Alright kids, Hex (or John or whatever he’s going by today) is off doing some important Kickstarter stuff. Such important stuff that he was unable to do the blog, because, priorities I guess. So he interrupted my picking out the perfect shelf from Ikea, and got me writing this thing. Which is the obvious choice, since I do all the graphics and none of the writing, but what the hell. Lets do this.
First off, I feel like I’m required to let you know that our kickstarter for Loaded Dice is live. If you haven’t you should totally go check it out, it features some really slick logo and design work, and a video… with some guy in suspenders. So like, it’s 50% good.
I don’t write blogs, people; I’m a graphics guy first and foremost. When I do write, it’s generally fiction – so bear with me. Hex has hit some really great points that I don’t think I can really expand upon, so lets move a different direction and talk about design.
Lets talk about tone, and world-building. I’m what you would call, in professional terms, “a goddamn casual gamer punk.” So take everything that I say with a grain of salt. I’m a world, tone, and art person first, mechanics second. You could have a solid game with mechanics that were polished over hours of meticulous test playing, but if you’re putting me into generic zombie world #5 you’re going to have me checking twitter as I slowly count down the minutes until I die. In game, in real life, whatever.
At Screech Dragon Studios, Hex and I are what you would call “top down designers,” where we create the world, the tone, and (in our case) a lot of the art before we really start hashing out mechanics. This system works for us because we feel that the mechanics of gameplay should work to bring the player more fully into the world. If that world is half baked the player is going to start seeing the cracks in the foundation pretty quickly.
Lets walk through the patented Screech Dragon: Oh god what are we doing technique of game design.
Step 1: Wouldn’t this be cool if…?
This is pretty basic: one of us has a really great general idea (generally it’s me) and we start spit balling. I cannot stress how much it matters to have a sounding board that you can throw all your ideas at… and then ignore the majority of their advice. Collaboration: it’s a must people. If you go this route however, I recommend writing down the date and who came up with the idea, otherwise you’ll have the same argument every other week on Skype. (I came up with Barterville, Hex) (Editor’s Note – I’LL SEE YOU IN HELL, NICHOLSON! BARTERVILLE WAS MY IDEA!)
During this step, we usually like to discuss about what the world is, who lives there, and why it matters. What makes this world different than anything currently out on the market. By different, I mean truly unique, not “Our zombies are totally green instead of grey, Derp Da Derp” yeah, you know who you are.
Once we have the general idea of what the world is starting to shape up as, we start talking about what issues would arise from the environment, is it a matter of survival, competition, or maybe everyone just wants a really big dessert?
Step 2: Visual Confirmation
This step ties into the first one, but we like to start laying out a visual theme for how the game feels, this helps us down the road, if the theme is more cartoony we may make cards, or mechanics that play off it later, rather than going super serious and having the game be at odds with itself. This step can really benefit from having an artist. If you don’t have one… write down ideas of where you would like the game to go, or go to your local art school and offer a deal of day old bread and crystal meth, you’ll have your pick of the litter.
Step 3: Mechanics Development
This is a weird part, and I’ll try to distill the process as best I can in a simple conversation:
Hex: Okay, so because you want to be mayor of this town, you need to erect buildings that give benefits to each player, or to multiple players at the same time.
Mat: Oh yeah, man, thats awesome.
Hex: What if we put in a morality ticker that would respond to player decisions in game?
Mat: Yeah dude, we should totally (Begins thinking of scones and is lost for the rest of the conversation)
That step is usually really easy and super short and I doodle a bunch.
Step 3: Playtesting
Another super easy quick step that I don’t have anything to do with. If you’re part of a partnership, I recommend texting your co-designer several times during play testing and demanding updates. It keeps them on track and makes sure that they’re actually working instead of shotgunning burritos out of some back alley food truck.
Step 4: Arts
Remember those notes and sketches from step 2? You better have not lost them that time you accidentally threw your sketchbook at a frog! Cuz you’re gonna need them. At this point Hex has gotten me the (mostly) finished game mechanics, cards, and art requirements. We set up a google doc with whatever descriptions for whatever he wants, I then ignore these notes because I want our game to look good. I then spend months of my time creating miniature things of beauty for an ingrate who says stuff like, “you should lighten up the colors” or “This is a children’s game, why is there so much viscera?”
Step 5: Accept bags of money
When you’re this good looking people just throw this stuff at you, just yesterday I was walking down the block with a prototype under my arm, someone beaned me in the head with a gold brick and absconded with Chop Kick Chop Chop – The Karate Legend Mountain. Best game ever.
So thats it, Now you can has make game too! I’m so good at this.
So remember, whenever you want to make a game, just remember the easy WVMP (pronounced WUH VEM PUH) and you’ll be just fine. I guarantee it*
*Guarantee is void, Mat is an absolute liar.