Tag Archives: design

Designer Blog – The Evolution of the Player Board

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Designer Blog – #IntoTheBlack

The Evolution of the Player Board!

Who said design work is easy? Anyone? If anyone ever, ever said that they’re full of it! Really .. this is a very long process and we can certainly appreciate those who charge top dollar to do this work in a timely and efficient manner!

As progress continues on the revamp of #IntoTheBlack, we have gone nostalgic and taken a look over the design history of something that (oh, how we thought so naively) was so simple (lol!); the player board!

From it’s humble beginnings as some scribbling on a note card, to todays most recent update (and still, not entirely happy with it), here’s the evolution of the Into the Black: Boarding Party player board in pictorial form;

intotheblack-firstproto-playerboard

Yes, friends, that’s what a game looks like when it’s first being tested out!

intotheblack-playerboardv1-5

Subtle but important changes from one version to the next through 0-5, yet retaining the overall feeling and layoutintotheblack-playerboardv1-6

Once someone suggested moving the character’s title to the top, it was like a light bulb turning on – so much cleaner!intotheblack-playerboardv7-8

Adding a reputation marker track posed another challenge, plus making the boxes next to the action icons more ‘meaningful’ – those dice looked horrid!intotheblack-playerboardv9

As information got denser, so did the card – a move to horizontal cleaned things up significantly!

As these player boards are on the table in front of each player , it also made sense to make this change.intotheblack-playerboardv10

How about a visual representation of what is equipped (and the maximum number of those items you can equip)? Yes please!

Also added a visual representation of what you can SPEND your Reputation on so players don’t need to constantly reference the book!intotheblack-playerboardv11

 

As there is (technically) a maximum of 5 reputation the 1-5 bar made sense .. but wait, there is a way to go to 6 or even MORE (although rare, it’s possible)
Making the reputation bar into a box where you place your reputation markers is more realistic but wow, we’ve gotten crowded again.
(Oh hey, you noticed that PASSIVE ability vs SPECIAL now have you? You bet, each players’ character has an ability that triggers without having to make a choice in addition to those they may choose to take – more on that later!)
As crowded as it’s gotten again, ALL the information a player needs is now on their very own player board. As the size of these boards can be increased or decreased as needed, this actually may work out in this form!

What do YOU think?

As always, any comments and suggestions are welcome!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and the creator of
several projects such as TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 19

Designer Blog – Staying Focused and Productive

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Designer Blog – Into the Black

Staying Focused and Productive

Easily the most challenging thing when it comes to game design (or any other task if we’re going to be honest) is staying focused and productive with your time. Every single day there are so many distractions that sidetrack me from writing, editing, testing, drawing .. doing anything that I actually should be doing really!

The list is long too; Social Media (Damn you facebook and twitter!), Youtube, Gaming (online and at the table with the family), pets, family, full time jobs, the honey-do list, blog posts (oops .. doing that right now aren’t I?) .. it never ends!

How can you stay focused and productive?

  1. Schedule time to design/write/test
    • Crazy, isn’t it? Just like a “real” job, where you have deadlines to meet, scheduling time to work on your games is the first easy step to getting work done. Even if you’ve hit a road-block, use this time to seek inspiration by reading game reviews or design articles.
  2. Reduce Distractions
    • Dump those social media tabs, email tabs, RSS feeds and so on from your browser. During your scheduled design time you don’t need any of those distractions sitting there taunting and tempting you. In fact, don’t even have your web browser open! Just focus on what you’re doing. It’s amazing how much time you can very quickly lose by checking what is going on in the world.
  3. Take a break
    • 50 ways to take a breakEvery work productivity expert will tell you that you should take a few minutes to get up, stretch and walk around every once in a while. It may sound counterproductive to stop doing your work in order to be more productive but it’s true. The experts suggest that you should take 5 minutes of break for every 25 minutes of work, but the formula for perfect productivity is apparently 52 minutes work followed by 17 minutes of break.  Obviously there is no set-in-stone option.  I suggest you take 10 minutes every 30 to 45 minutes and walk around the block. Go get a drink. Check in on the family. But then get right back to it! Don’t get distracted!
  4. Write a list
    • Possibly the most important thing you can do, as far as I’m concerned, is write out a small, clear list of little goals; things you wish to accomplish. Have a purpose to your work, but make it concise. Break it down, check them off as you go. This will help you stay focused, and feel more accomplished as you complete the list bit by bit!
  5. Don’t overdo it!
    • overworkedEasy to say but hard to follow! There’s too much to do and too little time in the day. It’s ok to take a break from a project if you feel you’re getting burnt out. Losing the desire to work on your own project because you’ve not taken a break does you no good. Designing a game should be an enjoyable process. If you’re not enjoying yourself, step back for a while (a few days, weeks, or even months if needed) and come back to it when you’re refreshed and ready to proceed!

What tips and tricks do you use to stay focused and productive when performing a task?

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and is the creator of several projects such as
TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.

Designer Blog – Into the Black – Fonts, and Colours, oh my!

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Designer Blog – Into the Black

Fonts, Fonts and More Fonts!
Oh .. And Colours!

Who would think that something as simple as FONT choices would be so hard? I never would have thought so, until delving down the rabbit hole on designing Character Boards for Into The Black.

Opinions are like noses; everybody’s got one (clean version!) and do those opinions come out when you’re looking for help making choices.

You should use Font X, because it’s the best font available.

No No, font Y is the best to use because Font X is overused!

Did you know that you’re using the most ubiquitous sci-fi font there is? You should use one that you have to pay for to differentiate yourself

We’ve used some of the suggestions given regarding fonts. We’ve played around with the font sizes, spacing, kerning, bolding. The final verdict? Undecided! At least undecided on the font for the rules/abilities texts. We don’t want it to be fancy because it should be easy to read, but we certainly don’t want to use boring old Arial or Helvetica do we? The only font we know for sure that will stick, at this point, is the main “sci-fi-ish” font used in the games title and the character board titles. Some may say it’s “ubiquitous” or “overused”, but we like it and so far our target audience likes it. And let’s face it, in a battle of graphic designers vs target audience, who do you think is going to win, every.single.time?

Speaking of opinions, COLOUR is another tough choice. Here we are, designing these beautiful character boards (/pat-self-on-back) and we go looking for opinion and suddenly our world is turned upside down. We’ve had suggestion to use colours on the icons/stat boxes to make them “stand out”. We’ve had suggestion to use texture on them to make them more “sci-fi”. Then we’ve had yet another group of people saying to leave them white. Not only that, but a mixed opinion on the glow as well. Designers seem to think glow “always looks bad”. Target audience seems to think the glow looks “cool” and makes the icons stand out. Again, guess who will win that argument? 😉

So, let’s leave it here for all to see .. all the various iterations of our WIP Character Board, to date!

  1. Where it all began – The very rough Sailing Master art
  2. Using our very first commission piece, the Mechanic – Large white boxes and icons, not-so-nice rules font, strokes on text – you have to start somewhere right?
  3. Changed font, reduced icon and box size to show art more and removed strokes, added not-so-pirate pastel colours

Character Card - Sailing Master Into The Black - Character Card - Mechanic Into the Black - Character Card - Mechanic v2

  1. Back to white, separated the title from the rules
  2. Re-added pastel colour, reduced rules box size and text size (too small)
  3. Bolded the text .. back to white boxes, blurred the background and made the illustration bolder

Into the Black - Character Card - Mechanic v3  Into the Black - Character Card - Mechanic v4 Into the Black - Character Card - Mechanic v5

  1. Moved the title to the top – 3 variations of V6.0 (Colour with texture, flat colour, white) – This is our current version choice, along with a potential change of font on the rules text to something a little less roundy.

Into the Black - Character Card - Mechanic v6 - Color Stat Boxes with Texture Into the Black - Character Card - Mechanic v6 - Colored Stat boxes Into the Black - Character Card - Mechanic v6 - White Stat Boxes

Does anyone have any options, or thoughts on these? Thanks! Your opinion is, as always, appreciated (even if everyone has one)!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and is the creator of several projects such as
TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.

Designer Blog – Into the Black – Character Boards!

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Designer Blog – Into the Black

Character Boards!

We’ve been working hard on our little tabletop game, Into the Black: A Game of Space Piracy, and have gotten to the point where we’ve contracted an artist to create our Space Pirate Character art for the Character Boards each player will use.

Sometimes you just need to know when extra help is needed, and this is one of those times! Jared Sanford of Sanford Illustrations has done a fantastic job of our first Character; The Mechanic. This character is not part of the original list of characters in the game and will be included as a Kickstarter Promo (all backers will receive this card with their game at no extra charge but he will also be available separately in the aftermarket – we don’t believe in Kickstarter “exclusives”).

Here is the Mechanic on a completed Character Board to show how they will look (click on the image to enlarge). We would love to have your feedback on these!

Into The Black - Character Board - Mechanic (smaller)

Character Board WIP : The Mechanic (Kickstarter Promo)

Some considerations we’re giving to the character boards;
– The stat lines may be given some colour. Right now they’re rather plain
– The stat line boxes may be reduced in size to show off the character and background more (ALTERNATELY to these first two, the stat boxes may simply be changed to numbers, though I personally like the visual representation)
– The strokes around the text are probably going to be removed. It’s not consistent and, let’s face it, most often just doesn’t look professional.
– The special ability and character title box may be reduced in size, though it has to be large enough to fit the most complex ability descriptions as well.

These character boards are drawn randomly by the players at the start of the game to determine which Pirate they will be playing as. They will be printed on either 3.5 x 5.75 inch tarot card size cards (350gsm stock) or on 2mm board (budget pending).

The icons on the top left indicate Health, Attack, Search, Movement and Leadership scores, the first 4 range from 1-4 while leadership is 1-10 (which is why it’s a number instead of boxes).

Each character board has the same layout with varying stats, title, ability and character picture (the background, icons, etc remain constant)

The fonts used are Ethnocentric RG for the Character Title and Leadership score and Minion Pro for the abilities text. Do these feel appropriate for the theme and look right in size to you?

Please let us know what you think and what you would change or rearrange!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and is the creator of several projects such as
TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.

Designer Blog – Into the Black – Doom Track!

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Designer Blog – Into the Black

Doooooom!

One way to add a sense of  urgency and suspense to a game is to remove the concept of a set number of turns and move to a random outcome by use of what is often called a Doom Track.

What is a Doom Track? Essentially a Doom Track is a simple bit of “bookkeeping” in a game that tracks turns. “But wait, you said there are no turns, I’m confused!” That’s right, I did, didn’t I? The difference between having a set number of turns and a Doom Track is that the Track can progress up and down based not necessarily on how many turns you’ve played but also on certain events and player actions taken in the game. When the doom track hits a certain number, the game is over.

Example: Joe decides he wants to take on an enemy on the board. To do so, he knows he’s going to need to use a powerful weapon instead of being quiet about it. Making noise increases the Doom Track by one however, so Joe takes a look to see how far up the track they’ve gone. They’re pretty low on the track so he makes the call and uses that weapon.

The Cthulhu Wars board game Doom Track

The Cthulhu Wars board game Doom Track

Often times, doom tracks are increased one for each turned played and then again for any variety of other actions players can take depending on the theme. This can be using items that make noise, running out of food cards, losing a combat and so on. The possibilities are endless. You can also introduce ways to reduce the doom track, though rare. Some games that include a Doom Track are Cthulhu Wars, Arkham Horror, Elder Signs and Runebound.

Our original concept was to have a set 20 turn limit for Into the Black. This seemed reasonable at the time and all play testing showed that the players would get to the finale before turn 20, but sometimes without enough turns left to actually complete their objectives. The problem we were finding was that the game turned into simply a race to the end with no suspense involved. Just get to the bridge as fast as possible and take it over. That, as it turns out, is not so fun in the end!

Enter the Doom Track! What would Space Pirates not want to happen while plundering a federal star ship? Well, they would definitely not want the authorities to arrive, that’s for sure! So now we have a Doom Track (or in this case, an Apprehension track) to show the players just how close they are to the end of the game and probable apprehension by the Federal Authorities.

But wait, there’s more! We also realized that pirates thrive on the morale of the crew. If the crew loses morale, they will get the heck out of dodge. Enter the Morale Track as well!

Now we have a double whammy of looming doom and loss of the game adding a sense of suspense and in some cases urgency to the players experience. Now there are tough choices to make along the way. Now there is a clear-cut way for any potential Traitor to sabotage the game!

Thank you Doom Track!

What are your thoughts on Doom Tracks and random game turn limits?

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and is the creator of several projects such as
TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.

Designer Blog – Into the Black – Mitigating Luck

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Designer Blog – Into the Black

Mitigating Luck and Randomness

In designing Into the Black, the initial concept was to have a whole whack of random exploration with every game being different as a result of hidden tile placement. This is cool, right? Well .. yes and no. The problem with this is that, as it currently stands, there is absolutely zero control (except for the setup where it’s in the “bottom half” of the deck) over when the Bridge tile can or will be discovered! It all runs on luck of the draw!

In all internal play test games so far the Bridge has been revealed around Turns 12-18, which leads to the 20 turn limit seeming plausible, however it is still almost completely random.

To wit, we are currently exploring ways to mitigate the random luck element of revealing tiles as you explore the star ship. Realizing not everyone loves the idea of Luck being the deciding factor in a game, what methods would you incorporate to mitigate that?

Some options we’ve come up with;

1) Certain characters may search the deck and rearrange the top X number of tiles Z number of times per game (only works if someone draws that character to play so this is limited)
2) Loot items that may allow the same as option 1 (only works if those items are found or drawn in the initial setup – more likely than #1)
3) Reveal additional tiles at turn Y, face up (The clock is ticking, the alarms are blaring and its becoming more and more obvious where the bridge is located by the panicked noise coming from the crew?)

We’ve also had a Doom Track mechanism suggested, such as those used in Arkham Horror, Forbidden Island, Dead of Winter, etc. This is where certain actions or events (both player driven and luck of the draw driven)  increase a counter by 1 (or more) each time any of the actions are taken. When you reach X, you lose. This adds great suspense and suspicion in a game with potential traitors when someone bumps up the tracker .. are they a Traitor or did they have no other choice? This is definitely being considered instead of a set turn limit.

Does anyone have any other options, or thoughts on these? Thanks! Your opinion is appreciated!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and is the creator of several projects such as
TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.

Board Game Design is Tougher than you think PT2

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Board Game Design

It’s a Tough Job but Somebody’s got to do it – PART 2 by James Campbell

As I discussed in my previous blog post about Board Game Design being tough, there are really 4 easy points you should tackle right at the start.

Who’s your Audience? What are your Goals? What is your Theme? What are the Mechanics you want to incorporate? Once you’ve got these 4 things figured out the rest is just the tedium of testing, revising, testing, revising and polishing, then getting that game published!

Let’s take a deeper look at these points;

Who’s Your Audience?

What age and preferences do you want to make a game for? Do you want to market your game for infants, toddlers, young kids, teens, or adults to be able to play? You can also be more specific and make a game for senior citizens, empty nesters, college students, high school students, etc. Your imagination is the only limit. You may also want to think about a specific culture (which may help you determine your theme)! Different cultures have different preferences and creating with those preferences in mind can make for an even stronger, more focused game! Do you want to allure to a mathematic crowd? Science lovers? Appeal to explorers? Fantasy fans? Maybe you’re looking to explore global cultures, religious cultures or city cultures. All of these things will help you determine your theme as well.

What Do You Want to Accomplish?

What goals do you have in mind for this game? Do you want to make a game to teach kids something? A game for parties? A game for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays?

How many players do you want to be able to play the game? Do you want it to be skill or luck based or some combination of each? (Luck based will usually include dice at key parts of the game.) How long do you want it to take to play? How simple or complex do you want the game to be (chances are you will start out way more complex than you need and pare it back)?

Many of these can be answered by knowing your audience. For instance, if you want a game to be for 4-7 year olds, this age range often has a lower attention span, so you may want it to be a shorter game or if you want it longer then you can have short parts to the game. You also would want to keep the game rules simple and may want it to be inclusive of a lot of kids in order to engage a class room of kids.

These are just ideas and examples, so if you want to break out of the norm, then go for it, but pay close attention to what your audience is actually looking for so that you don’t waste your time with a dud.

Theme

The theme of your game is what provides the atmosphere of the game. On top of the Theme, there are some genres you can choose from to gain your desired atmosphere: classic, euro-style, deck building, abstract strategy, strategy, card-based strategy, dice games to name a few.

Classic games are very simple and usually are just straight-forward “race to the finish” type game, like Sorry! and Monopoly. These games are generally seen as outdated and should probably be left to the likes of Hasbro and Mattel.

Euro games tend to have a bit more complexity and often win by a complex point system, like Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride.

Dice games are central to dice only and contain few or no other elements, like Yahtzee or Zombie Dice. These games are heavy in chance and luck to win and usually very quick to play.

Strategy games tend to be more extensive in gameplay, including long play times and really let you get involved in tactics and decision making. These games include Axis and Allies and other war (modern and fantasy) themed games.

Abstract Strategy games include usually two people pitted against one another to overcome the other by way of better game piece placement. This genre includes chess and Stratego.

Card-Based Strategy games only use cards and can be very different from game to game. For instance, Munchkin is based off of obtaining cards to boost your own players abilities and obtain levels, but Lost Cities is a journey-type game where the goal is to collect cards in a certain order. Both are part of this genre, though. This genre is so vast it contains subcategories like Deck Building games.

Deck Building games hinge upon players creating a customized deck of cards from a prearranged allotment throughout gameplay, usually needing to be purchased with some kind of resource. Dominion and Legendary: Marvel fall under this genre.

Mechanics

How is your game going to be played? Is it more dice focused, leaving much of the game to chance or is it with cards that actions are taken? Will you have several options for your actions? Will there be battles? If so, how will they work? For a great list of Board Game Mechanics, check out BoardGameGeek.com

How Do You Win?

One important part of the mechanics of any game is how to actually win. How do you want the game to be resolved and how will a winner be decided? Will you use a point system? Is it a race to the goal type game? Is it a collection game? Or are you simply defeating all the enemies or opponents (elimination game)?

NOW WHAT?

Ok, so now you have those four questions at least kind of answered (trust me, some of it will probably change as you revise and refine your game), where do you go from there?

1 Write the Rough Draft of the Rules

Keep in mind that the rough draft is a really rough draft. I recommend writing out the rules in completion, ignore any errors and just get your thoughts down in a physical form. Then, once you have it all out, go back and edit what you need to. Don’t take too much time editing right away – it’ll all change over the next steps!

If you’re unsure about a rule you’ve put in, don’t get hung up on it! Just play test the game yourself and play each player needed by yourself. This is the best test of where your flaws are and will often be a quick fix.

During this phase you can make a rough prototype of your board, cards, game pieces, dice, etc. Use cardboard or paper and just draw it out (it’s okay if it isn’t pretty right now). You can use index cards or just paper for the cards and just put basic information on them for now. Fold over a piece of cardboard as game piece to represent this function. Dice can be regular dice or if you want specialty dice for your game, use a normal dice and white stickers from the office section of your local store and just write a symbol or number to represent what you need to represent. If you need tokens, you can use coins or poker chips. Steal pieces from your existing games and whatever you don’t have, make it cheap and quick.

2 Play test!

Once you’ve created your rough draft, play test it yourself first, playing for all roles. When you play test consider the path that is taken to complete the game, how gameplay or the battlefield is operating, the positions to land on and how the playing cards interact with the rest of the game. Always keep notes of what works and what doesn’t, changes that should be made, etc. Put into your notes everything you see, then go back and correct them later.

After you’ve played by yourself, dozens of times and revised your rules accordingly, open it up for your family and friends to play with you. If you can have them play while you observe this has many benefits to have an outside perspective, but try not to get too involved in the game if you do this. Repeat the same note-taking and correction steps. Ask them to tell you how they felt about specific parts of the game. Remember though that your friends and family aren’t going to be as critical as strangers, so keep that in mind. Make your questions as pointed and simple to answer as possible.

If you feel good with it, try it with strangers because strangers will be less inclined to hold back criticism. Play test it with as many different types of people as possible. Have a play test feedback sheet for everyone to fill out with a series of specific questions about their thoughts, and more importantly their feelings about the gameplay.

Prepare yourself for a lot of criticism in this phase and don’t be offended by anything said, just take it, write it down, then sort it out later if you can use it or not.

3 Prototype

You should have a very clear idea of what you want your game to look like and how it will operate.

Now you’re making a close resemblance of what the game will look like after professional production. Keep in mind that this prototype may be totally scrapped and remade, so consider how much money you want in it at this stage.

What can you use to build your prototype? Boards are often built on chipboard or binder board, but you can use an old game board if you don’t want to purchase anything yet. Cardstock will be your best friend when creating your game because you’ll use it for playing cards, tokens/counters (by punching circles out of it) and you can paste the card stock onto an old board to have a blank slate to draw on.

I also recommend going to a hobby shop and ask about blank playing cards and ask the shop owner for helpful tips in board game creation. Even if they’ve never built a board game themselves, most have enough experience creating things that they will have some good ideas.

4 Publishing – Self Publish or seek out a Publisher?

Now that you have a great game, what do you want to do with it? Do you want to try to publish it yourself or seek out a publisher to license the game from you?

Both options have their ups and downs but that’s for other articles to delve into!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and is the creator of several projects such as
TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.

Design Blog – Scrap the First Project

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Scrap the First Project

Design Blog – Jay Vales

I’ve had hundreds of students go through my game theory classes. The Game Design and Gameplay class I teach has the students create their own board/card game as their final project. I help them go through the process of taking an idea and implementing it into something tangible without having to know any programming or 3d software. It teaches the students the pipeline in a very primitive atmosphere.

But I’ve noted a lot of things in my time not only as a design instructor, but as someone that’s worked in the video and board game industry. Here are my observations:

The first project won’t be a masterpiece.

This is true for any kind of creative endeavor, whether it be painting minis, creating a logo, or even designing a game. The first project is usually a lesson in trial and error; you learn a lot of things along the way. When it comes out, you’re proud of it, but you look back and wonder what could have been if you knew now what you did when you first started the project. A lot of times, people cling on to this project and they don’t realize that just the act of starting over can produce a product that will be far better. The wise thing I’ve seen is that my students were more successful when they started small and simple. They paired down the concepts and they fine tuned it. Going big on the first rodeo just sets you up for disaster. If your first game is a Kickstarter, you’re putting things at risk you shouldn’t be risking. Sometimes starting over is the best thing. You’ll start with all the knowledge you gained from your first project and you’ll be more efficient because you now know what to do.

Set boundaries for your project.

It’s very easy for your project to incorporate additional features that at some point, you’re going to have to start cutting those features in order to just finish the product. If you set your boundaries from the get-go, it will be a lot easier for you to decide if a particular feature is right for your game.

Be smart.

gear brainI hear the phrase “Go big or go home” a lot. While this is a very exciting quote, it may not be the wisest quote when it comes to creating your first game.

If you can push certain things in your favor, do it. If you are looking for testers, go to a game store and get people to playtest your game. If you can find a hookup to create cards, do it. If you don’t have a name in the business, start small and grow your reputation. Starting small is low risk, you can make your mistakes, and you can finish it in a reasonable amount of time.

Go back to the game’s roots. What kinds of colors should you use? What genre of game do you want to make? Are there other games out there that are similar? Can your game compete with them? Do you have a unique mechanic? Research it! Do small tests with people to see if they “get” your basic gameplay mechanic. Plan Plan Plan! If you’re shooting for a Kickstarter and you don’t have your manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and play testing channels on lockdown…as in it’s ready to go, not as in “we plan to when the KS is successful” (which is extremely irresponsible for a business), then you are still in the planning stages and are not ready.

Get help.

You are the creator, but you don’t want your project to fall on its face. Get help from people that will give you the right criticism. Someone recently told me I gave “negative criticism”. That’s such an illusion. If my criticism made the game better, then it’s NOT negative, it’s positive. Negative criticism offers no solutions. Positive criticism points out the issues, then offers suggestions on how to fix it. If you’re not open to criticism, then the only fan of your game will be you. Let’s not lie here, ultimately, we would like to make money on our games…so why not get all the help we need in order to make money.

Making the game is only part of the work.

Let’s say you have this awesome game. You made it. You’re proud of it. People in your circles love your game. The game isn’t going to sprout legs and suddenly be successful. Even with a great game, you still have to to do the footwork to get the masses to see your game. If your game is long, you need to sit X amount of people for X amount of time and convince them through your game that it’s good. I can’t tell if a game is good for me by just placing my hand on the box. I can’t tell even if someone else has played the game and they tell me it’s great. It may be good for them, but not for me. I have to figure that out…and that means taking the time to play the game. There’s the saying, “If you build it, they will come”. That’s NOT true here in the game industry. It will take time, money, effort, a lot of manpower, and a lot of sweat. Even great designers like Ignacy Trzewiczek has to hit the convention circuit and push his games. If you’re thinking that you only need to just put the time and effort in just making the game and not hit the pavement to tell the masses, then you’re missing the biggest part of the equation.

Look for something different.

clipart-eyes-lookIt’s obvious what the trends are these days (as of this writing)…MOBAs, Deck Building Games, Miniature Games, anything with zombies. Try and find something that will set your game apart from everyone else’s. This may take some time. Maybe you have to go back and research old gaming mechanics that aren’t used as much today. Maybe you can get an existing mechanic and tweak it to make it your own. In the industry, it’s called a “hook”.

If your game is easily comparable to another existing game, then you’re basically eating the scraps from the table occupied by the game you’re imitating. Go to a table that only you occupy…then you get ALL the audience of that feature.

Don’t give up.

We are doing this because we love games. A failure in creating a game shouldn’t squelch our passion for gaming.

Sometimes I wish I could grab people and say, “OMG don’t you know where you’re headed?! Stop now!!!” Sometimes I’ve almost done that on forums (or have come close), but I can only control my own destiny and can only give input to people that ask for it.

Jay Vales (Radioactive Mouse on the BoardGameDesignersForum) is the designer behind Conquest at Kismet, a gold banner project published by Victory Point Games