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The Speed of Innovation

Jim Reichert
United States
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About two years ago, I started working on a boardgame that blended a bunch of different mechanics from a variety of games, distilled them for simplicity, and built a prototype-- a fairly successful prototype as far as my play-testers were concerned. I'm not going to say that I came up with anything particularly revolutionary, but I like to think that I seamlessly blended the mechanics such that they all felt like a single, great gameplay experience.

Of course, like many of you out there, I couldn't stop tinkering with it... trying to improve this aspect or that aspect. Against my better judgement, I spent way too much time trying to shore up the theme of it. The mechanics were done; I just couldn't seem to find the right theme to breathe life into my creation.

Like many of the prototypes I've made, the core mechanics came together very fast in what can only be called a creative burst. Those same mechanics have stayed intact over the course of the game's development. At no point did I feel as though I was wandering in the desert.

To be fair, I didn't want to side-track my publisher by showing them the game. I want them to successfully publish my first one and get it out the door first. So I figured i had some breathing room to polish it.

(As a side note, Ugh! is coming along really well. John Kovalic's art is not only amazing, but exists in a huge quantity for the game. It's the most original Kovalic art I've ever seen in a single game. I got to see some of the cards when I went in to proof-read the game rules before they're sent out for translation.)

So, back to thinking I had "breathing room."

Boy, was I wrong. And, boy, to have a lot more respect for the speed at which innovation and-- let's face it-- really solid work is happening in this industry.

A month or so ago, Minion Games sent out some pre-release information on a game that mixes voodoo and piracy. The artwork looks exceptional and absolutely nailed the the theme I was skinning my game mechanics toward. Any reading this post should really check out Minion, if nothing else, for their artwork. I've purchased a couple of their games so I think I have a certain right to say that I found their game mechanics to be... rather involved... to the point where you need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of things. I'm still glad I purchased the game because I loved the production values.

Now, along comes Battleship Galaxies, which has many of the same mechanics that my protoype is leveraging. Again, there's very little that is new under the Sun, mechanics-wise. To be fair to myself, Battleship Galaxies still has many differences from my prototype as it has a greater level of depth to the gameplay-- which speciates its target audience from the mainstream. I specifically eschewed depth in my design because I wanted broader market appeal.

Whew. This post just sort of rambled and I wasn't sure how I would feel after I talked it all through. Happily, I feel like there is still an underserved group of boardgame fans out there who'd enjoy a game like the one I've designed-- something between Sea Monsters and BattleShip Galaxies (how's that for tying together to extreme?)-- and a niche that needs filling.

I need to get back to the grindstone and figure out what it's going to take for me to get fired up enough to take this to my publisher.

Some days, I wish I could get zeppelins, space cruisers, zombies, pirates, elves, and castles out of my head. They're so trite; they just don't inspire me anymore. They're just sort of played out.

Except for Project Zomboid. That is pure genius.

What are some other milieus that people feel are underserved? Anyone got any new theme ideas? I promise to do something about it!
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Subscribe sub options Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:47 pm
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