Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Projects Update: Game Design

Hello, everyone. Just a few notes today, nothing fancy.

First, and perhaps most importantly, I've updated the story structure post with what is, in my opinion, the most useful tool for learning basic story structure that I've ever seen. I'm actually surprised I didn't include it in the original post. *sigh* What a forgetful, imperfect man I am...

Anyways, it's there now. So you can head over to Monday's post to learn about "The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet," from his highly effective book Save the Cat! (Confused? Amused? Go check out the post!)


For the rest of today, I'm going to talk about games. Board games. I guess video games, too, but mostly about board games.

See, I love games. I love playing games, but I also love creating games. This goes back almost as far as my love for storytelling, when I tried to make a Super Mario RPG card game that was basically a re-flavored ripoff of the Pokemon card game.

I've gotten slightly more of a clue since then.

Games are such an important part of my life that I could go on talking about them for hours and hours, which would lead to pages and pages. Heck, I could probably write a book about my love for games.

But...not today.

Today, I'm letting you all know about one of my exciting projects from this semester. For the past several weeks, my good friend Thomas and I have been working on developing and designing a few games. Nothing too flashy yet, and certainly nothing that we can put into production (yet). It's mostly an exercise to explore this area of our creative expression, as well as practice important skills like communication, creative compromise, and audience considerations. It's been a fantastic experience so far and we're really only just getting started on the fun stuff.

Now, like most all of my projects, because this one is a WIP (work in progress), I can't really share anything concrete with you. Instead, I'm going to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite links about game design and game philosophy with you. Sure, most of you probably won't be interested. But this is the stuff I get excited about, and I want to share it with anyone else who sympathizes with my madness.

First, for the fun stuff, a humorous open letter to game companies from Fantasy/Horror writer Dan Wells:

Dear Game Companies: Maybe we need to see other people for a while

Dan Wells is a consummate gamer, I have found, which raises him even higher in my esteem (he's also on Writing Excuses, which I constantly praise, and he wrote the excellent psychological thriller I am Not a Serial Killer, which I also praise.) It seems he has similar problems to me in the sense of always having something to buy. He even mentions a few games that sound really fantastic that I've never even heard of.

*sigh* Off to check the bank account...

As a side note, he regularly reviews games on his blog. Here are a couple recent ones:
Game Review: Conquest of Nerath
Game Review: Nightfall

Second, for a reality check, I wanted to share with you the firsthand account of the development of Score Entertainment's old Dragonball Z CCG (which really was quite good), from one of its lead designers. Unfortunately, the site is down with server troubles. As soon as it comes back up, though, I'll be sure to post the link in here. He really gives some great insights into the design process -- both in terms of what good design requires and in terms of learning to compromise with your creative partners.

Third, for an encyclopedia, I present to you a collection of writings from Magic the Gathering lead designer Mark Rosewater. Every week, MaRo (as he is somewhat affectionately called) shares some of his insights into the design process, and I've tried to glean some of the best and most generalized examples here. (At the very least, I hope I have some of the foundational ones.)

One Hundred and Counting
Two Hundred and Counting
Three Hundred and Counting
Four Hundred and Counting
Five Hundred and Counting

Every one hundred columns (which, I guess, means about ever two years), Mark Rosewater does a post where he discuses each of the past one hundred columns he's written by giving them a brief description and self-evaluative rating. Nothing fancy, but extremely useful.

Now, if I was smart (and lazy, which I am), I would just leave these here and let you go exploring for yourself. If I was smarter (and an overachiever, which I am), I would go through each of those posts and glean out the best of the best to share with you.

Unfortunately, I've already done a bunch of work on this post, and I don't really feel like delaying it any longer, or letting said work go to waste. So, please use the above links to find other articles as well as read about MaRo's own opinion of his work.

Next, is his yearly "State of Design" columns. Yeah, they're basically about exactly what they sound like they're about. Now, obviously, it helps if you're familiar with the history of Magic during the time that these were written, but there's often still some general principles to draw from them.
State of Design - 2005
State of Design - 2006
State of Design - 2007
State of Design - 2008
State of Design - 2009
State of Design - 2010
State of Design - 2011

Moving on to some personal/fun stuff. MaRo discussing some of the ins-and-outs of his job, as well as sharing various anecdotal stories.
80,000 Words
80,000 Words (With Director's Commentary)
Maro on Maro, Part I
Maro on Maro, Part II

And, following that, a few articles that blend personal anecdotes with design insights.
Topical Blend #1 - To Err is Human
Life Lessons, Parts I & II
My Rogues' Gallery

Next, some generalized creative advice that doesn't, necessarily, have anything to do with games.

The Ten Principles of Good Design, Parts I & II
Design Seminar: The 10 Mental Locks
A View From the Top

Moving on, a few articles on the "Nuts & Bolts" of game design...
Nuts & Bolts: Card Codes
Nuts & Bolts: Design Skeleton
Nuts & Bolts: Filling in the Design Skeleton

...and several discussions of the different player types.

Wow. That's a lot. To close, I want to share with you the article that prompted me to do a post on game design. It's MaRo's most recent post and I found it simultaneously touching and applicable to my current experiences. Maybe I'll share some of those current experiences with you in the future. But right now, I'm still learning about:

I've also got some articles from the blog MTG Color Pie that I want to share, but I'm a bit over-swamped from the amount of stuff I've already gone through, so I think I'll save them for a later update.

As usual, my "link repository" posts are as much for my benefit and ease of use as it is for yours. Hopefully you found something informative or, at least, entertaining. I can't say what I'm going to write about next, as I never decide until the day I post it. I've got a lot of backlogged ideas from when I was in England (and, yes, I will finish the Europe trip story -- though it's so far overdue at this point that I find myself greatly discouraged as to its relevancy). For today, though, I'm off the hook.

Until next time...
-josh k.

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