So, you want to design a game? Well, you should! The expectation is that tabletop gaming sales will double in the next 5 years and they have been steadily increasing over the last few. Not, that it’s a reason to develop a game, just an illustration of the growing popularity of games in the U.S.
There are really two ways to approach game creation. One method is to develop a mechanic and then build the theme around it. A nice example of this is NEVERMORE – Smirk & Dagger Games. My tendency has been to come up with the theme or topic and build around that. However, these tips will work with either method.
1. WHAT IS THE EXPERIENCE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE THE GAME PLAYER TO HAVE? This is a key element in helping you to keep focused. In our game, PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE, the key element is a thoughtful, forced choice, balancing act decision making game. In other words, the game style in experience is a mental exercise. I not making it sound like it’s too much fun with that description, but the enjoyment is found in balancing various factors and the interaction with the other players doing the same. There is humor mixed in with the mechanics and the flavor text… but the MAIN experience is about making those choices… and then sometimes regretting them. So, what do you want your gamers to experience? Is it the “just one more turn before I stop” that Civilization created or a fast easy game like Exploding Kittens? What ever you decide, keep the experience in mind as you make decisions on what to keep and what to cut in your design process.
2.WHAT SETS YOUR GAME APART? You will need to be able to answer this question in 8 seconds or less. Why should someone choose to play your game over all the other choices there. Some examples would be “Cache Me If You Can! is the only board game about geocaching”, “Dead of Winter is a competitive cooperative storytelling game set during a Zombie Apocalypse”. To get people interested in trying out your game you will need to answer this question. As a result, it will also be a question that you should keep in mind when developing a game.
3.REALISM vs. EASE OF PLAY This is the tough one when you are developing a thematic game. You can make a game that is extremely accurate, detailed and takes in to account most every factor but it can then bog down game play, make the game too great a learning curve for most gamers to want to play, and just make for “clunky” play. Streamline too much and your game does not have enough depth for re-playablity or to represent the experience you are trying to replicate. It’s also a case where you won’t make everyone happy. Memoir ’44 is a very popular game which allows game players to experience tactical combat operation in WWII. For me it is way too dice happy and therefore diminishes the tactical decisions that I made. However, to make is less depended on the dice would seriously complicate the game and as a result would likely be less popular. (Full disclosure – I was a Avalon Hill junkie from an early age, so I was used to deeper military combat games).
Good luck with your game creation.