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Subject: Advice to a Game Designer, part 2 rss

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Tom Vasel
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This is part two to an article of advice to game designers. In my first section, I've compiled tips and hints from notable personalities in the game business. All of what was included was previous material from my series "Interviews by an Optimist" - put together in one easy-to-read piece.

For this article, however, I emailed several more personalities, getting some fresh insights into game designing. If you are considering designing and/or publishing your own game, I highly recommend that you read these comments and tips and take them to heart. For those wanting to read more, I would also recommend Tom Jolly's page, http://www.silcom.com/~tomjolly/design.htm, from which he allowed an excerpt to be posted in this article; and Ward Batty's interview with Reiner Knizia - http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comment... - of which a quote has been added to this article.


Alan Moon - designer of Ticket to Ride:

Coming up with an idea for a game is only a small part of the job of being a game designer. Being a game designer also means you have to be a businessman. You have to be organized enough to keep track of your ideas and prototypes; you have to network and communicate with game company reps, other designers, and other people in the field; you have to promote yourself and your games; you have to keep your finances and taxes straight; you have to decide what things are worth spending your usually very limited amount of money on; you have to negotiate contracts; and you have to plan your travel schedule and your work schedule. In addition, you have to do research; you have to manage your playtests and your playtesters; you have figure out how to make the best prototypes possible including creating or finding graphics; you have to be a developer as well as a designer; you have to know when to give up on a game and when to stick with it; and perhaps most important of all, you have to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes.

There are lots of game designers who are more creative than me. But many of them will never be successful because they don't want to do the rest of the job. I've heard quite a few designers say that they don't care how well their games sell; they just want to design good games. I always feel a little insulted when someone says this to me. What, you think I try to design crappy games that will sell well? I want to design good games too. But I also want to design games that will help me make a living as a game designer. So if you want to be a starving artist, that's up to you. I wouldn't ever want to forget my 20+ years of struggling. I was still happy then because I loved what I was doing. But my life is even more fun now. Money hasn't made me happier; it's just made life easier.

Like my buddy Bruno says, "Don't waste your time worrying about people stealing your ideas. Most people in the game business are surprisingly honest." Join SAZ (the Game Designers' Guild): http://www.s-a-z.de/. That's your best protection. SAZ defends designers and their rights. SAZ is like AAA. You may never need it, but if and when you do, you'll be glad you have it. SAZ is also a great way to start networking. It's the brotherhood of designers.

Play as many games as you can. Besides being fun, playing games is research. The more you know about existing games and mechanics, the more prepared you'll be to design something new or something better. When I was reviewing prototypes for F.X. Schmid and Ravensburger, I was amazed at how many prototypes were identical or very similar to existing games.

Don't be a perfectionist. At some point, you actually have to finish a game. Don't get too attached to any one idea or game. I've seen so many game designers who feel like their games are their children (their babies). That makes it tough. Because you may never want to throw that baby out or even put it in the closet.

Network. I don't know how many times I've heard designers say that they can't afford to go to Essen. Hey, I couldn't afford it either. But I went for 15 straight years. Because if I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have had any chance at success. In 1998 when I won the SdJ for ELFENLAND, I was hugely in debt. I could have stayed home and not been in debt, but I never even considered that option, because I was determined to succeed as a game designer.

Don't expect to get rich in the game business. A few people have. But 99.9% haven't. It's possible to make a living as a game designer, but it's not easy, and it will probably take years (or tens of years) to reach that point. Despite working more than 20 years as a game designer, if TICKET TO RIDE hadn't won SdJ in 2004, I would have had to get a part-time or full-time job in 2005.

If you design gamers' games, expect the total sales to be 10,000 copies or less. Sure, some gamers' games do better than that, but not many. Most of the more than 70 games I've designed have sold less than 10,000 copies, and many have sold less than 5,000.

There will be highs and lows. Learn to laugh at yourself. I have several boxes of prototypes from my first years as a game designer. I sometimes take the boxes out and look through them. I almost always wind up laughing. I once spent almost a week making a prototype about stamps. I bought 1 cent, 2 cent, 3 cent, and 5 cent stamps and stuck them on hundreds of cards, the game board, and some charts. Last time I read the rules to this game, I had a stomach ache from laughing so much. If you aren't laughing at yourself, you are taking yourself way too seriously.

Find a good group of playtesters. And then do everything you can to keep them and keep them happy. Don't make your playtesters suffer. When playing a prototype for the first time, I often stop after 10 or 15 minutes. On the other hand, don't insulate yourself with a few people who love everything you do. It's good to branch out at times. And it's always good to have people who will tell you the truth.

If possible, don't spend your own money producing games. Remember Maureen Hiron's famous words: "The only way to make a small fortune in the game business is to start with a large fortune." If you are going to produce your own games and/or start your own company, get investors. But know that then you'll have even more tasks as part of your job. You'll be running a company, managing production, dealing with investors, being a salesman, dealing with additional expectations, and more. Been there, done that, didn't find it satisfying.

Being a game designer takes a lot of discipline and determination. It also helps to be confident because you are going to experience rejection. A lot of rejection. Listen to what the game company reps have to say. If you show your prototype to 20 different people and they all say no, you might want to consider the possibility that they're right. Most of them have a lot more experience than you. Giving up on an idea or a prototype is sometimes the best thing you can do. Just don't ever give up on yourself. Stick with it. Be open and learn from your experiences. Don't ever let that dream go.

When my wife Janet read what I'd written here, she said I should add, "Marry a good woman."

Angelo Porazzi - designer of Warangel

Soul, Fun, Test, Know, Participate, Communicate, Enjoy

Soul. When my first game of 2000, Warangel, was first mentioned on BGG, the number of games on that database were 490. Now, in just a few years, 2006, we have here more than 16,000 games.
Plenty of games, of all kinds. The first question a designer should ask themselves is: why should I design a "new" game?
My answer is: Do everything you do with feeling. Just do what you like, putting a "soul" inside your work, for passion of creation, in a sort of artistic way. Not in a commercial, marketing way "to make money": there are lots of different ways, especially in Italy to "make money", just sell pizzas and you'll have plenty of work!. I see there are lots of games not appreciated by gamers on the net, that fill shops and have pages in magazines, TV commercials, every kind of support.

They just leave one year, one month, following the movie of the moment, the TV program of the moment. Then simply disappear. These are the kind of games that (to me) are without soul. Many gamers "feel" soul in the game and appreciate it for years. These are the kind of gamers I like to play with and for which I like to design and illustrate my games.

Fun. To me, the main thing that a game must have is fun factor. I simply do not like serious and heavy games where everyone is thinking about their own move, without a word with the other gamers, 100 rules, 1 hour of explanation...! I do not like forcing dry rules that make people around tables say: "That move is wrong, you should do that". I want to have choices, I want to decide with my own head, I want to have fun.

Not "you have to do that" but "you are free to choose this or that" and I always choose the funniest way. A laugh together breaks walls among people; I love games that allow that. I like interaction; I love when people meet each other thanks to games. Not selective or too competitive or too serious games only for a certain kind of people. I love to see fiancés playing with their boyfriends at a con, to see my daughters play with grandpas and grandmas, to see families stay together thank to games. This is a factor that to me is basic for a game. Put different people together thanks to games. Fun factor helps a lot in this way.

Test. Each game you come up with and you wish to put on market needs to be "professional." That means to me that it's not "good for your dear friends" but should be "good for all gamers outside that thanks to your games will become good friends". Each game I came up with was playtested for about a year in different cons that invited me. That certainly helps me to groove, and I suggest it to all new designers. Move, and test your prototypes with different groups of players, in different towns and gaming clubs. Test means knowing different types of gamers and learning to listen to them from different points of view. Be like a good quarterback on a team: select good qualities of everyone around you, keep the goal that you have in your mind ahead of you, working together with your team.

Know. Know as much as you can, in every sense of the imagination. Get information on the net, about works of other authors, about guidelines of that editor, about fairs near you. Hear and feel when you are at a con or at a fair - best "school" to groove in this field. The Internet is important of course, but you can learn much more "live". Meet people and listen to them, especially the first time you meet them. Learn all you can learn. Write down info to help you remember people and their works. To me it is much more important to see what a person can do, just looking at his works and facts than listening to what a person "says to do or to be". Make your own knowledge of this world if you wish to be a part of it. Don't be superficial. Knowing things and people is a good move to understanding the world around you and to helping you in your next moves, like in a game.

Participate. In my experience that is mostly in Italy, participating in all events that may regard your work and passion is fundamental. To know and to be known. Just make an example. In 2001 I was showing my first self-produced games at Milano Toys' Fair. A person passed in front of the booth and said: "These illustrations are American." I smiled and said: "No, I made them." This person looked for a while at the Warangel box and then moved. Afterward he came back and said: "You know, this logo has a great appeal, and also the pictures of your games are really good. Is it good for you if we produce a school line with these logos and illustrations?" That person was the Art Director of Cartiere Pigna which are the greatest producers in Italy of school materials. One year later a Warangel School Line was produced in thousands of pieces and was a great instrument to let the game be known especially by kids in schools and by their dads too. These dads are my age and (with the excuse to take a game for their kids) now have an occasion to play with their sons an easy fantasy game, good for kids and dads. A game that probably, without that school line, they would never have known. What I want to say is: I never would have imagined this connection of events before participating at that fair.

If you stay at your home, hoping that the world sees you and your works, well, it is much harder for these kind of miracles to happen. Participate...be present and ready.

Communicate. To do a work, also a good work, is not useful if you do not communicate it. So to realize a game, also a great game, is not useful if you do not communicate it. Don't panic about getting your work or game known. Present it at a fair or at a con, knowing the organizers that may insert your prototype title in the program, on the net, and on printed sheets: this "officializes" that your game exists and was presented to hundreds people that day. That's why many different organizers gave me the honor and duty to coordinate Area Autoproduzione (Self-produced Area) at different cons and fairs. Younger authors may meet in these areas - not only Angelo but also other different authors and gamers that may help in the development of prototypes. Communication also means discussing and being present on the net and at real fairs, speaking "life" with real passionate people like you. Like what happened for example at my wonderful Essen 2005. Jost Schwider speaks German and Italian perfectly; he visited my booth several times, because he really liked the "comic" art in my games and asked me to design a logo of the site SpielePizza. Communicating together, he knew I was in contact with many authors in Italy, and he asked me to communicate to my country the idea of his site. I accepted, and in a short amount of time many authors and companies joined SpielePizza to have an important presentation with a German audience. This is communication to me.
Sharing experiences, sharing contacts, and creating communication is so important for everyone.

Enjoy. Enjoy designing games. Enjoy putting a soul in your game. Enjoy testing your game, many and many time. Enjoy knowing the gaming world. Enjoy participating, get up from your computer station and live this world. Communicate with other people through your games and thanks to your games. If you do not enjoy all these things, soon you'll be annoyed by all the unknown people that sink your games as soon you receive one or four awards. Be aware if you get main award in your country or you get a distribution by Hasbro: someone may really be envious (these are not my words but, oh yes, this happens). Soon you'll be annoyed by some people that should and could communicate, but they just do that for their own works. Soon you'll be too tired to take your car and participate at LuccaGames, ModCon, LudicaMente, GiochiSforzeschi, Ver-Con, EssenFair...

But if you really enjoy and love all these things, it may happen that you simply groove year after year, improving your games by listening to real gamers that in a constructive way help you in the development of your works. Given time to time, do the best that you can but do no pretend your first game is the perfect game. Take your time and experience, ignoring false people and getting ideas from real people that often do not get on the net but put hundreds of votes out to show they are real gamers. Believe in genuine people you can look in their eyes and simply do your best. After 10 years you may realize that your first game is still requested and you have to reprint it for the 10 Years Edition. This is the best answer. And give thanks to all people that believed you since your first step. Enjoy this life; it is crazy but also full of nice people. Meeting them thanks to your games is a great gift.

Brett Murrell, designer - Duel of Ages

It helps to think of game design from the Henry Ford perspective rather than the Michelangelo perspective -- you are creating a machine, not a work of art.

If you see your design as a work of art, you'll make several serious mistakes. First, you'll believe you are finished once you have created it, as if you were a sculptor chipping away the last piece of the Venus de Milo. Second, you will see aspects of your design as "inspired" -- and therefore untouchable by critics or yourself.

Rather, if you see yourself as Henry Ford with his Model T, you'll take the right steps to creating a truly great game:

1. Repeat to yourself "Nothing is sacred." One can always improve an engine, a transmission, a suspension. If you believe some design aspect in your game is "perfect", you won't be on the lookout for a better method.

2. Get as many people as possible in that car seat, driving around in your creation. You need as many playtesters as you can find, of different ages and backgrounds.

3. When these playtesters complain about something, listen to them! Keep a journal. Even if you believe they are totally wrong (and they may be), you may discover over time that their complaint triggers a better design idea.

4. Watch your playtesters. What they do, where they hesitate, how they react is often more important than what they say.

5. Revise your game from the ground up at least four times. Sacred cows in your design may hold your design back, and they are very hard to get rid of -- in fact, they are often very hard to see. The Duel of Ages series passed through eight full redesigns. Looking through those prototypes, one can see a bloody path of slaughtered cows.

Chris Farrell, game reviewer

- Get into it for the money. Seriously. You're never going to make a ton of money as a game designer. But if you do it for the love of what you are creating, you'll never be able to make the tough choices required to produce a good game. Games are products. They are sold in boxes to people for money. Knizia understands this, so should you.

- The game's not done until you've taken something out of the game that you really, really wanted to leave in. After you've cracked and done that once, you'll probably be able to make the rest of the changes required to finish the game.

- Theme sells, not mechanics. You'll need a well-done, attractive theme to get the game off of the shelf, but good mechanics will keep people coming back. So you ultimately need both, of course. But you won't get off the ground without a well-executed theme that people like.

- Playtesting, playtesting, playtesting. You and your circle of friends cannot detect all the problems. You need outside playtesters and blind playtesters. And you need a playtesting process. It doesn't need to be complicated, but it should exist and be designed. Working
with a developer here will be very helpful - a developer you trust who can be an intermediary, and tell you point-blank when things aren't going so well when playtesters won't. Playtesters tend to be either very polite ("it's great! (but I wouldn't play again)"), or
they try to re-design the game for you ("what if you let X do Y?"). You need to work around both of these thing and get them to focus on what they should be doing. Which is mainly a) telling you if the game is broken, and b) telling you what they like and don't like *and*why*. They will not naturally do this. This requires you to develop a process.

- Give up on ideas. Sometimes game ideas aren't working out. Recognize when this is the case and move on.

- You will not be published by Alea, Hans im Glück, Days of Wonder, Kosmos, Fantasy Flight, etc., until you have a track record. Period. Even if what you have is way better than what they're currently publishing. Target smaller publishers for your first games, or resign yourself to self-publishing.

- Get advice from someone else on how to promote your game.

- Get specific advice from people smarter than me. Go to Origins or Essen and track down Reiner Knizia, Klaus Teuber, Alan R Moon, Vance von Borries, Monte Cook, or other highly successful game designers. This is not as hard to do as you might think. If even high-profile designers like Knizia are at Origins, you should have no trouble at
all finding them and getting a few minutes of their time. Then ask them *specific* questions. You'll get better results from "I'm having trouble with my playtesting process because ... do you have any advice?" than "do you have any advice for me as a budding game designer" or "I can't make game system X work, can you help me?" or "would you like to play my game?".

Chuck Kallenbach - designer, Star Wars CCG

As I've never designed a board game that got published, my only advice would be to use blindtesting. That is to say, take a complete copy of your game and give it to a group of players to figure out all by themselves. Watch them without talking to them if you can, or just send the thing out of town and get a full report. Playtesting with your friends is not the way to find your problems.

Cyril Demaegd - designer, YS

"Creating a boardgame is quite easy, but it's difficult to finish it and really, really difficult to finish it for real !

First you'll need a good idea ; a good mechanism, or a good theme or even better : both of them ! Then you'll have to make a game with this clay : define the goal of the game, the different phases, etc...

Then you'll have to test it with different gaming groups (and not only with friends). This particular phase is really crucial and you'll have to stay positive and open-minded because the first few tests will be really difficult for your ego and you'll have to redesign many things, including some of your favorite parts (something might be good on the paper and turn bad on the playing board).

Your ability to analyse what's wrong and to correct it at any cost is the key. Maybe you'll have to go back to the drawing board and rebuild the game from the beginning. You need a stable system because you can't build a good boardgame with a weak basis and many little patches.

The last part is equally crucial : fine tuning. You'll need to test, test, test until you're sure there's no flaws or no "martingale". This last phase can transform a good game into an excellent one so you'll need to be clever and patient.

So here's my recipe for a good boardgame : a good idea, a stable system, an open minded designer with some patient friends and many, many tests. Wolfgang Kramer once said "Improve your game until you think it's finished and then, improve it again !". Mr Kramer won 5 SdJ...

D.W. Tripp - game retailer:

Having worked the end of the game market where the rubber meets the road... meaning I spent 23 years retailing games, I can agree with all the designers and publishers who declare playtesting is the key. In the final analysis, what sells a game is word of mouth. When that shiny new game hits the table it's likely only one of the players owns it. Your goal, I would imagine, would be to design a game that is so compelling, so engrossing and so cool to look at that everyone that plays it wants to own it.

In the very niche market of Euro Games theme seems to have taken a backseat to clean and non-random mechanics. This is all well and good if you want to sell 3,000, 4,000 or perhaps 10,000 copies of an austure and analytical game. I like those myself. But if you want to design a hit then I know for a fact that you have to douse the game in theme and set it ablaze so you draw a crowd. As a retailer I enjoyed selling board games to experienced and critical gamers, those who eschew hokey themes and random mechanics like dice and random card or chit draws. Since I will play almost anything I can't fault those games one bit. But since I had to pay the rent -- and I suppose as a designer that would be your goal -- I loved selling theme-rich games that have the effect of causing a table to burst out in laughter, groan in shock, vow to get vengence and motivate guest players to rush to the counter to purchase their own copy.

HeroClix, as an example, is one of the silliest games I have ever played. The design is klunky, the required interaction with the playing pieces is annoying and the rules, well, the rules are constantly in flux. But it made millions upon millions of dollars because it was designed for a specific market that was already invested in the theme.

On the opposite end of the scale Age of Steam is a design superstar. It's a work-out for the brain, a trial by fire. The mechanics are such that you are always in peril and when playing with experienced opponents, victory can be snagged away easily. I'd guess Age of Steam has sold less than 10,000 copies and it's one of the true masterpieces of game design. There are no millions of dollars beckoning when you design because you can and for personal goals.

So when designing a game I'd suggest you have a very clear understanding of what you personally desire from the effort. The person behind the counter who, in the end, is charged with the job of selling your game, may love Age of Steam and despise heavily themed games, but if he's successful he'll sell what the public needs and wants.

Whatever you design, I'll probably buy a copy, so you already have one sale in the bank.

Don Beyer - designer, Bootleggers

My best advice is around approaching potential publishers. I would recommend making contact in person at a gaming convention, but be cautious of pushing product at that time. Generally cons are very busy and distracting when trying to demo a game. I also think that pitching a game in person to a potential publisher works better than submissions. You get the opportunity to explain what you were trying to accomplish, how the game works, and if during play issues arise they can be addressed immediately. Without being there in person, you are relying on how well you have written your rules and that is a huge obstacle to overcome - look at how often there are clarifications required in well tested and developed games after they have been published.

You probably have received a lot of information on playtesting from other designers, so I won't belabor the point. But one thing we have seen is that well constructed prototypes are better when playtesting. Playtesters will be much more focused on the game and engaged in the process if the prototype looks and feels like a game.

Erik Smith, designer - Pizza Box Football

First, read Tom's original advice article (http://www.thedicetower.com/misc/advice1.htm). There are so many gems there, so many truths learned through experience. I'll try to add something that builds on it.

Your game is designed to be fun. Know the core elements of your game that make it fun. Any rule that gets in the way of those core elements will hurt your game. Eliminate obstacles to fun wherever you can.

Try building a system that lets your players decide how complex (or how long) a game they want to play. Create versions of your game (shorter, medium and longer). Test all of the versions to make sure they're fun.

Make your game easy-to-use. It's more than rules. Give your players a core set of things to learn once, and build on it. Reinforce those core things in your art, your game board, and your game pieces. Limit the ways that players can get lost playing the game without you there. Theme is a tremendous asset that can bind your core elements together and logically extend those elements as you add more complexity to your game.

Observe your play testers the way an anthropologist would. See how they interact with the game components. Can they find rules easily? Do they remember turn order and game mechanics easily? Observe when they're having fun and what they're doing. Are they enjoying the tension of the game? Are they enjoying the release of tension in the game? Do you observe any moments when the fun in the game is waning for the player(s) losing the game?

Assess the learning curve for your game. Ask yourself: what can you do to get people playing in 15 minutes? 10 minutes? 5 minutes?

Leverage the technology interactions being used in the world around us. In addition to their history playing traditional board games, people are increasingly familiar with rectangular screen-based interfaces, point and click selections, touch screens, video-game pace and movie action. Consider whether you can mimic any of these (or other) modern interactions in your game art, mechanics or game play.

Lastly, on a personal level, Know why you're doing it (designing a game). Be honest with yourself before you start. Set a goal. Seek advice along the way. People are willing to help. Celebrate when you get there.

And if you want to get into the business side, there's a new resource called the Game & Toy Manufacturer's Guide that's worth a look (http://www.gtmguide.com/).

Frank DiLorenzo - Publisher, R & R Games

TEST! TEST! TEST! Do as much play testing as possible with a wide variety of people. You want your game to be seen from all angles so that any flaws can come out and be fixed. Your circle of friends or family is not enough, you need unbiased opinions. The designer is often too close to his or her creation to see the hidden problems with a new design. Step back and let others critique and keep an open mind to change. Your design will be all the better for it.

Secondly, don't give up when showing to prospective publishers. Your game will likely never be the right fit for all publishers. Do some research on the various publishers and their lines. Try to submit it to the ones who publish similar games and if rejected move on to the next one. Also ask questions when rejected to see if there is any pertinent feedback they can give you as to why it didn't work for them.

Lastly, be patient. It takes a lot of time and perseverance on your part. Don't expect to hit pay dirt immediately.

Greg Aleknevicus - Game reviewer

1. Play other games. Many of the aspiring designers who wrote to me at The Games Journal admitted that they had not gamed "since playing Monopoly as a kid". If you don't play games, what makes you think you know how to design one? Would you eat at the restaurant of a chef who has never been in a kitchen? Would you buy a book from an author who does not know how to read? If you aren't a player of games, put your design away for a couple of years and play everything you can get your hands on. Use this experience to determine what you like about the games you enjoy and what you dislike
about the others.

2. Don't rely on your friends and family for feedback. They love you and don't want to hurt your feelings. They'll tell you that your game is "the best they've ever played". This is not the advice you need. It's far better to get feedback from your worst enemy because he'll be happy to tell you what's wrong with your game. Knowing what problems exist will help you improve your design.

3. Determine what you wish to get out of the design process. If it's financial reward, then put your game away and start buying lottery tickets -- your odds of success will be far greater.

4. Read "The Game Inventor's Guidebook" by Brian Tinsman (ISBN: 0-87349-552-7) and "Gameplan: The Game Inventor's Handbook" by Stephen
Peek. (ISBN: 093262085X)

Jeff Siadek - designer, Battlestations:

For me the game design process is like playing all of the parts in a multi-player game with conflicting victory conditions. Players one and two are always theme and mechanics. Some of the other players are my goals for the project and my motivation for the project. When I sit down to outline my notes for the game there is a fantastic moment where everything is possible and mechanics and theme riff off of each other building motivation and inspiring greater goals (like "this will be the breakthrough hit that gets my game business out of the garage!"). Of course rules that encompass everything would be too much and some mechanics don't fit the theme and so the diminishment begins. Some designers don't diminish enough and you end up with what should have been a catchy ditty drawn out into an epic opera.

How to get to that place where theme and mechanics are dancing? Play. Play everything you can and steal from every source you can. Play with themes and mechanics. Relax, have fun and make the best game possible. By the way, creation is the first step in a long journey.

Joe Huber - designer of Ice Cream

* Decide what you're aiming for. I'm coming to realize that there are more people making a living designing games than I once thought - but a very limited number in the arena of German game design. If you do want to make a living designing German games, look at how long it took Reiner Knizia or Alan Moon to move into game design full time, and figure if you're that good it's going to take you that long.

On the other hand, designing games for your own satisfaction is a wonderful hobby. It presents lots of interesting problems - and if you want more, just add in design for manufacturability issues - and is very rewarding in and of itself. Publication need not be the end goal.

* Design something you want to play. This is true regardless of your goal; because to reach the point a game is sufficiently well tested, it needs to be played a fair amount (for very simple games) to a lot (for more complex games). If you don't want to play it, why would you expect anyone else to?

Note that this can conflict with your goal - if your goal is to make a living as a game designer, it's quite reasonable to be designing specific types of games (children's games, trivia games, party games). If those aren't what you want to play, you may need to adjust your goal.

* Aim for something new and/or unique. It need not be tremendously unique, and it is possible to create a fine game that simply does a better job of combining standard elements - but success with innovation will always stand out.

* Play lots of different games. Don't limit yourself to what's new - the more games you play, the more ideas you'll find, and the less likely you'll find yourself in a rut. Even games you don't care for might have a wonderful idea or two.

* Bring yourself into your design. If you're an artist, take advantage of this. If you're a teacher, use that experience in your design. If you're a historian, bring that into your games.

* Don't be afraid to let go of a design that's not working. And, in a related matter, consider working on multiple designs.

* Have fun. Whatever your goal, game design should be fun.

* If getting your games published is among your objectives, you will likely spend at least as much time as a salesman (in convincing others to publish them) or as a businessman (in self-publishing) as you did as a game designer. The most successful game designers (Alan Moon, Reiner Knizia, Bruno Faidutti, and so on) tend to be very effective
salesmen, in addition to their design skills.

* Try to hook up with other designers. Events such as Protospiel or PowWow are great, but even informal meetings are valuable as well. Among other advantages of this approach, game designers are often the most honest playtesters around.

* Don't hesitate to come back to a design later. It's altogether too easy to get wrapped up in the current implementation of a design, when what's most needed is a fresh perspective. I have a half-finished game I haven't touched for years that I'm about to return to because I'm interested in working on it again - with a very different mindset
than I last brought to the project.

John Bohrer - publisher, Winsome Games
and
Steve Jackson, publisher, Steve Jackson Games


Don't quit your day job!

Klaus Teuber - designer of Settlers of Catan

Designing Games is something you have to do with your heart, like painting a picture or writing a novel. You need patience and passion. Do it when you need to satisfy your passion -then perhaps you will be successful. If not, it doesn't matter. You will still have a lot of fun. If your only goal is to earn money then the chance to become successful is less, and the greater the probability to gain frustration. If this is the case I think there are better, more promising possibilities.

Mark Jackson - game reviewer

1. Say it with me, now: "You MUST blind playtest your game." Just because you & your circle of friends are having fun with this & understand every little nuance does not mean it will make a lick of sense to anyone else. Pack up a prototype & the rules and send it out
to another group to see what happens. (I've been involved in one playtest that resulted in wholesale changes in the game - our style of play was so different than the original playtest group that it forced the designer to make some major scoring adjustments.)

2. Don't argue with your playtesters. This is actually Biblical: James 1:19 tells us to be "slow to speak & quick to listen." (There's also a line in there about being "slow to anger" which also is good playtesting advice.) Shut up & listen to your playtesters - then wait
a day or two before responding & discussing. Your chances of having an intelligent conversation rather than a knee-jerk reaction improve markedly.

Matt and Mark Anticole - designers of Nature of the Beat

Matt
We designed our own game and started a company to publish it. Long story short, we began with very little knowledge how to do either but figured it out as we went. Now we’re our own company with our own game, beholden to no one (and no one backing us up either). Here’s what we’ve learned so far…

1) Don’t go it alone; get a partner or two.
Mark and I use each other as sounding-boards, cheer-leaders, ruthless editors, and devil’s advocates. We’ve had our share of “that idea sucks… no really, I’m not kidding,” conversations.

2) Find help in your immediate circles.
Beyond our own (nearly unlimited) personal reserves of talent, we got lots of advice from folks we already knew. Actually hiring folks you know doesn’t always work out, but lots of people will help out for free with the skills they have.

3) Seek the help of professionals and be ready to admit, “I don’t know.”
We learned a lot by talking with printers. We met Lost Adept, makers of the Stupiduel game, at a con and they had some great advice. We also used www.SCORE.org: a national organization of retired business professionals volunteering their time to help the next generation.

4) Don’t spend money you don’t have to lose and don’t plan to make a living of it right away.
‘Nuff said.

5) Don’t be in a rush to publish; your early drafts aren’t as swell as you think they are.
Thank goodness that we didn’t have the means or knowledge to crank ‘Nature of the Beast’ out several years earlier. It would only have been ‘really good’ instead of ‘freaking awesome’.

6) www.nobthegame.com
Whoops, is that the website address for our witty, gritty expandable card game featuring animal armies battling for supremacy in the shadows of humanity? See where we’re going with this? Be prepared to self-promote.

7) If you’re serious, then start!
Publishing your own game sucks up time and money. As a special bonus, you open yourself up to the very real risk that you will fail. Of course, never trying in the first place is the best way to fail.

Mark
You want advice? Ok, here’s what I did: I asked my identical twin brother if he wanted to make a game so awesome it could shake the heavens. He accepted. Twins are cool like that. If you don’t have an identical twin handy, you’re probably %&*@ of luck.

Morgan Dontanville, Designer wannabe and publisher's stooge - Recess! / Cafe Games:

Don't bother: you aren't good enough, there is is no room at the inn, you don't have the name/following, your design isn't right for the market, your game is too heavy, your game is too light, the subject isn't interesting.

If you take any of these things to heart you need to quit right now. Really, give up, you won't make it.

No really. Forget it.

If for some reason you are wack enough to continue after waiting 8 months for this answer you are a deranged masochist and might still get published. Or not. If you simply must design games and want to see them published, then what can I say to stop you.

This is how it should be.

The best advice I can give comes from a line in the movie "Croupier": Hold on tightly, let go lightly. Apply this to every element of your work from the beginning to the ever elusive light at the end of the tunnel.

If you are reading this, you clearly are interested so I won't cover the matter of fact stuff. I try to incorporate ALL of my thematic ideas into the game (hold on tightly). Create rule-sets and mechanics for them and cobble it all together like some Frankenstein monster. Now see if you can find a way to make the ugly shambling thing a prize winning beauty. Smooth out the edges and cut out what doesn't fit (let go lightly). Beat the hell out of the game.

Remember what Ernest Hemingway said: "The first draft of anything is sh*t". This line is very, very important. Be proud of your design if you can even get to the end of it on first playing, the way that you are proud of your kid's awful drawings or coming in last in the special Olympics. Don't be afraid to do a page 1 rewrite though...

Now you simplify it. Hack away at anything that doesn't work. Try to make one piece do two different things, make one mechanic cover three of your previous mechanics. Streamline it, tighten it up until it reaches the point where it almost breaks, this is where you find innovations. Don't be afraid to cut away great new mechanics if they don't fit into your game, get rid of them. Why? Because you want this game to be the best it can be. And this brings us to the second thing: keep designing.

If you have one game in you, it may not be worth the effort to try to get it published, if you are waiting 2 years for a game to get rejected, you should then have 10 or 20 games ready and in the pipeline. Richard Borg's wife loves to talk about all his prototypes that are sitting in their attic.

When you cut out loved but conflicting mechanics from previous games you can always try to plug them into new games where they will fit better. Design games to the point where you think they are perfect or till you lose interest. Give up games that you aren't interested in and start something new, then steal from them later or wait until you have a new great idea for them.

Stick as many fingers as you have in as many different pies as possible, both in designing new games, playing different kinds of games, and contacting publishers and other industry folk.

Listen to people's advice and take it to heart. Regardless of whether you follow it or not, learn from other people's experiences. Usually the comment that hurts the most is the most informed and closest to the truth.

Most importantly, realize that your design may be better than any other game that is published, but it isn't worth anything sitting in a white box on your shelf.

Reiner Knizia - designer, Lost Cities

"Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and I think that designing games and publishing games are two very different occupations. I have a limited number of hours in the day and in my life and I want to do the things I can do best. If I started self-publishing, that means I would have to get into the production and then the selling and distributing of the games. It requires very different experience and it
is a totally different business. I want to stay in the game design business and not go into the publishing business. If I say yes to something else then I have to say no to game designing, at least to a certain degree, and I don't want to do that. I think it's a very naive
thing to say 'Now that I've designed a game I think I'll self-publish it.' I might as well become a book publisher or produce music CDs. That seems odd, but simply saying about a game 'that's the same product, so I can do that.' Well no, I can't, and I won't. The desperation of some people saying 'no one will publish my game so I'll do it' is, in my
eyes, a very dangerous temptation.

Rob Daviau - codesigner of Heroscape

Figure out if you are a painter or a sculptor. Painters start with a blank canvas and add to it, one thing at a time, until they have a painting. Sculpters start with a big block and chip away at it until they have a statue. Personally, I'm a sculptor. When I design games I throw allmy ideas into my first versions because I won't know what works and what doesn't until I playtest it. Then I take out the stuff that doesn't work until what is left is my 'sculpture'. Craig Van Ness is more of a painter. He adds things, testing along the way, one at a time, until he has just enough. It took us a few years to realize how differently we work.

Speaking of testing...don't think for a minute that you'll know how a game works until you playtest it. It always works great in my head and during solo play. It's when you have real people doing the unexpected that you'll know what you really have. I have a tendency to hold onto my first version for too long, hoping to perfect it before showing it to people. Never works. The trick is to let go of your pride and realize that first drafts are first drafts. Nobody is expecting a final game.

Also...when you get to the middle of the design, after you are through the early drafts, check to see if you have mechanics that can be folded together. That is, if you are using one mechanic for part A and another for part B, is there a way to combine them so the players only have to learn one mechanic or a variation on a mechanic?

Robert Johannessen – game designer “Quest for the DragonLords”

My first thought is ‘Kudos’ to those souls brave enough or foolish enough to go the distance. My first inclination as a game designer was to hide my idea for fear of having the idea stolen. This is absolutely the worst mistake you can make. Believe me when I tell you that it is very difficult to get anyone interested enough just to look at the idea, never mind stealing it. It is essential to get feedback. All inventors feel that their idea is the best thing since 'sliced bread'. You have to stand back and really listen to what people think of your product. Take the game to a club and have people other than your friends play it. This is not the time for selective hearing. Take note of the negative concerns as well as the positive. If you still feel you have something and you want to take the next step - make a prototype. Try to make this as attractive as you can, because this is what you need to approach game publishing companies. You must be able to explain in a couple of minutes what is special about your game. If you are extremely lucky - they may even play your game, but don't count on it. Selling your idea or receiving royalties should be your goal as a game designer. Be happy with any monies you make, because the alternative is an extremely high-risk step.

If you decide to go it alone and manufacture the game yourself, be prepared to lose all the money invested. The gaming industry is an extremely difficult nut to crack. Before you spend one dime on manufacturing the game get all your nuts in order.

Find out the costs involved to manufacture the game and set the retailer price of your product. Compare it to similar product and decide if it has value. This is a much more difficult step than it seems. Almost every printing company out there has been ripped off by a game manufacturer, so they will be reluctant to even quoting on your project. Did I mention how difficult this nut is to crack?

Set up a website with pictures of your game and a good description of how it works. This makes pitching your idea to distributors easier if you are lucky enough to get a buyer on the phone. You must get positive feedback from the distributors you approach. If no one is interested in distributing your game forget it - it's over. You cannot possibly sell enough games on the Internet to get your money back or heaven forbid, make a profit. Oh by the way, setting up an attractive website is expensive, if you do not know how it is done. Did I mention how difficult this nut is to crack?

By some miracle, you have a few distributors interested in carrying your game and you have found manufacturers who will supply you with the components necessary for your game and you are ready to go. Now you need capital. If you can persuade others to finance your project, you may have something. Do not waste your time approaching a bank, unless laughter is something you enjoy sharing with others. Do NOT mortgage your house!!! You must always look after your number one investment - your marriage. Believe me - you do not want to say, "Honey - by the way - I've just lost our life savings!” That would be a very difficult nut to crack.

MARKETING - I once saw a movie about baseball where the main theme was "If I build it they will come" - this may work in cornfields but it certainly doesn't work in the gaming industry. You must set aside a lot of money and time to attend various shows or advertise to get your product noticed.

Publishing a game is a roller coaster ride of emotions. You may receive praise and you will receive criticism. All the same, it can be very rewarding to have people contacting you and telling you how much they enjoy your game. Generally speaking, people in the gaming industry are very free with their opinions and advice. My advice is not to take it all too seriously. It really doesn’t matter if you win or lose - it all depends on how you play the game. It should be a fun experience, do not go down the all or nothing path. If all these obstacles have not persuaded you to change your mind about becoming a game designer and you still wish to get a game published, join the club, as you are definitely a tough nut to crack!

Ted Alspach - designer, Seismic

My first game to be published, Seismic, coming out from Atlas Games shortly, is actually about the 10th or so game I had designed at that time that had made it to the playable prototype stage. Of the ones that I designed before and during that period, it's definitely one of the best.

When I started to get more serious about game designing, I read everything I could on it, visited the Boardgame Designers Forum on a regular basis, and listened to all the GeekSpeaks where Derk and Aldie interviewed designers and publishers - in a few cases, several times. The back-to-back interviews of Alan Moon and Days of Wonder were particularly enlightening, as they provided a really clear picture of the design and publishing process from both angles, and both interviews had a lot of great "how we got
started" info.

At a certain point in time, I decided I was going to focus on getting my game(s) published by an existing game publisher, that it would be foolish to self-publish (lots of great horror stories out there). The ironic thing about that being that I have self published some expansion maps for Age of Steam. While the first map was extremely limited in number, the second set of maps was printed professionally and cost quite a bit up front. The jury is still out on the foolishness of this most recent endeavor...

I learned more about publishers and the game industry *after* I had finished four games which I thought were good enough to show publishers: I contacted a bunch of them via email and through their website's submissions page, and was pleasantly surprised to get a few responses asking for rules. I was even *more* encouraged to receive a note from Eric at Days of Wonder, who invited me to their office (I live 20 minutes away) to show them a prototype! The good news/bad news to this was that this was the first time *ever* showing a game to a publisher, so I had no reference or idea what it would be like, and that it was Days of Wonder, which is of course one of the premier publishers. They ended up passing for a variety of reasons, and Mark and Eric were very direct and constructive in their comments about why the game didn't work for DoW. That caused me to rethink not just my games, but also the way I presented them going forward. By the way, the Days of Wonder office is just this side of spectacular. If you've been there you know what I'm talking about...imagine the production value of their games.... As a fan
bonus I got to see the Memoir '44 expansion proofs way before the rest of the world knew about them.

Following that, um, learning experience, I set up a few meetings at GenCon, and hunted down more publishers while at the show. This went over really well (or so I thought), but GenCon is definitely *not* an ideal environment for designers to talk to publishers. They're at a big show like Gencon to move lots of boxes, and designers take away selling time. It's very distracting for both the publisher and the designer. The good news is that this is where I first talked to John Nephew, one of the owners of Atlas Games, which began the long process of getting Seismic out to market. And Atlas Games was absolutely incredible to work with--I couldn't have asked for a better company to publish one of my games.

Some pieces of additional advice:

1) Make sure your game is solid and playtested thoroughly before submitting to publishers.

2) Have clear rules. No holes. Look at most published games as templates.

3) Make the prototypes as high quality as possible within reason. Use Illustrator to make components (not jagged-edges, pixel-based Photoshop or amatuer-looking Word art) so that publishers can easily understand your vision of the game (even if that vision ends up changing by the time it's published). Use card stock for cards, not paper. If it's color, print it in color. Publishers will say they don't care about the prototype, that it's all about the gameplay, but they still warm up to snazzy-looking prototypes faster than generic ones.

4) Everyone else says it, and this is probably the most challenging part: Playtest it as much as possible. My gaming groups all have folks that will gladly (after enough arm twisting, anyway) take part in playtesting, and most of the people will be very blunt about what they like and don't like. Don't take negative reactions personally, but instead embrace them and see if you can make changes that will accommodate concerns.

5) One thing I don't see a lot of people talk about is self-testing. Any game I work on I'm sure to self test several times before putting it front of a group. It's hard work, and you'll have to make a lot of assumptions for things like bidding, hidden information, etc., but you'll find a big chunk of flaws with the initial design by playing through games by yourself. My Age of Steam expansions were self-tested about 5 times with different numbers of "players" before they were ready to be played with a group, and that's for a well-established game system!!!

Terry Carr - www.fairplaygames.com

Do your research: Determine your audience and target that audience for the particular game you are creating. Playtest with that audience, but also other audiences. Welcome feedback, but don't feel you have to change your prototype to satisfy everyone's needs. Try to observe people's reactions - If they are smiling, laughing or ask to play it again, you are doing something right. Keep the game simple if possible. The easier it is to learn, the more people will be willing to learn and play again.

Tom Jolly - designer, Cave Troll

Game Theft; I actually wrote an article for a magazine about the subject of "corporate game theft", in that I designed two "unique" games with unique game mechanics, and Ideal came out with games or puzzles based on EXACTLY the same concepts shortly after I designed or published both. However, both were verifiable coincidence. Since then, I've seen the same thing happen a half-dozen times to other companies, very strange when viewed from the inside of the industry, suspicious looking when viewed from the outside. There's an incredible amount of apparently coincidental game development occuring out there, partly due to the fact that new games build on concepts from old games. For example, collectable dice games weren't a "great idea", they were an inevitable evolution from CCG's, which is why 2 companies (Gamesmiths and TSR) came out with them the same month.

Not that I'm trying to sound discouraging, there are always great new games popping up out there, and sometimes I just shake my head and ask "why didn't I think of that?" Where was I....yeah, you get this letter, and if you sign it, you send it in to the company with a good prototype that they play a few times, then reject with a nice letter telling you why they aren't interested (I have a lot of those) or a contract proposal (I have very few of those). Depending upon who you are dealing with, IF they are interested, then they will offer you a royalty of somewhere between 2% and 5% of retail sales (or 7-8% of gross), and perhaps an advance of some negotiable amount against future royalties. This may not seem like a lot, but trust me, profit margins in the game industry are very, very tight on small to medium production runs (2000 to 20000), and 2% is generous for some companies. If your game sells 20,000 copies, you can consider it a moderate success, but you won't make much money.

Another thing that will slow you down is the fact that most game companies (including myself) have a backlog of games they want to publish, and in-house game designers, so most of them aren't looking for new submissions at all. This, of course, means they miss out on a lot of neat new ideas and fresh blood, but it also means they don't have to hassle with royalties and legal issues of ownership, copyright, and "stealing ideas", so you can sort of see that viewpoint, too. Which will eventually lead us back to the section on publishing yourself.
THE DANGERS OF CONTRACT NEGOTIATION; Oddly, this is one of the touchiest parts of game making/selling. I only know a lot about this because I've had a lot of really bad contracts. It's always a good idea to get some kind of cash up front, call it an advance or "kill fee" in case they decide not to publish it. Also, put in a limited time for publication wherein the game rights will revert to you if the game doesn't get published, 2 years is quite reasonable, I have contracts that range from 18 months to 7 years. If you go with nothing but royalties, there's a good chance you'll get nothing, because the game may never go to market (this happens a lot).

I was recently given some very good advice from another designer who I will leave unnamed here, since I didn't ask him if I could quote him. He said it's a good idea to sell either North American rights, or European rights, but not both to any one company. This is partly because if you sell all rights to one company, then they might license out to another company, and you won't get a royalty, but rather, a percentage of a licensing fee, if you wrote this into your contract. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though...it means you only have to deal with one company and they have to go through the legal hassle of making sure the other company pays them. Doing the footwork to cut deals with foreign companies is not a cheap or easy process. Licensing fee percentages can vary anywhere from 10 to 50%, depending on expected sales and other factors (like your negotiating skills). Since most companies have no intention of licensing out the game, a 25-30% licensing fee is no big deal for them; it's a percentage they'll never have to pay out.

To go into more detail, let's say you sell your game to Jolly Games, and we offer you a 5% royalty against wholesale sales (or 2% against retail, minus freebies given out for promo), AND if we license out the game to some other company, we pay you 50% of the money we collect as a license fee. Naturally, this means you get no royalty from this other company. This is negotiable, as is any contract. You could stipulate that Jolly Games, if sublicensing to another company, require that company to pay, say, 2% royalty directly to the designer from *their* sales, thus circumventing Jolly Games (though Jolly Games would still collect some license fee for themselves). This is a pretty good way to go if you can do it. You'll also want a cut of the action for licensing any other products as a result of your invention, if you think it's that great an idea. By this I mean stuff like t-shirts, posters, movies, and the like (Pokemon is a good example for this).

Furthermore, let's say Jolly Games offers you a $1000 advance against sales (that is, this counts as your first $1000 of royalty payments when it gets published), but you, being a wise and savvy contract negotiator, insist that the "advance against sales" be paid immediately upon initiation of the contract, and that the advance will act as a kill fee if the game is not produced within 2 years, and that the rights revert back to you in case this happens.

Some of the larger companies will offer you a canned contract; you can argue some of the details, like percentages, but generally the terms of the contract will be pretty fixed, that is, a "form" contract. You won't have much luck dealing details on a contract like this. One of my favorite stories is with a company that offered me a very decent royalty (like, 5% of retail) verbally, but by the time the contract was initiated a year later, the company had grown so much, that when I got the contract in my hands, the royalty had magically decreased to 2% of gross!! When I asked them about this humongous change, the response was "well, we're a lot bigger now, so we figure with the increased sales potential, you'll realize the same overall royalty." Huh? I couldn't believe my eyes when I read this!

The same game subsequently was offered to another company that didn't pay the advance on the royalty (even after the contract was signed) because they said they weren't sure if they'd produce it or not, so since there may not be any royalty, they weren't going to pay an advance. Yeah, I couldn't figure that one out, either. This tied the game up for another year and a half.

Fortunately, the game finally made it out 2 years later as "Drakon", under Fantasy Flight Games' banner, who did a very nice job of it. Be sure to buy a copy the first chance you get, it's a great little game (shameless sales pitch).

Okay, back to your negotiation process. Naturally, in amongst all your finagling, you should realize that if you insist on too much, the company will just dump you and find some more reasonable person to deal with. You should probably be pretty flexible with your first game sale, and take what they offer if it's reasonable at all, just to get your name in print. Oh yeah....be sure your name goes on the box or on the rules somewhere! Some people actually notice these things.

If you go with a software version of your game, heaven help you, there are so many loopholes in software contracts to plug, it's a seemingly impossible task. Here's a horror story; I used to have a contract with one company that said they write the software and put it on-line, and I get paid by the number of hours people play it, as a percentage of the money they pay to play. This all seems reasonable until the game goes on-line for free. Free? How can they make money from that? Simple, they put advertising on it, and also use it as a hook for their pay-and-play games to bring in customers. The contract wording is just ambiguous enough to make this practice very questionable, but the bottom line is I don't get paid anything.

How do you cover yourself for this? It's hard to guess what the computer industry will do next, when I signed the aforementioned contract, advertising banners were not considered a viable source of income (DOS times, pre WIN95). Still, try to imagine ALL sources of income that the game can produce, figure out a way to calculate that figure, then ask for a percentage of that. Actually, that's what I thought I was doing, but got caught by modern times. Possibly sources of income include sublicensing to other on-line companies, secondary market products, advertising income, "hook" use of the game for other marketables, sale of the game as a stand-alone product, etc, etc. Use your imagination.

Walt O'Hara - game reviewer

Design with love and passion, not for money. If you have a passion for a subject, the quality will always be there. If you work as a labo
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Jackson Pope
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This is fantastic advice, I've only skimmed it so far (I'll come back to it more thoroughly later), but advice from the pros is invaluable, especially when it comes from all corners of the industry.

It's certainly making me think about my design and the self-publishing I'm in the process of.

Thanks, Tom!
 
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Jay Little
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Thanks again, Tom, for taking the time and effort to compile this wonderful, wonderful information. It would have been such a shame for this to get lost in translation, if you will, amid the dozens of separate interviews. Great centralization of content. Kudos!

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Dominic Crapuchettes
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North Star Games designs party games that don't suck! Play them with your non-gamer friends over the holidays.
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First there was Hearts, then there was Spades, and now we bring you Clubs. The suit of clubs finally gets some respect!
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I guess this means it's too late to turn in what I've been working on... Oh well, my fault for getting caught up in too many other things.
 
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Matthew Frederick
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Thanks, Tom, another great job!

Note that Greg Aleknevicus's bit is cut off mid book title.
 
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Erik Smith
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"Marry a good woman." Alan, that's great advice from your wife. An understanding partner will help smooth out a lot of the bumps (and can provide encouragement to stick with your project).

 
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Joss Ives
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Fantastic work putting this together Tom.
 
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Nello Cozzolino
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i am not a game designer..i am not a board game expert,i would like to design my own football one but ...i got no time..i just play few easy board games twice a month...and i read the geek ..that's all

..few suggestions(my humble point of view)

1. consider your project as a hobby
2. self production( at least you gonna have 500 boxes of your game with your name on it)
3. there are a lot of musicians,rockers and guitarists out there..but only few of them they will hit the charts
4. if you are lucky enough to work for a big company(mattel-hasbro)...you have not freedom to design what you want..they will tell you.."your idea does not fit to our market"(someone who worked for a big toy/company for 15 years told me that..)
5. you cannot please everyone..there is always a smarter guy comin out with: too easy system..not balanced...etc.. etc.. etc..
6. some of the biggest name in the designing market are really under pressure i believe....by contract they have to produce 4 or 5 new card games/board games a year..and the expectations are..are.. high .. big ..huge

7. this is a question

why monopoly is still a top selling ? -----> my answer --->distribution
 
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Matthew Frederick
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nello wrote:
7. this is a question

why monopoly is still a top selling ? -----> my answer --->distribution

My answer: tradition. Hasbro noted that something like 70% of all copies of Monopoly sold are never played. People know how to play it, their parents played it, their grandparents may have played it, they probably played it in school. Is Campbell's soup that much better than, say, Progresso? Is it any better? But did you eat it as a kid, did your folks eat it, your grandparents?

No question that distribution is key to the success of a game, but I think in this case the distribution is all pull and no special cleverness on the part of Hasbro.
 
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Steve Zarifis
United States
Washington
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Thanks Tom

Quite interesting and lots of good ideas.

cheers
 
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