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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The People's Orchestra

United Kingdom
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You may have noticed that the title of this blog has changed, that is because I'm now running two design blogs for different companies that would like me to make very different kinds of game. I figured that it would be nice to collect everything that I'm writing together in one place so I've decided to aggregate all of my game design feed into one super blog on BGG.

Let me know if that's a decision that works for you or not, it's far from irreversible

Original Post

Greetings friends and strangers!

I’m about to embark on a new venture, together with The People’s Orchestra and hopefully your sweet self. The plan is to create a card game, but the plan is not the goal, there are a lot of reasons that we’re doing this, so here on day one of the project it seems like a good idea to record those ideals in order to have a touchstone to return to should we later lose our way while swamped in the details and practicalities of the project.

First and foremost the goal is to create a game that people are glad to experience. In this case that almost certainly means needing to generate a game that’s fun for two groups of people:

* People who like games and have never been to the orchestra.
* People who like orchestras and have never played a (serious) game.

Secondly it needs to help The People’s Orchestra develop a new revenue stream. They’re an excellent charity who have a real sense of community and it can be hard to keep something sustained by those ideals afloat. Having a card game to add to the merchandise stand after performances can help to bolster and expand their institution.

Finally the game should offer some opportunity to build bridges. Both orchestras and board games are kind of niche, both can have trouble reaching out to people who aren’t already in their communities and both have some excellent things to offer. A cross sectional project like this has the potential to give people experiences that are special in a way that transcends the self imposed limits on their daily lives. It would be a fine thing to live up to that potential.

Personally my background is definitely in games rather than music. I grew up playing (and to some extent designing) games. I can remember some of the events of board games of my childhood with more clarity than I can remember the events of last week and I’m still finding new applications daily for lessons that I first learned on the tabletop. I’ve designed some fairly successful games, Wizard’s Academy raised £42k on Kickstarter and the reviewers loved it – but it is important to remember that that doesn’t equip me for this task.

My instinct will be to create a gamer’s game. Something with hidden depths that is a delight to spend hours exploring. Something that strives to take a bold new step and find some new combination of mechanics to delight gamers. Something that’s at best diminished and at worst totally accessible for a new player. I predict that this instinct will be my worst enemy during this project, but at the same time I would seek to embrace the best parts of it. The real trick will be making something that’s approachable, but that also stays interesting for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper.

The task is daunting, but that makes it exciting in equal measure. There are also a lot of resources at my disposal that I’ve not had in my previous projects. Besides being a couple of years closer to the grave smarter, The People’s Orchestra is a volunteer organisation with a lot of volunteers from different backgrounds and all of them are potential playtesters. Contrary to popular opinion games design is not a good idea, most of games design is testing and improvement, there will be plenty of opportunity for that.

I’ve already generated my first two prototypes. One is a trading game about trying to get the right instruments for your orchestra by describing the attributes of what you want. The other uses a musical score as the board and plays differently with whichever piece of music you decide to play with this time. I’m considering some sort of social deduction game for the third, but it’s not quite come together yet.
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