It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and I am at my mother-in-law’s celebrating the occasion. Unfortunately, there is not a lot to do here so I bought along my laptop hoping to work on some game designs. However, I have been fighting a bit of a cold this weekend. So, I have been doing some reading – online reading. I have just finished reading the 5 years of blog comments at Cumbersome a blog by Seth Jaffee. If you are an aspiring game designer or a long time gamer in North America, I would be very surprised if you have not heard about Seth. He is a published designer of Terra Prime and Eminent Domain, the game developer at Tasty Minstrel Games, and the ‘master’ of the Board Game Design Forum (BGDF). Seth has a great passion for designing and his knowledge of the industry should be picked at every opportunity you get.
I originally found out about Seth through a friend, David Short. David is having his first game published by Tasty Minstrel. The game is called Ground Floor – I encourage everyone to read more about this game because I think it is going to be a hit among Euro gamers when it gets released – hopefully either later this year or early next! I joined BGDF and had some brief chats with Seth and he sometimes pops his head in boardgamegeek’s chat room and says hi. He is a very busy man – especially with the recent release of Eminent Domain and the upcoming release of Ground Floor but is always willing to offer a piece of advice or answer a question.
I thought I would pick Seth’s brain by reading his blog and this is what I learned:
- Attend more conventions! Conventions are a great way to get people to play your prototypes and get feedback from gamers. They are also a great way to network with fellow aspiring designers, established designers, geek buddies, publishers and everyone else. This is a major goal of mine. However it seems harder to do when currently out of work and living in Canada – though there are more conventions in Western Canada what I was originally aware.
- Give more details about game ideas! On my blog I have held back on giving too many details of my games. I am not sure whether I was scared that someone might steal my ideas or that someone might over criticize them. Either way, now there will be more details.
- I need to play more games! The more games a person plays the better they can evaluate their own ideas and be inspired to new ideas. Sebastien Pauchon gave the following advice:
The more you can appreciate how well balanced, clever, funny, original (etc.) somebody else’s game is, the more that might inspire you and give you thinking material for improving your design. Also, bad games, or games that are supposedly broken, or ones you wouldn’t ever play again should give you a flavour of things to avoid, and defaults to recognise and fix in your own designs.
Don’t necessarily fall into group thinking and ignore “bad” games, play them instead! And while you do, don’t kill them, dissect them! Ok, it sucks, ok it’s bad, ok it is waaaay too long. But wait; isn’t the trading phase really clever? And why is that?
If you can really name what you liked, what you didn’t and why, you might be in a position where you can also objectively judge your own games and act accordingly.
- Don’t give up on old ideas. Coming back to old ideas with a fresh and more ‘experienced’ viewpoint may add a new lease of life on games that you thought might have died a sad death.
- Time travel is hard. Coming up with a game design that represents time travel is a difficult proposition. Seth is working on a game that involves time travel and as a big fan of Dr Who (since I remember hiding behind the couch when I was a kid peering around the end with my hands over my eyes) the idea of time travel has always been exciting to me. And recently the idea of a game that uses time travel as it’s main theme is also exciting.
- Don’t worry about long blog posts! This is a blog where I share my ideas and if they are long, so be it!
- I am not saying I am as much an authority on games or gameplay as Seth and I know he can definitely dissect a game better than I, but it seems we have similar thoughts about games – mine seem much more, for want of a better word, juvenile or underdeveloped.