The new year is upon us and I’d like to take a moment to make my game design resolutions for 2008. In no particular order, here they are:

I will only work on a fixed number of new games.

This resolution will be a hard one to follow, but it is important. Having a fixed number of games means that I will only be allowed to spend a certain amount of time on any particular game. Sometimes I move on too quickly after designing a game before I am actually done with it. Other times I spend way too much time on a game and neglect my others. Having a fixed number of games will help me divide up my months so that I will know where I should be and what should be finished. This is important especially when designing rulebooks. So often I neglect writing down important details and end up forgetting them when I pick up the game after a hiatus. I haven’t determined how I will handle the number of games, or if my existing prototypes will fall into the mix, but I do have an idea for what is on tap for the coming months.

I will enter more game design contests.

I found that entering contests this year has helped me a lot. It has given me focus with themes and deadlines to work around. Next year, I plan on picking a few contests, like Lucca or Hippodice, and being committed to them throughout the process. Too often I let the deadlines pass for contests that I should be entered into. Usually that is because my games are in a troubled state or they are being currently reviewed by a publisher. With that in mind, I hope to start planning ahead of time to make sure I have a game ready well in advance.

I will do more blind playtesting.

I can never get enough people to blind playtest my games. Having someone who has never seen my game before learn the game solely from the rules gives me great insight into how well I am conveying my game. Ultimately, I want to see if the game is ready enough for a publisher to look over. As long as the testers were able to play the game without much trouble, I consider it a good test.

I currently have a system worked out with our sister design group in Oklahoma where we will be sending our games back and forth for each other to playtest (it just so happens to be blind). Right now, they have one of my games, and I am waiting for them to ship it back piggybacked with their prototype(s).

I will collect more playtest data.

I nearly always forget to time how long it takes to play a prototype. I don’t write down the scores as much as I should. I really ought to be collecting stats on how often certain strategies win over other ones, or which items are used most frequently. Most of the time the info isn’t useful on the spot, but it sure makes a difference when you want to prove a point to yourself later on. This is a bother to do, but I think if I prepare better before the playtest begins, I will have a better chance of capturing this info.

I will listen more to my playtesters’ advice.

I often get defensive after a playtester offers some advice about one of my prototypes that I don’t agree with. I immediately counter their opinion with reasons why things are designed this way or that way. Sometimes they offer suggestions to add mechanics I’ve tossed two versions ago, other times they want to add arbitrary chunks of gameplay to the game. Well, it turns out that all feedback (whether I like it or not) is useful. It doesn’t mean they are all right, it just means that they have their place.

When one player says that my bidding mechanic is clunky, I need to write it down and remember it! I may scoff it off now, but when a few months later another player says the same thing, then there might be something to it. Part of listening is capturing it all down on paper. Filtering that info into good and bad advice can be done later. The more opinions collected, and the more I reflect on them, the more likely I will see perceived problem areas in the game.

I will be published in 2008.

By this, I mean I will have signed a deal to be professionally published. The actual game may come out whenever, but next year, I’m going to make it happen. Now, I’ve said this year after year, and haven’t done it, but this year I can see it happening. My backlog of working games is getting bigger and better, and one of them is bound to be noticed.

OK. That’s enough for now. I don’t want to give myself too much pressure.

~ Dan

One Response to “2008 Game Design Resolutions”

  1. I agree with collecting more data and doing more blind playtesting – both are really important. As for playtester’s input, it’s really hard to take criticism when it’s your baby being discussed, trying to step back and listen dispassionately is hard, but in the end worthwhile. I’ve not tried to enter any competitions, don’t know why but it just doesn’t appeal for some reason.



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