Game Design: Part Four – Refining

Welcome back to the fourth and the last part of my Game Design process. In all honesty this will probably be a short post because I am knee deep in this very aspect of game design with my new board game Pocket Dungeon Quest. There are other aspects of the business side of things once the game is created, but my knowledge is limited in those areas and I am sure there are others more qualified to tackle such topics.

Rewrites Happen.

What we have discussed so far is where the inspiration comes from, defining the core loop and testing your game. This last topic in a nutshell is all about the refinement process. I am not really talking about fixing bugs, which is a natural part of the electronic game creation process. What I am talking about is the kinks in the gameplay that are found while play testing. I have tried to keep track of how many times I have rewritten the rules for Pocket Dungeon Quest. I think I am only up to 6 which seems pretty good for a simplified dungeon crawling rogue-like board game.

In the same way that bugs in the code are simply part of the process, rewrites happen. We have grand schemes for the rules of our games and on paper they usually look really great. They almost never work out exactly the way we had planned on paper though, and that’s ok. Figuring out how to make our concepts work in the physical world is a rewarding challenge.

My process for this step has been to print, cut and play through every revision of the rules to ensure everything works. Getting the game to just work isn’t enough, it has to be fun. We talked about this already, right? Games are meant to be fun. I take notes as I am playing my games. I ask myself questions like, which parts of the game am I enjoying the most? What actions am I performing most often? How can I make those actions more fun? Are there any aspects of the game that I am not enjoying, and why? Getting answers to these and doing something about it just makes for a better play experience.

Don’t Undervalue Quality

Once I think I have worked out all of the kinks I can on my own I really need to get an outsiders opinion on the game. The more often I can get this to happen the better. Sometimes we just get so involved in the process we get a skewed perspective on whether or not our game is really fun.

High production values are a no-brainer. If you need artwork for you game pay someone real money to get it done for you. Designers are everywhere, seriously, and most of us are always looking to tackle new and exciting projects. We’re not going to do it for free though, and you shouldn’t expect us to. If you are not financially able to produce high quality artwork look into acquiring the funding. The design of your game is such a huge part of how many people are going to click that link, or pick up that box and should never be overlooked or undervalued.

Make It Fun

This pretty much sums up my refinement process. If you have any questions feel free to ask below or drop me a personal line. I love games, and I love making them. I hope this series have been valuable to you, it sure has been valuable for me to write it all down.

Like I said, once your game is ready to go into production there are other things that need to be considered but I don’t have the expertise just yet to write about those subjects. Here are a few more tips though that you may find useful. If you’re making a board or card game, don’t design something that can’t be printed or cut or created in the physical world. If you’re making a video game, take some risks and do something original. This is the age of experimentation, gamers are always looking for something new to play. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

I will see you guys next week, and I will keep you posted with news about Pocket Dungeon Quest. I would love for you all to play, I think you will enjoy it.

~ Jeff Dehut