8: Products

8: Products

What is more important to you in your projects: product design or game design?

 

Product design and game design are equally important. They are separate but complementary skills, both requiring imagination, problem solving, and a good understanding of the industry. Criteria for success in a completed design are of course subjective, but if we consider commercial viability as a measure of success, a game can only really achieve this if it balances the two elements. Publishers can do a lot to enrich a game system with imaginative graphic and component design, but clever product design integrated from the earliest stages of a game’s existence is likely to produce a more satisfying product.

Adam Porter

I am all about game design – product design matters but it’s not my strength. A beautiful game that doesn’t play well is just disappointing, so as a designer my focus is always great game design.

Roberta Taylor

Game design and product design are both important, but in different development stages. Game design is important on the first half of the game development, as you need to focus that the game is working properly. Product design is important when you are looking for a publisher or you have already signed with a publisher. In that moment, your game becomes a product and needs to be conformed and adapted as a product.

Eloi Pujadas

Game design is always the most important, no matter what. That said, it is important to meet the client’s needs as well as the end users. A good product can be a bad game and a good game can be a bad product. Clarifying directives is key. Once a game is signed or commissioned it is important to solidify expectations. Solid game design will always serve you well.

Adrienne Ezell

To be honest, the product design should go hand in hand with the game design. I think you should do anything available to you in order to enhance the theme and experience that you’re trying to evoke, from the look of the icons to the colour palette. Of course, understandability should be at the forefront of your mind, but making things look amazing also helps.

Michael Fox

Publishers can do a lot to enrich a game system with imaginative graphic and component design, but clever product design integrated from the earliest stages of a game’s existence is likely to produce a more satisfying product. — Adam Porter

Both are important, for me they have to be in harmony to offer a coherent and immersive gaming experience. I like when theme, design and mechanics are intrinsically linked. But, I have to admit, if I had to choose, I would prefer playing at a good and ugly game, than a bad and beautiful one.

Doria Roustan

You need me to fill 100 words just to say “It has to be a game first!”; surely, this is a one-answer question only?! Mind you, I’m not the kind of game designer who is offered ‘product design’ commissions so I can only comment from a ‘for the intellectual pleasure of it’ angle. The closest I’ve come, I suppose, is my Ivor the Engine project which had to be a family-friendly game honouring it’s source material and, only second, a ‘product’. If I couldn’t nail the first criteria then the last one wasn’t ever going to happen. Game first: always.

Tony Boydell

If I have to choose, I’d go with product design. I want to make a great game, as that makes the product better, but given the choice between making the game 5% better and cost 25% more or not doing that, I’d go with the more cost effective answer. I want to make the game as great as it can be, but the bottom line is that if it can be almost as good and have a lot more people be able to afford it, that would be the more successful game.

Carla Kopp

To be successful, both are really important. Game design is my full responsibility. Product design is the responsibility of my publisher. It’s the reason why I seek to work with publishers letting me having an input on final decisions concerning product design.

Bruno Cathala

I like when theme, design and mechanics are intrinsically linked. But, I have to admit, if I had to choose, I would prefer playing at a good and ugly game, than a bad and beautiful one.
— Doria Roustan

Personally, game design is more exciting for me to engage with.

Product design is massively important – Yogi is better than In A Bind, thanks to the washable cards and deck holders. My 2nd edition of my game system has paper folding and a nicer box/cards that excite me.

But, I feel, the core of a game is in the game design. Product design isn’t going to make a bad game good – it’s like a multiplicative effect.

But then, I suppose that the same could be said of the iteration that a game undergoes in development.

Bez Shahriari

As a game designer and a developer, the game itself is more important to me. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice game play for product considerations that come up. That said, I like to think about the final product all along. Paying attention to the realities of publishing can give constraints up front to help guide a design. And I like having an idea what the final game could look like — it helps avoid those pitfalls mentioned above.

Seth Jaffee

It’s not an either-or choice: the most successful games are often both good games and good products. And I’m not sure there’s a bright line between them either: when I start theme-first on a game design, saying “I think there should be a game about x,” is on some level saying “I think people would be interested in a product about x.” Going forward from there, it’s been all about the game design for me, and all the pretty bells and whistles come after the fact. But then too, the game design is thinking about how the game works for people – so I’m not sure it’s really separable from product design at any point.

Elizabeth Hargrave

I don’t really care about product design. That’s the publisher’s job.

Bruno Faidutti

Whilst both game design and product design are vital aspects of a well-conceived game, I tend to think about game design first and then consult experts in product design at the prototype stage to give me their opinion on what I have produced. This way I am able to benefit from their impartial critique and expertise and can use it to potentially improve the essential experience of the game.

Sam Illingworth

I’m not sure there’s a bright line between them either: when I start theme-first on a game design, saying “I think there should be a game about x,” is on some level saying “I think people would be interested in a product about x.” — Elizabeth Hargrave

You won’t be successful in the latter unless you pay just as much attention to the former. And by “just as much” I mean that you must commit all your efforts to both in equal measure. Your games can’t get played without *becoming* a product. They are not Platonic Forms. So if you seek to set yourself apart from the mundane practicalities of actually *making* something, you’re doing it wrong.

Brett J. Gilbert

I have to be cognizant of both ends of the project; both product design and game design from my perspective are equally important. If a product doesn’t look good on the shelves, no one is going to pick it up, no matter how good the game design is. However, just because a game is packaged nicely, it doesn’t mean it will have staying power. I don’t care how pretty a game, is, if it is not engaging, it will not be played. It is a very delicate balance I have to think about when designing/producing a game.

Helaina Cappel

To me product design is more important. You can have a great game without it being a great product. But it’s very hard to have a game product in today’s market that is not *also* a good game because there are so many good games in the market. So aiming for a good product requires you to make a good game anyway. By keeping in mind the overall product design from the beginning, I believe I can make a whole product (its physical presence, value for money, fulfilling the promise of the box) delight – not just its mechanics or theme. I am biased because I’m self-publishing, but I think in today’s market, even traditional designers are much more likely to sell their designs if they have this kind of thinking from the start.

James Naylor

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