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Subject: Critical Success Factors rss

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Lewis Pulsipher
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It's fashionable in business to talk about the "critical success factors" in an industry.

So I wondered, what are the critical success factors for a game design?

How about:
Is it fun for the targeted audience?
Is the length "right" for the targeted audience?
Is the complexity "right" for the targeted audience?
I think we need to add, good timing is critical.

I did not include cost. Perhaps I should have?

Lew Pulsipher
 
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Chris
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Is the game unique or novel in some way? If not novel, does it improve upon a previous game?

--Chris
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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cbrua wrote:
Is the game unique or novel in some way? If not novel, does it improve upon a previous game?

--Chris


Novelty... the interesting thing here is that some people seem to just about worship novelty (seems to be common amongst Euro players), while many others (e.g. wargamers) don't give a hoot about it. If it has good gameplay, why not play whether it's "novel" or not?

This is one of those "for the targeted audience" points, but I'm not sure how to incorporate it.
 
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Chris
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lewpuls wrote:
Novelty... the interesting thing here is that some people seem to just about worship novelty (seems to be common amongst Euro players), while many others (e.g. wargamers) don't give a hoot about it. If it has good gameplay, why not play whether it's "novel" or not?

This is one of those "for the targeted audience" points, but I'm not sure how to incorporate it.


If the game isn't novel in some way, why play it? Why would you buy it? You would just stick with the games you already have.

This must be true even with wargames or everyone would still be playing AH's D-Day and instead of one of the many other games that deal with that subject, right?

--Chris
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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cbrua wrote:
lewpuls wrote:
Novelty... the interesting thing here is that some people seem to just about worship novelty (seems to be common amongst Euro players), while many others (e.g. wargamers) don't give a hoot about it. If it has good gameplay, why not play whether it's "novel" or not?

This is one of those "for the targeted audience" points, but I'm not sure how to incorporate it.


If the game isn't novel in some way, why play it? Why would you buy it? You would just stick with the games you already have.

--Chris


At that point, Chris, you'd have to say every game is novel or it is exactly like (is the same as) another. The question is whether novelty is a "critical success factor." Must the game be notably novel to be successful? In wargames, certainly not. In Euro games, depends on the buyers and players, doesn't it? I've heard Euro players poo-poo a game because it has no novel mechanism, yet I've also read about Euro games that are repackaged from others, with virtually no significant changes, still selling well.

This leads to my next response, about value.

Lew
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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dipdragon wrote:
Rather than cost, I'd say it was more about "perceived value for money". Big game, lots of bits, poor gameplay, $40 = value for money. Small game, few bits, great game play, $40 = rip off. (Personally, I'd pay for great game play any day of the week, but others differ in their values.)

Also, there might be a "catching the moment" element - Pirates for Pirates of the Caribbean, LotR games when the films come out, penguins were so early 2006, but it's now giraffes.

For me, it call comes down to the overall experience, taken as an amorphous "how did it feel" question at the end of the game.

Breaking it down a bit we have:

Look/style of box
Size/weight of box to price
First look at components - value for money
Production quality of ruleset
Clarity of ruleset
Ease of setup
Ease of teaching
Ease of "getting" the game in the first 20 minutes
Pace of game during play - constant involvement, no bogging down in the middle, no sudden end, no long periods with nothing to do
Availability of choices that matter throughout the game
Overall "fun/enjoyment" of the experience - the afterglow

The afterglow leads to the "do I want to play this again" question. I'd like it to be "yes" for every game I play. Sadly, it's not.


The physical value often has little to do with the original design, but certainly has a lot to do with whether the game sells. That is, you can package most games in a variety of ways, and some packages will be more attractive than others. And you can produce a game for $40, or instead decide to sell it for $50, hoping you'll make a larger profit even though total sales may be less.

This started me thinking about the old maxims of pre-PC days (which may still apply today). It used to be said, a good novel with a bad cover would sell worse than a bad novel with a good cover. The same was said, sometimes, about games. Insofar as purchase of games and books is an impulse rather than planned, I can see that this may be true today. As I buy almost nothing on impulse (I like Internet research), I tend to forget that many people buy on impulse.

It would be fascinating to know what percentage of games are bought on impulse, especially when someone buys a game as a gift for someone else. I'm afraid BGG denizens would not be a good measure of this, not being typical game buyers.

I mentioned some of these notions to my wife, who was head of an academic (college) library for 17 years, and was surprised to find that librarians are advised to leave on the dust covers (with the cover paintings/designs) on academic books, and to display the books so that you can see the front cover! When they do, students tend to use the books more! The implication again is that people work on impulse more than by plan.

A designer can try to design games that make a more attractive presentation practical. I don't know that I'll ever design a game that requires numbers on the pieces, the way the old-style wargames do (attack-defense-movement), because you can't use wood/plastic pieces to do this (barring great expense). I try to keep the number of pieces down, both to make it easier to grasp the play, and to enable the pieces to be produced more expensively per piece. "Universal" design, that doesn't depend on words to convey information, is attractive for international purposes: if you can use the same sets of pieces throughout the world, you lower your publishing costs. Wargames can rarely be as simple as some Euro games, but we can try to meet people in the middle ground.

Unfortunately, some people seem to be more interested in looks and heft than in gameplay, but you can see the same thing in video games, where "fine graphics" seem to matter more than how the game plays, to many.

As there's very little that a game designer can do about that, I suppose it's not really relevant to the game design forum.

Lew
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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I'm sure there are exceptions, but designers are rarely known to have a strong influence on the physical package of a published game. It's the publisher's money, they believe they're experts, and they do what they feel is best for their interests.

Lew
 
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J. Green
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Quote:
If the game isn't novel in some way, why play it? Why would you buy it? You would just stick with the games you already have.


Tell that to Hollywood. We've been watching the same kinds of stories since the movies were invented, and we keep going back. We like seeing old stories dressed up in new clothes, because we are creatures of habit who unfortunately crave novelty.

That's why people still buy Knizia games.
 
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Chris
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lewpuls wrote:
cbrua wrote:
If the game isn't novel in some way, why play it? Why would you buy it? You would just stick with the games you already have.


At that point, Chris, you'd have to say every game is novel or it is exactly like (is the same as) another. The question is whether novelty is a "critical success factor." Must the game be notably novel to be successful? In wargames, certainly not. In Euro games, depends on the buyers and players, doesn't it? I've heard Euro players poo-poo a game because it has no novel mechanism, yet I've also read about Euro games that are repackaged from others, with virtually no significant changes, still selling well.


Speaking only for Euros, I think a level of novelty is required for a game to stand out as being a noticable success. Can a mostly derivative game sell "well"? Probably...it depends on the definition of "well". But the stand-out Euros: Puerto Rico, Caylus, Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, etc. all had some unique aspects to them when they were first released.

By "novel" I do not necessarily mean "has a new mechanic". There are many excellent games that do not have new mechanics but combine existing mechanics in a new / unique way (Caylus, for example).

Is novelty a critical success factor? I think it is for a game to be a stand-out offering or become a "classic". Is it critical to sell a few thousand copies? No.

Obviously expansions / extentions of existing successful titles are different. The appeal of those games is predicated on being similar to the base game. Are they successful? Sometimes. Are they stand-outs? Rarely.

--Chris
 
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