Lets Talk Design: We Are Looking for Podcast Guests!

We want to start a segment where designers come onto out Cardboard Architects Podcast and talk to us about their designs. It doesn’t matter where in the process you are, we want to talk to you about the game, your process and whatever else we get to in the conversation. Your game does not have to be a board or card game either. Joe and I believe that the rules, tips and tricks we apply to board game design can also be applied to digital design and design in general.

If you are interested, hit me up on twitter/facebook/email and we can talk about where you are in the process, what you want to talk about and if it sounds like it would work out, figure out the timing and logistics.

****Update****: We are open for business on the guest front! The way we are going to handle it is to leave a block open on Sundays between 9am and 1230pm pacific time. As far as dates, I am going to leave it up to you. If the date is open, it is yours. Pick a time in the slot and just as a reminder, however you can record your side of the interview as an mp3 files, we are good to go. We like to use audacity but however you want to do it on your side, just as an mp3, that works for editing everything together. Cheers!

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

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 #77 Mechanic Feature: Simultaneous Play

I wanted to take some posts and talk about the mechanics we like to use when building our games; talk about how we use them, when we use them and how we make small changes to make them more interesting. The first contestant is going to be simultaneous play. Since I am lazy and want to save myself the keystrokes so “Simultaneous Play” is going to be SP from now on.

I like SP for several reasons. SP saves on overall game time, reduces downtime, allows for interesting hidden movement, interesting initiative, keeps players engaged, doesn’t allow for players to check out (yes those are different things) and many more.

The first game we used SP was Priest of Olympus. The game is played one round at a time and each round has a lead player. Each player, starting with the lead player, will take a smaller action based on what phase of the round is active. As the priests (represented by dice) are moved around the modular board one by one, players need to pay attention because a combat phase and resource collection phase are greatly affected by what happens in the movement phase. Another phase will move random effects around the board and players need to know what could hurt or help them when this phase is active. You don’t need to know the particulars of all the actions, what I want to impart is the concept of constant action and regular engagement but still have a turn by turn structure and feel.

Another trick we use with this kind of turn structure is to apply hidden movement early in the round only to be revealed later. This is a great way to create tension. Lets say players need to choose their movement during the second phase of the round. During phase 3 and 4, there are other things happening to the board. In phase 5 hidden moves are revealed and resolved. How do players plan for possible outcomes of their movement? What are the small adjustments players can make when movement is revealed and they need to prevent something bad from happening. That is fun as a player and as a designer, we are allowed to give players mitigating factors like cards or player powers. Not only do the players have options in the game, but we have options during the design of the game. How many mitigating factors do we provide? How do we provide them? How strong do we make them? There are so many potential questions created by the use of SP.

I love SP because the number of benefits afforded to our designs by the use of this mechanic are numerous and versatile. SP acts as a hub for so many other areas of exploration that I feel a great sense of freedom. There are times when restriction in design are great to give a designer focus, but there are other times when the freedom to attached parts and explore is really fun.

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

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.

Cardboard Architects Podcast #4 Sharing Ideas…..Sort of

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Episode 4 Sharing Ideas

Today we wanted to talk about sharing our ideas. We starting talking about systems and core mechanics and the conversation was too good not to use as an episode.

iTunes

Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/cardboard-architects-episode-4

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/Ep004_Complete.mp3

 

Updated:How to Build a Game #70 Does Your Game Have a Design or Player Problem?

Update: As you are reading this please keep in mind that this was written in response to some very specific situations we have experienced during playtests. As was pointed out in the comments of the original post (thank you Josh), if this article is applied to playtesting as an entire process, it could come across as a gross oversimplification of the marathon playtesting can become.

Please give me a moment to set the table.

Finding a way to get your game design to work properly can be really complicated.  People are really complicated.

When you get feedback about your game, you sometimes need to ask yourself if your game has a design problem or a player problem.

Now….before the angry mobs bring pitchforks and run me over, I am not saying the people are wrong. What I am saying is, they might be the wrong playtesters.

Update: Just to clarify, we took a game to a convention and the first group to sit down were what I would have called wargamers. Between a couple bad moods (it was early in the day) and one tester not fully understanding the combat mechanic, the feedback was less than stellar. It is possible we explained the game poorly. Especially since this was the first time we had taken a game to a convention. If we had thought this particular set of testers were right, we could have been discouraged and thought the game was broken. We ended up testing the game with 20+ more people over the course of the day and everyone really enjoyed it. Now, could they have all be wrong? Yes, but that is not what I want you to take from this.  What I really want you to take away from this is to not be overwhelmed by a string of bad feedback. Just sit and think about the feedback before you react and make changes to your game.

That might sound like I am telling you to keep playtesting until you find enough people to say a broken game is good and you are done. What I am saying is that people come into games with their own biases about the games they like and dislike. This will affect your game and there are times when you need to recognize this and ask yourself if the problem is with the game or the people testing the game?

If you receive feedback saying a part of your game is broken and all the testing you did on your own says it isn’t, don’t throw out the mechanic just because 10 people in a row said it doesn’t work. Sit down with your game and think about your own conclusions. Share the feedback you have from testers with other designers and see what they say. It is possible that the mechanic needs to be changed, but there are times when your game is fine.

Update: As an example, we like to apply a 1% rule to our games. If we find a bad situation that has a 1% chance of happening in the game, we need to fix it. We want to avoid unfun situations that could take players out of the game. A 1% rule applied to playtesting means there needs to be a lot of playtesting to find these situations. 

The reason the game can be ok and the playtesters are still right is because people bring their own point of view to a game. Playtesters have their own ways of looking at a particular part of a game. They have their own history and their own reasons for what makes them want to sit down to a game and play. One of the jobs a designer has is to know this and take this into account. Your game might be fine, you just need to know why it is ok and continue testing.

Update: Just wanted to say a big thank you to Josh for taking the time to leave his comments in the original post. They helped me see what was missing and add these updates. Hopefully, these updates give a little more context to the inspiration of the post and and clarify what I want designers to take away.

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

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.

Cardboard Architects Podcast #3 Feedback

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Episode 3 Feedback

Today we talk about feedback. What to questions to ask, who to ask them to, when to ask them and what to do with the feedback you do get.

iTunes:

Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/cardboard-architects-episode-3

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/Ep003_Complete.mp3

 

Board Games Used For Education #5 The Benefits of Educational Blog Writing Pt2

Two days ago we talked about the benefits of writing a development blog….well….sort of.  That was my intention, until I got to 500+ words and had not started on the specific benefits I wanted to cover. In the interest of avoiding glazed over eye balls and, lets be honest, stretching out content (muahahahaha), I decided to make a part 2.

This is not a complete list but 4 major benefits (IMHO) of writing a game development blog are: Receiving feedback about your project, a log of progress to reference and look back on, articulate problems with the game and community building/interaction.

Feedback

Even if the people reading the development blog are other students from inside the class, a design blog allows for eye balls from outside the classroom to see the project and ask questions. While feedback in the classroom in great, there are times when a good question comes to mind but the students aren’t in class anymore. Good thing there is a blog online for students to ask their questions no matter when they think of them. If the students want to share their game ideas with people outside of class or school and get their thoughts, they have the option. Family and friends can follow along and provide questions from a perspective from outside the school setting.

A Progress Log

This whole idea about keeping a development log does not take into account how long the development will last. Maybe it takes place over multiple school years? If the students are detailed enough, they will be able to pick up where they left off when they come back to school the following year. Maybe there is a student that runs into a similar problem and they can go to the log of a different game to see how the problem was handled. What if, in the future, the student in is a job interview and they are able to reference back to their progress log to show how they dealt with a problem? The benefits of being able to refer back to past progress are many and invaluable.

Articulating Problems

When problems arise during the design process and students need a helping hand, they can reach out to their community. In order to get that help, the students will have to describe their problems in a way that makes sense and allows for readers to give an informed opinion. No one wants to read a novel and try to figure out what the problem actually is. Students will get better feedback if they can succinctly describe the issue they have run into.  Not only in the blog format, but over the course of time, students will get better at describing their issues in the classroom. A major pillar of design is to say as much as possible with as few words as possible. In the quest to figure out the issues they come across, they will experience one of the pillars of design.

Community Management

If students are able to get a group of people interested in the progress of their game, they will start to build a community. As the community grows, they will need to learn the skills of community management. How to engage people, how to respond to people, how to take input from people. In a world where social media is how we communicate, being able to learn community management in an environment build around their own creation is probably a better than the anonymous nature of the internet.

Thank you for sticking it out with me on this one. Are there other benefits you can think of that would apply to this kind of exercise?

If you have any ideas on how games can make great educational tools, please share them in the comments section or email us at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

You can also find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

 

Board Games Used For Education #4 Writing a Blog About Games Pt1

It has been a while since I have written a post about Board Games and Education. I am going to like to the introductory post about this series as a refresher of what I am trying to accomplish with this series.

When I started this blog, one of my goals was to write designer logs about the games we worked on in order to let people follow along in the process. I also wanted to get feedback from readers about what they liked and disliked. In general terms, I wanted to share the lessons I learned along the way.

If kids are designing games in school, I think it would be a great idea to have them blog about the experience along the way. The benefits of blogging are many. To pick the low hanging fruit….blogging is a terrific exercise in writing skills, communication skills, social interaction (assuming kids are allowed to interact with comments), and computer skills.

Note: I am not getting into whether or not kids should be blogging. That is a decision that should be left to adults in charge and depends on the age of the students. This post is assuming kids have been given the go ahead to blog and have the proper amount of supervision. Back to the show

Beyond the previously mentioned benefits of blogging, I have found a list of my own benefits over the time I have been blogging. I am more engaged with my writing, I stay on a schedule, I’ve had to learn how to organize and streamline my thoughts and my writing has VASTLY improved.

When I was a student, I hated writing. I may have mentioned this in a previous post but will say it again, I did not care about the subjects I wrote about in school. I care about board games, and more to the point, I care about fun. I look forward to writing about board games and the topics related to. I spend the time researching and taking notes so I am constantly engaged. Not to say that most students would be engaged with board games as a specific topic, but they have a chance to be engaged with the thing they are creating. They might gain a sense of ownership over the subject rather than a sense of obligation.

Blogging also keeps me on a schedule. I want to release a new post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In order to do that, I write in one of two ways. I write posts in bulk weeks ahead of time or I write the next weeks worth of posts in one sitting the weekend before. It really depends on how productive I am feeling but I have learned the benefits of “batch processing” and reap the benefits when I write posts weeks in advance and now give myself the time to work on other things.

When I start a post, I need to think about how the post will be organized. I have made the choice to keep most of my content short for easy consumption and no the irony of making that statement 500+ words into this post is not lost on me. What my approach has taught me is to be succinct and write in a timeline that makes sense. I’ve learned how to get readers from one paragraph to the next.

To conclude, I will say the obvious again. Writing on a regular schedule and about a topic I enjoy has vastly improved my writing. When I started, I was a terrible writer. I still have a long way to go in my growth as a writer but I see great benefits so far. When I get bored with using the same words so I think of new words to say the same thing. My proofreading has improved greatly, because I am lazy and hate proofreading. Honestly, the fact that I do proofreading now is worth if it was the only thing that changed about my writing. I also find I am able to type without looking at the keys as often. The list goes on and on but I think you get the point.

If a student is allowed to write about their games, there is a good chance they will be gaining writing experience and in turn, becoming better writers. At the very least, they will be able to identify areas where they can improve. They will be engaged in a subject where they have ownership and will be more likely to spend the time it takes to learn the lessons blogging has to offer.

I got to the end of this section and realized I did not cover all I wanted to, so we are going to make this a two part post. Catch part two in a couple days.

If you have any ideas on how games can make great educational tools, please share them in the comments section or email us at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

You can also find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)