There are all kinds of research categories a designer should research when they start working on a game. One category should be to look at specific games that have a similar theme and mechanics profile. Designers should take some time to look around board game geek to find some games that have the same elements as the game they are designing. If a designer is plugged into the review world, make note of the games that are similar to what you are working on.
When we are doing the research for our games, we want to make sure that the games we design have different elements as the games of the same theme that have been or are being released. However, we know that there is no way for us to research all the games, there are just too many out there. But what we do know is that we can design a game that has unique elements compared to the games we can find and we can make adjustments as we go along. What we have found out over time is that they number of different combinations we can make with theme and mechanics and how they fit together, it is really difficult to design a game that is an exact copy of something else.
While research is really important and researching specific games needs to be done, I think you can get away with researching as you go along. Meaning that you never really have to spend specific time researching for a specific project you are working on. If you are plugged into the games that have been and are being released, you will develop a knowledge of how other games of similar theme have constructed their mechanics. If you are like me, the games you like to play are the games you like to design and you will know how other games are being built just from looking for other games you would want to buy and play.
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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.