Designing Games: A Couple's Perspective

This blog chronicles the game designing journey of husband and wife team Will and Sarah. Mostly written by Sarah, this blog is meant to be informative, interesting and fun. Oh, and a historical account so we can come back in the future and laugh at our naive selves. ;-D
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Designer Diary 1 for Project Dreamscape: Mechanics First

Sarah Reed
United States
Rancho Cordova
California
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Written by Will Reed

Normally when I design I like to use a thematic emphasis to help structure the rest of the game. For Project Dreamscape I deviated from this approach in that I had some mechanics in mind that I wanted to work with first. It wasn’t until I had a basic framework in mind mechanically that I bothered figuring out the theme.

Setting up the Framework

I had been playing a number of games at the time where you buy cards from a line up. I really liked this mechanism since it gave glimpses of what was to come as it was usually impossible to buy everything in the queue.

Next, I wanted to play with the idea of set collection that continued to have relevance during the course of the game other than just points. So I decided to go with a stack that you can interact with.

After this I wanted it to be easy to make continuous stacks while providing some choice. That’s when I determined having two different abilities on every card face would give me the ratio I was looking for. As for the number of abilities, it should be whatever gives me the closest to a standard 54 card deck purely for space purposes. That number happened to be 8 since, if you took each ability and matched it up with every other ability, you end up with 8x7. Essentially 23 unique cards with 2 copies of each. I eventually slimmed this down in a later revision.

Finally, I wanted every part of a card to be used. Since I didn’t have a currency system in place, the back of each card was a perfect way to give me a currency to work with while at the same time randomizing the game since if you are using a card for its back you can’t be using its front.

Determining a Theme

Once I was happy with the framework, I decided I had better come up with a theme to help direct how the abilities would shape. This was late at night and I was getting sleepy so that may have played a major role in what I ultimately chose.

I began the process by thinking of highly popular themes. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, War, Zombies, Pirates, etc. However, as I went through the list I either didn’t want to compete with such a well-used theme or I was afraid that it might limit some people from trying it out.

So I took a different approach. I began asking myself what does everyone do? In order to answer this, I refined my question to what do I want? Since I was tired, the answer was sleep. Combine this concept with what happens during sleep and you can make a very interesting world of dreams. I had my theme.

Next Time

During the next diary I will talk about particular design goals I created for myself to help create the abilities. Plus, I will discuss certain influences I had in making the choices I made.
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