Thoughts of a small publisher - Value Add Games

We are a small publishing company from Slovenia. We primarily focus on family and smaller board games in which we are always trying to add some additional value. We also make custom board games for corporate clients, which make great business gifts. We have our own team of game designers, graphic designers and illustrators. This allows us to have complete control of the game design process from the start to the very finish. With this blog, we plan to share our experiences we have picked up in board game and graphic designing, illustrating and publishing. We hope that both newcomers and experts in the industry will find this blog informative and interesting.
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Prototypes for the game - Part 1

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The first stage of any game design is coming up with an idea. And while an idea may seem perfect and coherent in your mind, we are well aware it is not. You can only know how your game will act once you sit down and play it. And to do that, it is necessary to create a prototype.
In this blog post, we will describe our journey of creation of various prototypes for one of our games WolfWalkers: My story, the second WolfWalkers game that we had just published and what we have learned from it.

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Our process

When we get an idea for a game and decide that we will start working on it, we try to keep in mind that the finished product will most likely differ from what we have originally planned for it. There will probably be multiple changes: from simple ones like positions and color of certain icons to whole mechanic revisions. This is the reason we try to keep the first prototypes of the game very simplistic. When we use cards and boards, we use only the bare-bone necessities: values, icons and names (or at least placeholders). Instead of detailed tokens and chits, we use regular placeholder tokens (like cubes, buttons etc.) and if the game has custom dice, we just place some masking tape on a regular die and draw symbols on top of it.

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Early prototype of the Objective cards (left) and Story cards (right) in the game

Art in prototypes

We recommend that you do not waste time on art and design just yet, since those are what it is most likely to change. Primarily you should focus on creating a fun and enjoyable experience. Only after you are happy with how the game works you should slowly progress with component quality – adding color to board and cards, using thicker cardboard for tiles and focusing on graphic design and layout. Our game was pretty good before we added all of those and it felt even better afterwards.

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Prototype changes of Story cards (above) and Objective cards (below)

Keep in mind that this game was sort of an exception to the guideline written above since we already had a lot of beautiful illustrations from the film and icons from our first WolfWalkers game. Therefore even our first prototypes were very well made. Again, this is an exception – in any other case, we wouldn’t have used such detailed illustrations for an early prototype.

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Early prototype of the game laid out on the table

Details in a prototype

Not spending a lot of effort on the first few prototypes is not just for the sake of saving time and money, but it is also related to attachment. When creating a prototype for WolfWalkers: My Story, it was a lot easier to ditch cards that we haven’t spent much time working on. Had we worked an hour for every card in the game, it would have been much harder to get rid of it. Instead, we would have probably tried to incorporate it in the game, even though it would have been better to get rid of it in its entirety.
Our first prototype for the game WolfWalkers My Story was very simplistic - Paper cards with black and white symbols, which slowly progressed to colored cards. This was a very important step for this game, since the colored icons added much needed clarity since the mechanic of the game is looking for patterns and colors helped greatly with that.
On the other hand, we learned that when we need kids to playtest our family or kids games, it is really important to have nice components with art, since it is harder for kids to focus just on the mechanics of the game. We try to keep that in mind and prepare a more polished prototype for playtesting with kids.

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Playtest session with detailed prototypes

Stay tuned for part 2 next friday, when we will be talking about virtual prototypes!

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