Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Where and how to start game design? (Part 2)

Don't ask me how much but, believe me, it takes a lot of will power, character and self control to not talk about Osama, Obama, where the world is heading and most importantly how incapable the Indian Government is to do anything about anything (With a disapproving shake of the head and an inverted crescent of lips). Wherever you look, posts and articles abound about them like that mirror room in Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. I was almost tempted to name this article 'Obaba Obama ne Osama Oodavla.' Which in Marathi means 'Look Dad, Obama took out Osama.' Anyway ...

In the previous article we discussed about the need to learn board game design and in this one we will actually learn the first 5 of the most critical rules of board game design.

Rule 1 - Restrict the number of rules and keep them simple. (Better than 'Follow rule number 2 and onwards' heh?)
And I am not joking. Imagine a bunch of bored kids wanting something quick to play with. And 99% of the times, one of the kids will not know the rules of the game at all. Now imagine the resistance to play your game if other bored kids have to explain a booklet full of game rules to the new kid.

Rule 2 - Equal focus on chance and skill
This is a rule that should apply to pretty much any game ever created. And any game that follows this rule will surely be a resounding success. Chess? The only chance or piece of luck you get is whether your opponent is a worse player than you. The game banks heavily on skill and therefore has a niche market. Snakes and ladders? Banks too much on chance and virtually no skill is applied. Again, you won't find a couple of grown ups playing this kind of a game with each other.
On the other hand check out these games...
Monopoly? Yes. Trivial Pursuit? Yes. Scrabble? Definitely yes. Risk? Yes. And these games are vastly more successful only because they balance out skill and chance.

Rule 3 - The board layout should be self explanatory (Cause it then makes your job of keeping the rules to a minimum easier)

Look at the following examples. (I can now put some pictures in the blog post :) )

For all you know this can be a pattern on someone's underwear. If a guy who has never really played chess takes a look at this, won't understand anything by looking at the board.

Slightly better example of board design. Most important values and indicators are on the board itself.

Easiest and the best board design. You can explain this game to anyone in 4 to 5 sentences. Rest all is on the board.

Rule 4 - Use easily available tools and material for the design purpose
 An hourglass, 6 dice, 39 marbles, an electric count down timer, a circuit board, batteries and soldier shaped tokens are a big NO . All these items are not easily available and the more inaccessible the item is, the greater the delay it will cause for you to play-test and refine it.

Pen, pencils, paper, cardboard, water colors, a couple of dice, something that will serve as a token should help.

Rule 5 - Player should be able to identify with the game
Keep your target audience in mind. If you make a board game themed on Australian aborigines traditions and customs and expect it to be a hit in India, you are heading for a disaster. Similarly selling a Cricket based board game in the United States of America is a bad idea. While a very deep strategy game that features Pokemon characters will be a flop with strategy gamers and kids alike. So give a thought to the age group, ethnicity, culture, relevance and many such factors before you go gung-ho about your awesome game. The universal the theme is, the greater are the chances of success.

That's it for now. Hang in there and drop by sometime soon for the remaining 5 extremely important points.


Purnima said...

Nice article.. can completely relate :)

Chess, although is one of the greatest board games, it is not something you can just pick up and play... I still remember how easy it was for me to grasp scrabble as a little girl when my dad explained it to me... and it was so easy for me to explain monopoly to him too!

Waiting for the next 5 :)

avinashblog said...

extremely helpful