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The Game Designers Survey 2010
Fortune
United Kingdom
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If you are not new to this hobby, you'll eventually have a burning desire to design your own game. I frequently visit the Board Game Designers Forum to get my head around how the creative process works and often find valuable pieces of information. However it's ultimately not articles or threads, but flesh-and-blood designers that you can learn from. That's why I came up with a few questions that an average guy like me would have about designing games and decided to publish this survey on the 'Geek that has 13,721 designers in its database as of 16 July 2010. Naturally, only a fraction of them post on the boards, but I'm hoping that the active ones will find this geeklist and share their answers to the questions below. (So if you wouldn't mind thumbing this geeklist, that would gauge interest and cause more people to fill out the survey.)

Think of this as creating our own Mastermind group, brainstorm ideas, and support each other with total honesty, respect and compassion.

---

@Game Designers, please add a geeklist item and answer these questions.

1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, weight, etc.)?

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

6. Is narrative (or story arc) important in your opinion? How important is it?

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

EDIT: edited 1st and 6th question for clarity.
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John Bobek
United States
Chicago
Illinois
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1. I basically design rules for miniatures battles and rpg's. With miniatures, the line between rpg and wargame is frequently crossed. If by heavy you mean actual weight, the typical rules set is about 3-5 pages so not heavy at all. If you mean by game play, yes. The games are light in that they are generally easy to learn and play (someone in a review said that they are the perfect set for conventions), and heavy in that while they cover all the critical components, you can layer on as much as you like. The Judge's Guidelines contained within allow one to customize to one's heart's desire!
Dr. Who role play!

2. The fundamental difference between miniatures wargames and the typical boardwargame has little to do with the actual miniatures. There are, after all board wargames that use actual miniatures. Some others, such as CoH, have beautifully rendered counters that would please most minis lovers. They could easily be used with regular miniatures rules. I've done it myself.
The real difference lies in "thinking outside the box," literally. Acquiring the minis, the terrain, and even picking the scenario (location, order of battle, time period, duration, etc) are all at the discretion of the judge and/or players. It usually isn't presented as a package deal.
So, picking the theme is limited to WWII land vs Napoleonic Wars land battles. Scale is another area one needs to settle rather early in the process. Will this be a one figure is one man, one tank is one tank, or will it be one figure(or stand of figures) is one hundred men, one tank is 3 to 6 tanks? Once that is set, it then becomes the designer's responsibiliiy to set the mechanics to that level of detail. For example, it matters if an American backwoodsman's rifle is loaded or just discharged if playing a 1 to 1 scale skirmish. It has no relevance when 1 figure or stand of figures represents 20, 50, 100, 200, or more men! The scale of the game dictates the detail of the rules.
Bulge in 1 to 1 scale.

3. I loved war movies and I loved toy soldiers. As a small child, I used the toys that I had to reenact the movies that I had seen, For example, I loved Disney's Alamo with Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. (I still have my coonskin cap from that era!) Even though I didn't have the Marx Alamo toy set, I did have the US Military Academy playset. The cadets wore shakos that looked close enough to the uniforms of Santa Ana's troops. I used cowboys and pioneers for the Texans, and the Military Academy became the Alamo compound. Without any formal rules, I played "games" where the action flowed much like that of the movie's battle scenes.
That has been my goal as a game designer, to design sets of rules that don't get in the way of experiencing the game. Mechanics of computing odds, picking targets, moving units, rolling dice, factoring morale, all need to be done in a manner that isn't inordinately time consuming and therefore tedious. One should feel like one is actually IN a movie as one plays!
The Alamo!
A Bridge Too Far!
I also, as I became more knowledgable, began to detest games that didn't reflect somewhat closely what actually took place in combat. For example, most naval rules when I was a young IFW member caused ships to take damage proportionally wiht each hit. You would lose so much flotation, speed, main armamement guns, secondary guns, and tertiary guns with each hit till you sank. And, like AH's Jutland's check boxes, it was a simple progression of hits till you went under.
At Jutland, the Weisbaden, a German light cruiser, had the misfortune to have the British battle line sail past it while it was dead in the water. It returned fire with its puny guns while it became the gunnery target of the British fleet for lack of anything else to shoot at! It took quite awhile to sink. With the typical set of naval rules, the Weisbaden would have received one broadside from a dreadnought and ceased to exist!
So, for me, the only hits that mattered were critical hits. Smashing the petty officers' wardroom might annoy them, but it wouldn't hinder their ship's ability to fight, or maneuver. The same would be true of hits on a tank or on an individual person.

4. I start designing a game after I set the scales as discussed above. Movement and ranges are then fixed. The combat systems are next. What are the probabilities based on what I've read? Based on my experience in paintball? Using my Judge's Guidelines, I factor in the critical modifiers: rifles vs. smoothbore muskets, rate of fire based on training, differences in armor and armor penetration, etc. Then, I figure out any special situations that would be needed. For example, for air combat, spotting is critical. Even though I wrote it later, it comes early on in all my air rules.
Finally, I deal with morale. In a boardgame, morale is either added into the combat results table via the numbers on the counter, or it's ignored altogether. Morale that goes bad can be like an infectious disease that spreads rapidly from unit to unit. You may have an omniscient fiew of the tabletop battlefield, but you can't make your soldiers stand and fight if they don't want to. The die roll will tell you what THEY WANTED!

5. See number one above. A game should be fast paced, visually appealing and capable of bringing one into the event as a participant, not a gamer.
HO scale pirate free for all!

6. See number five above! The game doesn't have to ba balanced. Some of my most memorable games have been lopsided in play balance. (The Alamo comes to mind!) It just needs to draw you into the game the way great movies draw you into the film!

7. Agonizing decisions? If you mean how much time do I allow decisions? Not an inordinate amount. You don't get to pause the paintballs flying around to decide where to run to next! If you mean tough decisions in the game? I have been known to set up games where there are some important choices to be made, but I wouldn't describe any as agonizing.

8. There's nothing mysterious about the "fun factor.' The rules should allow the players to immerse themselves in the game as a participant, not a gamer. Then it's automatically FUN! A good game judge can really enhance the experience, but that's true of good opponents in a boardgame!

9. After 3 fruitless years of searching first for a publisher, then searching for an agent, I went to self publishing at Authorhouse. My 39 games are packaged as a book, yet it's not a book as publishers and agents understand. I would have had more luck getting an English/Babylonian cunieform phrasebook published! That they would have understood!

10. My first rules were hand written, so penmanship v.3.5. Later, I used a word processor for the Commodore 64 (Yes, there was such a computer, no hard drive included!). Then, I eventually upgraded to Geoworks's word processor, Microsoft Works, and finally, Microsoft Word. I've also used Access and Excel

11. A Nation Divided (which is free to download from the files on The Games of War), took about 2 hours. Of course, the fact that it had a lot in common with one of my Napoleonic rules sets didn't hurt. Otherwise it varies considerably. Some rules sets took 6 to 8 hours, others took several weeks (gathering and converting technical data such as tank or plane statistics).

12. Yes! I'm aiming to hit the mass market and the geek community. I'm sure by my history of posts on BGG, readers know that I constantly try to convert gamers to miniatures. In the non geek community, I seek to create gamers. I know I've done just that when Rick Wiet, a former student form the Class of 1973 showed up at the Spring Hoopla 2010 and played in one of my games. He had gotten into gaming because of the games I brought and ran after school.
Rick's wearing the hat.

13. Easy to read or meticulous? To whom? A can read my rules and declare them to be too wordy (yet the average rules set is 3 to 5 pages long), while B can read them and say that they're not detailed enough. My earlier answers give my opinion!

14. If you have a great imagination, bottle caps can be soldiers, ships, planes, or men. But, the better it looks, the more enjoyable. (And if the game stinks, at least you can admire the playing pieces!)

15. My games generally have no set limit on the number of players or the duration of playing time. My after school games pretty much MUST be done in about an hour, so I kind of use fewer game pieces (say 100 to 200 VS 1000+ if I have 4 hours or more). I would definitely NOT design any game that takes an hour to conclude one turn!
After school game.
4 hour convention game.

16. Since I work Timing and Scoring for the Sports Car Club of America, I've been thinking about doing a racing game (with minis of course, hail Matchbox and Hotwheels!!!). First, I need to catch up on household chores!

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2. Board Game: Admiral Ackbar "It's a TRAP!" GAME [Average Rating:3.98 Overall Rank:10489]
Robert Wesley
Nepal
Aberdeen
Washington
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
While my 'forte' is mainly within the enhancing or embellishing for others that I feel require something additional, of which they were initially lacking or had omitted on these. Their 'weight' will depend upon what any began with, although something I may ADD for these, might constitute yet another determination with thus.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
shake Not necessarily on the first part, nor either on the 2nd.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
laugh Having FUN at another's expanse! oh, and no doubt mostly many another shall for myself as well, mostly...

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
Look and see what these may have missed!

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
Good question! Their ability on 'piquing' MY 'interest' to further delve within anything.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
Certainly, although I am more inclined to discover if that follows a historical perspective for its 'being'.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
surprise The more's the better!

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
whistle I would believe that anything of which I'll accomplish is the mission achieved.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
Since I do provide the majority of what I do for FREE, then I'll just be happy if others enjoyed the results.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
shake Just the plain ole 'nilla PAINT apps that I have with this XP machine.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
wow It does depend with what I'm working upon, since I have created some complete overhauls in just a few weeks. For others, then they're going on YEARS so far.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
I can't be certain, since some of this don't get through their 'bullheadedness'.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
robot That always depended on the topic at hand.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
Believe it or don't! yet I tend to lean towards plainer, simpler stylings for mine.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
shake Not especially nor intentionally. A 'Euro'?

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
Why yes, and plenty! One that I am almost finished with is an online and PbEm version for the following: Fortress America: Expansion Pack #1 With that, then many of whom weren't able to try it out some, NOW could!
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3. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1545]
Steven Metzger
United States
Pullman
Washington
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games? My stuff is generally medium-light to medium, and I prefer to deal with mechanically interesting games. Theme is often interchangeable.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process? If I can translate a theme into a core mechanic instantly, I've just started brainstorming my next game. I've said this before: "Theme can come first, but mechanics need to become first."

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
My last one was a TV show on the History channel. Before that was trying to make a card game version of a recent popular euro game.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us? Nothing really, just methods for faster production of prototypes. If I really want to brainstorm a new idea, I get in the car or the shower.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion? If it is intriguing enough that I want to play it again as-is, it is at least starting out good.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it? No.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!) They really need to come naturally, not be tacked on. You can tack on theme, but if you don't have mechanics, you don't have a game.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"? See answer to question 7. A game doesn't necessarily have to be fun to still be a game...although then it becomes a wholly different type of fun.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher? Find a publisher.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
Inkscape!

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game? Too much.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two? Depends on the design, really. The BGG community is wildly fragmented between wargamers, eurogamers, ameritrashers, abstracts, casuals, etc etc. I consider myself a eurogamer now, so I really would like to aim for that side of the community. Aiming for the SdJ is a byproduct of some designs, but some of them just aren't going to hit the spot for casual gamers.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
A rulebook should be vying for an Essen Feather.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
Zero in prototyping/early playtests. The pieces simply need to be functional - I am not an artist.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
I have no interest in outright wargaming, ameritrash, CCGs, and I'm getting pretty tired of zombies and dungeoncrawls when hearing about someone else's game idea. I don't really have restrictions, per se, but a game has to stop developing mechanically at some point, and start to get refined.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it? Hah...which one?
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4. Board Game Designer: Kai Bettzieche
Kai Bettzieche
Germany
Eppelsheim
Rheinland Pfalz
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
- Whatever comes to my mind. Even though I already have designed a game that doesn't require dice at all, I'm a big fan of dicefests and of tactical decisions so probably most of the games I will design in future will revolve around those two elements ..

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
- Usually the process is like "hey, I'd like to design a game with this and that theme", then I work out the mechanics, then I go deeper with the theme (if still necessary ..)

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
- Other games. Honestly: I don't sit down to invent the wheel anew. If I need a game situation solved, I take a look at my favorite games to see how it has been solved there. Copy & paste is my friend ..

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
- Not at all .. sorry .. Besides from what I said under 2., my way to design a game is rather chaotic with no structure at all ..

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
It needs to do, what it was created for: A good game entertains people for a couple of minutes or even hours.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
Not at all ..

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
- Uuuuh .. where are the borders between agonizing and brain-burning? Let's say it like this: When you play a game, you ought to know, what to expect. If a game usually is fast paced, no situation should ever arise that forces a player into AP. Some Euros are good examples for this, like Finca or Carcarssonne .. On the other hand there are games like Chess or Go and the likes that require a lot of thinking, so if I play those games, "agonizing" decisions are fine!

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
- See my answers above: Some games are meant to bring fun, others are meant to crush your brain.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
- I wouldn't mind seeing a publisher publish my games; however my games will always be available for free at the catzeyes HQ. I'd rather have my games not being published by a publisher than having to take them down from my website.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
- Gimp, Open Office

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
- Difficult question .. small games are designed faster than larger ones, you know ..

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
- The 'geek' community is important to me. I don't care for the mass market.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
- What? Easy to read, of course! (I know .. mine are not .. )

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
- Depends on the game: Space Hulk would only be half the fun with chits and cubes ..

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
- Last game I designed (Schleichfahrt ..) had the restriction to suit an artscow format. Other than that: the creativity is the limit. In future however I'd like to design more games that fit into those little boxes, I like so much .. (See this geeklist)
I would never want to design a wargame .. They don't attract me that much, you know ..

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
- Oh .. well .. if I can find the time, I work on my Postcard Dungeon Crawl.
It is a dungeon crawl (surprise surprise) where the dungeons suit onto postcards. It is played with 15mm miniatures (alternatively with chits) and combines the coolest mechanics I could find in other games and that I deemed suitable enough for my dungeon crawl.
However atm I'm at the stage where I need to paint those little buggers .. And that is a very very very annoying job and I don't find the time to do this
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5. Board Game: Space Junkyard [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:4266]
Gilad Yarnitzky
Israel
Reut
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
There is no specific category I design, but I prefer lighter games.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
Space junkyard started with the mechanics first, so my my second PnP here (Island trader). And when I think on my other games in progress, mechanics usually came first

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
Sometimes I see a mechanics I like and I try to change it and then build a framework around it. Sometimes I think I have an idea for mechanics that I did not encounter before. Sometimes I understand why I never saw a game with a specific mechanics, the games I try using it stink.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
As I said I usually start with the mechanics top level. then I try to see what other concepts I can add to make the game more challenging or interesting then if the flow of things sound right I try to add the theme.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
Simple game, not to long that give either lots of fun factor or challenge your brain although it is simple.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
It is important since if has to make the game mechanics fit the story and make sense. If done correctly the rules will be easier to understand by the players, and flow of the game will be easier to follow. Making a good interesting theme is hard, I don't think I'm that good as I want to be at that part.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
Yes yes yes. simple games that makes you need to make hard decision are great.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
I wish people who will leave the table after playing my game will remember it because it was fun, they had good time playing it, that is for me the fun factor.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
I would prefer self publishing, but since I'm in Israel brining the game into the market (Europe/States) is so much harder and more expensive that I did not go that way (although I did a small run self published of Island trader as a try). It is super hard selling my ideas to publishers.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
I only use an old version of photoshop and open office to write the rules and do some basic graphics.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
ranging from ~150 hours for Island trader to ~300 hours for my current design which is in the 4th revision.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
I think my designs are aimed to the more geeky community. I don't think any of them will reach the mass market, hopefully couple of runs that will reach a total of 10K copies is the most I can wish for

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
As I said, I prefer simpler games so the rule book should be easy to read.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
I would like to believe it is not that important, but I know better. People prefer games that have nicer components. not too many people checked out Space junkyard with my graphics, but as soon as Orlando uploaded his graphics, the exposure was about 3-4 times higher and publishers got in touch with me.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
Yes, when I start with the mechanics I usually also add restriction of time, number of people etc. designing a game that fit 2-6 people is not the same as a game of 2-4 people, so I need to make a decision when starting the process to enable me to fix on some aspects of the design.
I don't believe I'll make a real wargame. A game with warlike parts sure, but not as the main mechanics.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
I'm working on 2 new projects. one is a dice game that is at a final stages of testing (finally) were you need to balance getting VP early at the game and collecting money to help you get VP at the end
the second is a light Civ game which was supposed to be short, but I seem to have problem at that department so I'm not sure how I'll progress next.
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6. Board Game: Omega Centauri [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:3052]
 
Nigel Buckle
United Kingdom
Thornton Heath
Croydon
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I don't think I'm an 'expert' with just one published game (Celtic Quest) but here's my answers ...

1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

I never start with mechanics - I start with the theme and see where things go (hmm, this is really question 2 ...) As to game weight, it depends. Mostly I design games I want to play (hmm, this is really question 3!)

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

Theme first. Mechanics hopefully fit the theme, although during the development process things get cut and then the link might not be obvious!

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

Games I want to play, or rather games with a theme I like highlighting an aspect that I can't find in another game.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

Varies a bit with the game but I start out making notes, then try it out 'solo' (and often that kills off ideas that don't really work). Then work on it a bit more, once I think I have a 'game' then I try it out on my long suffering testers - and then based on the response I'll work on it more, throw it in the 'maybe look at again some-day' pile or abandon it.

Few ideas that get past that hurdle I'll work on more, make up a less scruffy playable demo and then try it out on others.

Few ideas that get past that I'll then modify again and write out the rules, and very few will get to a point I'll ask people to blind test - and then try to find someone to publish.

-- Edit (To add a bit more detail)
Generally I design a game and throw lots of things into it (too much) and then start removing stuff until what is removed stops the game working or stops it being fun, then I'll put it back and see what else can be removed. This cycle is usually repeated after blind testing too, as the fresh set of eyes from that throws up lots of things my original testers being too familar with the game aren't seeing as an issue.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

One that people like to play - of course not everyone likes all games - so a good game for me is one I like to play, and it will vary with the players. Some games shine with one group and are a total disaster with another.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?

Depends on the weight/length of the game. With a 20 minute filler it probably isn't so important, but I like games with a narrative.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

Some brain-burning decisions are agonising too. If a game has no 'real' decisions then the players are rather passive - just playing along. I prefer games where you drive the game, rather than the other way around.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

Personal taste - one persons idea of fun is another's idea of work or random chaos. It's just (just!) a matter of finding the right game to suit the mix of players you have at that time.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

As long as people are playing my games I don't mind - but I have zero graphic skills, so my 'playtest kits' are not pretty! I've found it hard to sell ideas to a publisher, but maybe my approach is wrong (see Q12 below), getting my games published is not my main objective!

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

Word, Photoshop.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

Varies massively - I like starting, find it hard to finish (or stop tinkering), depends how enthusiastic the testers are!

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

Neither - my tastes in games doesn't match the typical geek and certainly not the mainstream ... I'm designing games I like - it's a bonus if others like them too

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

Rulebooks are hard to do well. They have 3 functions all rather different:

* Teach the game
* Use during the game for lookup to resolve problems/arguments
* Promote the game and ecourage someone to actually play

I'm not very good at writing rules! blush

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

It helps - my prototypes usually don't have them!

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

Yes, I usually design to a play-length and player number. I wouldn't design a game starting with mechanics or an abstract.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

I have a number of ideas, no publishers at present - other than Omega Centauri which has been waiting to be published for a while. To keep my sanity on this one I'm offering playtest kits for those who are prepared to print/play and slowly releasing variants to use with it (see the game entry on the geek or my profile for more info)
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7. Board Game: Kalua [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:5719]
Carlos Moreno Serrano
United Kingdom
Guildford
Surrey
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
I have a preference towards card games but usually I find a certain mechanic that will involve more elements like money, resources, actions and although that could also be represented by cards, it is nicer to have tiles, meeples, etc. My usual preference would be the typical standard Euro game maybe a bit on the heavier side. Somewhere between Fresco and Power Grid could be an example of what I mean.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
To me the mechanics come always first. When I buy a game is not because I fancy some vampire game, but because I've read about certain mechanic that is new or that appeals to me, but this is just a personal preference.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
As my microbadge reads, "Constantly thinking about game design". I usually get my ideas just before falling asleep (sometimes while sleeping!), when I'm driving my car or when I'm using the bathroom.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
I have a moleskin notebook where I scribble the ideas and later I'll work on them. I also make mental notes whenever I learn about any new mechanic on BGG or Spielbox. I also do brainstorm sessions and try to put together some existing mechanics I like and tweak them until they work together (or not).

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
To me a good game has mechanics that work well and that it's coherent. I don't like when certain rule or mechanic doesn't make sense. A game doesn't have to be fun in the generic way, a game of Die Macher or 18xx is hardly fun by general standards but it can bring great "pleasure" to the players.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
I'm an engineer so my answer is no. I'm pretty happy and excited just with the mechanics. Abstract games are a good example of games with zero narrative and widely enjoyed.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
I love them! In my game Kalua I give the possibility of killing your own followers for tactical reasons or for the Leader to be able to sacrifice himself in order to keep the religion going. I think that adds a lot to the game.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
Different people like different things. I've already talked about Die Macher or 18xx games. Some think they are too dry or too long, some others don't want to play anything else!

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
Many years ago, when I started, I tried publishers like Gigamic, for an abstract game I invented. They didn't like my game and I got a bit depressed and stopped designing for some years. Once I got a job and could save some money, I looked into self-publishing or even give away my designs as P&P for free for people to enjoy. Now I'm going back to publishers and my latest game, Kalua, will get released by a publisher.
I like very much the work of people like Néstor Romeral Andrés from nestorgames and I would love to have my own publishing company if I were much richer. That would be the coolest job.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
Pen & paper, any standard writing software and most importantly: Inkscape with the Boardgame extension created by our fellow geek
Pelle Nilsson
Sweden
Linköping
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which is brilliant for card design (and other stuff).

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
The original concept will be something quick, like a weekend. The evolution and expansion of the concept like a month. The testing and refining can take a year or more.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
I'm not that optimistic so I'll say the geek community. I don't think the mass market will fully understand or like my games (or most of the games that geeks play).

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
I love meticulous, but my publisher will hit me with a stick, so I'll say easy-to-read.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
Everyone loves meeples and nice components, the problem is that they are too expensive and would raise the manufacturing cost too much. For my game Kalua I wanted customised new-looking meeples, but they are just too expensive. We are trying now to get some plastic minis. It is a trade-off. I will always try to push as many nice components as I can into my game while keeping the price tag as low as possible.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
The number of players depends heavily on the mechanics of your game. Auctions can be a pain if there are too many players. We want to minimise downtime and make the whole experience pleasant so I never fix the number of players until I playtest the game.
The playing time can be modified by tweaking the mechanics as well. You have certain tools you can use like limiting the number of rounds, or the amount of resources or money available. So this can be easily modified.
I would definitely not design any wargame or any game that I simply don't know enough about.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

I'm getting Kalua published, hopefully for Essen 2010 and I'm already working on a kind of worker-placement, resources/skills, Renaissance&Pirate game and also on a corporation/stock market game. I think that if I combine both it would be a truly monster game, so I'm keeping them separate.
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8. Board Game: Mutton [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:5378]
Stephen Tavener
United Kingdom
London
England
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
I design games that I want to play. That covers a lot of territory!

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
Theme, always; even the abstracts have a theme of sorts! Sometimes it's as nebulous as a feeling I'm trying to capture, but it's always the driving force.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
The local cluon field. I have no shortage of ideas. Just a shortage of time in which to develop them.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
Make a note of the idea; shelve it for a while, and let some other ideas bounce around with it. If it's an abstract, then I'll probably programme it for zillions of games, and play both against zillions and myself while tweaking. At some point, I'll knock up a prototype, and inflict it on friends and colleagues.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
Originality. Fun. Replayable. Consistency of theme. Progression ("I'll play better next time").

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
Very! ‭A good theme helps the players make reasonable decisions quickly, adds to the sense of fun, gets players to come back and play again.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
Turn angst; yes, it's important for that "next time, I'll play better" feeling. Possibly not every turn, though - that can get too stressful.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
Yes, it's important - for that reason, I lean towards polarising games that folks will love or hate to middle-of-the road games.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
I have no direct interest in publishing games. I just want folks to play them.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
Nandeck for card games. Zillions for Abstracts. I have little or no graphical ability.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
Hard to say. So much of the work is done by my subconscious!

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
I'm hitting myself, mostly.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
It should be written by someone else. Debugging code is a lot easier than debugging rulebooks!

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
Beautiful plumage certainly helps with my enjoyment of a game.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
No absolute restrictions; but I tend to lean towards short 2-player games.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
A project? No... more like 20 or 30. Some at the top of the stack at the moment:

1. Unnamed - an aerial combat game.
2. Unnamed - a deduction game with an Agatha Christie atmosphere.
3. Spellworms - move around the board collecting letters; meld letters into spells which give your worm a special ability.
4. Exclusion Zone - abstract race game where same-coloured pieces can't be adjacent.
5. Rapid Cooling - capture game where capturing pieces grow and become less mobile as they do so. First to immobilise one of their own pieces wins.
6. Zodiac Race - a stacking/racing game where each piece has extended movement in its element; the challenge is to give all 12 zodiac signs distinctive movement/abilities that relate to their theme.
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9. Board Game Designer: Jeremiah Lee
Jeremiah Lee
United States
Sylvania
Ohio
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I'm not done with this yet, but I'll be back to answer more as I get the time.

1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
I tend to design games in the negotiation and deduction genres. I'm aiming for player interaction in my designs (which is funny, since my most popular design, the print-and-play Zombie in my Pocket is a solo game). I like the games to be simple, and allow the interactions between the players to give the complexity.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
I usually come up with the theme first, although the mechanics aren't far behind. I don't think there's one that's a higher priority, but I find I work on the mechanics longer, as themes come pretty easily for me.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
Like many other designers, I'm sure, many of my design ideas come from other games. Zombie in my Pocket came from Pocket Civ and Betrayal at House on the Hill, Flickago came from Crokinole, Taktika, and Backgammon. Other inspirations are individual mechanics. I love trading and negotiating, and want to make games that focus on this. I'm also a big fan of the prisoner's dilemma, which was a big inspiration to the multiplayer version of Zombie in my Pocket.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
After inspiration, I spend between one and ten days with the game rumbling around in my head. I don't write anything down, I don't make anything concrete. This gives the game time to create itself, and for my subconscious to bring together the kind of game that I'm looking for.

After the subconscious time, I write up a 'rough rules' document. This will usually include the expected components, as well as the setup, gameplay, and endgame.

Then, often, I forget about the game for months. Most never make it past this point.

If I'm still interested in working on a game after this point, I call
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, and then another friend and talk to them about the game. This clears up some sticky points, and helps to refocus me on the fun of the game.

Once I've spent some time considering what my gaming friends had to say, I build the prototype. If I can, I'll play a game, or five, or ten, by myself, then get a group together to play it.

Revise, play, revise, play, and so on, until I feel like it's ready.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
It's pretty different for everyone, and if I'm designing a game, I need to keep in mind the target, and make a good game for them. Generally though, I'm trying to target myself. A good game to me is a game that creates opportunities for players to interact. I like games about people, not games about game systems.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
I feel like it's pretty important to have a narrative that moves along with the game, in many games. I'm not opposed to making games without some kind of narrative, but I prefer game with strong narratives.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
We want this. Without interesting decisions, there's little reason to play.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
Fun can come from different sources, and if you're designing a game with fun in mind (and I usually am), I believe it's important to clearly focus on the fun. Take out things that aren't fun, and try to make the fun bits more important.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
I'm not really interested in self-publishing, mostly because I know I'd be bad at it. I've never been good at organizing lots of little bits of things, and getting all of the logistical details together. Then, you add having to ship the games, and I'm just out.

Is it difficult to sell games, yes, mostly. I find everyone is really easy to approach, and generally the publishers are happy to play games and provide feedback, which is great. Getting a game sold is hard, but it makes sense that it is. If all the game ideas that were brought to prototype were purchased and published, the market would be flooded with games of not nearly the quality we have.

Selling a great game is easy. Selling a sub-great game is hard.
Desiging a great game is (usually) hard. Designing a sub-great game is still hard, but not as hard.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
Excel is my biggest helper. That, and a simple text editor.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
It varies widely. ZimP, the original Print and Play version was a very quick design, just a couple of days. I've had other games that are months-to-years in the making.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
I aim for the geeks. Watch out, suckas.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
Easy to read is more important, to me. I try to leave something in the rules that tells how to deal with questions.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
It makes such a difference in the game, but I don't worry about that aspect in my games. I'm not a graphic designer. In games I play, I really enjoy nice bits.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
I don't imagine you'll find many restrictions among designers. We have targets we like to hit (2-6 players, 40-80 minutes for me) but nothing to say we can't go outside of that.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
I have a couple I'm working on. 'We Might Not Make It' is the current front-runner. It's a semi-cooperative game where we're all trying to make it back to Earth is a broken ship. The design has gone through a lot of changes since I wrote the rough rules last December, but all of those changes have lead to a much better game.
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10. Board Game Designer: Justin Egan
Justin Egan
United States
Fort Myers
FL - Florida
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
I like Sci-Fi as a theme. If not Sci-Fi, I like simulation. Card Games Mostly.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
Theme first, but mechanics is more important. Game design is unique as it can't be all Form Follows Function. Things have to happen all at once.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
Usually they just pop in while I'm chugging along in everyday life.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
Not really. I leave my creative process loose.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
Light play, few high quality mechanics, and high strategy. also a downplay of random element helps.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
I think so. a good story arc can help people get and stay interested in a game.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
I think that agonizing decisions are part of real ife. If art imitates life, and game design is art, then agonizing decisions shold be part of any game (at least heavy play weight games)

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
This is super important. If a game isn't fun, what's the point?

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
Self Publish, ftw.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
NanDeck, photoshop, and adobe illustrator. Also MS word for instruction outlineing and adobe indesign for books.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
About 2 weeks on concept, a week on mechanics, and 3 or 4 on prototype building. a week solo playtesting. 2-3 on guided playtests and a month or two on blind playtests. After each playtest phase, there is a supplementary design phase lasting upwards of a week depending on the issues found.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
Somewhere in between. Really, I make games I like.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
Easy to read. I see alot of people shut down on a game that has to many rules.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
Eye candy is rather important to me. It keeps the game interesting.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
I don't restrict myself in these regards as it's easier to figure out what sort of environment works after logistics and mechanics are in place. I stay away from making two player only games and any game that requires a lot of random elements.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
Yes I am, but it's tightly under wraps at the moment.
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11. Board Game: 4th Corner [Average Rating:4.97 Overall Rank:9844]
Mark Salzwedel
United States
New York
New York
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

My games congregate mostly around family/light strategy, trying to make sure they can be fun for both children and adults.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?


More often mechanics first, but not exclusively. Often, I think of how an existing game could be improved, how two games could be combined, or I just play around with Illustrator until I come up with a neat board. I believe theme helps players to keep rules in mind and adds to the fun and banter of a game.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

One that gets onlookers interested in playing, one that gets pulled out and played over the course of years, ones that children and adults both enjoy, and ones that do something truly unique (not just another CCG adaptation or another resource management game with lots of tiles or cubes).

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?

Only in the fact that it helps to teach players strategy.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

I'm not sure what the distinction is. I hate games that lead to analysis paralysis. If a game has decisions that could go either way, and you find out you made the wrong choice, it shouldn't cost you the game.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

The most important contributors I feel are evocative components, humorous theme and/or in-game text, uncertainty throughout the game who will win, not much player down time, not a lot to remember, shifting goals, and a playing time short enough to leave players wanting more.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

I publish my games, and I sell them in toy and game stores and at online retailers. I decided to get into publishing because the amount of work versus the amount of royalties in licensing to another publisher was too high a cost for me.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

Mostly Illustrator and Photoshop.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

Initial design can take 1-3 days. In most cases it takes 2 years or more before it's ready to publish. Lots of time is needed for play testing and honing the rules.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

The mass market principally, but certain games, like Samsara, were initially conceived for the hobby gamer market and became more general in appeal as I developed it.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

Creating the rule book is the hardest part. I end up being more meticulous, but I'm trying to start with a brief overview so that players can get started if they want and just look up special cases as they arise.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

It depends on the imaginations of the players. The average player however seems to respond better to colorful graphics and 3-D components.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

Yes. I want my games to accommodate as many different numbers of players and ages as possible. My games typically play 3 to 6 or 8 players, and I throw in 2-player variations when I can. For my markets, a game that lasts more than 45 minutes is a tough sell. Although I have designed party games and war games, it is unlikely that I will publish any of them myself.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

I am trying to ramp up to publishing at least 3 designs a year, and since they take a couple of years to hone, I have a lot in development.

The ones just about ready to publish are Samsara, Star Hopper, and Master Spy.

I have a card-game for 2-4 players age 6 to adult called Assorti where you try to match your hand to your opponents' discards. I have a couple of promising tile laying games -- one where you're trying to lay pipe to avoid a flood, and one where you're maneuvering your robot through a space station. I have a cooperative dungeon crawl. I have a strategy card game in which you are trying to get your laundry done at a laundromat.
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12. Board Game Designer: Andrew Christianson
Andrew Christianson
United States
Wisconsin
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
I'm only starting out, so I can only tell you about what I'm designing now. That would be lightly competitive, but fun games. Simpler, but the more interesting, the better.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
Theme, definitely. I often come up with a general idea, then throw around with others, "what's the best way to showcase the idea." Function follows form for most of my games. Personally, there's nothing worse than buying a game because of the theme, and then having the game have nothing to do with the theme. A certain Princess Bride game comes to mind...

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
I always just ask myself, what would I like to play? Then, I throw ideas out towards my friends and see what sticks.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
I go for a walk. I think about a type of game I've either never seen, or haven't seen to my tastes. Then, I get my crew together, and we discuss our ideas. We throw around our thoughts and personal goals/desires/whatever. We then assign duties from there.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
One where I say, "One more time" or "Let's do this again next week!" Specific mechanics aren't required. If it's fun, it's fun, and I want it addictive.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
Depends on the game. If the game's about telling a story, then it's just as important as anything else. My game, World's Greatest Villain, though? I have story arcs I could implement, but they are secondary to a quick paced game.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
See above. If it warrants the theme, go for it! Especially in some party games, where you're trying to find out about others, it could be interesting for some very difficult decisions to be made.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
It's not so mysterious. This is why you have play testers. You first try to enjoy the game yourself. Then, you play test, see what most people want out of the game, and try your best to keep the game's integrity, without boring other gamers.

It can be difficult to catch, that "fun factor," and it may not be the same for everyone, but if you know the audience you are targeting, there should be no major problems.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
I do not have enough experience to discuss this yet, having only released one of the five games I'm working on currently.

10. Which software do you use (if any) to create your games?
Photoshop, Illustrator, Word. I have a production company out of NY for the rest.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
On average, at least 6 months. And that's a simple game. On average, these things can take longer.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
Somewhere between. At the end of the day, I want to enjoy the games I play, and being a geek myself, that means 9 times out of 10, I risk alienating others. Though, I try to stay family friendly, so that should help.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
Both. Easy to read, but comprehensive. This is what glossaries and FAQ sections are for. You keep teaching the game light, but make sure there will be no questions!

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
Very! If you want to appeal to the consumer as an independent designer, the more professional the game looks, the better chance you have of making that sale.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

Depends on the game. I currently want faster games, and to tell the truth, I have no desire to design long, meticulous games that take all day. I want you to kill time with multiple plays at this point.

I do, however, have a larger game I plan to start work on in a year or so. That will take me out of my comfort zone, and we'll see how that goes.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
The two at the forefront right now are a sequel to World's Greatest Villain (with the heroes, obviously), and a kaiju, city-stomping game.
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13. Board Game: Two by Two [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:3136]
Rob Bartel
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

So far, I seem to be designing primarily family and euro games but my interest vary. I've dabbled in some mass market designs as well. I generally prefer to design light and medium-weight games.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

Either? Both? I find my most creative games start with a theme first, as those tend to inspire innovative mechanisms. Once those mechanisms are in place, however, the themes can often shift and settle into something even more fitting. For example, I'm in the process of signing a game that began life as a game about making movies, then evolved into dogs playing poker, and is now finally coming into its own with a steampunk theme. Each time the theme changed, the mechanics evolved as well.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

Sitting around and daydreaming, for the most part. Inspiration can come from almost anywhere. There's never a shortage of ideas to work on.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

I have a horrible memory so I always start by writing up the initial brainstorm into a simple document that I file away for later. I may revise or append new ideas to the document for a few days. If I'm still excited by the idea, I find the time to put together a basic first prototype - I prefer to design everything on the computer and print from there rather than writing up cards, etc, by hand just because it makes future iteration easier. Sometimes I'll start with a solo playtest, other times I'll just spring it on some fellow local designers at one of our regular playtest fests. After the first playtest, I'll start to formalize the rules into an actual rulebook (without images). From there, it's just a lot of playtesting and iteration, with the rulebook and prototype slowly getting prettier as the game stabilizes.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

There are countless ways that a game can be good and countless different audiences out there who may find it good. Good game design involves finding where the two intersect and then doing everything you can to make the magic happen.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?

I'll assume you're referring to story arc in the Jonathan Degann sense of the term, in which case it's vital. I'm an explorer personality type so, for me, a game needs to change and adapt, presenting new circumstances to the player from one turn to the next. Ideally, those new circumstances have a clear flow and actually build to something. I'm not a big poker player but that's why money is important to that game - it provides a directional flow that takes the random variability of the card draw and turns it into a dramatic story arc.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

Again, assuming you're talking in the Jonathan Degann sense of the term, this is vital, particularly for euro games. If there are no decisions or the decisions are obvious rather than agonizing, you've created something that's more of an activity than a game. Now it can still be a very fun activity, just not a strategic one. In my soon-to-be-released Two by Two game, one of the agonizing decisions involves the placement of raindrop tokens at the start of every turn - do you place them adjacent to other water spaces to maximize your score or do you instead attempt to maximize the number of new animals you reveal? As you point out, it's not a brain-burning decision but it's an agonizing one nevertheless.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

Uh... Also vital. Strip away everything else.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

I prefer to turn to existing publishers. I know where I can go to get a game manufactured -- that's not the hard part (aside from the inherent costs involved). I know the right distributors as well -- also not the hard part. Marketing and supporting your game over the longer term -- that's the hard part and that's where a good publisher is invaluable.

Fortunately, I've found publishers to be very friendly and approachable. In my university days I used to send poetry around to various literary magazines. Compared to that, getting my games published has proved much easier. wow

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

Adobe Creative Suite 3, primarily Illustrator for my prototypes and InDesign for my rulebooks. InDesign offers great control of anchored objects (i.e. explanatory images) and it also allows you to auto-update those images as your components change over time,

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

I try not to think about that. It's my primary hobby, however, and I spend most of my evenings and weekends working on it. Product cycles are at least shorter than in the 2-5 year cycles I typically see in my day job developing video games (although the time to market can still be quite long for a boardgame but that's a period where the designer isn't as actively involved).

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

Both, although it may vary from one design to the next. Two by Two is an interesting case in point, actually, and I'll be discussing that this weekend in my next designer diary on BoardGameNews.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

Both but easy to read will usually trump meticulous as far as I'm concerned. Rulebooks are our hobby's biggest barrier to entry and most people prefer to be taught by someone who already knows the game (most game groups seem to form around people who are good rules explainers). I'm hoping that video explanations and interactive tutorials will go a long way towards reducing this barrier to entry in the future, particularly in the age of the iPad, allowing the rulebook to become more of a reference than a primary teacher of the rules.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

I would love for all my games to be absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. Provided that can be done within reasonable cost constraints, the publishers generally want that as well. The only time I draw the line is when aesthetics begin to interfere with playability but, in my opinion, you can usually have your cake and eat it to.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

Not as a general rule but I'll sometimes place self-imposed constraints on myself for a particular title. For instance, I'm working on a line of sports games and have deliberately placed myself under very tight constraints (30-minute duration, 2-player, components consisting of only 9 cards and some player-provided pennies). The constraints resulted in some very interesting little designs.

As for a type of game I definitely would not design? Who knows. I try never to rule anything out.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

Last night I just started putting together an initial prototype for an interesting little economic and exploration game set in the Age of Sail. If all goes as planned, it'll be a middle-weight Euro for 3-6 players with some novel trading mechanisms. Wish me luck.
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14. Board Game: Exile Sun [Average Rating:5.82 Overall Rank:8225]
Eric A Martin
United States
St Petersburg
Florida
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

While I prefer to play medium to medium/heavy games, I enjoy designing games that more people will enjoy, meaning lighter games with simpler mechanics. I feel my ultimate design goal is to design a simple approachable game with subtle strategic depth. Of these two mindsets I think the most important element is the fact that if a person won't pickup a game or be inclined to find out more just by viewing pictures and components then they will never enjoy the game no matter how well thought out it is, therefore keep simple not overwhelming.

Recently as far as mechanics, I have come appreciate how many of the Euro inspired game mechanics can take a complex game design problem and solve it in a simple yet satisfying way without abstracting the concepts too much. (Worker-placement, drafting, even deck-building)

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

Usually theme first, but the first step afterward is finding a core mechanic or two that you can mold the theme around. I feel that while mechanics can be chosen to fit a certain theme related need, the two must come together harmoniously, perhaps with compromises on both sides.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

I try to design games I would want to play, and I'm usually trying to capture a defined player experience when I design a game. I'm trying to create a feeling such as anxiety, curiosity or competition, so I try to notice things in real life that naturally invoke these emotions and explore them as a possible game idea.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

If I told you, then I would have to kill you…

But really while I don’t follow any specific routine for designing, these are the general steps:

Brainstorm
Find someone to bounce ideas off of.
Brainstorm
Find someone to bounce ideas off of.
Write notes, (I find that in the process of writing a rule book I am forced to think the game out fully and discover many unforeseen complications or vague concepts that require more thought. SO I suggest doing this as soon as possible.)
Playtest
Playtest
Playtest
(Then usually repeat the whole cycle again)

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

A game I want to play again as soon as I finish. Usually this is due to emergent strategies and combinations that players really can’t see until they experience the game all the way time through. On this same note, if I play a 7 hour game I don’t even want to look at it again for a while so a shorter time length is a must. Also I usually have larger game groups so a game that scales well to include 6 or so is important in my book. (Because who wants to sit out?)

6. Is narrative (or story arc) important in your opinion? How important is it?

While I feel many good games are able to be retold as a movie or book would be, I don’t feel that a game should sacrifice player interaction trying to force a specific sequence of events or narrative. If your game incorporates a strong narrative element, then highlight it and players will enjoy it. On the other hand, if it does not it can still be a good game, just make sure to sculpt what you want the feeling or atmosphere of the game to be.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

Absolutely vital! These kinds of decisions give value and weight to the elements in the game. If players don’t feel they have anything to lose, then they have nothing to gain either. Players should feel that decisions are too important to just ‘try something and see what happens’. In this way players will feel highly rewarded for good decisions.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

This is impossible to define or predict. I have been months into a game design and after several revisions finally discovered: “Hey this IS fun!” I couldn’t have predicted what combination of mechanics or concepts would lead to that realization or even what would be the most fun element of the game would be, but once I can pinpoint that element I spend the rest to the time working to wash away the other filler aspects of the game and make the ‘Fun’ part stand out. A game design must simply evolve and mature with many playtests to find its ‘fun factor’.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

While I would love to have full creative control of my games and how they are presented to the public this is simply not the reality for me as an independent designer. (An independent designer without lots of capital that is) This being said there are huge benefits to having an established company publish your game, both in the way other gamers will view the game and in how many customers you can reach.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

Excel (for brainstorming)
Photoshop (for prototyping)

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

At least a year.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

Definitely the ‘geek’ community, however there are even ‘nitch’ and ‘popular’ columns even in that category. So I guess I’m targeting the “popular-geek” category. (as contradictory as that sounds)
The general mass market for board games is dominated by party games and superficially light board games, a genera I don’t enjoy playing and would not be a good candidate to design for.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

While I think the best rulebooks are both of these, the simplest game rules should be explained first and in their entirety, and then the details, exceptions and special scenarios can be hashed out in an appendix or in the final subheading.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

That’s like asking how important is if for a movie to have good special effects. Bad components or art can ruin a games opportunity to sell at all. No matter how good a game is, if I’m not pulled in to buy it, it will not do well.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

These are my ‘ideal’ design specs, but at times one of these might conflict with the player’s experience of the game and need to be compromised. In the most cases this is what I’m going for:

- Less than 120 Min
- 2-6 Players (To scale well, some rule adjustments for number of players are acceptable.)
- Player aids when necessary, but no need to look at the rule book during the game.
- Relatively few components to manage every turn

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

Exile is my current project and has seen quite an evolution from its original conception. As we continue to boil out the elements that slow the game down we are getting closer and closer to a really fun game!
I have described it as the Euro player’s war game and am very excited as the game progresses.

See the listed item for details!
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15. Board Game: Witch's Brew [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:455]
Andreas Pelikan
Austria
Vienna
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
French style games. Sadly enough, that's not an established technical term, and I'm no master of the genre. But I'm deeply impressed by the crazyness shining from Gold und Rum, Wicked Witches Way, Comme des Sardines... and the likes.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
I tend to believe I'm a mechanist, but surprise myself by starting out with a theme - or with components - or an activity - every now and then. In Cash-a-Catch, for instance, the theme is the mechanic - Hamburg Fishmarket style auctions, a childhood holiday memory.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
From where: Holiday travels, TV documentaries, other games, ...
Where: on the train, in the shower ...

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
A: Play in my head. Create the components. Play by myself. Revise. Go to A or B.
B: Play with others. Summarize what are the strong points. Revise. Go to A, B, C or D.
C: Shelve. Wait for inspiration. Go to A or B.
D: Tada... Submit. Wait. Get an offer, or go to A, B, C or D.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
A good game inspires creativity and imagination, takes you to a different world or lets you do things you'd never thought you'd ever do.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
A game must end before it gets repetitive. Whether the story arc should be cinemascopic or just a jingle should be balanced with the complexity of the game.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
Generally a good idea. Preferrably marginal agonizing decisions spread all over. But don't put the decisive battle at the beginning of the game and let players spend another 2/3 of the time just confirming the runaway leader.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
That's the ore we all try to excavate from Mt. Joy.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
Cobbler, stick with your last. I prefer to have the production and marketing part done by professionals. Going through the process with Match Makers was a fun experience, though.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
Polymer clay, paper and foamboard. Oh, you mean Gimp, Inkscape, nanDeck and Open Office.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
Half of my spare time. In numbers? Hard to guess, as I don't keep full records.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
I target the mass market, but as I want to enjoy the games myself, they often end up a bit geekier than originally planned.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
Not OR, but AND. Preferrably two-column, with comprehensive and concise rules, illustrative examples and clarifications of exceptional cases clearly separated.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
During the design&testing phase: somewhat.
Upon submission, it depends on the publisher's testing practices.
If they forward to external test groups: very important.
If they test in-house: still a bit.
For the finished product: extremely important.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
Just one: I myself must like to play it over and over again. Which implies: below 60 minutes, fast paced, themed, and preferably involving some unusual element. I play (and enjoy) other games eventually, but not regularly.
I would definitely not design abstract strategy or WW2 games. The latter would be quite a challenge to do decently and ethically acceptable, though.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
I'm in a heavy ABAB-loop (see 4.) with Mexicans trying to enjoy their Siesta. There's another game currently in the making, but I haven't yet negotiated how much I may reveal.
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16. Board Game: Dig In! [Average Rating:6.67 Unranked]
Caleb Frazier
United States
Glendale
Arizona
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

> I prefer lighter games as they tend to be more enjoyable with a wider range of people, however I'm not against making a heavier game, it's just that those tend to take a lot longer to develop.


2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

> I usually come up with the theme first. For Dig In! the idea was based off of the ideas that Dwarves were fighting each other (in a unpublished Prototype by cowboyorange). Since Dwarves are derived from Norse Mythology, a great interest to me, I came up with the idea to simplify the game and base it around Norse Mythos, which in turn allowed us to come up with ideas for new cards.


3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

> Everything? Most recently Norse Mythos, but I've been inspired by other games, flash games, and the cosmos.


4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

> Start with the basics and add fluff as needed. There's no reason you should start out with a massively complex game to start. If you can flush out the basics and get those solid, then the fluff concepts will be easier to manage.


5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

> Tough to say as I enjoy various types, but my favorite games are those that have interaction between the players and short turn lengths. Nothing kills a game like waiting 5+ minutes for your 10 second turn in which you didn't do anything of particular importance.


6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?

> Unless you're playing a game like Aye, Dark Overlord, the story is just fluff to help get some players attracted to the game (same as theme, which I'm a sucker for).

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

> Decisions in games are very important, the user should be forced to choose between two or more choices with each having it's downside.


8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

> It's a matter of opinion and will differ from person to person and even within groups. A single game can be a super fun game with one group, and a complete drag with another.


9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?


> We haven't published anything yet as we are still in testing, but I would be for whatever gets my game out there as long as the core game stays the same.


10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

> Excel, word, Scribus (for rules), OneNote, pen, pencil, paper.


11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

> First design is usually an hour or two, with further development on the design going 12-30+ hours depending on the game.


12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

> Somewhere between the two, bgg is pretty heavy towards the euro style games, and I'd rather design games with more interaction between the players and shorter turn lengths. Games a social activity and so they should be sociable.


13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

> A rulebook should flow nicely and be easy to read. It can detail everything but I prefer all the nitty gritty details be at the end.


14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

I'd say a 7 on a scale of 10 (10 being very important). I'm not a lobbyist for high end graphics, but they certaintly help with enjoying the game. Good graphics can make a mediocre game a much better game and a excellent game that much better.


15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

> This is something that should be decided in the design process, as the saying goes, "You need to know what you want before you can get what you want." Figure out what you want to make your game, type, time, players, etc.. and make sure you hit those marks when designing.


16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

> We are working on a project for the Rio Grande competition. It is our first "Euro" style game to work on and is a much larger project that what we've worked on before. It runs about 2.5 hours for 4 players. It's a worker placement game with a co-op/vs theme (similar to Cutthroat Caverns style)

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17. Board Game: Make a Movie [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Andrew Eveninger
Poland
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

I got written down some ideas for heavy game, full of elements, but so far i'm still learning the craft and designing small and light games. It's like i'm making small steps to my goal.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
I prefer clear theme, but sometimes after the theme came single element of mechanic that i want to use, So badly want to use this element that this can even stops whole designing process because other elements wont work with it.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
Hard to tell, i'm making games i would like to play, and everything can be inspirational (football world cup inspired me to make "real football").

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
No, nothing, not at all. It's a flow - sometimes comes sometimes goes.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
Good game keep busy players all the time.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
- Have little experience in this -

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
- Have little experience in this -

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
Different games are fun for different people. One play Catan and other play TTA - both have lots of fun.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
So far i'll publish all my creations freely, sometimes i'm take part in some contests

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
MS Word, MS Excel, some graphic programs, pdf printer

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
There isn't average time

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
Just like in question 3

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
Prefer easy-to-read,

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
I think more people will look at big beautiful painted box with awesome miniatures than on print and play pdf.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
No global restrictions. But i need still to remember about basic rule - "unfinished game is not a game at all" so i make restrictions until i make something that can be played from start to end.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
I've develop three games (Make a Movie, Quest Crawler, Real Football) and think about make them even better. In long period of time i'm thinking about fantasy adventure game for which i got some mechanics, some solutions and lot of other ideas.

My blog about game designing "from newbie for a newbie"
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18. Board Game: Rusalka's Sorrow [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
United States
New York
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

I like fantasy, historic milieus, economics, worker placement type of games. Preference is for medium to medium-heavy games, as those are the ones I like to play.


2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

It depends. Whatever tickles my fancy or when inspiration strikes. Since I am primarily a fiction author with a strong interest in history I like to think that theme should have the higher priority, but a good theme can never make up for $h!tty gameplay.


3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

History mostly. Especially areas that have not been explored. For instance, I keep knocking around an idea focussing on the Sumerian beer industry.


4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

First a ruleset is devised. Then come the prototype components. Next are rule adjustments, as I re-read what I have devised. Then I subject my GF to the first implementation of the game, as the first playtester, then adjust the ruleset. I repeat the previous step. Next I try it out on other gamers, always adjusting until I have something that works.


5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

Fun. Something that makes you think or want to explore the subject matter.


6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?

Most important. Without a strong narrative I get bored easily.


7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

Without this there is no game. There should always be tough choices and a feeling of "what if" by a player as they engage both the game mechanisms and the other players -- that feeling of "well, next time I'm going to ..."


8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

Games should be fun, but then again different people have divergent opinions of what this entails. A metaphor: masochists identify pain with pleasure, while some seek out that "runner's high" or some other path to joy.


9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

Both, I guess. It depends. If a game is ready for publication and fits a niche not yet exploited then I am looking for a publisher.


10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

My mind.


11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

A couple of hours to several months of knocking the idea around in my head. Once this brainstorming process is done, then it is on to the ruleset, which takes from 1-6 hours to write (usually in one sitting). With the playtesting I would say it takes 1-3 months to iron everything out from the initial writing of the ruleset.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

Geek please.


13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

Easy to read, short, but with lots of examples.


14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

The right asthetic can enhance the game and play experience. However, having too many toys can distract from the gameplay. I think designers and publishers need to look at this on a case by case basis so as to decide how much is too much.


15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

I prefer to limit play to 2 hours or less, and the number of players is usually 2-4 (with some 2-5). As for areas I would not touch, anything to do with the Industrial Revolution or the politics of the 20th-21st centuries, as those subjects mostly bore me to tears.


16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

I am in the process of finding a publisher for Rusalka's Sorrow. There are several other projects I am developing as well. The one I am most interested in, and may wind up working with a partner on, is called "the Weighing of the Heart". This is an Ancient Egyptian themed game (yes, I know, another one) in which players represent families trying to advance their positions by both legal and extra-legal means so as to achieve glory in this life and to try to undo the consequences of their illegal/immoral acts so as to gain a grand place in the afterlife.
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19. Board Game: Sherwood Showdown [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:5615]
Roberta Taylor
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

While I love playing all sorts of games, I find that I'm really drawn to designing ones that fall in the unofficial BGG category of 'girlfriend friendly'. Games that aren't too long, have simple rules but some depth, and are aesthetically engaging, with approachable, family friendly themes. Ideally, I want my games to be playable by kids ages 10 or 12 and up, while still being fun for gamers.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

Theme. Always theme. I love theme, I love being drawn into a game by art, story, and mechanics which work together to create an immersive experience.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

Ideas are everywhere- it's just a matter of getting into the habit of recognizing them and then writing them down. I get my best ones in the shower, or right before I fall asleep.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

Well, like many here, I'm not a pro, but for what it's worth, here's my approach.

I begin with an idea- usually a theme and some vague notion of general style (is it a card game, tile laying...). When I'm ready to work on a raw idea, I begin by writing out what I want the finished game to feel like- length, target audience, type of experience.

Next, I solidify the narrative I'd like to create, writing out a story arc (really, I do this). Then the idea usually simmers away for a while longer. The bulk of the designing happens in my head, and when I think I've got a fairly complete picture of the game, I begin to write a ruleset, as this forces me to deal with any major holes in the game.

Once I have a ruleset with components list, setup and play instructions, and game end conditions, I will begin to build a rough prototype. Then, it's probably the same process most of us use- test, re-iterate, test some more.

Sometimes a game will go through many major iterations (a current game is on its 4th major overhaul), but some come together right from the start, and have virtually nothing changed.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

For me, a good game is fun. That can mean immersive, strongly story driven, tense, or hilarious, but the end result has to be an experience you want to repeat because you had fun. I love games with loads of theme, moderate amounts of luck, and opportunity for story. If I come away from game session with a story, then the game was successful.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?

As you can see from above, I think that, while you can make a good game without narrative, the best ones have it built into them. Pandemic, Memoir 44, Zombie Plague- a totally wide list of titles, but all of them have strong narrative, and can be incredibly fun because of it.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

I wish that I could do this all the time- it's a big factor in creating an engaging game, and so hard to do well.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

Has to be there. I personally will play anything if it's fun. Some of this depends on your playing group or opponent, because some people are able to enter into the spirit of the game far more easily.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

Well, I guess it depends on the game- I am really hoping to have a few of my games picked up by 'real' publishers, but I also have a design or 2 that seem like they'd be better self published, largely due to them having narrower appeal. Overall though, an established publisher can do so much that the designer can't, so I really feel that if a game is strong, then that's the route to pursue.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

Text edit for notes and brainstorms, Photoshop for prototype graphics, Pages for cards (not a great solution, but you use what you have). And lots of thrifted game parts.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

No idea- I don't think that there is an average yet for me

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

The geek end of the family spectrum, mainly. Sort of.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

I guess I'd say both. Use plain english, and use it with care. But don't leave anything out. I've learned alot about language use playing Magic. They really have to make every word on their cards count- now if only they could take that approach with their rulebook too But using words consistently and carefully- I really think that's very important.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

For me, that's second only to fun in importance. I love a beautiful game. I play some games just because I love looking at them, and avoid others because they're just too ugly for words. A game doesn't have to have Michael Menzel quality art to be attractive, but as graphic design is a part of user experience and plays a large roll in useability as well, I think it needs to be carefully considered.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

I typically decide on these before beginning a new project, based on the theme and target audience. I can say that I doubt I'll ever design a 4 hour wargame with a 200 page rulebook, although I'd probably play one if asked!

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

My current pet project (among many ongoing ones) is a game that I've been working on for over a year now. I wanted a game specifically for my family to enjoy- I have 2 teenaged kids, and I wanted to make a game that we all would love. I'm almost there. I have a steampunk flavoured pirate game which has dice, deck building and hand management, and lots of attacking, and plays in about an hour. Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but the kids love playing it and we've already created some great stories playing it, so I consider it a great success.

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20. Board Game: Isla Dorada [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:870]
 
bruno faidutti
France
PARIS
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

Almost everything. I'm not good at designing party games, and it's a shame because I love to play them and I'd like to design a good one someday.
Lighter and heavier stuff can both be very satisfying, in totally different ways.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

Always the same question, always the same answer - it depends. The best games are probably those for which theme and mechanisms came together at once. May be my imagination is getting old, but I find it more and more difficult to come up with a good theme, when I think I'm still quite good at mechanisms.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

Most usually other games, sometimes reall stuff or things I met in book. Many of my games start with "what would happen if I mix this game and this game, or this game and this book ?"

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

I'm starting to get one - after twenty years designing games without any given method. It probably means I'm getting old. Anyway, the method I'm trying to stick with now is "don't write anything down before you've thought on the game for a few weeks". That's not how I used to work years ago.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

There are so many different ways in which a game can be good (or bad) that I really can't answer this question. May be the heart of it is always that a game must be challenging, and stay challenging until the end, but there are many different kinds of challenges.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?

I don't think narrative and story arc are exactly the same thing. The narrative comes with the theme, it's the unfolding story. The story arc comes from the theme / mechanisms interaction with the game, it's the way the systems creat tension, challenge and rhythm and infuses them into the story.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

A good game is made, indeed, of agonizing decisions. This means decisions on which you can think but of which you can never be sure, no matter how long you think on trhem.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?


Nothing mysterious. Fun is a very efficient ingredient for game design - be it with zany mechanisms, thematic puns, nasty interactions. It's not absolutely required, though. Many strategic games are not fun at all, and are still great games.
It's like with books. Some books are good because they are fun, and some great books are not fun at all.
Hard to imagine a sad game, though, while there are great sad books, sad songs, sad movies…

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

I'll never publish a game by myself. It's a different activity, and one I'm not very interested in, because it's less about design and more about business.
Also, as a designer, I'm probably biased when it comes to judging my own games and deciding if they're worth publishing. I'd rather trust someone who does it as his dayjob.
Let designers design and publishers publish.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

Obsolete versions of XPress and Word. I don't need anything more.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?


From a few days (Knightmare Chess) to six or seven years (Isla Dorada).

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

I'm aiming at me and my gamer friends. Since some of my games have been quite successful, we must be representative of some part of the market…

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

Easy to read. I sometimes abandon a rule which I know could make the game better only because it's difficult to explain in a few words.
I think the clarity, the obviousness of the rules is really something critical in a game. Exhaustivity is great, of course, but it's not as important and I have no problem with ignoring a situation that will come up one game in a thousand.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

My prototypes are very rough, with no or little graphics. I think it's even better for playtesting, it makes things more clear and easier to change. Also, if players like the game this way, they will probably like it even more with graphics.
Most publishers even prefer rough prototypes, because it makes easier for them to imagine the graphic style they want.

But, of course, if you want the game to sell, it has to be micely illustrated and produced. Without its great graphics, Citadels would probably have sold a few thousand copies in the Geek market, but it would not have sold as it did, and still does.
I always make suggestions to the publishers when it comes to choosing an artist or a graphic style for my games. But if the publisher doesn't agree, it's his decision. After all, he is the one risking money in the game.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?

No restrictions. When I work on a multiplayer game, I always try to have it work with 6 or even 7 players, but it's not always possible. I'm quite proud of The Lost Temple, one of my last designs, which works well with 2 to 8 players.
Gaming time really depends on the game style. I like boardgames which can be played in less than an hour, but I'm also a bit worried because, due to all publishers asking for 45 minutes games, some games are obviously stripped down to fit in this format, and are over when things start to be interesting.
What game would I probably never design ? A historical wargame - the fascination for war makes a bit uneasy. I know it's stupid, but it's so. My first design, Baston, was a wargame of sort, but a parodic one.

Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

I'm finalising a few old projects, but I plan to take a year break in game design, or at least to slow and focus on smaller games, because I have other non-game projects for next year which will take most of my intellectual energy.
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21. Board Game: Batt'l Kha'os [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:2117]
eric hanuise
Belgium
Unspecified
Unspecified
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

All kinds, and I try to use simple mecanisms/rules but deep gameplay.
Batt'l Kha'os is my first published game (codesigned with Fréderic Moyersoen ) and fits that bill perfectly.
18BE Pocket also has simple rules and deep gameplay.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
Theme, baby, Theme!
I really can't get into a game as a player if the mecanics don't fit the theme.


3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

Just about anything. people, books, movies, other games, dreams, landscapes, ...



4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

Once I have a general idea of what kind of game I want to make, I start by brainstorming over a mindmap (freemind rules!).
I jot down all aspects that could fit, then sort and prune until I have selected what will go in.
After that, the first prototype and its numerous siblings follow.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

A game in which not only the components and systems make the game, but also the players. Games such as Junta or Lords of the Sierra Madre (second edition) allow you to 'play the gamers, not just the game'.

6. Is the narrative (or story arc) of the game important in your opinion? How important is it?
It's crucial! Most games I didn't enjoy, I evetually found that they weren't telling me a story. No theme, no story... no fun.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
Someone said that the quality of a game is a factor of the significant decisions the player faces during play. I wholeheartedly agree.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
It's mysterious. Some games may 'click' with a group of people, and fall flat with another. Does that make them lesser games ? not sure.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
I'm starting a publishing business (Flatlined games - first game will be a reprint of Dragon Rage). However, I think it's better to publish games from other designers, and have my own designs be published by other publishers.
Self-publishing makes it difficult to have a critical view of your work. Cheapass Games is often named as a good example of that problem.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
Freemind to brainstorm.
Then, openoffice, inkscape, Gimp, and Scribus. (for prototypes, and for actual publishing work. these are very capable software). All with Ubuntu Linux.
For map-making (with Dragon Rage ) I use profantasy's excellent campaign cartographer, city designer and dungeon designer. This software is amazing!

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
A few months of actual work and playtesting, spread over many months of other stuff. I think it's required to let the game sleep for a while inbetween major changes. It allows to keep a fresh eye.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

As game designer, somewhere inbetween. As publisher, I target niche markets (such as non historical wargaming).

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
My, both of course!
If there's a lot to learn, a tutorial or introduction is a good thing.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
Very. Not only are players nowadays quite picky, but in this time and age, there's no reason not to make an effort on the appearance of your games.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
Not really. I think a good game must be playable by 6 players, not just 4.
Of course head to head or solo games are exceptions.
I'm no fan of party games.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
On the publisher side, Dragon Rage.
On the designer side, several games in progress. The most advanced are a commerce and ressource collection game, and a civilisation building game with a twist (a publisher told me he was looking for a civ game with a specific element that shall remain unnamed, and I started working on it.)
There's also 18BE Pocket which is still pending the contest results...
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22. Board Game: Prolix [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:2823]
Gil Hova
United States
Jersey City
New Jersey
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

My favorite games are relatively heavy economic games like Brass, Planet Steam, and Power Grid. I love designing them. So naturally, my most successful game is a word game.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

I used to come from either angle. But people are getting sick of games with brilliant mechanisms wrapped in generic themes. So I've been starting with interesting themes lately, and trying to come up with mechanisms to match.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

Anything. Prolix was made out of spite, because I wasn't happy with any word game out there. Pax Robotica was inspired by the military-industrial complex, and the idea of war profiteering.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?


The quicker I can get an idea down on the table and solo-tested, the better. I start out solo-testing with cheap handwritten cards. If the game survives that step, I make slightly nicer bits, and show them to game designers. If it survives that step, I go to a nicer-looking prototype for my gaming groups (but not that nice, because I am a terrible graphic designer).

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?


One that is fun and hits the table frequently. That's pretty much it.

6. Is narrative (or story arc) important in your opinion? How important is it?

I'm not interested in narrative or story arcs in board games. If I wanted to come up with a story arc, I'd write a story! However, I do believe in "game arcs", which are slightly different. A game arc starts at the opening, moves to the midgame, and finishes with the endgame. All three phases must be easily distinguishable. The opening should start tense, and the tension should ramp up noticeably all the way up to the endgame.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

Yes please! I'm not against brain-burning decisions either, as long as they're fun.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

Yes please! Like the Supreme Court justice said about pornography, "I know it when I see it."

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

I am absolutely not an entrepreneur. Too risk-averse. So I'd rather let the publisher assume all the risk.

Is it difficult to sell ideas? Well, sure. I'm very fortunate that I got one of my ideas picked up, and I hope it won't be a long time until my next game comes out!

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?

Inkscape and GIMP are good, of course, but FileMaker Pro is indispensable to me for card creation. Also, LyX is nice for early rule drafting, but I've learned the hard way that I need to convert the rulebook to MS Word at some point, or there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?


About three years.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

I'd love to see Prolix hit the mass market, but time will tell. My other games are strictly geek.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?

Yes please! The problem here is that a rulebook is both a tutorial and a reference. With a reference, you start at the beginning and work your way to the end. With a tutorial, you start at the end (how to score), and go backwards.

So as a tutorial, it should be easy to read, but as a reference, it should be meticulous. With that sort of contradiction, it's no wonder that the rulebook is the hardest part of the game to get right.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

For a prototype? Not that important. The publisher is more concerned with how the game plays. I try to keep the design of my prototype bits nice and clean, as if it's a blank canvas for the publisher to work with.

A nice-looking prototype is nice to draw potential playtesters in, but I don't think it's necessary.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?


No real restrictions for me, other than it must be fun.

I'd never design a crunchy, hardcore wargame, because I just don't play them.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?


Sure! It's called Battle Merchants, and it's about arms merchants selling war robots to both sides of the same war. War is good in this game, because it means you make money!

I've been working on the game for just over a year now, and I'd say I'm 85% done. Which, going by the 80/20 rule, means I'm just past halfway complete.
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23. Board Game Designer: David Gregg
David Gregg
United States
Franklinville
North Carolina
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I'm very new to the game design scene, and board gaming in general for that matter, but here are my thoughts on the topic:

1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
I like to work with fantasy themes and love deck building mechanics. I prefer games that are fairly strategic, but have just enough luck to prevent analysis paralysis.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?
Usually my ideas start with a mechanic that I think sounds cool and then I'll work on what theme would make sense for it. I think they are both very critical components as lacking in either area will make your game less then what it could have been.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
Usually my ideas come from things I'd like to see but can't seem to find. My latest project for instance was inspired by MtG and Dominion. I can no longer afford to play MtG, but Dominion just doesn't satisfy that CCG itch and so Nightfall was born.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING! Seriously, ever little thought, idea, whatever... write it down. Whether that means carrying around paper and a pen or constantly emailing ideas to yourself (like me), don't let your precious ideas slip away before you have the chance to make something of them.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
It should be hard to master, but mastering doesn't mean you'll win 100% of the time. It should involve difficult decisions, but not give you a headache either. It should have at least one interesting twist in mechanics and bring an equally interesting theme.

6. Is narrative (or story arc) important in your opinion? How important is it?
That depends on the game. Obvious abstracts have no need in a story at all, while others will rely heavily on the story line to make the game interesting.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
As mentioned above, difficult decisions are one of my requirements in a good game, but at the same time shouldn't cause analysis paralysis either.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?
As a designer you have to know who your target audience is and what they like doing in games, makes it much easier to understand what they will consider "fun" as you design. Also, don't try to please everyone, or you'll end up pleasing no one.

9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
Existing publisher, I don't have the funds nor time to devote to self publishing. Kudos to those of you who are able to tackle such a thing!

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
Whatever software makes sense for the current project. There's a great list of graphics tools here btw.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?
With Nightfall I started this past September and I'm still making small tweaks here and there

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
I aim for myself. If I won't like the game then I won't like making the game and that'll show in the final product. To better answer the question I fall in the 'geek' community, so my games follow suit cool

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
They should be as easy to read as possible and at the same time explain everything... Pictures help a lot laugh

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
Pretty important. If your game's art looks like your kid drew it then odds are people won't take interest in what might have been an awesome game.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
I prefer 2-5 player, but attempt to make solitaire play an option. Also prefer games in the 30-60min range. I am not a war / minis fan, so don't expect anything like that out of me

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
Yes and no. What I have posted on Nightfall's page is about as much as I can say about it right now, and my other projects are all still too early to really discuss.

Final thoughts: Never give up and don't be afraid to change every last bit of your design. Be patient, you'll be glad you did.
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24. Board Game: Aether [Average Rating:5.94 Overall Rank:6299]
Touko Tahkokallio
Finland
Espoo
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1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?
I like to design all kind of games - from fun party games to heavy euro games. I don't want to restrain my self too much when getting a new idea and I love to try different kind of things in games.

Personally I think that games should always be matched with the right group and the moment. You shouldn't try to play Agricola with your Monopoly-loving neighbours nor should you try to play Ca$h 'n Gun$ with your more serious minded friends. However, both games can be excellent with the right group and the mood.

On average, however, for me a new idea is something thematic in nature and needs a complex game to incorporate it properly. However, I try not to make too many complex games as they need much more time to develop and polish the design than a lighter game. That's why I have some interesting ideas that unfortunately seem to get sedimented deeper and deeper to my drawer... Also, I like to work on many projects simultaneously and for me it is best if I have many different kind of projects going on at the same time. But still at any given time most of my 'mental energy' is directed towards more heavier games and they are perhaps the games I personally enjoy the most.


2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

I always would like to combine a rich theme with good mechanics. That said, I think that in many cases there is no point trying to do that - especially so in some lighter games. An abstract game can be fun too!

Usually for me the theme comes first. Nevertheless, I have had a few games that started from an idea how to mechanically do something witty or interesting. Also, in the case I start with an theme, I try to get the main mechanics working with the theme as soon as possible.


3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?
Hmm, from many places: books, films, discussions with my friends etc... in any case I have way too many ideas and way too little time!


4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?
I have found out that the longer I keep the game in my head and mentally test the game from all different aspects, the better the first prototype works. I would always love to rush and finish the first prototype as soon as I can so that I can try my ingenious new idea! However, if I do this, the first play test usually turns out to be dissapointing. Now days I try to hold my self as long as I can and really mature the idea in my head before investing any time to do the first prototype (which can be very time consuming).

Also, usually, I keep the rules only in my head for a long time. After they have settled to an equilibrium I finally write them down. I don't like to waste time to write rules to games that I stop developing at some point of I make big changes to them during the develop phase.


5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?
A good game should be fun to play (whatever this means) and it should include at least an illusion that player's decision have some effect how the game plays out.



6. Is narrative (or story arc) important in your opinion? How important is it?

Depends heavily on the game. A good narrative can be a great thing as it makes easier for the players to learn the rules (like say in Dungeon Lords that has a LOT of rules). A good narrative can also get players to the right mood and increase the fun in the game.


7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)
Usually very important. Many people (my self included) like games that are a challenge to play.


8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?

The game of course should be fun to play. However, when designing a game in your head, maybe the most difficult thing to picture our is whether or not the new mechanic is fun to play in practice! You can learn this skill a bit, I think, but still it is huge challenge. And sometimes designers (at least I) do misses and have to trash their ideas because they just aren't fun to play.


9. Do you prefer to have self-published games or turning to an existing publisher? Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?
My background: I have self-published three games so far (there are two other guys in our game company, but I guess it still counts as self-publishing): Aether, Arvuutin and Politix. In the future, some of my games will be coming out from German publishers (starting early 2011).

After I have seen both ways, I will probably try in the future get most of my games published by big German publishers. There is a lot of work and worries related to self-publishing that are all almost impossible to picture, before you try it out your self. Nevertheless, self-publishing certainly can also be rewarding. I would like to continue to do both things in the future.


10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?
I use mainly Gimp to draw the graphics. I use Word or Scribus to write my rules. Excel can be handy in many projects as well.



11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?

Depends heavily on the game. But always a lot!


12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?
I would like to do both things. Although 'Geeks' play perhaps more the type of games I like myself the best, I also see a virtue in making better games for the 'mass market', as most of them are quite bad...


13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?
A good rule book should be both!


14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?
I regard it quite important. I try to make my prototypes look nice too.


15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?
I try to not restrict my self too much, although I try to avoid making too many very complex games at the same time.


16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?
Yes, many! But perhaps the one I'm the most passionate about is this one: Eclipse
(it is also my only prototype that has a Geek entry).

Eclipse is a very ambitious design and I have been working with Sampo Sikiö to develop it. The game basically is a civ game in space, a bit like Twilight Imperium, but faster and more playable, I think. I am very happy, that how the game feels epic and is full of theme, but still the mechanics work out smoothly and the game play is quite fast.
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25. Board Game: Miss Poutine [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:5446]
Olivier Lamontagne
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
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I only got 1 game published, but here is my point of view.

1. What kind of games do you design (category, mechanics, etc.)? Do you prefer to design lighter or heavier games?

Light to medium games, some party games. I like to experiment new things and make different projects. Bluff is my favorite game element. I hope someday I will have a great idea for a heavier game and make it.

I like using unusual elements in games, for example, one of my prototypes requires an iPod to play, another one used sticky elastics.

2. Do you usually come up with the theme or mechanics first? Which one has higher priority for you in the creative process?

It depends a lot of game and inspirations. Sometimes I thinks of mechanics, sometimes about themes and keep all ideas for later. At some point, ideas merge and the game process begins. Usually theme comes first, I cannot work with a pasted theme.

3. Where do your game design ideas come from? In other words, what is your source of inspiration?

Anything can be the spark of a new game, every game idea have its own story.

4. Do you have a method or routine for designing games? Could you break it down to us?

First, I try to visualize a game turn. If I can play a game turn ¨in my head¨, it is time to make a prototype and try it solo if possible. Again, as I like bluff and interaction, first tests usually needs more players.

If the first test was good, further developing begins.

5. What constitutes a good game in your opinion?

A game must bring something new. Designing a ressource management game with auctions or role selection is not my style, it was already greatly done and unless I can bring a new twist, it will not be in my projects.

6. Is narrative (or story arc) important in your opinion? How important is it?

If possible, I prefer games with a climax at some point.

7. What do you think about implementing agonizing decisions in the game ? (Note: not brain-burning decisions!)

I don't like much games that play themselves. If a game turn is too obvious, it is not necessary to play. Again, lighter or party games must not be brain-burners, so I will sometimes try to add a speed element.

8. What do you think about the mysterious "Fun Factor"?


It is the most important thing for me. I like when players haves fun and don't look like filling tax forms.

9. Independent designers: is it difficult to sell your ideas to the publisher?

Yes, my english is not quite perfect and explaining the game and making it look interesting in a email is difficult.

I appreciate publishers that takes time to reply, even if the answer is negative.

10. Which softwares do you use (if any) to create your games?


Being a graphic designer, I use the same tools than my job. Illustrator, Quark, InDesign, Photoshop when necessary.

11. What is the average time you spend with designing a game?


15 minutes to a few years. I can stop a game and work on it 6 months later. I have a lot of ideas in a ¨work in progress¨ status.

12. Are you aiming to hit the mass market or the 'geek' community? Somewhere between the two?

I like to experiment, if it can please the geek or mass market, that's great, but not my goal.

13. Should a rulebook be easy-to-read or should it be meticulous?


Easy to read, publishers receives probably hundreds of game concept and don't have time to read too complex or repetitive rules.

14. How important is it to have visually stimulating/pleasing game components?

Is's not important, if the game is supposed to be published later, the publisher will choose the visuals and components. I actually won a game design competition with the ugliest prototype.

15. Do you have any self-imposed restrictions on designs? Like making the playing time max. 90 minutes or enabling max. 6 players and so forth. What is the type of game you would definitely NOT design?


My only actual limitation is to stop designing game until I find a job, as this activity can be time-consuming. Otherwise I don't impose myself limitations, it's a creative process.

16. Are you currently working on a project? If yes, would you mind telling us a few words about it?

My latest game design is En Foire! A game about trading goods without knowing everything in the deal. Maybe more details later.

I am also working on a website, in french for now, where I explain quickly every prototype that passed the first playtest steps.
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