How to Build a Game #1 Think Big, Start Small 2.0

If this looks familiar, that’s because it is a post I released 3 years ago! Wow, time flies. My new plan is to go through the old blog and see what I said back then, and apply what I have learned in three years. Keep in mind as you read these posts, these are the kinds of things that I have observed or have worked for me over time. I will be sure to reiterate that as the posts roll on but if you catch this series revisit from the start, keep that in mind.

 “The best place to start is with a small mechanic or interaction with the goal of building out a frame or web of a game that starts with  something small and manageable.”

I still believe in this. I think the goal for a designer that doesn’t know how to get the ball really rolling on a project is to build a frame. The frame can be based anything the designer feels strongly about. Theme, mechanic, intended experience…..all are good places to start. If you are able to build a strong framework, you can build out the rest of the game, even if it is only bits at a time.

“So go ahead, start every idea you have rolling around in your head”

While I agree with the sentiment, I don’t think this is practical anymore. I may have also written this as a joke at the time. I think it is a better idea to spend some time thinking about what ten ideas you have floating around are worth going after. Maybe that ten is really only five, but spending some time beforehand thinking about what you feel most strongly and building frameworks to those games is probably a better approach than, “GO NUTS!!!!”

The example game is dead but it still holds

The example in the original post (I will let you scroll down and read that), while it may be a dead idea, the example of how to build a framework still holds. I think this example is a fine showing of how taking a small piece of a concept and “digging”, HEYO!, into the topic allowed me to build a strong frame for the game. When we started adding more parts to the game, did it make sense with the original framework? As the project grows, the framework or original concept of the game can change, and that’s okay, but the framework described in this example was a constant anchor. While the original game idea is dead, the mechanic is still alive and on the list of projects to explore.

Original Post

I have this crazy idea that I can help people build the games they want to build. Coming up with ideas is easy, I think we all have tons of ideas for games we would like to see produced or think of changes to the make to current games we love and changes we would make to garbage games to make them better. House rules would not exist if it were not for the designer in all of us to make changes to games. My goal with this series is to help my fellow designers in the world to see the tools we use to make games and hopefully help make your ideas a reality. Even if that reality is a paper and pencil game you play with just your family and friends, or you are able to publish your game, we want you to at least give it a go because we love the process of design and we want others to experience the joy game creation can be.

Enough preamble, on to the good stuff…

Think Big and Start Small….Where do I start and How do I stay focused?

Over a number of conversations I’ve had with designers, I hear the same think over and over. “I have plenty of ideas but I don’t know where to start and I have too many ideas to focus on one of them.” I feel your pain regarding both of these problems. The best place to start is with a small mechanic or interaction with the goal of building out a frame or web of a game that starts with  something small and manageable. The premise of this approach is by picking something small and completing a basic mechanic, you have started! And that is the point, even if you need to start 10, 20, 40 different game ideas, the point is you have started. So go ahead, start every idea you have rolling around in your head. The hope is that one or two or three will stick and make it to the second step. Maybe you show your friend the game you started and they say, “well I like this idea you have here, tell me more about it?” The next thing you know, you are working on the next piece of this one idea that a friend said looked interesting. By taking this shotgun starting approach, you will see and talk about the ideas that are the most fun to you and your friends and this will help you focus on the ideas that are the best. Depending on the number of ideas you have, finding a final focus point will take an unknown amount of time, but I promise you the cream will rise and the garbage will get chucked.

This completes the lecture portion of our lesson today, now onto our hands on example portion of class.

Think Big

I started with an idea for a space mining game where the asteroids players were mining were falling into a black hole. That was the entire idea.

Start Small

Since I knew players would be mining from an asteroid, I figured I would start there. What makes the most sense? Players will need to find an asteroid they can mine and they will need to set up a mining operation on said asteroids. In order to find asteroids, players will have scout ships and they will be able to upgrade their scout ships to increase their chances of finding a mine-able asteroid. Once players had found a mine-able asteroid, they would need to set up a mining operation. Knowing very little about the mining industry and how it works, I picked two parts of mining I thought made sense and ran with them, Core Samples and Depth of Mining. I figured a mining operation would start with a core sample and based on that core sample, would decide if they wanted to build a mine in that location. The deeper a player mined the higher value minerals would be located, however, mining deeper takes longer and the asteroid is falling into the block hole! Get off this rock!!!!

And that is it. I was done with the start. I took a big idea about space mining and black holes and created a small piece of and connected it to the larger theme. Regardless if the mechanic is good, complete, or reasonable; I can come back to the idea days, weeks, years from now but there is a seed of a game that is waiting to be grown and it can be grown small pieces at a time.

Mars 4:45 The Exploration Module: Launch

There is an entire planet that our colonists will want to explore, but the parts of the exploration module are the first places we want to visit. Your colony will need at least one complete Exploration Module in order to be a complete colony.

“We are ready to explore the greatest frontier humans have had in front of them. The unknown of the red planet, waiting for us to visit and understand for the future of “

Click to See Larger Image
Click to See Larger Image

We need your help! This will be our first game going to Kickstarter and we need to spread the word. We are looking at a Sept 1st to launch so over the next two months I hope you get to know the theme, art and mechanics of the game.  Please give the rules a read and watch our tutorial videos. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. We want this game to succeed and we want you to get to know and enjoy this game as much as we do.

The art for Mars 4:45 is by Jason Washburn from Talon Strikes Studios

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

Mars 4:45 The Exploration Module: Terra Sirenum

Now that the volcanic region of Olympus Mon and Tharsis Montes have been explored, the colonists are going to turn their attention south. Terra Sirenum is an area of mars with heavy cratering and it once held a large lake. There is great potential for all kinds of different and unexpected science data to be collected and analyzed.

“I feel like I am back in the lack of 10,000 lakes, except, with craters. Amazing!”

Click to See Larger Image
Click to See Larger Image

We need your help! This will be our first game going to Kickstarter and we need to spread the word. We are looking at a Sept 1st to launch so over the next two months I hope you get to know the theme, art and mechanics of the game.  Please give the rules a read and watch our tutorial videos. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. We want this game to succeed and we want you to get to know and enjoy this game as much as we do.

The art for Mars 4:45 is by Jason Washburn from Talon Strikes Studios

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

Mars 4:45 The Exploration Module: Tharsis Montes

The Tharsis Montes is an interesting volcanic formation of three volcanoes. The colonists want to explore this region to get an idea of how these volcanoes could be so evenly spaced. What kind of plate tectonic activity too place to make this formation? What about the other volcanic formations in the region that could give deeper clues to a younger Mars

“We have placed sensors at the top of all three volcanoes. We should have readings within the hour. When the stations are up and running, we will make our way down.”

Click to See Larger Image
Click to See Larger Image

We need your help! This will be our first game going to Kickstarter and we need to spread the word. We are looking at a Sept 1st to launch so over the next two months I hope you get to know the theme, art and mechanics of the game.  Please give the rules a read and watch our tutorial videos. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. We want this game to succeed and we want you to get to know and enjoy this game as much as we do.

The art for Mars 4:45 is by Jason Washburn from Talon Strikes Studios

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

Mars 4:45 The Exploration Module: Mawrth Vallis

Next on the exploration priority list is the Mawrth Vallis. This region of mars holds particular interest because it is one of the oldest valleys on the red planet. The different ages of rock layers could be a wealth of science data for the colonists. Also, there are clay deposits in this region that could only have formed in the presence of water. The history of Mars is in this valley and the colonists want to go to Mawrth Vallis.

“We found a good clay sample this morning. Preliminary analysis is encouraging and the potential information gathered from this sample are worth being patient and running tests in the Science Module back at home base.”

Click to See Larger Image
Click to See Larger Image

We need your help! This will be our first game going to Kickstarter and we need to spread the word. We are looking at a Sept 1st to launch so over the next two months I hope you get to know the theme, art and mechanics of the game.  Please give the rules a read and watch our tutorial videos. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. We want this game to succeed and we want you to get to know and enjoy this game as much as we do.

The art for Mars 4:45 is by Jason Washburn from Talon Strikes Studios

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

Mars 4:45 The Exploration Module: Victoria Crater

Once the largest volcano in the solar system has been explored, the colonists will shift their focus to an area already explored……by a rover. Opportunity, one of the early rovers sent to the red planet, discovered Victoria Crater and was able to perform it’s own science data collecting. Now that humans are there, they can look at the same areas as Opportunity and look around other areas of interest.

“We have been able to supplement the data collected by Opportunity and we now plan to explore a rock formation on the south end of the crater.”

Click to See Larger Image
Click to See Larger Image

We need your help! This will be our first game going to Kickstarter and we need to spread the word. We are looking at a Sept 1st to launch so over the next two months I hope you get to know the theme, art and mechanics of the game.  Please give the rules a read and watch our tutorial videos. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. We want this game to succeed and we want you to get to know and enjoy this game as much as we do.

The art for Mars 4:45 is by Jason Washburn from Talon Strikes Studios

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

Mars 4:45 The Exploration Module: Olympus Mons

Once the basic needs of the colony are met, the colonists will want to explore the red planet. The Exploration Module will be included specifically to help the colonists get from place to place on Mars to explore. The first place our colonists will explore will be the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons.

“Its crazy that for such a small planet, we have never felt so small.”

Click To See Larger Image
Click to See Larger Image

We need your help! This will be our first game going to Kickstarter and we need to spread the word. We are looking at a Sept 1st to launch so over the next two months I hope you get to know the theme, art and mechanics of the game.  Please give the rules a read and watch our tutorial videos. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. We want this game to succeed and we want you to get to know and enjoy this game as much as we do.

The art for Mars 4:45 is by Jason Washburn from Talon Strikes Studios

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