16: Advice

16: Advice

What is the one piece of advice you wish you had received when you started designing?

 

 

1. Playtesting will get less terrifying. Most playtesters won’t judge you on your unfinished game, they’ll think you’re awesome for putting something on the table. In particular, playtesting with other designers is an amazingly collaborative process, and almost everyone you encounter will be rooting for you to succeed.

2. Spend the minimum possible amount of time making your prototype, and make it easy to iterate. For a game with lots of different cards, this will involve learning a program that can merge spreadsheets into a card template (NanDeck, InDesign, or Component Studio). The learning curve will be totally worth it.

Elizabeth Hargrave

“This game is more complex than you think it is”. Applies to every project. All of the time.

James Naylor

I think that the thing that I learned the hardest way is: “you’ll fail”. My second prototype ever created was picked and published by someone and everything seemed easy. I learned later that not all my designs will become games and that it’ll not always that easy.

Théo Rivière

To decide early in the process ‘where the game is’. Find the core fun of the design and make everything else feed into it – so bits that don’t can probably be thrown out, or saved for another design.

Chris Marling

Spend the minimum possible amount of time making your prototype, and make it easy to iterate. — Elizabeth Hargrave

It is important for designers to develop a thick skin. Expect strong criticism. Welcome it; learn from it. But don’t believe all of it. I receive wildly different responses to my games from groups of players, but as a new designer I was surprised at the variation in responses from publishers. One would tell me my game was unpublishable; the next would tell me it was the cleverest idea they’d seen in years. One would tell me my idea was overdone; the next would tell me it was en vogue. Trust your instincts – but be honest with yourself.

Adam Porter

Design what you like to play. It makes playtesting and honing an idea into a game easier!

Adrienne Ezell

I wish I would have known that learning a bit of graphic design is such a powerful tool for boardgame design. With a bit of graphic design you can make your games more accessible and from the first playtesting session start getting feedback about the game itself and not about graphic design faults.

Pini Shekhter

It is important for designers to develop a thick skin. Expect strong criticism. Welcome it; learn from it. But don’t believe all of it. — Adam Porter

Don’t try to make the games you think the publishers are looking for, they don’t know what they’re looking for. Make the games you want to play.

Bruno Faidutti

I wish I knew not to focus on how my game looked, and more on how it played. I spent hours obsessing over the different patterns and colours of the cards, and didn’t focus enough on the game play. Nothing is ever a waste of time though. Designing the cards helped me learn more about the design program Illustrator, which has been a very useful tool for me.

Pam Walls

The one piece of advice that I wished I had received was that it is ok to fail. Many games will fall at various hurdles, but that’s ok and with every failure comes even more useful lessons that are learnt.

Sam Illingworth

No-one’s words are gospel.

If someone strongly criticises your game, or even your actions/choices, that’s fine. But never let anyone criticise you as a person or a designer.

Do whatever you want. Different isn’t an issue. If anything, it’s an asset.

You have worth. You are OK.

Bez Shahriari

Don’t try to make the games you think the publishers are looking for, they don’t know what they’re looking for. Make the games you want to play. — Bruno Faidutti

Be quick to put designs aside that just aren’t good enough. Every game that you take to a playable state is going to teach you something, whether you realise what the lesson is at the time or not. Rather than forcing a game to completion, put it on the shelf, seeing the value in all the work you have done. You never know when a hard-learned lesson will be the solution to another problem down the road.

Phil Walker-Harding

I was advised to “write everything down” but what I wish I would have been told is to “write everything down in ONE SEARCHABLE PLACE.” After more than a decade and a half, I’m drowning in notebooks, notepads, and paper scraps and I wish I had a clone to sort through them all.

Kim Vandenbroucke

To be frank, I am a little cynical of advice/accepted tenets in artistic pursuits; I want to be myself, learn from my own mistakes (there have been a few) and not just repeat/copy others’ work: I would rather play actual games for research than study a design guide. Indeed, what advice beyond the bleeding obvious (test a lot, financial prudence) could possibly be of benefit to a creative person? Innovation is strangled by convention. Perhaps it helps that I’ve never seen game design as my entire career and have been free of the pressures that come with professionalisation?

Tony Boydell

Rather than forcing a game to completion, put it on the shelf, seeing the value in all the work you have done. You never know when a hard-learned lesson will be the solution to another problem down the road. — Phil Walker-Harding

There wasn’t much in the way of mentorship, formal or informal, in the industry when I started. That’s why I value projects like this, the Game Artisans of Canada, and the Meeple Syrup Show. One piece of advice wish I had received when I started is that it’s okay to be imperfect – from your prototypes, to your rules writing, to your pitch delivery. Failure is learning and learning is good. If we keep things under wraps until they are perfect, it may be true that we won’t fail. It’s also very likely that we won’t progress. Fail faster. Fail forward.

Sen-Foong Lim

The simpler the better.

Doria Roustan

This is really boringly specific but we lost £1000s because the first edition of ‘War on Terror’ was about 30g over the ‘small packet’ postal weight limit. There are a tonne of practical things like that around manufacture and distribution that I wish we’d have known in advance, but that one was the most frustrating as it was so easily avoided. “Get some media training” would have been an excellent piece of advice too. As it was, trial-by-fire was a less fun way to learn.

Andrew Sheerin

First, find a partner. Two heads are nearly always better than one (See last week’s question). Second, get to work. It’s not really a game until it’s out of your head, on a table, and being played by real live people.

Trevor Benjamin

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