As we work our way through our designs, it is really easy to get lost in weeds of the game. There are times during your project that you should consider taking a step back and looking at your game as a whole. If you are able, look at your game as a gamer would look at it. How do all the pieces fit together? Does the game feel like a complete unit? Is there anything in the game that would be a deal breaker?
As a designer, it is easy to see the subtle nature of your game and that is the thing that makes us love our games so much. Designers have an advantage with their games because they know the depth and subtle strategies that are included in their game. What designers need to do is take a step back and make sure that, what they see in their game, is accessible to the people who are going to play their game. This doesn’t mean that designers have to make depth obvious, but designers need to look at their game as a whole and be sure that players can get at least a taste of the subtle strategies you are designing into the game.
When I take a step back, I am looking for barriers that would prevent players from finding the “hidden” depth. If all the mechanics and piece movements flow together, I know that players will feel like they are always in the game and the parts are all relevant. Knowing this, I can conclude that the game is basically a complete unit (it may not be polished but complete) and I can feel good that my players will be engaged for the entirety of game play. As long as my players are engaged the entire time, they will have an avenue to discover the depth in our games. Another thing I look for are deal breakers. These could be anything, but fiddly things (usually my design problem), excessive math, poor thematic justification are all things that I look for. These are the things that can turn players off to a game and while I am able to do the math in my head, or I am willing to move around a ton of bits and bobs, players may not be willing to do the same. I have to be aware of that and I need to be able to see those sorts of things when I step back and look at our games.
Are there certain things you tend to design into your games that you know are not exactly gamer friendly? For us, we always have to simplify the math and we always have to worry about keeping the fiddly to a minimum.
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 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.