not work out that way. So this week, I will be posting some archive posts from the How to Build a Game series. Take a walk down not too distant memory lane and bask in the magnificence that was my poor writing skills before I had several hours of post writing experience. Not that I am going to write any Pulitzer Prizes, but writing a lot really does improve your writing skillz!

From the Ashes of a week off from posting……A New Series!

I have been mulling over some new ideas for a series and I think I have found one that I can get behind and I already have a few ideas. I will be writing a new series about why I design games. I was feeling slightly philosophical on the way home from work and a few ideas hit me at once. I thought about it some more and I figured I could turn one long post about why I design games into a series. While I like to write posts that are helpful to other designers to get them to think about how they are designing games, I think this might be a good way to help designers think about why they are designing their games. Not exactly a nuts and bolts series like H2BaG but I feel good about the idea and I hope you are able to get something from it.

Speaking of the H2BaG series……

What would you like me to add to the series? As it stands I have 30+ posts waiting to be written. So, while I am not hurting for current or future content, I think I should start reaching out to the readers and get their feedback about what they would like me to add to the series. I will have a sub-series starting that will be under the H2BaG umbrella and it will cover the specifics of Post #22 about refining our process. I also have 25 or so unique posts that need to be written.

Please shoot me an email at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com or leave a comment below. We have been talking to a few of you about starting a Google hangout game building workshop thing. We are collecting feedback and will pick a day that works best for the most people. With the holiday season upon us and my trip to Hawaii next month, I am thinking we will start in January and we might have one Saturday get together in December…..possibly the first Saturday…..What I want you to take from that is that the Google Hangout is going to happen, we just have to settle on the day. Thank you very much to the people who have reached out to me and expressed interest. It means a lot and really helps me on the days I don’t have the focus to write or design. Your encouragement is helpful beyond belief.

How to Build a Game #37 A Stealthy Playtest

One of the challenges of receiving good feedback from a play test is the challenge of getting “real” feedback. Play testers, in my experience, have a hard time giving a bad opinion about a game. Game Nighters however, don’t have the same issues sharing their real feelings about a game.

Using this as a jumping off point, we can use this as a way to get in some stealthy play testing from a game night group.

For our game Charge!, I took a copy we had made from The Game Crafter and took it to game night. I added it to the pile-o-games and eventually it was picked. It helped a lot that no one had seen the game before and they asked if anyone knew how to play the game? I said I knew how to play the game and explained that this was a game I found on Game Crafter and it arrived earlier that week so I brought it to game night. I taught the game like it was a standard play test and paid close attention to what people were saying as they played the game. One of the players even came up to me later and said the game was a lot of fun.

What that person thinks is just a comment about a game they played, is truly an inspirational moment for a designer. A pure moment of “that was fun” where if that had been a play test, opinions could be biased one way or another.

Now, this won’t work if your group happen to know you are working on that game, but we are lucky enough to have a few game groups and one of them we don’t have any friends outside of game night that keep up with our design progress.

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

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

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.

What has TGIK Games been up to? #11

Update of Current Games

Charge!

We took Charge! to the UnpubMini in SD last weekend and it was a blast. The day started off slow but all that changes when we came back from lunch. Before I was finished with my food, I had my first group of people ask to play the game. For the next 6 hours I was talking about and playing Charge! The feedback was great, nothing systemic (which was awesome!). At one point I had a play tester sit at the table for about an hour and before she left, she was running the demo for me!

A) That was awesome

B) My voice was on the verge of collapse, so the break was welcomed.

The feedback forms we had after the show were all positive. May people asked when the game would be available and we have started a list of people to contact when the Kickstarter campaign is live. It is great to feel like the development of the game is done and now we can focus on art and send out review copies once the art is done. We will probably get a PnP file together as well. If you would like to get your hands on the PnP file please shoot us an email and we will keep a list of interested people.

Priests of Olympus

Priests of Olympus also went to SD and it was just as successful as Charge! The feedback we got was great. There were no systemic changes anyone wanted for the game. What we like to ask people when they have constructive criticism of the game is if the game did not include their suggestions, would it be a deal breaker for the game, or would they still play/buy it. No one said no. Now you could say they just didn’t want to answer truthfully in front of the designers, but judging by the way people answered our questions, we believe they were sincere. People enjoyed the simple yet strategic combat system. The game played in a good amount of time. While Aidan was running the Priests table, it seemed like people were able to pick up the game quickly. I will leave more of the details to Aidan but from what I was able to see and hear, it was a great test.

We believe we are done with the development of this game as well. We just need to move onto art and then we we can work on getting review copies out to people. This will have a PnP file as well, if you would like the files when they are ready please let us know.

Priests of Olympus
Priests of Olympus
Priests of Olympus
Priests of Olympus

Testing/UnPub Mini SD

Our trip down to SD was an incredible trip. We feel great about what we have put together so far and we were able to meet a lot of great designers and great play testers. Thank you to Galvanized Studios for putting the even together, they dud a great job.

We did learn some great lessons at this event and we now have a really good feel for what we want to do in future events like this. The biggest lesson is to bring a friend that is willing to take pictures and document the day. The two pictures I have here are the only two pictures I was able to take the whole day. I will probably write more about this in a H2BaG series.

Podcast

The first episode of Cardboard Architects is online. We are working on the submission process for iTunes and working on all the little things I need to learn about that go into posting a spreading the news about the podcast. We hope you enjoy and hope you stick around for more episodes to come.

TGIK Games

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

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How to Build a Game #36 Ask Your FLGS (If You Have One)

If you have a FLGS you can go to on a semi regular or regular basis, talk to them about the business side of the industry. That doesn’t mean ask them about their financials, but ask them about the industry.

I went to a game night at my local store and the owner happened to be manning the shop. Since no one else was in the shop, I started asking questions. How did they decide how to organize their shelves? What kinds of games are people picking up and looking at the most? Are people looking at or looking for the hot games in the industry or the games featured on Table Top? Do they notice a different sort of customer starting to make their way into the store as the board game world grows?

Another time I went into the store and I started talking to one of the employees and started asking the same questions. Asking the same questions to a person who might have a different perspective or works different hours and meets with a different customer set…there is no such thing as a bad question(within reason) when asking the people who work in the store.

There are some things you may not have to ask, just look around. I have spent an hour “reading a rule book” when I was actually watching what games drew people over to make them pick up the box(not creepy at all!). I would stare at the wall of games to see what jumped out at me, go over and pick them up to see if the game could draw me in even further. I would take mental note of what about a game would stop me from buying the game. Even if I knew about the game because I am paying attention to the industry on a daily basis, I would throw out what I already knew about a game, apply this “system” and take away the information I thought was most useful.

There is a lot of useful information to be collected just be spending time in your FLGS (again, if you have one) asking questions and making observation, just don’t be creepy about it!

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

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

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.

How to Build a Game #35 Don’t Get Distracted

By the Hype…..

A lesson I had to teach myself early on was to ignore the hype and the “new hotness”.

The trouble with game design is that it takes forever. The whole time you are working on your game, there are hundreds of games being released. Everyone is getting excited about game x and game y, while you are spending months working on your game feeling like you are getting left behind. Other designers might not feel that way, but I struggled with that early on and really had to force myself to stop looking at everything else that was being released and just focus on the games we were working on.

No matter what the theme or mechanic which is really popular, there will always be fans of the type of game you are working on. Even if your theme is not part of the new hotness, keep designing your game. There is nothing that can stop you from looking at theme when you are done and changing it. As long as you stay focused on what makes your game unique, the current hotness chatter is meaningless to your yet to be released projects.

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

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

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.

How to Build a Game #34 Prototype Problems: Where Do I Get My Stuff?

We talked about the designer box of many things in a previous post. Now we are going to talk about the places we go to build it.

Craft Store

Whatever craft store you have near you, in our case it is Michael’s, you will learn to love going there. When my wife used to “drag” me there to look at the various wreaths and wedding supplies, I never looked at the potential there was in the many aisles of crafting supplies I had access to. Plastic baggies of various sizes, tokens, button, colorful writing utensils, the list of potential prototype parts is enormous. It gets better in the summer time when the extra teacher supplies are added to the shelves and it seems like there is a new level of things designers can add to their box of many things.

Dollar Store

I love going to the dollar store for writing and index card supplies. You know everything there is a great price and you never know what gems you might find when you are looking for index cards in the office supply aisle. I also like to check out the container aisle to see what small plastic containers they have in stock. Really useful to keep bits in one tidy place and since most of the containers have tops to them, that makes the great for transport as well.

Other Games

Have an old game you never play but has some bits in it? Cannibalize it. Or, if the idea of taking from one of your games makes you cringe…go to the Thrift Store and buy some cheap games with bits and boards for super cheap. I don’t know of many people who like to use paper money, but the people who do, probably have prototypes. Paper money, specifically monopoly money is great for prototyping because there are always copies at the thrift store, and it will save a designer a lot of headache being able to source monopoly money for early prototypes, if they have any type of currency in their game.

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

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

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 #33 Reviewers are Your Friends

Get Familiar with the Reviewer “Landscape”

If you plan to design a game to a point where you want people talking about your game, you need to get to know the world of board game reviewers. Reviewers are a valuable resource for spreading the word about your games. Get to know the people in the board game world that produce reviews in written, audio or video format. Follow them and get a feel for the different styles of all the different reviewers out there. Get a feel for how often various reviewers release their reviews. Get a feel for what games they like and dislike. Designers need to take the time and make a research topic of the reviewer world.

For example, we follow a bunch of YouTube reviewers on both twitter and their YouTube channels. As the various video are released, I take a lot of mental notes about their style and I will check out the comments section to see what their audience has to say about the games they review. I don’t really take written notes because over the course of time, I have become so familiar with the various reviewers, notes are not really required to get what I need to get from the time I spend watching reviewers videos and reading their blogs.

Know the Requirements of Making Reviews

At some point, when your game is ready, you will want to start reaching out the these reviewers asking them if they want to review your games. Designers need to be constantly aware that they are asking these reviewers to do a tremendous amount of work for the cost of sending a copy of your game. Think about all that is required for you to get a group of people together to play test on of your games. Beyond learning and playing the game on multiple occasions, they need to produce the content that is their review. Whether it be video or a blog post, these things take time. All of that wrapped into one game and multiply that by the number of people who are trying to get the attention of all the reviewers in the board game world. As a designer and publisher, we only have so many hours in the day to do what we want to do with the games we make. For a review, they have a smaller window of time to spend with our games and they have many, many more people looking to get some of that time. Did I mention that reviewers work for minimal to no fee?

Take the time to research reviewers websites. Learn what procedure (if any) they want you to follow to get them a game. Don’t just send your proto copy of a game to 20-30 reviewers and hope that a few of them will play it. Overall, be considerate of the service reviewers provide the designer/publisher community. Reviewers have the ability to add their personality and presentation skills to our games. Since designers and publishers are so busy making the games that gamers want to play, having a reviewer in your corner to add some personality and excitement to your game is worth taking to time to be considerate with their time.

Help Reviewers Out as Much as Possible 

We are in this together. Designers and Reviewers should be each other’s best friends. Designers work for the joy of creation and reviewers review for the love of the games. Since reviewers take the time to spread the word about games we like, take the time to spread the word about the reviewers you like. Take the time to interact with reviewers on Twitter (if they are on there). When the time comes for your game to be given some pub, don’t put yourself in a position of getting a service from any reviewer without having taken the time to help a reviewer out in the past.

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

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

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.