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Game Design

My Visual Communications class is doing a board game design project. I am struggling to come up with worthy concepts. A classmate found this great this great review of a book on the topic, and I was impressed enough to buy the book in PDF form.

The first bit of advice you get in the book is to maintain a childlike mind during the conceptualizing stage. I don't know if I have a childlike mode that I can shift into. Being a child was pretty awful for me, so I don't normally revisit that part of my life. But I am trying to keep a sense of fun. If I don't find my game concept fun, then nobody else will either.

Any advice from those of you who have designed games? (chadu, I am looking at you.)


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 11th, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC)
Sorry it took so long to read this: haven't been able to get into LJ all day!

I've heard good things about the book you're linking to (don't have a copy of my own yet), and this one's good too:


Also, look up Daniel Solis' blog:


He's a game-designing MACHINE.

My best advice, come up with a simple silly/fun rule that has emergent possibilities. Here's a quick idea that has a surprising amount of emergent gameplay:

1. Hit a dude.
2. Play passes to the left.

That's the entire ruleset of the game.

More info:

And a dissenting opinion:


Think how simple checkers is. A couple simple rules of play leads to more complex actions activities. The fun can be found in how the simple turns into the complex.

It's like cooking: some flour, salt, and water, and BANG -- bread. (Wild yeasts for sourdough!)

. . .


That's it.

Your game is titled WILD YEASTS.

Oct. 11th, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
Excellent! Just the sort of advice I was looking for. Thanks so much.

I am not sure if Wild Yeasts will work, given that we are expected to come up with a "theme" that we then apply to all parts of the game, so I am thinking "spooky" or "steampunk" or something else that I have a lot of knowledge about and can play off of. But for game mechanics, I will take your advice, and keep it super simple. Thanks again!
Oct. 11th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
Oooh, another thing that hit me is one of my favorite card-games: FLUXX.

1. Draw a card.
2. Play a card.

That's it. Individual cards change gameplay, winning conditions, how many cards you can hold in your hand, play direction, all kindsa stuffs.


Plus, there's a Pirate version, a Stoner version, and a Monty Python version.

In your case, I'd say go "spooky" or "cooking."

My friend Lenny swears by this game:


Did we ever play LORD OF THE FRIES?


Two great tastes that go great together.

Oct. 12th, 2011 12:23 am (UTC)
In your case, I'd say go "spooky" or "cooking."

I take that as a very high compliment. Thanks.

Wok star looks amazing! I don't think I have that kind of talent. And, no, I don't think we ever played Lord of the Fries. It also looks cool if... gross. I regret not playing more games now that I have to design one! Fortunately, in class on Thursday we are spending the whole class playing games!
Oct. 11th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
w/out having read the book, I could interpret "childlike mind" as "turn off your internal editor" while conceptualizing, which is good advice for any creative work.
Oct. 11th, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's spot on. And I agree that it's good advice. It's just kind of hard to implement.
Oct. 11th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
Like all good advice! Simple in theory, a bear in practice ...

For writing, I try to remind my internal editor that he will, indeed, have a time where he can lay waste to what I write, exterminating whole paragraphs like a editorial Conan the Barbarian.

But he has to wait his turn</>. Like in kindergarten. (maybe that's the childlike mind ...)
Oct. 12th, 2011 12:25 am (UTC)
Well, they say "write drunk, edit sober". That's kinda similar. My internal editor is pretty brutal, and pushy. I have to tie her up and stuff a sock in her mouth, but I am trying!
Oct. 11th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)

My advice: don't get stuck in the molasses swamp!

(I'm so unhelpful...)

Oct. 11th, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
I've heard tell of strip CANDYLAND. O_o.
Oct. 12th, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
OK, yeah, that is kinda disturbing. I am curious about how it works, though.
Oct. 12th, 2011 12:27 am (UTC)
Oh, that's OK :)
Oct. 11th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
If you want to keep it childlike, my suggestion would be a board game called "Wrigglers" where the players are earthworms trying to avoid obstacles around the board in order to make it to their goal, a garden compost heap. Hazards can include draw cards like, "A hard rain forces you to the surface to breath. Lose one turn waiting for the ground to dry out." Obstacles could include, "Cross a hot sidewalk" and "Hungry birds abound. Try to hide!" Bonuses might be "You find tasty offal -- your energy increases by 10!" and "The earth has been freshly turned making burrowing easier. Jump ahead two squares!" Not only do kids find worms fascinating, but the concept can include a good dose of subtle messages about the importance of the working with nature instead of against it, the importance of being good stewards of the earth, and how that even the smallest, weakest things (worms) have an important role to play in the cycle of life.

So yeah, go worms! :D

Edited at 2011-10-11 11:07 pm (UTC)
Oct. 12th, 2011 12:29 am (UTC)
Wow, Chris. Can I get it in writing that I can use that idea??? :)
Oct. 12th, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
You have my approval to do anything you want with the idea that you don't charge money for. :)
Oct. 13th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Oct. 12th, 2011 02:59 am (UTC)
If you would like to borrow my child's brain for a few hours,
he would LOVE to talk about Game Design and how to be playful
about it. He wants to be a game designer when he grows up
and at 12, he is doing everything in his power to make his
dream come true.
Oct. 12th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much Louise. Wow, is he 12 already? It seems like you got pregnant last week... time is funny.

I am actually moving through the conceptualizing phase pretty fast. I don't think it'll be necessary for me to get a child's help at this point, but I'd be delighted to talk with him about gaming at some point. He is such an amazingly bright kid!
Oct. 12th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC)
I haven't designed games, but might I suggest that rather than keeping a childlike mind you keep a Wampeter mind?
Oct. 12th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
Excellent idea, hon. That is a mindset I can remember and recapture pretty well.
Oct. 12th, 2011 05:18 am (UTC)
Sweetie, your house is full of stuffed animals and Halloween decorations. I don't think you have any trouble getting in touch with your childlike mind. Squeeze the Cow of Happiness for a minute if you need inspiration.
Oct. 12th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
Err, yeah. Guilty as charged. I guess I am pretty childlike.
Oct. 12th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Speaking of Fluxx - here is info from Andy Looney about a lecture he gave on game design, including a neat flowchart:

Good luck! I am sure you will come up with something great!
Oct. 12th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
PS - one of my favorite steps on his chart:'GET DEFENSIVE AND BROOD'!
Oct. 13th, 2011 02:30 am (UTC)
This is a great resource! Thanks so much, hon.
Oct. 15th, 2011 03:42 am (UTC)
One more link - that chart was part of what he created for his contribution to this game design book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005LDMOPA/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B003T0GIDG&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=16YZKAB2VWGBBMSHVSZX

Hope your project is going/has gone well!
Oct. 15th, 2011 07:22 am (UTC)
That's funny... a classmate discovered this in PDF form a few days ago, so I have downloaded and am reading it! Thanks for pointing it out. IT is in fact going well. Mercifully I have until mid-November to finish it.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )