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 rambling (moreso than usual)

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Being positive. Not everyone wants to analyse stuff. Sometimes, let's just share some excitement.

Bez Shahriari
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https://twitter.com/WatchItPlayed/status/1374060010196635653

A few tweets led to a fairly eloquent video from Rodney Smith, above.

Over on Facebook, Dave Salisbury (owner of the excellent Manchester-based shop Fanboy 3) pointed out that sometimes this isn't done to tear folk down. Sometimes it's done because of bad social skills.

Honestly, it took me about 20 years of life before I realised that most people didn't really want negative feedback. It's OK to just say, "I like the thing you made."

I used to feel like giving a 'full review' was the obligation if someone showed me a thing they made. Some positivity, some negativity.

I remember the exact moment I realised this was unnecessary - a friend showed me a digital 3D model of a hand. It was brilliant. I worked incredibly hard to find something to criticise.

I thought that I was being a better friend by doing that, when I should have said something more like, "This is amazing. It basically looks flawless to me. You've worked really hard and you should be proud."

And when it comes to other people's stuff (not our own creations), the same still applies.

Some folk really enjoy pondering something in depth. Analysing the positives and negatives. Designers/developers/reviewers often share this trait.

Some folk just want to have fun and share those joys.

Let people be happy.

Let's focus on the joy and positivity if we can.
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Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:53 pm
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Loving familiarity

Bez Shahriari
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Comfort, surprise, completion.

Yes, we want completion. Achievement.

Of course we want occasional excitement, novelty, and surprises.

We also want comfort, familiarity, the sense of safety offered by a known voice, space, or sight.

As we listen to a podcast and get to know the hosts, we start to learn to love them. Maybe 'love' is a strong word, but that familiarity certainly breeds fondness. We enjoy hearing a regular host, even if they have constantly new guests. We feel included and welcomed as jokes and tropes are repeated. We smile.

With boardgames, it's not just about the game, but it's also about the tradition. Maybe the tradition is to meet every Wednesday night at Iain's house for gaming. Or to play backgammon between generations around the living room.

Most games have some strategic elements. Even if there's a fair bit of luck, there's some ways to eke out a little more chance to win. We invest time into learning and understand the systems of the game a little better.

Nearly any game can become the foundation of an enjoyable tradition. Some are probably not as good choices, but even a bad game can allow for wonderful moments between friends.
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Wed Jan 22, 2020 1:51 am
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My favourite conventions of 2018, from a biased viewpoint.

Bez Shahriari
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Ordered approximately in order of how much I personally enjoyed being there.

Incredibly biased as my enjoyment is mainly a factor of my own personal experiences, how well I managed my own time, and how far I had to travel (from North London). This might not indicate how much fun you will/won't have at any of these cons.

Bear in mind that ALL the cons mentioned below are fantastic (although I'm biased).

BGDevCon 3, Enfield, London

This is the convention that I set up with Andy Yiangou. We also had the help of Matthew Dunstan and a bunch of speakers. I did a small KS, decided that there were enough folk to justify it, and then arranged a day full of short talks, discussions and a 'speed designing' event.

There's a great community of designers in the UK and whilst there are now enough playtests going on in London, there aren't many opportunities for folk to come and NOT playtest. For most of the day, games aren't even allowed, except for the ones that folk ended up co-designing on the day. And even those weren't playtested. The 'speed design' sessions were more about meeting with folk and deciding whether you'd like to continue/start a codesign with them or not.

My favourite parts were the group circle discussions, with a few heartfelt rants.

The short talks taught us about different approaches to design, accessibility for dyslexia, how to stay positive, how to pitch, etc.

I hope we can have another BGDevCon in 2019 on 17th August (the day before the monthly Sunday playtest).

UKGE, Birmingham

UK Games Expo was my first convention, back in 2011. Since then, it's grown exponentially and I think 2019 will perhaps be the first year with no growth in space (given the uncertainty that Brexit provides).

I volunteered every year, until 2016 when I bought a stand to sell In A Bind. In 2017, having licensed IAB to Gigamic, I had one last hurrah as a volunteer. It was fun. I got to be an ambassador. I recommend everyone volunteer if able.

Walking around, I realised that my relationship had changed with the con, with the games, with the attendees and with the traders. The UKGE will continue to change, as will I, as will our relationship.

In 2018, I had a 10m^2 space, 3 demo tables, 1 stock table that occasionally got used for a demo, and 1 table specifically for folk to draw cats. More importantly, I had 7 amazing volunteers. Thanks to my volunteers, I was able to focus on the high-level operations. Everyone working for me learned the games well and learned how to demo them exactly as I'd hoped. Despite the stand being constantly busy, the wealth of people made it incredibly relaxed. As well as having a volunteer at each table, there was someone wandering around explaining the rules of the cat wall, or teaching the principles of a game that had already started.

Thanks to my volunteers, I was almost as busy as I could be, and never felt any stress. The entire convention was a rush of energy and adrenaline.

In 2019, I'm planning to have a larger space. It might be the last ever appearance of the full Cat Gallery. If you're interested in demoing my stuff half of each day (in return for accommodation, games, snacks and good times) please get in touch.

Bastion, Conwy, North Wales

In 2018, Yvonne very kindly invited me to attend this small Welsh con. A Youth Hostel - normally closed in January - is opened specially for this convention. You can either stay in one of the dorm rooms or - if you live locally - just come over to play games.

For me, this was the first time I'd ever attended a con 'just' as an attendee. Not as a trader. Not as a volunteer. Not as a speaker/organiser. Just going and having no responsibilities.

I will also say that this con has a lovely atmosphere. There is a communal kitchen for everyone to cook in. After getting yourself out of your room in the morning, you can go downstairs and immediately be in the company of other friendly folk who want to play games. It's fantastic. If you don't want to take off your pyjamas yet, no-one will judge you. It's totally feasible to make yourself breakfast (in a teapot) and then eat it whilst playing a new game with new friends.

The small attendance (50-100) helps foster this atmosphere. By the end of the 3 days, you might know everyone's face. People bring their own games to share. There is a sense of respect and companionship.

I am looking forward to attending again in just a few weeks!

Uncon, Kent

I only went to the spring one, as I couldn't financially justify the 2nd one in the year (not to mention my delayed projects needed finishing).

This con was the birth of the 2pm event and for that alone, it gets a high spot on the list. From Uncon onwards, I have had (and plan to have) a 2pm event every day at every ticketed con I attend as a trader.

On Sunday, Giant In A Bind was played for - probably - the last ever time at a con. There was a big crowd enjoying the game and prizes (a copy of everything I've ever had mass-produced) were given away.

The con itself was very bright, using a school as a location and with a roof that let in plenty of natural light.

As a trader, it was a bit quieter than I'd have liked, but I did get to teach someone Handbuildell (a unique thing for a con) and even had time to play a game just for the fun of it.

Also, it's quite close to the seaside, which meant that I could go on a lovely seaside walk the day before.

Airecon, Harrogate

I have strong memories of Airecon - I attended in 2016 after my first Essen and though they were wildly different in scale, I enjoyed both. Probably Airecon a little bit more, but I'm biased given the Giant In A Bind.

In 2018, the convention moved location again. An abundance of open-gaming space, a trade area, demo area, and LOTS of events.

I personally helped out with the giant Wits & Wagers tournament and gave a talk, as well as continuing my 2pm tournaments.

Not only did I have the chance to demo and sell, I also got to play a few games after trading finished - something I don't always get to do.

I'll be returning in 2019 and am helping Mark to arrange an hour of the most ridiculous games we can conceive. Mark is lovely.

Diceni, Norwich

A boardgames festival. Not a convention - where folk buy tickets to attend - but simply a collection of traders and demo folk in a freely accessible area.

Not quite a 'market', folk had more expectations of being able to actually play games. And I do enjoy showing off my stuff.

There was so much more representation of older folk & women. It's the only place I've been where the attendees mirrored the demographics outside. Almost entirely white, but that's just how most of the UK is outside of London.

I think that this is one of the few events where I actually turned a profit. A profit small enough that I spent it on a nice meal before leaving the city, but still an achievement worth celebrating.

My 2pm event was difficult to get folk for. In future, I won't run 2pm events at non-ticketed cons, as most folk pass through rather than staying the day, so getting folk to come over at a particular time is hard.

Generally, my games worked well for the casual audience. Specially Quintupell and Yogi. I also got to meet Becky/Kelly from Boardgames in Bed.

I'd love to go again if the organisers have space for me but I know that their space is limited.

Dragonmeet, London

This was a lovely 'last con of the year' for me. I had a big team of 7 volunteers, which meant that we were able to facilitate a LOT of fun.
For most of the day, I had 2 tables occupied by folk playing my stuff. For short while, I could see 3 tables full of about 20 folk playing my things. I got to do a talk (about intended emotional reactions to games) and some folk said it was good. Stelio helped me develop a brand new Wibbell++ game, which I would be happy to make a future core game. At the end of the day, I had an extended converation with a fellow designer that felt incredibly meaningful to me.

Since the con was only 1 day, I had 2 back-to-back events. First, an event for + and +‽. Then a Wibbell++ 'triathlon' (that actually features a 'surprise' 4th game at the end for the finalists). In theory, this made sense. But the finalists in the 2nd event had just learned 6 games within the space of an hour. And 5 of them were frantic realtime things that didn't allow for any time to relax and decompress. Either event would have gone really well. Both together were just 'good' - it was just slightly too tricky for the 2 players to internalise the rules for the 6th game.

I think that - in future - I'm going to avoid teaching so many games to folk, specially under the pressure of a prize event. I might do 2 events next year, but not if one of them features 4 wildly divergent games. Kitty Cataclysm and + as 2 separate events would be OK.

Other than that, I feel like everything went amazingly well. I plan to come back in 2019.

Spieltage, Essen, Germany

Very busy.

I made an unfortunately large loss in 2018, despite selling slightly more copies of Wibbell++ than I did in 2017. I blame the price of the hotel (as opposed to the Air BNB) and the furniture (which is handled badly by the con compared to literally every UK convention I've been at).

In 2019, of course I'll go again. But being on my own was far too exhausting.

Next year I'll hopefully have a few full-time volunteers and just consider it a big marketing expense. I will spend more - to accommodate volunteers and get more stuff over somehow - but hopefully earn more as well - since I'll have 2-4 new things to sell.

Highlights in 2018 involved learning to teach (and play) Wibbell in German and getting on the BGG livestream.

And finally eating a twirly potato.

Tabletop Gaming Live, London

A new convention run by the magazine folk.

I got to sit on a couple of panels (one about diversity and one about comedy in games). I had some great volunteers. That was fun to do.

Denholm volunteered for me and I subsequently hired them a day a week to help me finish my projects. Great result. I'm not totally counting that as part of the experience though. Yes, I'm aware of my own inconsistencies...

Very big corridors. Properly accessible for wheelchair users.

The prettiest halls I've ever played a game in.

From a business perspective, I'd have liked more attendees. Despite not paying for accommodation and cycling/walking over when able, I still made a small loss. But it was worth it for the number sold in terms of marketing.

I need to sort my finances but planning to go again in 2019.

NOTABLE RUNNERS UP

London Anime & Gaming Convention (Summer), London

More cosplay than any other con I attend. A very different demographic. You could see the difference in the cats that people drew.

I only put up a small fraction of the Cat Gallery but it almost ran itself and seemed like a real attraction.

I've been going to LAGC for several years - originally I went as a volunteer and ran LOTS of demo games for the Indie Game Alliance. This year, I went 'just' to promote myself. It wasn't super-busy. I had help only to cover me when I was doing a talk, and I didn't feel like I needed much more. Folk had fun. I had meaningful conversations.

There's a disco each night.

I've confirmed my attendance for the LAGC Summer con.

City of Games

Originally, I bought a ticket for myself but I was then invited along as a trader.

One notable thing is that the room seemed to be the PERFECT size. There were times when the room only had one table free. It was never quiet. Great atmosphere.

Still need to work out whether I'm going to this or the LAGC winter con as unfortunately they clash. I need to decide soon.

Tabletop Scotland, Perth

Did my 'BGDesign 101' talk for the last time. Had Nicola as a lovely volunteer. Spent literally 6 hrs affixing cat pictures to the wall, despite the help I was given.

Great to see a big convention starting in Scotland.

Slightly out-of-the-way via public transport, but a lovely place. Got to explore the city a bit the day before.

I plan to go again, but have been told there is no space for the Cat Gallery. Frankly, I'm relieved.

Glasgow Games Festival, Glasgow

Organised by my friend Nick Pitman. 2 rooms full of folk playing games and a few traders/demo tables.

Since I have a place to stay in Glasgow, which obviously helps keep costs down, I think it'd just about make financial sense for me to go again in 2019.

There was a lovely level of attendees - busy enough that I was teaching/running games almost all the time I was there. Quiet enough that with just 1 fantastic volunteer I could happily take 40 minutes to wander around, get interviewed, go to the local Poundland, and buy some snacks.

It's not somewhere I expect to sell loads of games. But it's a place I was able to test out some games. Next year, I'll mainly hope that I get to test 'The Conversation' and any Wibbell++ games that are ready enough. (Specially the winner of the 2019 Wibbell++ design competition.)
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Wed Jan 2, 2019 4:13 pm
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Boardgames with Bez (my internet radio show)

Bez Shahriari
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I do an internet radio show that I don't think I've mentioned here before.

15 episodes have been uploaded, which isn't a massive number, but enough that I feel I've been doing this regularly and it's starting to become a habit. With a few exceptions, I've had a new show once a week, airing on Tuesday/Thursday at 10pm UK-time.

If you want to listen 'live', then go here.

To listen to my old episodes, go here.

Going by my usual 'podcast review' metrics, I think it'd rate fairly low on everything. I don't interview guests. I don't talk a lot about games (although they are mentioned) and I never do reviews. I have a 'lesson of the week', which might often be game-design related, but I wouldn't listen to the show in order to learn how to design.

Each episode is 58-61 minutes long, with half the episode dedicated to exploring one question. The first episode was, "What is a game?" and the 2nd, "What makes a good game?"

The rest of the episode involves introductions, catching up, celebrating cool things, and talking about news. Honestly, the news is more to put the episodes in a somewhat historical context.

Later episodes might have talked about news in the sense that a topic might be, "What is [convention name]?" But the "What is GenCon?" episode barely talked about anything specific to the show, and instead took a broader view.

I think, if my show is contributing anything, it is that broader view. I like to think that maybe someone interested in learning more about a given thing might be able to learn a bit by listening, whatever year they happen to listen.

I have enjoyed speaking to folk that I don't normally get to talk to. Even with friends like John Brieger, Mark McKinnon of Wreck and Ruin fame and Andy Yiangou, setting aside an hour to record the show means that we actually get to chat in a way we don't usually. With folk like Emma Larkins, Ambierona, the D&D Live musicians, and Owen Duffy, it's really interesting to get to talk for some time about their topic of expertise and learn about them as a person.

I'm looking forward to chatting to Jamey Stegmaier and our question will be something to do with time management. Jamey's talked about KS a lot and design a bit. But organisation/ burning out is something very much on my mind and Jamey seems to have a unique perspective on this. (If you have any Qs, I'll try to sprinkle them in.)

I wrote recently about the motivations to do a KS. Many of those apply to me. Apart from the 'practising editing' bit. My episodes aren't well edited and I have little time for it, and no real interest in learning that skill. If someone wanted to take on those duties, I'd be thankful and big you up each episode.

I enjoy having the space to ramble and talk about things. Sometimes, talking aloud can solidify some thoughts.

I learn from my guests each episode.

My dirty secret is that most episodes aren't edited anymore. I get the 2 channels, put them together, sort the volumes and then maybe cut out anything if I absolutely need to. If I actually edited all the episodes, it just wouldn't be worth my time. But as it is, it usually takes little enough time (usually 30-40min outside of the recording time).

I'd wanted to do a podcast for many years. I even talked to a Ben at UKGE 2011 about doing one, and recorded a few episodes with Ben Neuman 2-3 years ago. The technical stuff of getting it all online wasn't something I had time/energy to sort out, so the current system (Iain Boulton has the internet radio show and I just email them a high-quality mp3 once a week) is very nice and easy for me.

It was definitely because of Iain lowering the barrier (I mean, originally I even just emailed the giant wav) that I was able to do this and if you're interested in contributing your own show, maybe speak to Iain.

This week, I spoke to Andy Yiangou about #BGDevCon, and one of our voices was a bit louder. I'll have to actually spend a few hours editing it, so tonight will be a repeat show. The episode should be aired on Thursday, 10pm UK-time and the schedule will probably shift to new episodes on Thursdays, repeats on Tuesdays.

That's a lesson - recording each person on their own channel is so much easier.

I don't know how "The Party Gamecast, featuring the partygame cast" makes it all sound so good.

I sometimes try to have a conclusion. I don't think there is one.

I do an internet radio show. If you've read all this, then you may as well go and give it a listen, I suppose. But if you don't, that's OK. It's not really 'the thing I do', just 'a thing I do' and I guess all the 'things we do' have value in different ways.
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Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:27 pm
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Simplicity - why? Reason 1 - initial 'barrier to entry'.

Bez Shahriari
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Why do we want simplicity?

There are so many games where simplification would make it worse.

Yogi is better (in my biased opinion) by virtue of its complexity if we consider that it has 54 unique cards.

I bought a new game a few days ago for research and there are 4 copies of each card. But it's a party game. You draw random cards and they combine. More variation would have made it more exciting, adding so many more permutations of possibilities.

I am going to guess that this was a product of the time/testing budget they had available.

Let's call this complexity under the hood though.

To a first-time player, it doesn't really matter if you have 13 different cards or 52 (or 54). That's not going to make their learning any easier.

I guess what is important is that you have simplicity in the up-front information that needs to be learned.

Yogi has that simplicity where it matters.

I guess one key reason for simplicity is accessibility. If it takes me 30s to explain the game, then that's a sign that far more folk can play it than a game I can teach in 1 minute. The same applies to a more complex game. If it takes me 20 minutes to teach all the minutiae but I could retain 99% of the fun and make it possible to teach in 10 minutes, then that's probably great.

Cards are a great way to hide complexity.

Recently, people have tried to add rules as games go on. Via Fear, Fortress and Flee but also via legacy games like Pandemic Legacy: Season 1.

It all works towards getting people into the game as quickly as possible, and then adding some extra rules and exceptions via new cards. You can have a lot of text on a card; give a lot of info; and they are cheap to print.

New units, or tokens that need to be looked up can achieve some of this.

I don't know of games off-hand that introduce new units mid-game. But this would be analogous to drawing new cards in Magic: The Gathering or whatever. The base rules are (relatively) simple but the cards add surprises, variance and complexity.

I guess maybe Small World? That's brilliant. Such simple rules, and each race/class has a power, leading to so many possible combinations. And you only need to consider a few at a time.

With some cardboard tokens you can flip them over, then refer to the rulesheets. There is no need to learn all that ahead of time. If there were 8 types of tokens, all presented at the start, then the game would be both more and less simple. More to consider at the start and less potential things to consider over the course of the game, and repeated plays.

I guess simplicity is a multitude of aspects and we can ponder not only the simplicity at any given moment, but the simplicity up-front, mid-game and also over the lifespan of the game.

MaRo talks about, "Comprehension", "Board", and "Strategic" complexity. These are good things to consider.

But the strategic complexity up-front should be less than mid-game or after game 20. (I want some idea of what to do - some 'first level heuristics'!)

We are allowed to have more comprehension complexity as long as it's not front-loaded.
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Thu Aug 16, 2018 11:54 am
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AQs: Should I complain about this game box?

Bez Shahriari
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People who ship things don't tend to specialise in boardgames. Most of the things that are posted will see most of the packaging disposed of. The majority of folk throw away the boxes for their radios/TVs/etc. Boardgames are idiosyncratic in that the 'packaging' is part of the item.

I have bought an item from Amazon that was just a shrink-wrapped box with a label stuck on it. The gamebox was only protected from everything by a thin sheet of plastic. Of course it got damaged.

If this were a TV, I wouldn't care about the box in the slightest. The box would only be in case of returns.

If you were to buy a toolbox and it was cracked, no-one would say, 'it's only the box'.

If buying a boardgame, it's less clearcut, as the primary thing you purchase is the ability to play with the bits inside. But the box will likely be staying on your shelf, visible and proudly displaying itself.

I will point out that the box is often the most expensive component. Unless using a tuckbox, the box will likely be more expensive than the deck of cards, board, or even any mini inside.

It's expensive to replace. Not only is it expensive to manufacture, but also expensive to ship. It's - by design - larger than anything else. It'll be more fragile the 2nd time around with no pressure pushing outwards. Some companies simply refuse to replace boxes, but might offer other compensations instead.

Don't expect a company to automatically replace things for you, specially if they are a small startup with low margins.

But that doesn't mean you should let shoddy packing go unanswered.

Ultimately, it's up to you. If you're asking folk on a forum, then maybe use that time/energy for simply getting in touch with the seller.

If you paid more money for something deluxe I can imagine being a lot more bothered. If it was on clearance, then sometimes things are even advertised as having some possible defects.

Like everything, it's all psychology. The only reason to even play a game - arguably the only reason to do ANYTHING - is because of the way it affects our brains. Our brains compel us to do things, give us drugs for certain behaviours, and we 'want' to do things. There are some near-universal wants and desires. But if you're bothered by something than it doesn't matter if you're in the minority. And vice versa.

You don't need our permission to complain. But if you're acknowledging on social media that the defect is minor, then maybe acknowledge that when writing it. Don't be unpleasant about it.

As long as you follow the principle of the golden rule, you never need anybody's permission to do whatever.
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Thu Aug 9, 2018 10:39 am
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Small v Big boxes

Bez Shahriari
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Inspired by a twitter thread.

Benefits of small:


- lower environmental impact
- maybe cheaper to produce
- cheaper to transport
- easier for purchasers to store
- easier for purchasers to transport
- some people find little things cute/pretty


Benefits of big:


- visibility (in shop/at con/in house/wherever)
- legitimacy
- bigger canvas for the box art (can allow you to appreciate the art better)
- easier to store things inside
- harder to steal from a shop
- some people find bigger things impressive/majestic.

Have I missed anything?

Edit: Originally, I didn't have the 'harder to steal' point and 'visibility'/'legitimacy' were simply 'better marketing in a shop/at a con'. Thanks to folk for input.
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Thu Aug 2, 2018 12:44 pm
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Education/theory is important.

Bez Shahriari
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You can learn by doing. How often have you heard people say, "let's just start playing" when you're teaching a game? Muscle memory is a real thing. But even before you've developed new neural pathways to shortcut your thinking processes, doing a thing does help you establish deeper memories.

Maybe once you put something into practise, you realise new aspects. So many times I've noticed practical aspects of a design when it's been played. And by going through the process of actually doing a thing (i.e. taking a boardgame to completion), you learn the details that can't really be written. Personal workflow becomes established. The 2nd time is easier. The 3rd time is even easier.

But stepping onto the 'shoulders of giants' is a way to leap past those initial potential obstacles. Learning about the virtues of a printer. Learning about challenges that others have overcome and thinking about the wider lessons. Learning about how folk make time to do things, or about mathematical concepts like 'expectation value' that help to balance a game better.

I try to listen to all the podcasts I can relating to game design. Some amazing folk like Mark Rosewater, Richard Garfield, David Sirlin, Gil Hova, Geoff Engelstein and many others (apologies to those not named) are kind enough to share their knowledge. And I absorb all I can.

Of course, all of it must be taken with a pinch of salt. Nothing is ever definitely correct. There are things that folk have said that I know is absolutely wrong for me. Everyone's creative process is different and you don't need to try everything to know what doesn't work for you.

In any case, taking time away from doing the thing can give you time to study how to do the thing better.

Watch videos. Read. If you're reading this, I hope you're following Cardboard Edison. Find those who you feel you learn best from and resonate with.

I think it's not just 'OK' but actually 'beneficial', maybe even 'important' to take time away from doing in order to seek education from outside sources.
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Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:08 am
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The power of 'incidental research'.

Bez Shahriari
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I don't think you can get better at a thing forever, just by doing it endlessly.

Doing something repeatedly is of course one of the best ways to improve but you can't do that alone - even if you are fortunate enough to have continual feedback.

For any creative process, it's important to be looking at the world around you. I don't think that simply focusing on the things you make are the way to keep making worthwhile things.

Do you want to improve people's lives? It's important to understand what folk actually need, and how those needs are currently being served. Don't just assume.

Do you want to entertain? It's important to gather new material to inspire you.

Do you want to communicate? You better have something worth saying.

Introspection - of yourself and your output - is critical. But examination of the world around you is also important.

Look at the things carefully. Think about things in a playful way. Enjoy yourself.

Working for too many hours can lead to burnout. Let's all run out and do some things that most folk never do. Have some meaningful experiences. Look at life in a new way. Touch things. Feel things. Ponder the trees.

This is all 'incidental research'. If you pay attention to the world around you, it will come back and allow you to make more things.
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Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:00 am
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A game is never finished

Bez Shahriari
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When I call a game 'finished', I am of course acknowledging that nothing is ever finished. Games will continue to evolve and change. Even Yogi will be (very very slightly) changed in its next printing and I think that designers should feel free to continue improving the rules to their games, even after publication.

I was (and remain) proud of In A Bind, but when it was turned into Yogi, I asked Gigamic to remove a card. "Right hand right of right elbow" took people a second or so to work out at the best of times. When folk were stupidly drunk, they were able to enjoy the entire game EXCEPT for this one card.

Demoing it at shops, conventions and whatnot, I got to see a ridiculous number of games being played. You could argue that the copies I sold whilst at cons/shops was subsidising post-publication-playtesting, although that might an uncharitable way of looking at it.

Typically, a game will be played more in the month of its release than all the years before publication. Most of those games won't be seen by you, but you will get feedback. If you have folk enjoying your thing, you might see unsolicited videos, comments, photos and all sorts of other things that could inform some changes for the 2nd edition.

And maybe you grow as a designer. Maybe you come to some realisation.

Prolix became Wordsy.

David Sirlin isn't shy about improving their designs and making some functional changes between editions of a game.

Even though it's less than a year since release, 5 of the games I included with the 1st edition of Wibbell++ are changed. Alphabetickell has new rules thanks to the input of Mick Wood. Faybell slightly simplified thanks to observing drunken folk. Wibbell resets earlier based on my realisations and personal growth after observing several hundred games at Essen.

You might conclude that someone with a much larger budget could delay the launch of a game by a year, take a few pre-production copies around the world, and avoid any changes post-realease. But would I have had hundreds of folk willing to play Wibbell at Essen if I didn't have a stack of copies behind me, validating itself and it wasn't something that folk were able to buy?

I don't know. My observations would likely have been different - both in quantity and quality.

Furthermore, when would it be OK to release? Before sending files to print, I had played hundreds of games. I had no reason to assume that I would come across some realisation.

There are infinite situations that could arise and imagining that a designer or developer can have perfect knowledge of a strategically interesting game is folly. Maybe next week something will make me completely re-evaluate everything about Grabbell. Or maybe in a year. Or a decade. Or never. There is a tiny chance that it might be perfect already.

There is a risk of dividing - or confusing - the audience. If a few folk meet to play a game and are unsure what rules they are all playing by, that's an issue.

Beyond that, I can't think of any reason NOT to implement any improvements that occur.

As long as a game is cared for, it is never finished.

You could continue working on it forever - paying attention to folk playing, taking note of everything said about it online, analysing all the data and continuing to ponder all the things that could be changed.
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Mon Jun 25, 2018 7:00 am
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