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Subject: Ideas for Collaborative Game Design rss

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Tim Eisner
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Designing a game is a challenging endeavor as I am sure most of you know. Having one or more design partners can be a great resource and allow you to keep up momentum, share the load, and create something that one person alone could not. In my current project, March of the Ants, I am co-designing it with my good friend and design partner Ryan. We have been able to bounce ideas off each other, collaborate on the art, point out things the other has overlooked and in general make a great game. It hasn't been all smiles and roses however as creative collaboration takes a good amount of work. I wanted to share some of the strategies we have used that have worked well for us.

1. Clear and open communication. This is invaluable in any relationship and especially a creative melding of the minds. We do this through weekly meetings, a web forum where we brainstorm and discuss new ideas, and through email.

2. Setting design goals. Early on in the process we discussed what kind of game we wanted to make and what key elements were important to us. This has been extremely useful as something to come back to throughout the process. It helps remind us of what we set out to do when we become caught up with intricacies of gameplay or mechanics, and helps us refocus on the end goal.

3.The game of making the game. We usually agree pretty quickly on issues around the game but occasionally we will bring opposing ideas to the table. By thinking of the whole design process as a game we are able to stay fluid and keep a sense of humor, and generally agree that the best idea will win.

4. Compiling feedback notes. I often do more playtesting than Ryan, as he is married and works 40 hours a week. This can be tough as I see how the game is working in action and need to communicate this clearly to him. To help minimize my bias, and present the feedback in a digestable manner it has really helped to compile notes from each game and share them on the forum. Ryan then has a chance to read them and the next time we get together I am not surprising him with all these changes and things that need tweaking.

5. Google Drive - this has been the strongest tool in our collaboration as it has allowed quick and easy file sharing and as we are designing all of the art for the game as well it has let us pass large images back and forth.

I hope this has been helpful and I would love to hear what other creative teams do that works for them.
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Ryan Swisher
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I came across this a few months after Tim wrote it. I would agree with everything tim said and would add a few bits.

1. Understand your role. In this game i have been the designer and also lead artist. Tim has been co-designer and helped with art, but most importantly has been the editor (in part because he owns the color printer and buys all the tokens and games supplies). If I want to get proto-types approved i need his consent. Knowing clearly who the boss/editor is settle a lot of disagreements. If tim says "no" i understand that i need to refine my idea until tim says "yes". :-)

In our next project i plan to lead designer or lead artist, but not both. I've really enjoyed when i could focus on the art or the rules and not juggle both.

2. Feedback notes! I really appreciate the detailed feedback notes Tim has provided. Its really helped give context when tim says "no" and helped me get those "yesses!"

Thank you tim for being such a great partner!
 
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