Tag: Rambling

What designers wish they knew before starting

Found an interesting article a few days ago asking various professional game designers a simple question: What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting as a game designer?

You can see the full article here: http://makeboardgame.com/20-board-game-makers-chime-in-what-i-wish-id-known-before-starting-my-board-game/

And my two favorite quotes are duplicated below:

“Playing with the same group can become rote and leave you trying add more depth and flavor than you need to get them engaged. This leads to over-complicating things that should have been left simpler and more new player friendly.”
– Adam Rehberg

This strikes a chord with me from my Dinosaur Cowboys work, where I was tempted to add more mechanics, equipment, skills, etc. to satisfy the growing understanding and playtime of my friends. When realistically the game is fairly well tuned for new and experienced players. Just need to take a step back sometimes and really consider why you’re adding a rule/new system, and if it fits into your original vision.
Which leads nicely into the next quote…

“Always look for better ways to do each individual game mechanic but never lose track of the big picture or the scope of the game in general.”
– Larry Harris

Very, very true and important to keep a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve with your game. In fact even having a well defined big picture view in the first place helps a ton. Because then when you’re going to add a new mechanic you can ask yourself: does this fit my game concept? Basically test yourself each time you want to change or add something.
From my experience my Life of a Dinosaur Cowboy RPG had the problem of a lot of cool mechanics that led to a not very cool or fun game. Very easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees.

Welcome to my humble abode

As I went to create my eighth WordPress site for a tabletop game I was making, I decided I had gone insane and needed to consolidate. This blog (or is it a website?) is the result. My focus is organizing and storing my various games and rules.

But I’m jumping ahead, maybe I should explain a bit about myself first. My name is Carlo, I’m in my early thirties, and I’m from Canada. I think that’s personal enough. I got into RPG games in elementary school, thanks to dedication and support from my parents and friends. I started with Advanced Heroquest and moved onto Warhammer 40,000, Car Wars, Battletech, Dungeons & Dragons, Silent Death, Traveller, and more recently Firestorm Armada, Edge of the Empire, Netrunner, and many more. Gaming has always been a huge part of my life, both with pen and paper and on the computer. I’ve painted hundreds of miniatures (generally 28mm), collected hundreds of dice, and pretty much had a blast. I managed to maintain a weekly RPG game throughout most of my later school years, had a lull in college, and picked it back up with a new group after that. Really amazing to read through old notes, character sheets, and maps (that I’ve meticulously kept) and relish a wealth of fond memories.

While playing games, I also designed them. Hundreds of them. Most bad, rough around the edges, or awkward. I read on the topic, posted on forums, and got my hands dirty with lots of different concepts, mechanics, and rules. Some, like a fan version of the Beast Wars TV show about animal Transformers (you’re familiar from the 1990s), were not so good. Others, like my light skirmish Dinosaur Cowboys, make me giddy thinking I created it. Similarly some have survived, to be stored here, and others are lost as a stack of handwritten stats and notes in some garbage heap.

So instead of having a spiralling web of barely visited blogs I decided to make “Horizon Games” (name in honor of my first true RPG game I made). If you’re an amateur game designer like me you’ll feel right at home. If you’re interested in the process you might also glean some value. And if you want some good, playable games I’d recommend sticking to the “Finalized” category.

Speaking of which I’ve decided to organize this site by “design process categories”, namely Ponder, Brainstorm, and Finalized. Ponder is my first step, where I am inspired by a vague idea, theme, world, or mechanic. I let the thought brew in the back of my mind as I drive and talk to people and lie half asleep in bed. Then one day my brain is filled up enough with the concept and I write it down. That’s when I move to Brainstorming, which is putting actual pen to (sometimes electronic) paper and scribbling out notes. Sometimes I’m satisfied at this point: I’ve explored an idea as far as I want, got the concept and rough rules down, and my brain is emptied again. Other times I love the idea and playtest the rules, ideally as fast as possible to maintain motivation and focus. Once I’ve iterated through revisions and tests I might format a pretty document and move to Finalized. There are, of course, varying degrees of finality. Some of my games I truly am done with. They play well, are fleshed out, and hold up under scrutiny. Others are a labor of love, such as my flagship Dinosaur Cowboys game, which I revisited with many “final final this time for real” versions all the way from 1.0 to 2.6 (and beyond?).

Regardless that should give you an idea of my process. Hopefully you find something interesting, and if not you can at least be content knowing some random Canadian finally organized his rich text files from 1998 (by the way those are under the “Old” category) and PDFs from 2016 into one place.