5: Struggle

5: Struggle

What part of game design do you find the most difficult?

 

Stopping. Knowing when to say ‘that’s enough’ is hard, because there’s always something that can be tinkered with. A sentence in the rulebook, the text on a card…whatever you do, there’s always going to be a part of your game you look at that and think ‘hmmm, I should probably change that’, even though you’ve changed it seven times already and it’s perfectly fine. When it works, and you’re happy, let it go and move on to the next thing.

Michael Fox

The part that I find the most difficult will be when your first design is a failure. I often get very excited about an idea and fantasize about how the game could be great. When the first iteration is completely bad, I often just give up.

Théo Rivière

Failing fast. I am consciously trying to force myself to get things to the table faster and faster. I have two major stumbling blocks. It’s easy for me to perseverate over a spreadsheet for hours. And it’s also easy to let myself spend more time than I need to spend making things pretty. But what I have to remember, over and over, is that all of that is wasted time without the hands-on information that actually playing the game gives you. The spreadsheet work and the UI work can come in smaller chunks, more iteratively, between playtests.

Elizabeth Hargrave

Writing rules! The best game has no chance to be a success if the rules are not clear enough.

Bruno Cathala

Putting aside the ever-present logistical problems of finding time to playtest and prototype, the most difficult part is waiting for the initial inspiration to appear. Game design in an uninspired state can produce a serviceable functional game, but probably not one that anyone will truly love. Inspiration cannot be forced. It requires a constantly open searching mind. The seed of a game can be plucked from any situation or encounter, without intention or effort. But it can be a long wait.

Adam Porter

Failing fast. I am consciously trying to force myself to get things to the table faster and faster. — Elizabeth Hargrave

How does it start, and when should it end? These are often the trickiest moments to define when making a game. And so it is with the process of game design itself. Taking that first step is tough; knowing when to stop is even harder. There is art and craft in game design, but the craft is mostly useful in the middle, where learned skills and received wisdom can help you get from A to B. But what is the A, and where is the B? There’s the rub!

Brett J. Gilbert

Finding time to dedicate to game design is the most difficult thing for me right now. With game design, I need to dedicate a number of hours to start on a design and to fully form the idea, but with so much that needs to get done it’s been incredibly difficult to actually sit down when I have the creativity that is needed for the game design to just happen. If I had unlimited time, I expect that I’d have so many designs that I’d be working on!

Carla Kopp

I was going to say maths but I tend to steer clear of it and, in the end, it works itself out through testing. Then I thought pitching: the mixed horrors of admin, anxiety and rejection. Taking a game from idea to prototype? But not always: it only becomes an issue with bigger ideas, such as ‘cards with words’ games which I love but are hard to start – but I get there eventually. The thing I haven’t gotten past is creating a map for a route-building game idea. Odd but true. It baffles me. But all the other things too…

Chris Marling

Perseverance. That is all, but that is the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Kathleen Mercury

The hardest part of game design would be the “grind”. The grind comes at a point where the game is already playable and fun but it needs some fixing. It is hard to always find the right thing to tweak since sometimes tweaking the wrong thing sends the game out of balance. During the grind, new and exciting ideas always come up, but you need to just note them and not let the new shiny idea take over. If you will let it take your focus, you will never finish a game.

Pini Shekhter

During the grind, new and exciting ideas always come up, but you need to just note them and not let the new shiny idea take over. If you will let it take your focus, you will never finish a game. — Pini Shekhter

One of the most difficult parts of game design is the “scissors moment”, when you have to cut unnecessary complexities. This could be removing complex or secondary rules, additional components, length of the game end, etc. The main problem is to identify what’s really important for the game and what’s secondary, so the game could still work without it. You can keep these cut parts on a shelf, just in case a publisher wants more things in the game or for future brainstorming sessions, but getting a “haircut” from time to time is important to keep the game polished.

Eloi Pujadas

The aspect of game design that I tend to find the most difficult is ‘feature creep’. I tend to try and include a large number of different narratives and/or game mechanics because I think that this will lead to a more immersive experience. However, this can often lead to a somewhat esoteric game, and so I have to work hard to ensure that this doesn’t happen, stripping things back to ensure that the essential experience is maintained. Instead of binning off these ideas entirely, however, I keep them saved for future game designs.

Sam Illingworth

Paring down! It’s easy to be an idea fountain in the beginning. It’s hard to strip those ideas away, no matter how much they don’t work with this game. I find this especially true on medium weight games that you want to stay medium weight… you must carefully manage interlocking systems to keep the players’ time and resource investment under control. Strip too much and the puzzle is gone, players won’t feel clever when they play. Leave too much in and you have a brain burner that rarely makes it to the table when pitted against medium weight staples.

Adrienne Ezell

I find the middle part hard. Making the first version of game is fun as there is lots of decision space and inspiration, but once a few versions have been tried I can get stuck when I feel there are insurmountable issues. It’s usually at this point I start making huge changes to the design, often times losing sight of the target I was aiming for. So, I’m trying to define my goals better, narrow the scope where appropriate and take breaks if possible, as stepping back and re-evaluating can help provide some perspective.

Sye Robertson

Drawing maps. My drawing skills are that of a three or four years old, and I hate drawing boards, especially maps, even on a computer. It takes hours, and the result is usually ugly. It’s a shame, because I often have clear ideas of what I would like a board to look like, and I simply don’t do it because I’m not able to draw the board. This might be one of the reasons why I mostly do card games.

Bruno Faidutti

It’s hard to strip those ideas away, no matter how much they don’t work with this game. I find this especially true on medium weight games that you want to stay medium weight… you must carefully manage interlocking systems to keep the players’ time and resource investment under control. — Adrienne Ezell

Sufficient time for play-testing is an extraordinarily-difficult commodity to source i.e. finding the right number of people willing to a) play a prototype, and b) play one instead of a ‘real game’ and c) play outside of normal gaming hours. I am not (yet) able to travel around to conventions, specialist meetups and the like; given my predilection for medium weight, thematic games there is a significant amount of balancing, tweaking and engine-maintenance required – all of which requires lots of time. Thought-experiments and play-as-all run-throughs can only get you so far before a wider audience need to feast upon it.

Tony Boydell

The hardest part is the sometimes relentless interrogation and testing of a mechanism to see if it has what it takes to be the heart of a fun game. Many of my designs are quite simple and centred around one central gameplay idea. The constant churn of tests to see which of these ideas blossoms into something exciting and playable can be tiring. Once this does happen though, I find iterating and developing the rest of the design much more enjoyable!

Phil Walker-Harding

Writing the rules is the most difficult for me. What makes sense to me doesn’t always make sense to other people. It’s easy to forget something because I know the game. So my brain might stick in a rule that isn’t actually written down. That’s why it’s best to get the rules in front of as many people as possible and, if you can afford it, hire a rules editor. A good rules editor will do more than check your grammar and spelling. They’ll make sure your rules are comprehensive and that information is in the right order.

Sarah Reed

I always hit a hump early on when idealism meets reality. Because every new idea has the potential to be the best game ever until you start working on it and then it changes rapidly – sometimes it mutates into something else, sometimes it offers so many possibilities it’s hard to choose between them, sometimes it just turns out not to be a great idea; always it’s harder than you thought. Keeping a focus on the original motivator – the original moment of ‘I like that!’ – is what I use to keep me grounded through that period but even that doesn’t work all the time.

Andrew Sheerin

Ideas and themes are not shy and present themselves easily enough. What I find the most challenging is polishing the mechanics to make the ecosystem function in a coherent fashion. To have a balanced and “crack” free game is both important and hard to do.

Doria Roustan

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