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Subject: preconceptions during designing a game rss

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Hello.
Lets talk about preconceptions.
A preconception could be for example:
X makes a game not enjoyable to play.
X could be "if 2 players can decide to play basicly 2v1 versus a third player"
Another form of preconception would be:
"I want to create a worker placement game." This would limit what the game could become (if I add a lot of other game mechanics like action cards it is not a worker placement game anymore).

Preconceptions seem to limit what I try out in game design, they seem to limit my creativity.
On the other side they can save me time that I do not try out things that won't result in a good game any way.

How do you deal with preconceptions? Are you concious of yours?
 
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roger miller
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As a designer I start with a design framework. It is a preconception. But if it is not working I pull out something and try over. If it ends up different mechanics from different styles of game then I am fine with it.

Preconceptions also heavily effect the rules reading by a customer. So if you design something different be ready to explain it several times and address those preconceptions directly.
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Perry Kleinhenz
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As you say preconceptions narrow your focus. I think when I'm generating ideas they come much more readily when I keep an open mind and don't let myself get too bogged down with details or potential problems. It's also pretty fun to do this kind of blue sky thinking without worrying about practicality.

That being said preconceptions or limitations will always have to enter any design. As Roger says you need to make a game that other people will understand how to play, it's much easier for players to learn rules to a game that conforms to most of their expectations.

There's also the limitation of what kind of components can be included in your game at a reasonable cost or effort level. Most people think that game length and weight should be roughly proportional to game cost, it'll be hard to sell a 30 minute push your luck game that uses 100 meeples and costs $50. Similarly a print-and-play that requires a lot of cutting of cards or rare components will have a smaller audience.

These preconceptions are maybe pretty straightforward and sort of high level. There are also a bunch of common ones on a more mechanical level like: output randomness is bad (sort of the same as roll and move), player's should end up in a better place than they started in, "take-that" mechanics are frustrating, players should make meaningful choices, in a worker placement game turn order should matter.

For me the biggest thing with this kind of mechanical conventional wisdom is that it's probably worth obeying unless there's a really good reason not to. There's nothing wrong with dispensing with such constraints but its important to realize that you're doing so and to achieve some other goal.

From a more personal standpoint I think that constraints and preconceptions are really important for each individual game. Once I've got a core idea of a game I establish some goals for the game like player count, time length, general experience, level of player interaction, complexity etc. Usually these aren't at a mechanical level, they influence and guide decisions on mechanics.

Over the course of playtesting I get a lot of different often contradictory feedback and I'll notice problems and brain storm solutions for them. I've found it to be very helpful when brainstorming these solutions and trying to decide on what kind of changes I want to make to have a clear idea of what kind of game/experience I'm trying to create.

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marc lecours
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One of the biggest preconceptions is that in a competitive game "everyone that is not a winner is a loser."

It is virtually impossible to design a game where finishing in 2nd place is viewed as much better than finishing in 3rd place. The exception is when there is a meta game (several rounds, or a tournament or money (as in poker)).
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marc lecours
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In other creative activities, I find that putting constraints inspires creativity. Without limitations, designers draw a blank.

The trick is to have some constraints BUT to be totally free in everything else. For example I can set out to make a worker placement game but I can think about how to make it a bit different. For example: "There are 5 players and 5 actions. You choose an action and everyone but you gets to do it."

Another approach is to pick a theme. Your constraint is some real activity in real life or real historical event. You then let the theme dictate the mechanics/mechanisms. Wargame designers tend to do this.
 
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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rubberchicken wrote:
One of the biggest preconceptions is that in a competitive game "everyone that is not a winner is a loser."

It is virtually impossible to design a game where finishing in 2nd place is viewed as much better than finishing in 3rd place. The exception is when there is a meta game (several rounds, or a tournament or money (as in poker)).


Isn't that depending on the group? In most of my games, a player unable to end up 1st plays on to end up as high as possible instead.
 
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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I don't know if it's a preconception but I only design games that I will enjoy myself, although I know that tastes differ. On the other hand, I would probably not know what makes, say, a drafting game fun for other players.

Besides that, I don't bother about any dos or don'ts as long as the mechanics help the game to become what I want it to be.
 
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What I noticed while designing a board game:
I can go into a very creative mode where normal constraints do not apply: e.g. thinking about what kind of interesting materials like a mirror that can be part of the game, not choosing a category like "workerplacement game" and simply design game mechanic by game mechanic.
Now while it happens that I have ideas that I won't implement later on or that would be too expensive, I also find that process somehow of value and also enjoyable.
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Mike McDearmon
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I feel like the term pre-conception is being used somewhat synonymously to 'constraints' in this discussion. As a designer I think constraints are great, but perhaps not when starting a project.

At the very beginning I like to think as wide as possible, sketching out concepts and mechanics that evoke the mood and feel I'm looking for players to get when playing the game. I try to silence the critical voice that says 'yeah, but that's never gonna work' because it's really too soon to say definitively whether any idea will or will not work at the beginning.

Once I feel confident in the core concept, I'll start to think a little more critically about mechanics and constraints so that I can prototype something that's testable.
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Chris Moberg
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Meril wrote:
Hello.
Lets talk about preconceptions.
A preconception could be for example:
X makes a game not enjoyable to play.


I get this in many forums. It is a particular pet peeve of mine. Fun is subjective.

When looking at theory's/mechanics, what will work to make the game you want that's important. Telling somebody they're stuff is not fun is just a wet blanket on somebody's idea. It is not constructive.

Commercial projects have to understand the tastes of their target audience of course, so what their target tastes is what matters. I think more a function of marketing

As far as limitations, time and "complexity" are the two that I read most. I think those are a big ball and chain on creativity. Write your book unrestrained first. Then edit it. IMO.
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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BJhoneycut wrote:
Meril wrote:
Hello.
Lets talk about preconceptions.
A preconception could be for example:
X makes a game not enjoyable to play.


I get this in many forums. It is a particular pet peeve of mine. Fun is subjective.

When looking at theory's/mechanics, what will work to make the game you want that's important. Telling somebody they're stuff is not fun is just a wet blanket on somebody's idea. It is not constructive.

Commercial projects have to understand the tastes of their target audience of course, so what their target tastes is what matters. I think more a function of marketing

As far as limitations, time and "complexity" are the two that I read most. I think those are a big ball and chain on creativity. Write your book unrestrained first. Then edit it. IMO.


Fun is subjective but also the most important requirement of a game. I think it's good feedback but you need to break it down to understand which features that aren't perceived as fun. There may be things you can improve but there may also be things that simply won't be fun for certain player preferences.
 
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Tony Ynot
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There's a difference between restrictions and preconceptions.

Restrictions are good, they breed creativity. Going into a design and saying "this game I'm making must contain X, Y, and Z" - for example, saying you want to make a worker placement game - is easier than saying I can make any game, now what should I do?

Preconceptions can be a problem when you're not consciously aware of them because they might blind you to a possible idea that would be good for your game. But that is part of the process of solving your design problems, questioning what you could change and how.
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Tony Ynot
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For example in my plunkbat deckbuilder the restrictions were-

-Must be free for all with player elimination (I.e. Battle Royale)
-Must have a separate deck for each player which grows during the game (I.e. Deckbuilder)
-Must allow different numbers of players to play
-Must not be able to be eliminated before you've had a turn

Some preconceptions I had were-

-Deckbuilders don't usually have a game board (but I decided to add one)
-Players must take their turns sequentially (I considered some other possibilities when I became aware of this preconception, but decided to stick with it)
 
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