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Subject: David's Designer Diary (part 2) rss

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David Harding
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Testing and development

In my last post I wrote about how Elevenses the game concept was born. Today I'd like to take you through the playtesting and development phase of the game's design, pointing out how it changed over time and was improved along the way.

The first time I played the game with outsiders was eye-opening for two reasons:
1) The theme was polarising. One person thought it was terrific - laughing and getting straight into character as an old English lady. Another person didn't seem to get it at all.
2) The game was enjoyed and actually worked with other humans - I could see there was a good game here!

Point 1 didn't bother me. I always knew this game's theme wouldn't be for everyone. Thankfully, its play and uniqueness have won out over time as more and more people have tried it. Point 2 made me very excited. In fact, I immediately thought the game was finished (after a couple of suggestions from the other players were taken into account)! How wrong I was...

The basics of the game and its rules have not changed from day one, but the game design as a whole has really evolved. This was the best thing about giving it to a publisher (even if he was related) as opposed to Kickstarting the game myself. (Which I considered.) A publisher will only want to put their name on the box of a game they believe in or that they think will sell (or both). This means, it is in their interests to develop the design - to work at it, make sure it works and flows in every situation, indeed, to "break" the game before putting it back together again.

Through playtesting, I made decisions to change:
- The scoring system
- Some of the cards' actions
- The heirarchical playing of numbered cards.

Through developing, the publisher (with my OK) decided to change the game by:
- Placing all of the cards' actions up for grabs
- Totally removing the hierarchical playing of numbered cards
- Removing the memory aspect of the game
- Adjusting the winning conditions

In Elevenses, the plan always was that the player would need to choose between, "do I play this card that gets me lots of points but might hurt my chances of winning, or do I play this card that gives me few points but will help me to win in the long run?" and this was the main area in which the game changed through playtesting. By moving and adjusting the cards' actions, there now isn't a single card to play that offers the player an easy decision in every situation. For a light game, there is a lot of decision space here. One of my goals, after all, was to create a game that squeezed as much strategy into as small a package as possible. I don't think the game would have got to that point without all the hours of playtesting that occurred. To think of selling the original design now makes me laugh. Despite how it seemed at the time, it was a very unfinished design.

Part of me didn't want to change a thing. I was often dubious if a change was floated, but after thinking about the new ideas and playing with them, they almost always made the game either better, more streamlined, more accessible to new players, or all of the above, so each adjustment ended up making me feel more excited and impatient to get the game out!


Scenes from a playtesting session
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Chris Morphew
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I hope above image of my handsome face will inspire many to get behind this wonderful game.
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David Harding
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ChrisMorphew wrote:
I hope above image of my handsome face will inspire many to get behind this wonderful game.

Why else do you think I put it there?! $$$
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TJ Lubrano
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Ah! It looks like Chris needs a cup of tea with a biscuit on the side! Hehe. ^_^
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