10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Designing a Game

Here is our podcast episode on the 10 questions you should ask yourself while designing a game:

If you’d rather not listen to it and you just want to ask yourself some thought-provoking questions about your game, here is the list!

  1. Which feeling(s) am I trying to deliver?
  2. Why would someone play or buy this game instead of others? What’s the hook?
  3. Which core element will keep people engaged in my game?
  4. Which decisions am I giving players that will keep people playing?
  5. Which types of players am I targeting for my game? And what is the weight and play time will it have?
  6. How many high-level strategies can you win with?
  7. What is the single core mechanic in my game? (everything else you can cut, if needed)
  8. How much downtime do players have?
  9. How do players interact with one another and does it fit with the theme?
  10. What is confusing players when they play?
  11. What player counts can this support? Can you expand that count?
  12. What will the MSRP be?
  13. Do players feel like they are in the universe/theme?
  14. Where will people be playing this game?
  15. What is my exit strategy for this game? Kickstarter? The Game Crafter? Selling direct? Pitch to a publisher?
  16. Can I make changes to the game to tailor it to the publisher I think would want to publish it?
  17. Is this game too similar to an existing game?

 

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4 thoughts on “10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Designing a Game

  1. First of all Nice Points you have highlight but i must appreciate this one specially
    “How much downtime do players have?”

    Because Users wont compromise on down time in any situation

    Like

  2. All important points touched on, nice episode.
    1. From an artists perspective on creation, to find what’s going to make my target audience go “wow, that’s cool”, I first study my target. This falls into a little bit of psychology and sociology. I’m not the type to just walk up on someone and start talking to them. My childhood experiences have limited my natural ability to properly communicate, so I’ve always spoke through my art. To change peoples perspective about me. Once I find that something in my target, I focus solely on that key point and build from that. Along the way, things are refined and eventually I end up getting that wow factor. When I draw though, I break things down via sketching which is chicken scratch for everyone else but a secret language to us artists. Game design is not different. Drawing is just shapes to me, and game design is just fun for me but a way to speak a different language. If my target likes dice chucking, and deck building, I immediately focus on what makes dice chucking so fun. What games have implemented this the best. Same with the deck building aspect. The level of understanding people from the creator will determine how well they can always find their target audience. Game design is art and art is studying everything around to the point you can replicate it several different ways (art style/mechanical theme). You know who to speak to, so that target becomes the selling point. It sells itself for you. There’s short term and long term. Short term is do stuff that hasn’t been done or something that’s only new to the creator. long term is more of the business approach.

    2. The hook is always random. The hook can be anything that grabs attention or something unique waiting to be discovered. Sometimes it’s the entire game which falls back on the creator being the selling point. The mind it took to think of such a thing is the wow factor. Minis lately have been the selling point for new publishers. This can be a huge problem for the simple fact that, are publishers just trying to grab attention for a fast buck or are they selling me something that’s meant to be enjoyed for a lifetime? The hook though usually gives you an idea of what kind of business the publisher is trying to run. Not just that but the selling point can come from the creators natural ability to imagine new refreshing ideas and being able to always adapt. Sure the game was good but not great but what about those cools minis huh? Having the right team of people behind a game can be the selling point. If a great artist was hired to create artwork for the game, then the artwork became the selling point as the game will end up a fail because everyone else on the team lagged support in the process of development. Knowing who you work well with can determine a games success as well.

    3. I would say it depends on the kind of game being created and the creators definition of what the type of game is. Sometimes it’s the small details that make or break the game for people, sometimes it’s the level of depth when it comes to strategy. To me an engaging game is one that takes the core element and it’s easy to tell the game was based around this core element. Sometimes the core element is obvious but there’s other stuff involved that clutters or dilutes the impact of the core element which stems from knowing when to let and idea or mechanic go. Knowing the limitations of mechanics versus what’s been done before is important as it gives you a head start in knowing what not to do. There was a failed Kickstarter recently, Dungeon Boss: The Board Game. The game was an IP based of a popular game app. It was supposed to be and represented to be a dungeon crawler. One of the key things about the game was dungeon crawling but they left out the crawling part. There’s no tiles or way to crawl.

    4. Again, this falls back on when to let things go, and knowing your games limitations will help discover the extent your game can be pushed to. Understanding “my games good at this and bad at this” will help narrow down the games replay ability. The consumer will note the different game modes and such. When a creator figures out all the things there game can do, it just comes down to getting things to function which will allow players to keep coming back. Campaign based games to me fail at replay ability because once the campaign ends and the adventure has been taken, you know exactly what to expect next time. Campaign based games to me limit a player because each chapter in campaigns don’t allow a player to use every component, the often list what to use for what chapter. So you cycle through the same stuff over and over. Now if there’s other modes of play, it will help with replay ability tremendously.

    5. To me 1 and 5 are connected. For the play time though, I would don’t stress so much on play time. Play time is determined on the games functionality which can fluctuate with the number of ideas in the game and its many mechanics. The weight should be determined early on from question 1. Knowing your target will narrow things down to “okay these types of people usually lean towards these types of games.” Then, narrow it down more, I’m looking for this size and with this size comes the time to keep stuff and cut stuff out. Physical weight follows suit. If it’s complexity weight, this can vary as some of the simplest games have had good depth in strategy. Strategy requires a strategic mind to begin with. It’s not something a person is born with, it’s something that’s extensively learned through sheer experience. Take it slow and milk the idea via trial and error.

    6. To me this comes naturally as a game progresses if the creator is always aware of the evolution of their game. Sometimes ideas get lost or things are forgotten and now you built a game around something you kind of left out. Dungeon Boss: The Board Game is a prime example of this. They left out the dungeon crawling when it was a dungeon crawling game.

    7. This falls into what’s been asked already.

    8. This comes down to play testing. How much of it has a creator done for their game. If there’s a standard of a way a creator play tests, they have to realize also that not every game can be play tested the same or forced through the same play testing boot camp. This will work itself out based on how stream lined a game is and what;s left in a game. Sometimes the game function fine but the order of operations seems off (game phases).

    9. How much of the theme is in the game will determine what steps need to be taken to execute the interaction between players through the theme itself. Also realizing whats plausible and what’s not can help. Sometimes reaching for the stars is too high, and a more realistic approach is better.

    10. Vigorous play testing and switching the style of play testing on a game will reveal it’s kinks. It’s just like working out muscles. If the same repetition is made and the same routine is followed, the muscles will not develop any further as they become immune. You need to shock the muscles and change up the workout to keep your muscles progressing. If you play test all your games the same, the game will never reach it’s full potential. different crowds and minds will open the game flaws up like no other.

    11. Again, this should be thought of in the beginning stages. To me these are the more important thing s early on that lay out the different paths a creator can take with their game. Noticing this later on leaves games to function awkwardly as a final finished product. That’s why we have games that say they’re for this many but really are better with this many. A game that can’t be played well with all player counts hasn’t gone through enough play testing for that number count.

    12. Again, something to think about early on. Business approach and component tracking is very important. Knowing which manufacturer to go with is important. Learning all the behind the scene stuff is equally as important as a well oiled game. Not knowing the logistics can cause someone to over spend or even limit themselves in options.

    13-17. How immersive a game is, comes from the creators limits of imagination and play testing these concepts. Knowing the proper setting for a game should be thought of early on. People think of all the other stuff at the end which is why so many game ideas never get published. The business side is always left out when it should be thought of first. Being able to visualize your goal for a game should be realistic and that should determine the best way to get a game published. Games like Monoliths Batman could only be Kickstarter as it’s a costly game on the publishers pockets. All those minis are not cheap. They already knew Batman is a huge IP and it sells itself just about. Knowing what your game brings to the table should let you know the avenue that needs to be taken. If a creator wants uniqueness and exclusiveness, then Kickstarter is great. If they want to test waters with the feel of professional quality, The Game Crafter is great. If your game has a broad audience then maybe a publisher is the best option. Commercial published games tend to be more versatile with it’s target audience where Kickstarter games and The Game Crafter games focus more on genres or specific audiences. Being okay with yourself to let ideas and mechanics go to me comes from self discipline. A creator needs to be motivated and driven. You got to want the fails more than the times you succeed. Other wise no experience will ever be gained. Take a tattoo for an example. People want tattoos but don’t want to deal with the pain. Well, you can’t get the tattoo if you’re not willing to deal with the pain. So in the end, the people who got tattoos wanted the pain more. It’s more of a mental state of mind to me. Plus, if you’re not a person who doesn’t work well with others, then good luck. The board game universe (industry) is very social but oddly enough it deals with anti-social people who are the consumers and supporters. Being able to navigate with an open mind will negate bumps in the road later on via being able to adapt. It’s a skill not everyone is willing to learn. I wouldn’t worry about my game being similar to another as most games are copies already. It’s just a matter of who executed the concept better. At the end of the day board games are business and like any other business, it’s a very competitive world. Who knows, maybe your version of the concept is better thus your version (the copy version) is actually better than the original. Movie reboots are a great example. Thy’re essentially copies of the original but done better. Now if you’re copying word for word so to speak, then it’s more of what are you doing, this fantasy won’t last long as fans of the original will call you out for doing such a thing thus ruining your reputation. So in a way within the community, games that copy and past get taken care of naturally. The board game industry seems to have a natural filter for what to keep and what to push out if it’s something it likes or doesn’t like. It’s a problem that can’t help but to expose itself so it’s something I wouldn’t worry about too much.

    Great episode!

    Like

    1. Wow, thank you so much for your honest perspective, Freddie! You make so many good points here and I’ll add on to just a couple of them.

      You’re right, minis are quite dangerous for new publishers. They will almost always lose money on them and they sometimes aren’t best for the game. I don’t think anyone is really trying to make a “fast buck” but they are trying to figure out how to get their creation into the world with enough goodies for people to buy/back it.

      You’re also right that not enough new creators think about the business side of making the game. They are often too quick to add on bells and whistles rather than letting the manufacturing price tag tell them whether it is feasible to include or will make it worth it for consumers. “Is having that mini really worth me charging an extra $10 for the game?”

      Thanks again for your thoughtful analysis!!
      Brian

      Like

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