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Subject: One Game, Too Many Designers? rss

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Spencer C
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How many cooks spoil the boardgame?

I've seen a lot great discussion on this forum where designers can get all manner of help and suggestions on their games, however, at the end of the day it's the designer's call on what does or doesn't make it into the game. Which makes me wonder, could a group work together to design a game? Perhaps making important decisions through popular vote? I know there have been game design duos, but how many people can actively contribute in a game design before it fractures and dissolves?

Any thoughts?

Could a good game be made simply by starting a thread with like-minded people on BGG and hashing out from a starting kernel?
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Daniel Danzer
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"Scotland yard" was created by a whole bunch of editors. Some great games are created by duos: Kramer-Kieslimng, Laget/Faidutti/Cathala, and the like. The KRAG-team ("Gulo Gulo") is Wolfgang Kramer, Hans Raggan and Jürgen P.K. Grunau. To me, the most obvious thing is, that these people have to know each other and their "chemistry" very well to work together. This might even be online contact and telephone.

The thing is, if you create something in a group you do not really know, things become harsh pretty fast. OTOH, all designers need playtesters, editors, grouops of feddback people, and so on.
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Chris Morse
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Yes.

Once an initial idea is made other contributors could give the much needed flesh on the bones.
 
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Wim Leenaerts
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Not long after I joined BGG someone tried that very thing, but I can't find the thread anymore and don't know what happened to it.
The goal was to start with a base idea or core mechanism with basic playing pieces (tiles etc that the OP would make) then the game would be sent to another BGG'er who would add or change what he thought fit, make new materials and repeat this step by sending it to yet another BGG'er and so on.
But like I said: don't know what happened to this project.
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Rodney Clowsewitz
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Quote:
how many people can actively contribute in a game design before it fractures and dissolves?


Five. The answer is five. Stonehenge: An Anthology Board Game. devil


I think it would depend on the group. You could have 20 designers and if they all have a clear understanding of the end goal and all work well together, why not?

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Daniel Danzer
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Hatepig wrote:
Quote:
how many people can actively contribute in a game design before it fractures and dissolves?


Five. The answer is five. Stonehenge: An Anthology Board Game.


As I said, Scotland Yard:
Designers:
Dorothy Garrels
Fritz Ifland
Manfred Burggraf
Werner Scheerer
Werner Schlegel
Wolf Hoermann

Exception to a rule.
 
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David Gregg
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UanarchyK wrote:
How many people can actively contribute in a game design before it fractures and dissolves?


Depends on the designers. I myself prefer to work alone unless I happen across someone that is both incredibly in sync with my thoughts AND they have the motivation/creativity to help with the game.
 
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David Pontier
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UanarchyK wrote:
how many people can actively contribute in a game design before it fractures and dissolves?


Forty-two

But seriously, I’m curious for the motivation behind the question? When I get a game idea, I bounce it around in my head until it either makes sense and I build a prototype or it doesn’t, and I drop it. I don’t know if this sounds selfish or not, but if I only have a concept, such as I want to make a cooperative vampire game, and then throw the idea out there to garner ideas and fashion a game plan from that, then it doesn’t feel like MY game.

Like I said, it depends on your motivation. If you have this itch in the back of your mind that you have to scratch, or you have a game that you feel is broken that you have to fix, then do whatever you can to design that game. But if your motivation is simply to try your hand at designing a game to see if you can, then get as much help as you want.

Many games that receive 10’s on this board also receive 1’s. Which means you might love an idea, and others might hate it. If you run into a design snag and you ask for help, you will likely get very conflicting ideas on how to fix it. If you put design decisions to a vote, then a little less than half the people will be disappointed with the result. Proceed with caution.
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Russ Williams
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Also see the recent eurogame Egizia - it seems a team of four people designed it.
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Walt
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I don't really believe in any limit to contributors, but I think you need one vision, whether by an individual or a close team. Computer games are implemented using a great number of designers, though usually one "producer" settles disputes and provides the overall vision. I don't think the process with board games is necessarily different, though because of the much smaller budget, large teams are unusual.

If I look at the expansions of Small World, they seem well-integrated into the vision of Philippe Keyaerts even though they were designed independently. Likewise, I expect that over the years of development of Dominion, playtesters had significant design input into the structure created by Donald X. Vaccarino.
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James Hutchings
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Role-playing games often have lots of people making significant contributions. However RPGs often have lots of sub-systems. For example someone designing rules for travelling in wilderness would usually not have very much need to run them past a person doing spells (or vice-versa). They also tend to be open-ended. For example even if the monsters are finished, someone can still make new ones.

So perhaps an RPG-like game would be easier to design collaboratively. Something with a very basic structure, then people can add their own bits.

However my experience with fantasy board games is that lots of people start projects, but few or no people join them. It makes me think that people on boardgamegeek often want to work on a group design, as long as it's their group design
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It doesn't matter how many "designers" a game has. All games (but especially Martin Wallace games) need a singular competent developer who can take a more detached viewpoint than the creator(s) and refine design, rule, and component choices. Unfortunately, this does not happen enough, and too many games come out with obvious flaws, poor edge-case testing, unnecessary "sharp" edges in the rules, and lackluster graphic design.
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David Sears
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Quote:
I think it would depend on the group. You could have 20 designers and if they all have a clear understanding of the end goal and all work well together, why not?


This sounds like the best answer to me. As long as there is one singular end goal that everyone is working towards it doesn't matter how many help.

The problem arises when you have multiple head cooks in the kitchen that all want to make it their own way! When this is the case even 2 is too many.
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Travis Worthington
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My experiience is that a game can have many desing inputs but really needs to have one person in the lead. That person doesn't need to be the credited designer.

Based on my admittly limited personal experience I wouldn't be surprised that the critical items that make a game go from playable ot good, or good to great may have come from the so called developer rather than the designer.

This is one reason why almost everyone stresses extensive external or blind playtesting for games. Not only does it test it is also a great source of design input.

There are been several design by committe threads on this forum, but I don't think they ever go anywhere. Designing a game is hard work, and it requires a focused effort that is difficult to achieve via a distributed model.

I would be interested in knowing what FFG and WotC do for game design, probably thier designer of record is responsible for the initial design and the development process but clearly with in house designers and playtesters there are a lot of people that work through the design/development process.

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Richard Prieto
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For your answer, look at a typical design group working on a video game. Maybe 30-50 people working on the game itself plus another 20-40 working in support roles. Most top-end video games have 2-5 designers.

I know that video games are different than board games but it's this difference that proves the point. Video games are FAR more complex than a typical board game. Yet more designers in such an environment is actually a benefit, not a liability.

In general, I don't subscribe to the democratic form of design. You need to have 1 or 2 design leads who have final say on what goes into the game. Someone needs to be in charge. These individuals don't need to be dictators, but they should be experience designers with the ability to guide development and secure consensus. You can have additional designers helping out, but they need to be subordinate to the leads. There needs to be adherence to a certain, overarching strategy. Otherwise, you risk needless delays and possible fracture.
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David Sears
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coffeegod wrote:

In general, I don't subscribe to the democratic form of design. You need to have 1 or 2 design leads who have final say on what goes into the game. Someone needs to be in charge. These individuals don't need to be dictators, but they should be experience designers with the ability to guide development and secure consensus. You can have additional designers helping out, but they need to be subordinate to the leads. There needs to be adherence to a certain, overarching strategy. Otherwise, you risk needless delays and possible fracture.


Something about this comment made me think of families...
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Karl von Laudermann
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Hatepig wrote:
Quote:
how many people can actively contribute in a game design before it fractures and dissolves?


Five. The answer is five. Stonehenge: An Anthology Board Game. devil


But Stonehenge isn't one game with five designers, it's actually a set of "generic" gaming components for which (initially) five games were designed, each by only one designer. And I believe that that is what makes it fail.

I think that in order for a set of generic game components to succeed, it has to have as few types of components as possible. Look at a deck of playing cards, for example. It only has one type of card: one with a value and a suit. The Jokers are a second type, if you want to get technical, but still that's only two types, and the vast majority of card games don't use Jokers.

Also look at the Icehouse system. Only one type of piece: the pyramid. Many interesting games have been designed using these, some adding more components as necessary, such as dice, glass stones, or a chess board, but only when needed to serve the game being designed.

Now look at Stonehenge or the Piecepack. These were both designed as generic game systems, but with a variety of types of components. The result in both cases is a set of bits that feels like it was designed to play a specific game, but whose rules have been lost to the mists of time. And now people are designing new games that use these components, but they have to force their designs to fit into the set of components available. As a result, none of the games feel like the theoretical one for which the set of the components was originally assembled.
 
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P.D. Magnus
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karlvonl wrote:
Now look at Stonehenge or the Piecepack. These were both designed as generic game systems, but with a variety of types of components. The result in both cases is a set of bits that feels like it was designed to play a specific game, but whose rules have been lost to the mists of time. And now people are designing new games that use these components, but they have to force their designs to fit into the set of components available. As a result, none of the games feel like the theoretical one for which the set of the components was originally assembled.


I actually have the opposite intuition. There are just too many disparate pieces in both systems to make me think that they were originally designed for a specific game. The components don't have a systematic unity to them. As a result, many of the games end up using only a subset of the available pieces.
 
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I agree with Travis. Having a lead designer who can lead can make an effective team and keep people on task and vision. The more designers, though, the less input each individual probably had on the game.

If your game group of 20 people work together on a game, rigorously playtesting it, brainstorming ideas, evaluating mechanics, you could have 20+ designers but a very good game. But someone must have the final word.

In my case, I was lead designer on the two games I've produced so far. It also helped that of the 4 designers on each game, 2 were dead.
 
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overtheboard wrote:
In my case, I was lead designer on the two games I've produced so far. It also helped that of the 4 designers on each game, 2 were dead.


So your games were designed by 2 cool and 2 zombie ?!?
 
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J C Lawrence
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During the primary design of 1843 I had many inputs from local 18xx players and other 18xx designers. There were many strong disagreements, both on the basic design-goals and various game-design points. What I wanted from the game was frequently not what they wanted from the game (and for various reasons some felt they had some ownership of (part of) the design). Examples included details of historical modeling, implications of game-character and style, and artistic direction. In some cases I acceded to their wishes, in other cases bluntly ignored them and made my own choices, and in a few cases reversed earlier decisions as we learned more about their implications (sometimes multiply). The result was a strongly organic iterative process of development and mutual discovery.

I am pleased with the final final/current design. It isn't and wasn't design-by-committee, but it was also not the artiste in his ivory tower or the director-as-dictator model. Instead, and I'm necessarily biased here, I attempted to take and evaluate inputs, good bad and indifferent, matching them against my goals and occasionally updating my goals (and thus criteria) as lessons were learned, I was and am the final arbiter, there was no committee or concensus building, but there was a lot of discussion and involvement with many voices and variously effective persuasions. I like to think that the game-design (final in the sense that it is now entering external blind play-testing) profited from both the singular point of editorial control (the buck stops here) and the broad-based discourse during the design's development.
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clearclaw wrote:
During the primary design of 1843 I had many inputs from local 18xx players and other 18xx designers. There were many strong disagreements, both on the basic design-goals and various game-design points. What I wanted from the game was frequently not what they wanted from the game (and for various reasons some felt they had some ownership of (part of) the design). Examples included details of historical modeling, implications of game-character and style, and artistic direction....

This really surprises me since I think of 18xx as very abstract. It just goes to show how many different viewpoints gaming has, all as valid for their adherents as any other viewpoint.
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Tall_Walt wrote:
This really surprises me since I think of 18xx as very abstract.


18xx designers have a history of sacrificing heavily for the sake of, if not historical accuracy, at least historical simulacrum. Games like 18GL, 18FR etc which simply ignore historical contexts tend to be panned.
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Markus Hagenauer jr.
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Eine gegen Eine is anoter verry interesting example for a geme with a lot of designers:

Peter Inzenhofer
Hans-Peter Stoll
Heinrich Glumpler
Henning Poehl
Leif Busse
Marcel-André Casasola Merkle
Michael Straeubig
 
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Markus Hagenauer wrote:
Eine gegen Eine is anoter verry interesting example for a geme with a lot of designers:

I don't think we can understand how lots of people can design a game if we've never done it. We need someone from one of these large design teams to explain how they did it.
 
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