Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here:
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Original post (with over 100% more pictures)

Do you remember what I claimed in the first post of this blog? I claimed that the blog would be about keeping up to date on the process of developing several games, something that I've not done in more than a week of posts. There's a reason for this: I was playtesting and I know that some of my testers read this blog. I didn't want to bias their opinions with information from the other testers so I kept it quiet. Blind testing is important when doing things for science.

I filled an entire notebook over the course of the week. I've summarised this, cutting it down seven pages of bullet points. There is so much feedback! Which is fantastic, but now I need to parse it all and decide on what's important and what's not before getting on with the job of improving the games for the next round of testing. There's not space here to relay everything, so here's a snapshot:


"I want to be able to directly screw over the other assassins more often"
"I like the rule and flavour for respawning on death, being out of a game is boring"
"The characters are great and add lots to the game"
"Setting fire to yourself is a terrible way to start the game"
"If the victim does the opposite to the guards does that mean he runs towards the monster?"
"The demo guy sucks, he can't get XP because he's too noisy and keeps getting spotted"

Feedback on this game was more disparate than the others, a lot of people liked it, one person identified the target audience as "Me", but everyone had very different ideas on how to improve it. Watching people play as the characters brought the most enjoyment, so making alterations to emphasise that seems like a good idea - but this might be best achieved by adding obstacles that the characters abilities will overcome differently, rather than by adding more abilities to each character. A lot of the complaints about this game came in the form of balance issues for specific cards, very few found fault with the core gameplay itself, so it may be time to nail down some of the core stuff and work on getting the detail right.


"Killing the director was too easy"
"Some of these skills didn't get rolled all game, do we really need them?"
"The director wasn't a challenge"
"The NPCs seemed erratic, why did they ignore guns lying on the floor to search for a mop?"
"There was no reason not to team up against the director."

Well there's an obvious problem to be fixed here, the director is such a non-threat that players will almost always team up against him (I say almost, as my sister decided to try to kill me as a matter of principle). However the popularity of that comment may be hiding a more serious problem: the mismatch between mechanics and tone. Generally the theme of the game was well received and highlighted by many testers as something that really got them into the game. However the mechanics are shallow and random, in a way that appeals to a younger audience. While balancing the director may be the most popular patch, there's need for a serious rethink of the core mechanics of this one so that they can be made to better support the theme.

Wizard Academy

"This game is too difficult"
"The bad stuff ramps up very quickly"
"I felt hopeless for the entire game, that killed the fun."
"The lack of ability to plan ahead was infuriating"
"I think this game will appeal to people who like hard games."

Comments about how hard this game is were more than twice as frequent as the next most common comment. I have pages of suggestions on how to make this game easier. Did I mention that it's hard? Not a single game was won by anyone. One group came close, within a couple of turns, but they were frozen into a solid block of ice at their moment of triumph.

The thing that this doesn't capture is that some people loved it. Not just liked it, loved it, the most positive comments from the week were about this game. Either I have an above average number of masochists among my friends, or there are some very positive things going on with this game (or both). The challenge for this game will be to leverage those positive things to make a game where losing is fun and that can appropriately adjust its difficulty to suit a group newly encountering it without making it too easy for a group that's had a chance to build some experience of it. Making losing fun seems to be the most important part here, as lots of the negative comments focus less on 'I lost' and more on 'The process of losing was boring/frustrating'.

So that's where we are, updates this week will focus on individual mechanics and how they're being changed in response to the feedback.
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