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Analog Game Design: First Solo PlaytestsSo there I was, a game in my hand, my game, my cards, my design. Felt great.

For about two minutes. Then I was ready to see if I could commit suicide by paper cut. That’s what my first, solo playtests usually do to me.

But let’s recap. I’ve written about the spark, the part where creativity reigns free and I spew ideas the way a first-year computer science student spews regurgitated lager[note]No, I’ve never actually spewed lager, even though I have been a first-year comp-sci student, and on the ölhäfv (speed-drinking beer) team.[/note]. I’ve written about building the first prototype. This post is about what happens next: the solo playtesting, where crappy games are beaten into gold[note]Or, to be truthful, slightly less crappy games.[/note]. (more…)

Failure leads to understanding Burt Rutan quoteWith the hordes of rapid prototype tools available today it’s easy to cobble together a rough draft and start playing. It’s agile, lean, scrum, six-sigma and all that, right? We start with something easy, test our way to success and be releasing withing weeks. Hell, we can release a pre-alpha right now.

Hold your horses, pardner. Why would you want to do that?

Why would you want to prototype immediately at all? (more…)

Tag - a beautiful board but no game.
Tag – a beautiful board but no game.

I was digging through my old project folder, checking what to archive and what was worth working on (I’ve got eleven games that I’m either working actively on at the moment or am not quite ready to give up on yet). There, while reminiscing about past mistakes and miscalculations, I found a children’s game from my early designing days: it was my second or third game that I ever took to the prototype stage.

The first game I designed I made the mistake of making lots and lots of cards without having any game to go along with them. In “Tag” I envisioned a game where children would chase each other in a dice based game of tag. Each child would have a type of die associated with it, with some children being faster and some children being nimbler. Nimbleness would be represented by numbers on the board, where, if you rolled your die higher than the number, you’d stumble and have to stop.

Migrations playtest 1. Materials used: pen, paper.
Migrations playtest 1. Materials used: pen, paper.

I once saw a brilliant description of what it takes to be a writer. It was filmed during a writers’ conference, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve forgotten who said it, but one of the greats of Science Fiction. He was asked what it took to be a writer. He then picked up a piece of paper in his left hand, a pen in his right hand and mimed writing.

You don’t need fancy word processors to be a writer. All you need is to write. You don’t need fancy cubes to be a game designer. All you need is to design games.

My first game design - all design and no game!
My first game design – all design and no game!

The first time I made a prototype I started by creating loads and loads of cards. I had a dream about a magnificent 4X game with space battles to dwarf Star Wars, more planets than an astronomers wet dream and a technology tree that would put western culture to shame.

So I created loads and loads of cards. That I designed in Illustrator. One card at a time. And printed out nine to a sheet. And cut out by hand. Once card at a time. And put in card sleeves with a Magic card as a backing. One at at time. (This last one was actually a good idea.)