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Subject: What do you do when a game doesn't pan out right? rss

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Hank D
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I'm new to game designs and still attempting my first game. I would get excited on ideas and work on it and then when I test play, it doesn't quite pan out as how I imagined when test playing. It gets boring trying to fix it up over and over and my excitement/motivation level drops and I'll try a different game.

What do you guys do?
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Nat Levan
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That sounds like game design, all right. Ideas are easy, but designing a game to completion is a lot of work. Exactly the kind of boring stuff you're running in to. Making it fun at the same time is even harder, because you can't know if something is fun until you play.

For me, it's a large part intuition, followed by a lot of trial and error. My only recommendation is start with big changes, and work on the details once it is in place.
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Hank D
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Thanks. What would you consider are the "big" things? Game mechanics? Theme?
 
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Tyler
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I think sometimes a game that just doesn't work (I'm talking about something beyond saving) can still have really good ideas and fun elements. I find it's really useful to ask myself what does work about the game, and then try to figure out as best as possible how to design a new, better game around those elements.
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Nat Levan
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The basic mechanics. Like making sure that when people actually perform the actions, it does what you expect them to do. And making sure that when you follow the rules, you can actually reach the goal. And don't be afraid to completely change, add, subtract, or completely reverse how parts of the game works.
All I'm really saying is that you're going to make tons of small changes, even after you like how it plays, so make big changes early until you find something that you like
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Nat Levan
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CptWilly wrote:
I think sometimes a game that just doesn't work (I'm talking about something beyond saving) can still have really good ideas and fun elements. I find it's really useful to ask myself what does work about the game, and then try to figure out as best as possible how to design a new, better game around those elements.


Great point. Sometimes you can see it isn't working, and you might know that it can't be fixed. I've heard that even the great designers walk away from way more games than they make.
Another help would be sharing it with other designers, through something like Protospiel, or Unpub (unpub.net). Someone else might be able to help you see something you missed.
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Jake Staines
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wheezo wrote:
Thanks. What would you consider are the "big" things? Game mechanics? Theme?


Between those two I would say game mechanics. Theme can help you to make decisions about mechanics, and it can help players be attracted to and learn the game, but a game which only has a good theme is a bad game, while a game with excellent mechanics and a poor theme is an excellent (albeit probably underrated) game!



But the design part of your game is also divided into big things and small things. If you're making a worker-placement game, the fact that you've chosen to make a worker-placement game is the biggest design choice.
Following from that are things like whether you have each player place all of his workers in turn until everyone runs out (Stone Age) or whether you give players a choice between placing or activating-and-retrieving on their turn (T'zolkin). That's a pretty big choice which can shape a lot of the minor details of your game, but is still fundamentally dependent on having decided to make a worker-placement game.
After that, details like which resources your game has are pretty big, and the number of and interaction between resources can make quite a big difference to the way your game plays. If each resource is entirely discrete and works towards a different goal it's quite different from a game where you need different combinations of the same resources to attain goals.
Beyond this, things like exactly how many of what you need to get, or what you need to do, in order to score how many points are increasingly small decisions which come down to balancing and pacing and so on.

Start with the decisions that dramatically change the way the players go about playing the game, and make that process fundamentally fun and/or interesting first. Once you have that core of a game sorted, you can go through and balance all the little details to make sure that one strategy isn't easily outdone by another, and players have meaningful choices between different courses of action and so on.
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Carl Nyberg
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I've heard it said that the first ten games you design will be crap, so best to get them out of the way as soon as possible.

Take-home message: you get better at game design the more you have designed games.
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Tyler
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Bichatse wrote:
wheezo wrote:
Thanks. What would you consider are the "big" things? Game mechanics? Theme?


Between those two I would say game mechanics. Theme can help you to make decisions about mechanics, and it can help players be attracted to and learn the game, but a game which only has a good theme is a bad game, while a game with excellent mechanics and a poor theme is an excellent (albeit probably underrated) game!



But the design part of your game is also divided into big things and small things. If you're making a worker-placement game, the fact that you've chosen to make a worker-placement game is the biggest design choice.
Following from that are things like whether you have each player place all of his workers in turn until everyone runs out (Stone Age) or whether you give players a choice between placing or activating-and-retrieving on their turn (T'zolkin). That's a pretty big choice which can shape a lot of the minor details of your game, but is still fundamentally dependent on having decided to make a worker-placement game.
After that, details like which resources your game has are pretty big, and the number of and interaction between resources can make quite a big difference to the way your game plays. If each resource is entirely discrete and works towards a different goal it's quite different from a game where you need different combinations of the same resources to attain goals.
Beyond this, things like exactly how many of what you need to get, or what you need to do, in order to score how many points are increasingly small decisions which come down to balancing and pacing and so on.

Start with the decisions that dramatically change the way the players go about playing the game, and make that process fundamentally fun and/or interesting first. Once you have that core of a game sorted, you can go through and balance all the little details to make sure that one strategy isn't easily outdone by another, and players have meaningful choices between different courses of action and so on.


I basically agree with all of this, but I also regard theme as a fundamentally important part of the design process, not just as a way to encourage player involvement and enjoyment of the finished game, but also to inform your important mechanical design choices (both big and small). As a designer, knowing what your game is supposed to be doing and saying will help you to make contextually relevant choices about how the mechanics facilitate those things being done and said. I view theme as sort of like a mission statement for your game. If you find yourself stuck on a design decision about how a certain mechanic should work in your game, err on the side of what works best for the theme and for what the game is trying to accomplish. Then of course, play test it to death.
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Hank D
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Thanks for your input guys. I probably ran through a handful of games already in the past few months. I just put them aside and forget about them. Always a new idea... but I wonder if I should just stick to one game and try to correct the problems as best as I can and keep at it even though I stopped seeing it working as I had planned.

I been starting with a theme and a few mechanics and I get more mechanic ideas from the theme. I feel the theme can be changed anytime and you just make up a story.
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Hank D
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bill437 wrote:
I've heard it said that the first ten games you design will be crap, so best to get them out of the way as soon as possible.

Take-home message: you get better at game design the more you have designed games.


The more games I actually designed? Or the more games I try to design and fail? lol.
 
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Carl Nyberg
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wheezo wrote:
bill437 wrote:
I've heard it said that the first ten games you design will be crap, so best to get them out of the way as soon as possible.

Take-home message: you get better at game design the more you have designed games.


The more games I actually designed? Or the more games I try to design and fail? lol.


both
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Hank D
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Well, I'm probably close to 5 failed attempts already. I'll probably get the hang of it after 5 more. haha
 
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wheezo wrote:
I'm new to game designs and still attempting my first game. I would get excited on ideas and work on it and then when I test play, it doesn't quite pan out as how I imagined when test playing. It gets boring trying to fix it up over and over and my excitement/motivation level drops and I'll try a different game.

What do you guys do?


Start over, or put it in a box and leave it on the shelf until I become smarter.

I have a large shelf.
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Jake Staines
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CptWilly wrote:

I basically agree with all of this, but I also regard theme as a fundamentally important part of the design process, not just as a way to encourage player involvement and enjoyment of the finished game, but also to inform your important mechanical design choices (both big and small).


I would agree to a point. Really, it depends on how you go about designing your games; sometimes you have a particular mechanical interaction you find fun and interesting and you look for a theme that works well with that (this is how Maquis came about, for example) and then fill in the details of goals and scoring and what have you based on that theme... and other times you have a theme you desperately want to make a game about and it informs everything from the fundamental basis of the game onwards (c.f. every miniatures wargame ever).
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Sturv Tafvherd
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wheezo wrote:
I'm new to game designs and still attempting my first game. I would get excited on ideas and work on it and then when I test play, it doesn't quite pan out as how I imagined when test playing. It gets boring trying to fix it up over and over and my excitement/motivation level drops and I'll try a different game.

What do you guys do?


Mr. Cogentesque has said: Kill your baby!

Sam Mercer
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edit: corrected name
 
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Stormtower wrote:
wheezo wrote:
I'm new to game designs and still attempting my first game. I would get excited on ideas and work on it and then when I test play, it doesn't quite pan out as how I imagined when test playing. It gets boring trying to fix it up over and over and my excitement/motivation level drops and I'll try a different game.

What do you guys do?


Mr. Cogentesque has said: Kill your baby!

Sam Mercer
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edit: corrected name


Agreed. Definitely murder your baby. Almost all the time, the game we started out with is never the same as the game we ended with. Also, if I may make a suggestion (and if someone has already said this, pardon me), but make a development log and keep copies of your older prototypes. Alot of design work and mechanics issues can be solved by observing what worked and what didn't work and how old, current, and new solutions sorted themselves out.

As for the ideas, i write mine down on a separate note bad for future reference. While you design, you always end up thinking of new games to create. Question is whether or not you'll abandon your game for a new venture or stick with it until its completed?

Good luck and welcome to board game designing. You're in for alot of sleepless nights.
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Joel Mayeski
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This was my MO for years when it came to game design...

I'd just get a flash of inspiration for a game and jot down the basics. If it stuck with me and intrigued me as a good design I'd run with it.

I'd then work the design over, develop different parts until I had a full game. Then I'd write a summary of rules and make a prototype.

But... when it wasn't perfect I'd drop it. My desire would be for the "perfect" game and I felt that I had developed it as far as that idea would go, so I'd get captivated by another idea and go in that direction. I have *clears throat* whistle 30ish prototypes tucked away in storage.

My gaming friends started giving me side-long glances and looking for the nearest exit when I'd ask about playtesting my newest prototype. (Of course I was asking blood ninja's to playtest games - if you don't know what I mean, search the forums). But that aside I've since changed my MO.

I'm now trying to pursue only ideas that I want to develop, one way or another. If it doesn't pan out, I'm willing to change it, because it's the core idea I'm after. My captivating vision may be a specific mechanic, theme, or style that I'm designing the game around, and if some of the other stuff about the game changes that's ok. I just keep pursuing the vision knowing that, if it's a good vision, it will impact the gaming community and be a game people enjoy.
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Clayton Skancke
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I'll probably be repeating a few things others have said, but here's my input:

First and foremost, you have to be ready to throw things away. They will likely be things to which you were attached - ideas you really liked. But in the end it's about creating a game that people like to play - not creating a game that gets people to like your idea.

I tend to lean toward simplification. Consider the mechanics you have in place and what experience each mechanic is intended to promote. Then look for any overlap. Some of our best changes have come from thoughts like "What if instead of A, B, C, and D, we just did A?" Also, if one mechanic works against the experience that you're trying to create with another mechanic, you may need to scrap it entirely.
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Dr. Wictz
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bill437 wrote:
I've heard it said that the first ten games you design will be crap, so best to get them out of the way as soon as possible.

Take-home message: you get better at game design the more you have designed games.


Even if that is true, you still need to practice going through all the steps of designing the game to learn how to design a better game.

Designing a game is a process and you need to learn how to complete the process; otherwise, every idea you have will always remain a half started idea.

(Below is one version of the steps to take when designing a game)

http://drwictzboardgames.blogspot.com/2014/06/game-design-ph...

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Andrew H
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People here are very helpful, and there's very little chance that someone would steal your game, so don't be afraid to post your game and/or problem. Odds are you'll get help. As to the original question, the standard answer is of course "try, try again." My hunch is you're dealing with a sense of frustration, which can suck the motivation out of you, and so that phrase probably is irritating. So I think a better answer would be find what motivates you about game design, then do it when you hit a wall.

Do you get the urge when playing another game and think "this would be a lot more fun with another theme (my main motivation)," if so, then retheme games and play with friends without fear of being sued. In a similar manner, do you like making house rules to other games, then post your ideas in the "Variant" section of other games, and people will reply with variations on your ideas. Do you like the drawing or drafting part, see if you can help another designer in the design art section. Think back to what made you want to start your design, and try to do it or something similar again.

While these may not fix the issue you had, it does reward your brain with something it likes, and might do something others like and compliment you for doing (adding more positive feedback). You'd be surprised how often inspiration hits in waves, and a little spark from an unrelated accomplishment will held get you back on track with your own game.

Good luck.
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Filip W.
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wheezo wrote:
I would get excited on ideas and work on it and then when I test play, it doesn't quite pan out as how I imagined when test playing.


I have yet to design a game that worked like I thought it would in my initial idea. The first (solo) playtest is basically the "can I go 5 minutes before realizing the game is broken beyond on-the-spot repair"-test. That's what game design is all about though: envision, test, break, repeat. The faster you can break the game the faster you'll be able to come up with version 0.2 (which you'll then proceed to break).

Here's two texts to keep you motivated:

Advice to those dreaming of designing a game
Advice for beginning designers: what you need to do your first solo playtest
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Hank D
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Thanks everyone for the advice. "Kill your baby" hasn't quite been done yet. I just tossed them aside and figure maybe one day I can figure out what to do with them. I sort of believe that every game can be made to work how you want it(in a sense) but I just haven't figured out how yet.

I would like to post up my game to hear everyone's input on them but I don't think I have a game idea that I am set to design. I do have a few but like I said, I keep going from one thing to another. When that new idea pops in my head while I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what I need for this current game to work the way I imagined..... it just seems more appealing to go try the new idea.

So I've wondered what you guys did. Do you try to stick with one game and work it out as best as you can before you kill it?

Thanks for the links Filip! I'll check them out.
 
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Steven Tu
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Yeah you don't kill your baby, you more just shelf them, if they have potential they'll come back anyway

And if there's any advise I think you should get it's that DON'T JUST THINK ABOUT YOUR IDEA. Make it, test it, play it, only then can you fully grasp the implications of the mechanics you're thinking about.

Human brains are crap simulators of anything more complex than 1+1. Don't ever try to predict anything with certainty. TEST YOUR DESIGNS.
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John "Omega" Williams
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I drink my own bitter tears of frustration. Then. Feeling refreshed, I go back at it...cry
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