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Subject: "Open Source" Board Game Design? rss

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Phil Sauer
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Please forgive the naive question, but has such an endeavor been tried before?

I ask because I've designed a few titles for family and local consumption over the past several years. I believe one or two of these have some small promise of being "print worthy" (and it goes without saying that many have been miserable).

Now, I'm personally uninterested in the low percentage royalty payments that a designer may garner, but have considered releasing several of these for free consumption. Also, while I COULD do so, I'm not interested in creating another corporation -- in this case to publish them myself. Those days are long over for me.

However, it has occurred to me that I've never considered the possibility that many people might improve upon a design in the same manner that people contribute features or bug-fixes to open source software. Thus a "Creative Commons" release seems appealing to me (and might encourage other participation) in this regard.

But before going full-bore over this, has this ever been done before? I ask because I'm unaware of it being so, but I may very well be mistaken. Also, is the "CC" approach incorrectly applied to such a project?

Many thanks in advance for any input!
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Steve S
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There have been several, actually.
Some examples can be seen on the following GeekList:

Creative Commons/Open Source Games
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John "Omega" Williams
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Bemusingly, non-RPGs (and even a few RPGs) that try to be a "game engine" as it were. Tend to fail miserably. Whereas games sometimes never intended for retheming and retooling, end up with a bazillian variants.

Zombie in my Pocket is an excellent example of this.

WarpQuest is an example of a successfull attempt at an engine.
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Phil Sauer
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Shadoglare wrote:
There have been several, actually.
Some examples can be seen on the following GeekList:

Creative Commons/Open Source Games


Steve, many thanks for this, as my "search-foo" is seriously lacking, apparently.

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Steve S
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aaxiom wrote:
Steve, many thanks for this, as my "search-foo" is seriously lacking, apparently.


n/p. Honestly the only reason I know about it is because I asked a similar question in one of the other forums a month or two ago
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Derry Salewski
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. . . give a ship.
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If you check out the variants, files, and complaints sections of most popular game forums, this is pretty much the norm anyway!
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James Hutchings
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BoardGameGeek » Forums » Board Game Design » Board Game Design
Re: "Open Source" Board Game Design?
scifiantihero wrote:
If you check out the variants, files, and complaints sections of most popular game forums, this is pretty much the norm anyway!


and legally, all rules as such are useable by anyone.
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Pelle Nilsson
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apeloverage wrote:
scifiantihero wrote:
If you check out the variants, files, and complaints sections of most popular game forums, this is pretty much the norm anyway!


and legally, all rules as such are useable by anyone.


Yes, sort of. But I have argued in threads in the past that for wargames at least it would make a lot of sense to have open source rulebooks. The rules for many, many games by many, many designers are almost identical, but everyone still have to write their own rulebook (and sort out all the problems, publish errata... can take years before a wargame rulebook is complete, after the game was published). And then players have to carefully study each rulebook, even if the actual rules turn out to be just a minor variation of 100 other hex-counter-move-attack-zoc-supply games they have played for decades.

The big wargame companies have rulebooks they reuse in whole (as series rulebooks) or parts, but for all us hobby designers and small publishers I think it would be very helpful to have open rulebooks that could be freely reuse, let us focus on making the games not editing books.

There must be other genres of themes-heavy games where it could make sense too to reuse a free rulebook and focus on the theme.
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Pelle Nilsson
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There is also the Open Games Guild where we, sporadically, discuss this.
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Forrest & Ryan Driskel
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I think crowd sourcing ideas for a game that has one entity in control of picking and implementing the ideas works well, but if you just ask "everyone" to contribute rules to a game, you end up with "too many cooks" syndrome.
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Phil Sauer
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pelni wrote:
There is also the Open Games Guild where we, sporadically, discuss this.

Pelle, many thanks for this reference as well as your contribution to the body of work out there! This is exciting stuff, for certain.
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Phil Sauer
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Vanish wrote:
I think crowd sourcing ideas for a game that has one entity in control of picking and implementing the ideas works well, but if you just ask "everyone" to contribute rules to a game, you end up with "too many cooks" syndrome.

Forrest, from experience in many other areas of life, "too many cooks" is indeed far worse than having the problem of being the only person to do certain things. Well-put.
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James Hutchings
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pelni wrote:
And then players have to carefully study each rulebook, even if the actual rules turn out to be just a minor variation of 100 other hex-counter-move-attack-zoc-supply games they have played for decades.


Maybe someone should do an open source 'clone' of, say, Avalon Hill's house system, or whichever one is the most widely-copied set of rules.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Vanish wrote:
I think crowd sourcing ideas for a game that has one entity in control of picking and implementing the ideas works well, but if you just ask "everyone" to contribute rules to a game, you end up with "too many cooks" syndrome.


Oh yes. It is difficult even to have two designers working together. Not sure I will try that again after my current collaborations are done. Even trying to divide the rules into parts is very difficult in practice, since usually the parts interact so much.

I agree someone, probably a single person, should be in charge and deciding what goes into the rulebook, of course listening to ideas for what to change. This is similar of course to how most rulebooks are developed, with a bunch of playtesters (and later players) sending in ideas to the developer, with just the difference that the resulting book is available to be reused by everyone.

The only way is probably to first make a game, a somewhat successful game, and then release the rulebook. You can't just write a rulebook and post somewhere and think anyone would care (at least I find that difficult to believe).

A shortcut would be if someone with the copyrights to some old released game could share their rulebook, already edited and playtested and known to work, similar to how
Greg Costikyan
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shared his old SPI game Vector 3 under a creative commons license a few years ago.
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Pelle Nilsson
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BTW I registered the domain hexandcounter.org in 2009, hoping to use that for a site dedicated to "open source wargame rulebooks" (and also some open source computer wargames) I just haven't had anything to post there so far (and no web server is answering on that domain yet).

Some day.
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Matti Palmström
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Even if you release a game under an open source license you don't have to listen to every voice there is out there. You (almost) always have a lead designer who decides whats goes in and not. And if someone disagree with the lead designer they can start their own project based on the first one. That's the wonderful world of open source
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Robert Wesley
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I sent a "Geek Mail" to our "War Games" Admin regarding 4-methods of which to render more than 4-sides to a 'block'! HERE then, is the "challenge" if any of Y-O-U can think up ONE such for that? A-N-Y-?
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Alex Weldon
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It's a personal dream of mine to create a game design and publishing co-op some day. It'd still be more exclusive than a fully "open source" game - membership to the co-op would either require that you be a published designer or submit a finished prototype for review by the senior members... but it's still an idea along the same lines.

Basically, we'd share a space, with everyone creating games, and testing and creating their own variations on other people's designs. Everyone would also have to have an additional role to fill in the production process. Writers, graphic designers and illustrators could do those things, while others could handle marketing, running the booth at cons, social media, procurement, etc.

A few times a year, members who felt their game was "done" would submit them for consideration, and we'd vote on which one had the most commercial potential and go into final production on that design.

Some percentage of profits would get rolled back into the co-op, to pay rent and other costs, and fund production of the next game. The rest would get split up evenly between all co-op members.
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