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Board Game Prototyping / Initial Playtesting


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#1 Schwartz86   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 09:55 PM

I have stumbled upon an interesting and helpful method for VERY early game design testing. After reading through the Art of Game Design, I began putting together an idea for a very small, simple game using some of the approaches Jesse discusses in the book. One of the approaches he discussed is creating a board game first and doing play testing before even touching any code or further development. I was very hesitant to try this, as my game was going to be a first person "shooter" style game (kinda).

I didn't think this would translate well to a board game. However, my group created a quick prototype and began having people play test it. I was amazed to discover that after a couple iterations of testing, we were able to identify some very key design issues and work them out as well as observe various strategies players might use in the actual "video" game. It showed us what parts of the design had potential to be really fun and what parts still needed work. It also demonstrated how players might use/abuse the mechanics of the game in way we never imagined! Finally, it helped us identify what aspects of the game are going to need to be focused on to create balanced game play.

I was just curious, does anyone else use methods like this during there design phase? Are there any early prototyping techniques you can recommend for a novice game designer? I am also always looking to read some more great books on game design, so any recommendations you might have would also be greatly appreciated!

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#2 MashesButtons   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 02:09 AM

What you did is commonly referred to as a non-digital prototype. They are very good for answering questions about certain mechanics without a large amount of work. This approach is actually the one I would recommend, because for digital prototypes you need to build the game engine, which may be a waste of time if your design radically changes after the first prototype. Unfortunately, some games amy require a digital prototype, such as twitch/reflex based games because of their difficulty to represent in a non-digital fashion. A good general rule is if there is strategy, there is a non-digital representation for it.


As for reading material, a good book for design is Game Design Workshop, Second Edition: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton.

#3 Schwartz86   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 06:52 AM

Thanks for the reply. The interesting thing is that I didn't realize there COULD be a strategy element to incorporate. Originally, I had planned on just have a "button masher" where the skill would be strictly determined by how the player manipulates the controls (like most FPS). However, after play testing, it allowed us to realize that we could incorporate a strategy element. So, this may be something worth trying even if you don't think it applies to your genre (it only took us about an hour to make the "non-digital" prototype)

#4 Edtharan   Members   -  Reputation: 606

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 08:15 AM

Making board game version of your designs is a very good way to test out the mechanics of most games. The reason is that games are complex and complicated things.

This means that it is impossible for someone (or even a group of people) to fully understand the system in their heads. When prototyping (either digital or non-digital) you can explore the possibilities presented by the mechanics far easier than you can in your head.

As the case in point, you were able to discover aspects of your game rules that you didn't suspect existed (or even design for, for that matter).

What prototyping allows is for you to discover, test for and improve Emergence in your games. Emergence comes about through the interaction of your rules, and emergent game play is a great way to get more players to play your game as it creates more depth to your game.

#5 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10158

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 09:26 AM

1. I was just curious, does anyone else use methods like this during there design phase?
2. I am also always looking to read some more great books on game design, so any recommendations you might have would also be greatly appreciated!

1. Since Jesse and other authors suggest it, it should be apparent that someone does!
2. Nice list of books on my books page: http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson8.htm
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.




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