9: Improvement

9: Improvement

What aspect of design do you feel you have improved the most at over your career?

 

 

I’ve become much better at being simple at once. The first versions of my first games were complex, and development consisted mostly of removing unnecessary stuff. Most times, now, I manage to get simple at once, which makes finalising a game much faster.

Bruno Faidutti

Knowledge.

Knowledge allows me to have a better mental model of how humans behave. What will make someone laugh? What will excited them? What might be too challenging – physically, or cognitively?

When playtesting, knowledge of body language allows me to gather useful data, regardless of any discussion (not that discussion is bad or unwanted!).

Knowledge offers me a ‘toolkit’ of potential solutions. What existed in other games? What were their ramifications? Might one work for me?

If I were to pick a 2nd aspect, I’d say, “realism and acceptance.” Some games just aren’t good. But whatever you do is OK.

Bez Shahriari

I’m still at the beginning of my career so I have a lot to learn. But the most important thing I have improved so far is this: limit complexity for the first prototype. I tend to overcomplicate and I love big games so it’s been very helpful to habitually cut stuff before the game first hits the table. It means there less to cut back on as I discover what the game is really about. This speeds up the whole process.

James Naylor

While the temptation remains to drop everything and pursue each shiny new idea, I’m much better now at focusing my mind and energy on finishing the games in front of me. If it really is a good idea, it still will be when I return to it six months from now.

Trevor Benjamin

The first versions of my first games were complex, and development consisted mostly of removing unnecessary stuff. Most times, now, I manage to get simple at once, which makes finalising a game much faster. — Bruno Faidutti

The most vital one of all: patience. Patience with playtesters, perhaps. Patience with publishers, certainly. And ultimately patience for the creative endeavour itself, and my own relationship with it — to know that every idea has its time, and while insight and progress can be nurtured, it can’t be rushed. No less an authority on the matter than Saint Augustine observed, more than 1500 years ago, that “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Time will tell.

Brett J. Gilbert

Graphical layout. I’m not a graphic designer and don’t aspire to be, but I need to know enough to layout printed components for prototypes. Thanks to resources like The Game Crafter, Game-Icons.net and The Noun Project, I have definitely improved my skills in the area of graphic design with some artistic flair, all at the simple level I need for a working prototype. This has also meant my skills with Photoshop have improved and I recently learned how to use NanDeck, to make early prototyping even faster and more efficient.

Sarah Reed

The aspect of design that I think I have improved most (over what is still a very much developing career) is knowing when to let an idea go! If a great idea that I have had is something that playtesters do not enjoy, or which needs a lot of explanation then I have (almost) learnt that it probably means it should be dropped. This can be really hard if the idea seems particularly original, but if it is not working then it’s time to ‘kill your darlings’, or at least push them aside for a future game.

Sam Illingworth

I think that I’m better at making each game be the game I want to make. Which is to say, I am getting better at making games that match my vision, including who will love it, how it will make players feel, and what story it tells.

Roberta Taylor

If a great idea that I have had is something that playtesters do not enjoy, or which needs a lot of explanation then I have (almost) learnt that it probably means it should be dropped.
— Sam Illingworth

With time and experience, I think that my designs are getting more “pure” and tend more towards the essential part of the experience. I get less distracted by the temptation of adding rules or elements that would be unnecessary or act as simple patches to compensate something that is missing.

Doria Roustan

My career, as it were, has been pretty short – but one thing I’ve certainly gotten better at is Getting Stuff Done. Whether that’s iterating a new prototype, getting a ruleset built, or just scribbling down some ideas, I’ve done much better at just making things happen. It frees up a lot of your brain CPU to focus on different stuff, that’s for sure. Make things physical and there’s less opportunity to dwell on them.

Michael Fox

I have played many, many games and my fascination for design means that none of those experiences have been disposable. I have learned from the experiences, and my toolbox of mechanisms, solutions, and techniques has broadened. I can spot a problem much sooner than I could in the early days, and I often find a solution lurking somewhere in my learned gaming vocabulary.

Adam Porter

At some point of the design, the designer has to start to remove extra ingredients/layers of the game. Over the years, I think I have improved the task of removing these extra layers that add free complexity but don’t contribute too much to the game. My first designs were filled with these complexities and layers, but nowadays I don’t feel guilty when removing layers I have on worked a lot.

Eloi Pujadas

Whether that’s iterating a new prototype, getting a ruleset built, or just scribbling down some ideas, I’ve done much better at just making things happen. It frees up a lot of your brain CPU to focus on different stuff, that’s for sure. — Michael Fox

Patience: a design is finished when it’s finished and not before! My mental progress dial wasn’t attuned at first so, if something worked pretty well, then that would be good enough for me to say “Let’s go!”. Elapsed time is not a guarantee of readiness nor is the good feedback of play-testers: you must feel it inside. Patience, yes; publishing is beset with obstacles far more impactful than the journey from idea to prototype: cashflow, delivery, marketing. Patience, indeed; you’re very lucky if you collaborate with a big publisher from the get-go. All good things come to they who wait.

Tony Boydell

Knowing when to let go of emotions and hack and slash things from a design. You get invested, as you should! It becomes hard to edit a design down to find the fun when you’re mired in the investment you’ve made in making something ‘work’ that isn’t right for this design. Now, I make notes and remove it. I can always come back to the idea later if it was actually good.

Adrienne Ezell

I suppose I have improved my sense of internal quality control. That is, I think I know sooner when a design is not worth pursuing, or when it may be something special if I keep working. This can save me a lot of time, but also helps direct me to the most promising elements of a project. A big part of this is just learning to be incredibly self-critical. This I think is an essential (although often quite painful!) skill for any game designer to develop.

Phil Walker-Harding

The best thing about getting into a regime of design-and-test is that you get better at identifying what might and might not work before it even gets to the table. The first playtest(s) always take place in your head and the more you do, the more accurate those mental playtests get. The downside is that you also shut yourself off from more ‘happy accidents’ by bringing less crazy to the table. So I try not to self-censor too much; there’s always enough crazy to go round.

Andrew Sheerin

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