Monday, May 2, 2011

Where and how to start game design? (Part 1)

Long time and no see. I have been kind of busy with work, playing a lot of games, telling stories to Vevina, boring her into sleep (telling stories and boring her are two different points...observe the comma in between - if you doubt me, read the very interesting storytelling article.) and reading Kenneth Anderson's hunting stories. But now I am back.

So let us get on with today's topic without any further ado. Where and how to start game design?

A lot of aspirants ask me this question. And because they are aspirants they expect me to suggest a tool or a course. We have already done away with the courses and tools are the last things you should touch should you decide to pursue game design. You won't become a surgeon if you just hold a scalpel without knowing what to do with it, would you? So before you go and learn that Game Maker, GMax, DromEd, Hammer or UnrealEd, get the basics right.

In essence all the games share the same DNA. Be it an outdoor game, a board game, a card game or a video game. And while a lot can be taught and written about how to really design a great game, you won't really learn game design by reading my blog post or anyone else's post for that matter. The point that I am getting at is, the faster you get your hands dirty in actually designing the games, the faster you will understand the principles, the better it is for you.

And while you are making a foray into game design, what really matters is how capable you really are at entertaining and engaging people. So it can be safely said that a wonderful board game design is worth more than a lame Play Station or a PC game. This statement is only meant for those people who see games through digital eyes. Historically, none of the most successful video games come even close to the most successful board games. And if you study various board games from a design perspective, you will understand the amount of thought and good design principles put into these games to make them immensely replayable and fun.

Before anything can be said about how to design board games, it is quite important to answer why should one design board games.
  • They do not require any software knowledge and therefore are easier to prototype.
  • They can be designed with the help of a pencil, paper and some brains (Hopefully I am not expecting too much).
  • Board games in their easiest form are very easy to construct, play and test.
  • They let you concentrate more on the game-play, game mechanics and fun rather than mastery over tools and software. (Experienced game developers will know how long it usually takes to  make a video game truly fun to play. Especially the time taken to iterate).
  • The principles learnt while designing board games can be directly applied to video game design.
  • Bad ideas (of which there will be a lot initially and you will not know they are bad) can be easily be tested and weeded out from your designs without wasting a lot of effort in programming them.
  • You can, if you take it seriously, understand the entire game development process from pre-production to delivery if you stick to your board game long enough.
  • As a fresher, a solid board game can tilt the scale in your favor while getting hired.
If you are convinced enough to learn more about board game design, drop by sometime soon. I will then disclose the 10 most critical rules of board game design.


Purnima said...

Nice one this!
And yay yay yay! Waiting for the board game design article now!

avinashblog said...

im on it now!!

avinashblog said...

im on it now!!

theenvisible said...

What a nice article about game designing?

According to this article I found Chess (Greatest board game), Monopoly and Snake - ladder are kinda best board games.

What about Carrem Board or Ludo (Better than Snake - Ladders)? or you will say it is not a board game because can not programmed in to PC/ Mobile or any apps? Then I would say defined me what is Board games?

Please check this link for what is Carrem:

So, Now question remains why it is not mentioned in Game Design articles or any Game Design Books...

I guess would leave this question to you guys :)

Thank! Please don't mind if it hurts somewhere.

Abhishek Deshpande said...

Carrom and Ludo are without a doubt very good board games. However, it is beyond the scope of this article to list out all possible board games. This article is about the fundamentals of game design and does not measure any of the games based on whether a software version exists or not. AFAIK, there are software versions of both Carrom and ludo.