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Designer Diary: Origami

Christian Giove
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The idea for Origami started a couple of years ago, but I'm not able to say which arrived first between the game mechanism and the setting. In my memories, it was always about origami and with its core system. I've always liked card games in which a card can be used for multiple purposes and I wanted to create something like that. Meanwhile, the correlation between origami and their folds seemed to fit perfectly.

At first, I defined the concept of adding victory points and various kinds of special effects to the cards in order to have a lot of possible combinations and to give the player many ways of scoring and performing actions over time. I then tried some "mental playtests" — I usually play out 5-10 rounds in my mind, assuming different cards are drawn, in order to spot big errors or bugs BEFORE creating the first prototype — and I immediately discovered that the possible actions could grow too quickly due to some special effects.

Thus, I decided each player could play their origami on only two different stacks, called "collections", in order to limit the number of special effects a player can benefit from at the same time. This arrangement of the origami also creates more timing issues for the players and makes them face harder choices.

Then I created my first prototype, searching for images of animal origami on the web to get a better feeling of what it could look like and to help playtesters recognize the cards. At that time, the game was a single deck of 90 cards, and I played it with 2, 3, and 4 players.

The game worked quite well, aside from a couple of flaws, mostly due to the deck containing too many cards for a two- or three-player game. I needed to adapt the deck to the number of players, but it was hard to identify which cards had to be removed and this procedure was also very time-consuming for the set-up of a quick game like this.

In the end, I decided to divide my cards into five different decks called "families", and each game would play with one family per player. This set-up was much simpler and also gave the game a lot of replayability.

Cards from the first prototype

Because the game was fun and the rules were stable, I started showing it during fairs and events. (Its first public appearance was during IdeaG, an Italian meeting of game designers and publishers happening each year in Turin, Italy.) I got a lot of positive feedback and a couple of proposals from different publishers.

The most interested publisher was dV Giochi, but they asked me to reduce the game length — which was very good advice, so I reduced the number of actions per turn to two and in the final playtesting this number was reduced to just one. Originally, with four players and three actions per turn, nine opponent actions took place in a round before your next turn; now there are just three!

Work in progress…

In the end, we came up with a game that has fast yet satisfying turns in which players have more control, while at the same time they must face deeper and harder choices.

I also reduced the number of folds required to play an origami and the folds given by each origami to create faster and simpler calculations when playing. This made everything much smoother and more player-friendly.

After tons of playtesting and balancing, dV Giochi decided it was worth publishing. They did a lot of additional playtesting and we changed a lot of card abilities, mostly because we wanted to balance and differentiate the families: Each deck now focuses on a specific kind of effect: draw, play more cards, instant effects, special actions, interaction between players, etc.

During this time, the game also got its final artwork — nice low-poly origami — and new graphics. A lot of things remained similar to my prototype, but this happens often because I'm a graphic designer, so I create prototypes by studying the card usability, too.

Cards from an almost-final prototype

I ran playtest sessions of an almost finished version of the game during a gaming event in Genoa (Italy), where a lot of expert gamers had the chance to play it. This allowed me to polish the game even more, making it the one you will soon be able to play!

Christian Giove

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