Thoughts by Bez

I am a full-time designer/artist/self-publisher and I am available for freelance work. I go to cons as a trader and help run the all-day Friday playtest sessions in London. I left my last 'real' job in 2014. I was getting benefits for a few years. I'm currently writing sporadically, but getting back into the habit of daily posts. If you have any questions/topics you'd like me to address, send me a geekmail and I'll probably address the topic within a week.

Archive for 2020's intended release

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A game for 2020. Diary part 4. (A new prototype and test at UKGE)

Bez Shahriari
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6:30-9:30 pondering/making a new prototypes
10-11:30 - testing
1hr-ish additional pondering

I had forgotten to take my prototype to Birmingham, so I tried to recreate it from memory.

Was trying to remember what was there, what the rules were... I made at least one mistake. Instead of a tableau of 12 I had 8. Unintentionally diminishing the options perhaps highlighted a fault that the game already had: too much luck of the draw and the possibility of nothing useful to do with your farmers.

The test was about 15 minutes of waiting for players, 5 minutes of teaching, 25 minutes of playing, 40 minutes of complaining.

Both Richard and Lawrence enjoyed some elements (namely the time that things take to grow and the use of cards as locations) but hated the disempowerment (both in terms of options and the scarcity of food).

If I am progressing with this game, there should be more than the current 3 'permanent' piles. Food should definitely be a 4th.

Honestly, I was quite unprepared for the test and I'm not sure it was the best use of my time at UKGE but that's a separate topic.

To make this game work, it's possible that the complexity will need to go higher than I want.

I wonder if I could focus on just the seeds and crops.

Honestly, the biggest lesson is to not be pondering this stuff when I'm so tired and short on sleep. I would have been better off testing Duell and maybe even better off just staying at my stand given the opportunity cost.

But if I hadn't made these mistakes, maybe the problems wouldn't have ever been thrown into such sharp relief.



Financial cost: £2 (more cards)
Time taken: 5.5 hrs
Current quality of game: 2/10
Current emotion towards this: too tired to feel

Total Financial cost: £4
Total Time taken: 38.5 hrs

Next steps:
- think about what to do
- do that thing

I will probably not think about this for a couple of weeks - until I finish W++ v2 & Kitty Cataclysm.
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Mon Jun 4, 2018 10:04 pm
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A game for 2020. Diary part 3 (v1.3 rather than v2)

Bez Shahriari
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Fridays, we always playtest at Waterloo


8ish - looking over my prototype, working out how things can be redone. Leaving it largely intact.
9ish - cycling to Waterloo
10ish - arriving. Grabbing tables. Meeting Lee. Played 3 of his games.
12ish - testing Kieran1-ell and memorabell
12:45 - making a few last-minute tweaks to the cards
1pm - testing 2018.D with Matteo and Hywel.


changes made/results


Food is more plentiful. Every food card gives you extra food. Carrot harvests give you 4. This seemed to encourage folk to push to 4 workers, and also encourages clever hoarding of the initial food cards.

Everything takes time - coming into your area face down. Hywel specially seemed to like the thematic resonance (things taking a turn to build/grow).


feedback/main problems


Both players - and specially Hywel - seemed to have a lot of fun.

Hywel expressed the same concern I've developed - that the strategic depth is simply too limited currently.

Having multiple possible paths, maybe adding a variety of veg/animals would help but I worry about complexity.

The extra food for carrot harvests motivated folk to get a 4th worker, which led to more interesting behaviour. The whole thing seems vaguely in the ballpark of 'correctly balanced'.

afternoon/evening


2:45ish - finishing the discussion. Chatting about miscellany
3pm - testing a new rule for Alphabetickell
5ish - chatting about publishing/design
7ish - cycling
8ish - trying to work out how to make potatoes/cows work, as I started cycling
9 - I'd swam and gotten showered. I had some vague ideas for potatoes but nothing that seems good. I had some ideas for the cows, but they seemed to all involve special rules/exceptions that would make it a bit more complicated than I'd like.

maybe it's time to try something crazy?


I feel like I should be trying more radical changes. maybe a whole new deck, allowing mself to add a lot more writing than I want. This will likely be rubbish but maybe watching this overcomplicated version played with lead to a better v3.


Financial cost: a few pennies (more cards)
Time taken: 9 hrs (the full day, minus a few hours since I also got some W++ testing done)
Curent quality of game: 4/10
Current emotion towards this: worried that there is not enough depth. Worried that the ideas for depth are too complex. Unsure of how to progress. Feeling slightly fed up.

Total Financial cost: £2
Total Time taken: 33 hrs

Next steps:
- relisten to recording
- ponder potatoes (it should keep growing, but how is this represented? An automatic food? It might become too much of a no-brainer. Maybe potatoes and other things are crazy asymmetric powers/upgrades?
- make an entirely new prototype. Maybe add cows (one action gives n food, (milk), where n is the number of cows), maybe just a whole bunch of things, expecting to strip back some stuff
- playtest
- maybe try something totally different
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Sat May 12, 2018 12:42 am
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A game for 2020. Diary.part 2 (changing numbers and retesting)

Bez Shahriari
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Last minute changes


I got up around 6, so that I could take a long bath, meditate on 2018.D, and then remake the prototype. In reality, I found it difficult to focus until I was in front of the old cards and was making some wanton marks upon them.

I kept the structure almost entirely the same, but changed the costs/payouts and deck composition massively.

cycling


The sun was shining and I was happily able to feel the wind on my arms. I listened to music, pedaled as fast as I could, and overtook many cars!

It's the way of London. Bicycle truly is the best mode of transport.

I arrived at Royal Festival Hall soon after 10am. I cheekily grabbed two tables, knowing we'd again need them. By 11:15, there were 6 of us.


testing 2018.D


I asked Drew to not play as he had played last week and enjoyed it. Given that the game was at an early stage, I needed a proper check to see whether it was any good.

Doruk and PJ played through. PJ focused more on family growth, but willfully took mid-game penalties to do so. Doruk focused a lot more on carrots and ended up wining (10-3).

There was a lot of useful feedback.

Firstly, both players enjoyed the game. It seems worth continuing with.

Secondly, I observed a lot of stuff, and noted some numbers that should be changed. Animals were too hard to collect. Add more pens to the deck. 'Basic' food should probably feed 2 rather than 1. This helps me understand the maths and helps me balance future iterations enough to get closer to the figurative ballpark.

Most usefully, there were a lot of ideas generated - in observing emotions mid-game and via post-game discussion - for additions that would still 'fit' this game.

Greater differentiation of animals. A horse that can be a worker? Vegetables that grow in different ways? Potatoes are easy to grow after all!

At this point, I think I should overhaul the game as much as possible. In fact, I may 'archive' the first prototype and redraw everything. This is a process that forces me to reasses every decision I've made rather than potentially being tempted to keep anything the same just for the sake of convenience.

other testing


Of course, it would not be OK for me to go to the meetup and only playtest my own design. So I stayed another 4 hrs and played/dissected a couple of other games.

pondering


I cycled and meditated on the matter. Swam a few lengths, took a shower, then cycled home whilst I listened again to all the feedback (as I'd recorded it) and considered a few possibilities.

There are still some details to be worked out during the creation of my next prototype, but I've got some solid ideas of where to go.


Financial cost: 50p-ish (cards/paper)
Time taken: 12 hrs
Curent quality of game: 3/10
Current emotion towards this: positive but worried it may remain only 'good' and not become 'great'. I need to shake it up and try things.

Total Financial cost: £1.50
Total Time taken: 24 hrs

Next steps:
- make an entirely new prototype. Add slow cards (for growth), varied animals and different veg.
- playtest with a new group
- decide whether to abandon or continue with this idea
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Sat May 5, 2018 10:53 pm
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A game for 2020. Diary. Background & part 1 (the first prototype/test)

Bez Shahriari
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***Background***


Since 2015, I have released a game every 1st August.

2015: The best partygame of physical constraints.

In A Bind was released to backers late, then I decided to set an actual release date to allow them some 'exclusive' time with the game. The 1st of a month seemed like a memorable date.

2016: In A Bind Jr went to backers very slightly late.

Again, I wanted to give them some exclusivity. August 1st seemed reasonable and I decided to start a tradition and called it BezDay. IAB and IAB Jr were sold and now you can buy Yogi.

2017: A game system, which I'll continue pouring love into for decades to come.
Wibbell++was released on 1st August. I didn't get to go to UKGE as a trader as I had nothing to sell and folk weren't that excited by IAB Jr at Conpulsion. I decided that my 1st August release would be for a new IP each year from now on - not just a new edition or follow-up. This would ensure I'd always have something new to show. As time has gone on, I've found it to be a nice thing to aim for. Some have asked if it's hard to make one entirely new thing each year but I know I could do more. It's increasingly become a very helpful restriction - forcing me to only focus on my BEST things.

2018: Chaotic cardplay, cat puns and dickery.
I will release Kitty Cataclysm, after getting it to KS backers. That is the plan.

2019: Frantically counting shapes and colours.
I will release +, a game I added to the BGG database today (Saturday). The only thing left to do is the art/graphic design, the rulesheet and packaging.

***The brief***


Last weekend, I decided that I want my 2020 release to be something heavier. I really enjoy making accessible things, but I'd like to try making something that is not a word game and not chaotic take-that, but allows for a good amount of strategic thought. Something still suitable for youngsters and non-gamers, but something that feels a bit more... gamery. I want to (slightly) expand the range of stuff I make.

It will be unsuitable for drunk folk or 5-year-olds, which sets it apart from my previous stuff.

Ideally, I'd like it to play 1-6, but I'll be happy with 2-4.
I'd like it to be vaguely thematic but I would be happy to just have an abstract thing that looks pretty.
It should play in 20-70 minutes. Preferably 30-45.
Something that folk try at a convention and then feel that there's more game space to explore, rather than 'just' wanting to relive that fun experience.

That is my vague 'brief' to myself.

Beyond that, I don't promise/aim for anything.

***This Diary***


I might try some wildly different ideas before picking one, or the first thing I attempt might be the best. Who knows?!

In any case, I don't want anyone to fall in love with anything I talk about here, or get upset when some stuff doesn't make it to the final game.

This is my diary of the work I am doing for this game. Maybe it'll be interesting to someone who wants to know how I make games, or to someone in 2 years' time who is looking forward to my upcoming release. It may be useful for me. Who knows.

***Chapter 1 - 2018.D tested***


On Thursday night and Friday, I thought deeply about the notion of Agricola played only with cards. I'd mentioned it off-hand in a blog post about copying and it seemed a reasonable starting point.

Not that I'm really trying to remake Agricola, but self-imposed restrictions can help breed creativity and get you started. Otherwise, my brief felt 'too open'.

On Thursday night, I was idly thinking about the concept of drafting as a replacement for worker placement. Nothing was decided. I woke up at 7am on Friday, and was moving about blank cards soon after, imaging what might be on them and what might be happening with them. A block. A shower. I implemented an idea, even though I thought it might be terrible. The point isn't to start with something good, just to start with something.

Drawing on a few cards. Doodles on paper of a few possible cards (and the counts of each). Quickly writing that onto the cards.

By 9:15 on Friday morning, I had constructed a first prototype.

I cycled over to our weekly playtest meetup, listening to music (rather than podcasts, as I usually do). I played the game in my mind over the 1hr journey, and realised a couple of problems. I made some changes, which I spent 5 minutes drawing the cards for upon arrival at Waterloo.

As playtesting with other designers is all about the reciprocation, I spent a good few hours trying out some other stuff. For my 'slot', I played with Drew, and then let Doruk take over when he arrived. It's useful to watch other people play.

I suggested that they stop half-way through and play another game if they wanted, but Drew was keen to continue. I don't think it was just the sunk-cost-fallacy relating to the game itself, but also the desire to see how the 'engine' he was building would pan out.

By the end, it was obvious to me that folk were engaging with the basic game flow. The balance, though almost irellevant at this point, needs to be tightened up so I can better determine its potential. It needs to be in the correct ballpark.

After a day of testing, I cycled back home, stopping off to swim, refresh myself, and then have another long thinking-shower.

Financial cost: £1-ish (100-ish cards, 1 sheet paper)
Time taken: 12 hrs (including the time I spent going to this playtest event and trying other folks' things)
Curent quality of game: 1/10
Current emotion towards this: positive and optimistic for this first (broad) attempt

Next steps:
- increase starting food from 2 to 10. Maybe with a 2,2,3,3.
- reduce cost of pens from 3 to 1.
- add a lot more harvestings
- think about cardcounts and do some maths
- playtest with a new group
- do stuff
- playtest with a new group
- decide whether to abandon or continue with this idea
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Sun Apr 29, 2018 9:46 am
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