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 2

Value Add Games
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Link to part 1:

Continuing the blog about or prototypes for WolfWalkers: My story, this week we would like to focus on virtual prototypes for the game.

Virtual prototypes

Lockdown due to the pandemic is something we could not escape. However, we still had to playtest. Therefore, even though we prefer testing games face to face, we had to resort to using a virtual environment. We have decided to use Tabletop Simulator since we were already using it as board gamers and we were used to it. The program also has a lot of options when it comes to creating a digital version of a prototype.

Making a prototype this way has a lot of benefits. With a bit of learning, we were able to dish out a simple prototype in less than an hour and any change to the game was implemented very quickly. It is also cheaper, since there is no need for printing. When it came to playtesting the prototype in late stages, it was also a lot easier to reach a large number of people that were willing to test the prototype.

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WolfWalkers My Story in Tabletop Simulator

However, despite all of the advantages written above, we think that there are still some aspects of a prototype that cannot be properly tested in a virtual environment. If we were playtesting our prototype only in a virtual environment, we would have had no idea how much table space the game demands. The issue we also had was card rotation – how should the cards be rotated and where the player should sit. Should they be opposed to each other like in other 2 player card games, or next to each other, so both players can have the same view of the marketplace? Would the information layout on the cards make sense both on the table and in one’s hand? Questions like these could only be answered with a physical prototype of the game.

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Examples: On left are players sitting opposite to each other, while on the right, players are sitting next to each other.

Online tools can help avoid some of these issues, but they cannot be ignored once the game is set up on a table. This is why we think, although greatly appreciating the value of virtual environment for creating prototypes, we find playtesting our games with a physical prototype in various stages of the design necessary.

To sum all of our prototype experiences:

1. Start with a simple and cheap prototype which can be quickly altered
2. Only when the gameplay is satisfactory you should progress to a prototype with more details
3. Virtual tools are great for early prototype stages, since you can alter the prototype quickly
4. Physical copy of a prototype is a must in order to get a proper “table feel” of a game
5. When playtesting with kids it is important to have a polished prototype since they will perceive the game differently regarding graphics

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