Let’s Design a Game #3 Asking Myself Questions

Before I hit the white board, I started to ask myself a bunch of questions about the Negotiation game in order to get my bearings. I wanted to have a better idea of what I wanted to accomplish. I have included the thought process I went through below. I will let you read through and I will explain each step after.

Open Contracts will move around the table in one or more “hands”. Players should start the game by offering a contract that is shuffled into the opening contract hand. Maybe there is a way to have red and green negotiation dollars or points? What are the contracts for? Could this be made into a set collection game? I think I like the idea of missions being in the middle of the table. How do I keep players “identified” in the contract hand? Maybe players are a hidden boss and the boss will draw agents, after a contract has been negotiated, players will play and agent card on a particular mission. Some players will be trying to protect the missions and others will be trying to take the missions.

Open Contracts will move around the table in one or more “hands”

I knew this from the moment the idea came to me. I wanted players to look at anonymous cards.

Players should start the game by offering a contract that is shuffled into the opening contract hand.

This is a basic first step in the game.

Maybe there is a way to have red and green negotiation dollars or points?

Thinking more about the construction of the hand, how are players going to communicate? I don’t know what the red and green were supposed to represent. Not even writing this days later, I am not sure what I was thinking. What I do know it that this was the point in time where I knew that keeping track of what was what and who was who in the negotiation hand that was moving around the table was going to be a challenge. I was looking forward at this point to going to the white board and visualize what I was going after.

What are the contracts for?

This was the first moment I thought about what people are actually offering to one another. I had no theme for the game, I only had this mechanic I wanted to play with. I guess you could say this is a mechanic first kind of game. I did not spend a lot of time thinking about this question, I just wanted to make a note and keep going.

Could this be made into a set collection game?

I always do this, can I make this game a theme-less wonder? I know games need a good theme to pitch the game to potential customers, but I had a moment where I was thinking I could make this a simple set collection game. I would not have to worry about fitting this unknown mechanic into a theme and I would have a little more freedom with the design process.

I think I like the idea of missions being in the middle of the table.

This is where the idea of moving the contracts to the middle of the table, rather than having a hand move around the table comes into play. I was thinking about the amount of time it would take to move a hand around the table….hmmm….that could take a long time. I was also thinking I could split the hand and have more than one moving around the table so everyone has something to do. I did not like the idea of players always looking at hands and not looking at the board or not interacting with each other. This made me think about my experience with Among the Stars when everyone is always staring at their hand and drafting a card, the game is over and oh hey, where did all these people come from? I did not want that experience so I though about moving the contracts to the middle of the table for everyone to be looking at.

How do I keep players “identified” in the contract hand?

Not ready to abandon the hand idea, I was thinking about how players would be identified in the hand. I had a basic idea for the contract offer-er, they would use a number ID card that would stay with the contract, but I was not sure who to keep track of the player would was making a bid for a contract.

Maybe players are a hidden boss and the boss will draw agents, after a contract has been negotiated, players will play an agent card on a particular mission.

At this point, the hand idea needed to be drawn on a white board so I started thinking about the motivation for each player. Why are people doing what they are doing. This is really the start of the building the theme process. The players offering the contracts would be a boss behind the scenes and players bidding on these contracts would have a set of agents they could use to finish these various contracts. I did not think about the agent idea after this. While it sounded interesting then, I knew I was getting into the weeds of the game and I was not ready to jump in that far. However, I had written the question down and knew I had it sitting there to be revisited when the time came.

Some players will be trying to protect the missions and others will be trying to take the missions.

Going against my own personal rules, I went a little deeper into the agent idea made a final note that players could not only add agents to the board to go after contracts, but they could also attempt to protect places on the board with their agents.

These notes were taken over a 15 min period and everything I wanted to write out, needed to be written on a white board. I had my notes ready and waiting and the next stop would really be a white board this time to help visualize what I was going after and figure out what would and would not work for this game.

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc of this project.

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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.

Let’s Design a Game #2 Picking the Project

I spent a couple days thinking about the list of game ideas and there were three that stood out to me. Projects 1 (Blind Negotiation), 6 (Worker Placement) and 4 (Collecting Allies) were the most interesting to me.

While I like the idea of collecting allies and using them to fight your enemies, I was seeing this game as a combat driven game. I am sure I could turn it into a game that was far different from a combat game but that was a level of thinking that I was not sure I wanted to put into a project at this point. This is teh kind of project where I will think about it when I am burnt out on the other games I am working on and let my fried brain wander and try to find some other theme to use other than combat. If, at the end of that exercise, I can’t find another good theme, I will progress with combat. All that being said, I want to start with a project that I have a good vision of where I want to go and the Ally collector project is not it.

Next up is the Worker Placement project. If I am honest, I think I like this idea the most. However, I want to get more of Aidan’s input on this game because this kind of game and theme is really up our ally. What this means is that I will probably develop this project slowly for now and when we get an opening in our development queue we will ramp up the development speed on this game. I will blog my way through the development of that games as well but the pace with which this game is developed is not the pace I need in order to run a regular blog.

So that means…..

We will be following the progress of the Negotiation Game. What I like about this game is that the main mechanic is a challenge. I need to figure out how to get players to negotiate with one another and not know who they are negotiating with. This appeals to me for two reasons. When I play games like this with my buddies, we try and mess with each other on purpose and may not act in out own best interests. I think this kind of game is a good way to reduce or remove this kind of game play. I also like it because at some point during the game, players are going to reveal who they are working for. The moment of tension and not knowing sounds like a lot of fun to me and I want to explore that path.

Now that we have picked our project, we are off to the white board to map this out and get our thoughts in order.

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc of this project.

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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.

Let’s Design a Game #1 Brainstorming for Our Project

I would like to introduce you to a new series, Lets Build a Game.

I have no idea if this is going to work but I would like to take you through my thought process as I design a game from scratch. My plan is to take all my notes on Google Docs and make the note available for you to see. (link to Goggle Doc) If you want to add your thoughts as we go along through this process, please feel free. I plan to add pictures of the prototype process and I would like to have video of play tests if I am able to make that happen. So without further ado, lets first figure out what project we are going to work on.

Potential Project List:

  1. Negotiation Game where potential deals move around the table and no one knows who they are negotiating with or bidding against
    1. I like this because it includes hidden information and it also takes away what I call “table politics”. I am not sure how the mechanics would work but the idea is that players will offer up contracts and players will need to bid on them. Maybe these contracts could be offered to the middle of the table in secret and the players will be bidding on these contracts via a bid hand or hands that moves around the table. At some point in the process, the offering player with the contract in the middle is allowed to accept an offer.
  2. A Game that includes a way to bid on or pay to get the cards that are revealed right after your turn is over.
    1. I would like to work on a game that allows players to bid on the dreaded card that turns over as soon as their turn is done and it was exactly the card they were looking for. I have not work out how this could be mechanically worked out, but I view this as a “problem” in games that I would like to offer a solution.
  3. A game where players can build orbital structures that allow players to save space on the planet’s surface and build orbital structures.
    1. I have been watching a play through of StarDrive on YouTube and I got the idea for allowing players to build orbital structures that would allow players to build orbital structures. I don’t have a lot of developed thought about this idea and it smells of “been done before” and it is a theme that has been done to death and I don’t know yet where the unique hook is located in this idea to give it legs? It stays on the list as a potential but this is low on the list of me having an idea of where this is going, if that makes sense.
  4. Players collect coins or things in order to gain temporary allies
    1. I have been watching a lot of Heroes of the Storm and Defense of the Ancients and a mechanic I like that is used in both, is the idea where players can expend time to fight mercenaries, and once they have defeated said mercenaries, they will fight for your side until they are dead. I think this makes for a really interesting choice for the players in the game. What worries me is that this works really well in a video game setting where real time is ever present. Not really sure how that would work in a board or card game setting. I also think this would very likely end up being a huge project. Not sure I want to add a big project right now as Aidan and I have a main project running right now, but I do really like this idea.
  5. Players move around a board Stratego style, but they can bluff what kind of movement a unit uses. Other players can challenge the movement but there are risks and rewards to calling a player’s bluff.
    1. When I wrote this idea down on a scrap piece of paper a couple weeks ago, I had a better idea of what I wanted and now that I am looking at this idea again and I can compare it to the rest of the list, I am not sure where I was going and I don’t think I want to take the time to try and figure it out. Especially when there are a few ideas on this list that I have a stronger feeling for right now.
  6. A worker placement type game where the more active players are in a particular area, the more difficult it becomes to complete the actions in that area of the board
    1. I am thinking that there is some kind of underground worker placement game where the dark powers of a city are working to ge their goals accomplished, but the more they use a particular spot on the board, the more attention is brought to that space on the board. I know that Lords of Waterdeep and the expansion kind of played with this and because of that I need to do a little research if this is the project we move forward with. I like this idea because it will take the high value spots on the board and make them more risky as time goes by.
  7. Carrier Captains: Players are the captain of an aircraft carrier and they need to run the ship. They need to deal with the logistics of supplies and they have major control over their ship and the battles they are part of, but not the larger war.
    1. I like this because there are overall war effects that players have little control over and they will have to deal with those events. Maybe this could be a co-op because I am not sure players would really like it if everyone else at the table was getting good news while they were getting bad news all the time and even though they played a tactically great game, they would lose. That isn’t exactly rewarding but that is closer to the reality of war. That being said, I really think this would work best as a co-op. This actually might be fun as a co-op

Do any of those ideas jump out to you? Would you like to see one idea developed over another? I have made the Google Doc open to comments or you can comment here.

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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 Games Mean to Me #20 Try, Try Again

Another great lesson I get from games is to try, try again. I know this is a basic rule that we are taught as children, but there is something about games that makes the lesson stick. I think about the game of Go, a bit far away from the designer games I am usually referencing, but Go is a game where I have  long way to go in what I can learn from that game. The people I play the most are much more experienced and they win on a regular basis when they play me. However, I keep coming back to the table because Go offers a medium for me to exercise the idea of trying again and trying something different and not giving up. The reason I don’t give up is because I feel like I am understanding a little bit more about the game each time I play it.

How does this apply to real life?

When I hit a road block in whatever I am doing in life, I think about the small things that I can learn from the situation that allows me to be better the next time around. Yes there is something that is blocking my progress, but what am I doing in the mean time to educate myself and better prepare myself for taking on the same challenge? When I play a game, what did I learn about a strategy in-between plays that will help me play better the next time?

While the consequences of a game are low compared to the risks taken in life; the lessons taught in small increments can have huge meaning if the lessons are applied to the larger context of life.

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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

What Games Mean to Me #19 Games Taught Me Game Analysis

When I played games in High School and College, when the game was over, the winner cleaned up and the rest of up turned on a movie. When I got back into games a couple year ago, I started to think about everything that happened on the board and why it happened. I would think about the different decisions I could have made and what those decisions would have done for me during the game.

Taking the time to think about this game analysis after each play has made me want to try games more than once, made me a better designer and opened my eyes to the depth that modern board games provide.

The post game debrief that we gamers experience is part of the fun of the game. Why did you make that move and what was the turning point if the game from the point of view of each player.

Thanks to the games I play and thinking about what happened during the game has had a far reaching impact on my ability to enjoy the games I play and make the game I create better for the people who play them.

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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

How to Build a Game #63 Another Reason to Play Finished Games

Does the situation sound familiar? Just starting to work an idea, you have the concept laid out and you have the experience you want built into your game and not you have to apply the math required so your game can function. What ranges do I use for different mechanics? What kind of numbers can I use that will make sense? What is the value of one resource compared to another? What kind of distributions can I use for different items in the game?

I used to run into this problem all the time. I had no idea what values I should use to build out the stats our games required. When we were starting out, we would sliog our way through the math and just make the game work through testing and sometime hope. Over the course of time and spending more time playing published games, we started to notice that we could use the “established numbers” in published games as starting points for the games we were working on.

Published games, when thought about as a whole, are great for providing a range of plausible numbers for various aspects of game design. How many things can my team produce in one turn? How powerful should my character be? What kind of damage is too high for one spell?

Combining these questions with the answers that have been provided by the games we play is a great way to provide an easy starting point for the games we are working on. These numbers don’t have to be the numbers we finish with because what we want to do as early as possible to make sure that the game concept works and we need some numbers in place in order to test the concept.

Are there any specific games you have used in this manner to help you get a prototype started?

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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.

How to Build a Game #62 Build in Adjustment Points

Balancing a game is really important. Making sure players have different paths to victory and giving players unique players that are not over powered is required if you want your game to work properly. When games are out of balance, people are less likely to play them more than once.

To help yourself in building process, build in as many adjustment points as you can so when the time comes to make tweaks to fix the balance of the game, you have different places where you can play with the numbers to make your game work.

For example, we have been working on a game where players are moving around a map, collecting resources, fighting each other with their main characters and the secondary characters each main character controls. We have yet to make a full playable prototype, but we are building in as many adjustment points as we can early on so we can deal with over and under powered players and strategies later on in the development process. Maybe we have a really strong main character that we think is a lot of fun to play, but we limit the amount of secondary character they can control. Maybe we find out that a main character that is allowed to control lots and lots of secondary characters needs to be weakened as a main character or having the number of secondary controlled players to be reduced. If we wanted to add various items for players to use or equip, what are the characters that need more/better equipment to make playing that character more interesting?

Do you use this method in your design process? What kinds of adjustment points have you used in your designs?

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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.