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Subject: Feature Creep rss

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Jonathan
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North Providence
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So I am very new to the game design world ( I am currently in the alpha stage of my first game[s]). Something that I am beginning to deal with is feature creep, a fairly come occurrence with new designers, I gather.

The research that I have done suggests that one of the better solutions for complexity creep is to break up the mechanics and story elements you have developed into their own games and continue on with the one that you are most interested in, or shows the most promise. Shelving the rest for another time, when they will get a proper game to shine in.

This is a philosophy that gels very well with my approach to design in general ( I went to art school and have some experience with industrial design). But I am having a tough time deciding which elements to shelve and which to keep, or if I am even at the place where I need to worry about it yet.

So I was hoping that, anyone who cares to, could maybe share some of their experiences with or stories about feature creep and how you dealt with it?

TL;DR Any good stories about dealing with feature creep?
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Carl Nyberg
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If you have 3 games with similar features, only publish one of them!
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Jonathan
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Sorry what?

The problem is not that I am working on too many games, its that I keep coming up with mechanics and ideas that I want to put into the one game I am working on. Which can lead to a game that is too slow or to complicated. and one way to deal with this is to save those Ideas for another project where it will not only be less of a hindrance but also have more of an opportunity to shine.

I was hoping to hear for other folks who had dealt with this sort of thing.
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Andrew Rowse
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Unlike video games, board games tend to have sufficiently few moving parts that there's no need to do unit or component testing. At least not to the same degree. The best way to deal with feature creep in a board game is to focus on questions like 'what's the least critical feature here?', and actively try to simplify when you iterate.
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Chad Mestdagh
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Best advice I can give is to stick some cards into card sleeves and stick some paper into those card sleeves. (or set up some dice, or whatever).

Replicate the thing that you want to do. Set up a situation of a hypothetical mid game situation that the player would be facing. Pretend you are that player.

Now try to make that idea work. You have three mechanics that you want to implement. What components do you need to have to make those decisions work within the mechanics that you want to set up? Do you need dice? Do you need cards that have options. Do you need a board? (grab a sheet of paper and make that the board. Write on it to mock up a board.)

Build up your game from the situation that you want the player to face at that moment. Once you have enough components to allow you to replicate the hypothetical situation, try to simulate that turn moment. How do other players or the game interfere with the decision that you are trying to make? What pieces do they need? How can you induce variety into how your decision would be different from theirs?

Then build up your game so that it implements what you want. In other words, start in the middle of the game moment and build around it. Then test the ideas and see if they work.

Then axe all the stuff that is just complicating and not contributing to the thing that is what you are trying to replicate. And axe a lot. If it is not fun or tedious, then axe it. If a player is looking up stuff on charts but not making actual decisions, then simplify it. If a player is just going through the motions of making sure that they are doing the turn right but not making any actual input decisions (for example: snakes and ladders), then axe it.
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Stephen Harkleroad
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Personally, my own design philosophy is:

1) Throw as many features and ideas you want in a game
2) Once you are done, look at the overall picture. Start trying to find ways to combine features into one feature or multiple steps into one step.
3) Do the same thing with components: if a token can be used for more than one thing, do it. It will help with the rules AND the eventual production cost of the game.
4) You will generally get a "feel" for when the game is done.

For each of my games, I've found that this invariably helped keep feature creep in check while also making the game better. You may have to sacrifice some awesome mechanics or ideas, but I've found that it usually ends up not being that bad in the end.

As an example: I once had a game where you acquired cards from difference sources. One was a free draw; one was you could buy them face-up from an open market; one you had to draw by appealing to a special faction; one you had to draw by winning a challenge; and one you had to draw via auction. I did all this because I wanted players to be able to "specialize" in how they acquired cards. However, it meant there being four or five different decks and all sorts of tokens and the game had like 4 extra steps each turn to accommodate this. The solution was simple: reduce everything down to the "open market" and players got cost bonuses to buy the cards. So instead of having a separate special faction rule and deck, it was reduced to "the player who has the most influence with this faction (or wins a battle, etc.) gets -5 reduction in cost of buying a card."
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Kravenoff wrote:
So I am very new to the game design world ( I am currently in the alpha stage of my first game[s]). Something that I am beginning to deal with is feature creep, a fairly come occurrence with new designers, I gather.

The research that I have done suggests that one of the better solutions for complexity creep is to break up the mechanics and story elements you have developed into their own games and continue on with the one that you are most interested in, or shows the most promise. Shelving the rest for another time, when they will get a proper game to shine in.

This is a philosophy that gels very well with my approach to design in general ( I went to art school and have some experience with industrial design). But I am having a tough time deciding which elements to shelve and which to keep, or if I am even at the place where I need to worry about it yet.

So I was hoping that, anyone who cares to, could maybe share some of their experiences with or stories about feature creep and how you dealt with it?

TL;DR Any good stories about dealing with feature creep?


I know exactly what you mean. Everyday you sit down to work on the design and you have three new ideas about how to execute them which changes everything and the next day you have three new ideas...

Yes, I have been fighting that for 6 months. Board or no board? Cubes? Counters? Blocks? Cards? Dice? Blender full of mechanics?

There are so many ways that a design can go it is often difficult to cut it down to just a handful of elements that the players can manage.

I'm trying turning different aspects of the game into mini-games. All you need is right in front of you at that moment, you don't have to deal with a massive rulebook and each solved mini-game keeps the players interested to find out what's next.

Just a thought...
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Chad Mestdagh
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Ideas are great. But you have to implement them. If you never start you are never going to see the trees, never mind the forest.
 
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Sen-Foong Lim
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Our design philosophy is this: find out what is the most fun thing / things to do your game and eliminate everything else that does not support that or that takes time away from this aspect. Then build more mechanisms, as necessary, to highlight or support the fun part of the game. Simplify.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Funny thing is. One Designers feature creep may be another players rules lite game... ook.

If you are getting ideas for things to add to the game. That may mean one of two things.

A: The game isnt done yet. These additions were what the game needed.

B: You are REALLY into this game and can see all sorts of possibilities.

Once done with the game. Get feedback. See if its really creep, or merely part of the design process. Very often game designs start small and then snowball. (Sometimes avalanche...) Often a core mechanic starts it and then it grows from there as you determine what the game needs.

Rules can be segregated off as options or expansions if the game proves to really be too sprawling.
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Andrew H
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I'm very guilty of wanting to do more with my games, and needing to cut back or merge things. I agree with several things above.

First, a physical prototype will identify extra parts better than most other ways would. It let's you playtest and have to find the tokens or cards or whatever. You have an advantage in knowledge, so if you find something tricky, other people will too.

Second, you can often merge things together. I use a lot of cards in my designs, because they let you do different things with a change of text. Often these started as separate tokens or cards, that got merged into the final design.

I think a trick that helps me is to do rethemes, even mentaly, of existing games. If you had to use the parts and rules of game x, what would everything be? You might find what is most important with your idea, and you have a good idea of a manageable amount (from the previous game), so you know you can't add much more. You might also see a way to merge things together.
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Mike L.
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There is a simple solution, playtest, playtest playtest!!!

If you actually try out your ideas, you will quickly learn what is good and what isn't. Don't ever feel afraid to cut a mechanic, just make sure to store it somewhere safe in case you need it again.
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