And we’re back!
So you have your main concept, the inspiration, and you have three conceptual goals to keep you on track. What happens next?
Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, it really depends what kind of game you are designing. Is it a pen-and-paper RPG, a card based battle affair or a board game?
For the sake of this discussion, we’ll go with a board game that Nine Dragons is actually developing. It will serve as a good example.
The Podcast, the Artist and Liam Neeson
Inspiration can come from the most surprising and unexpected places and situations. Some time ago I was recording the Delve podcast with Alex and Nathan and we got to discussing art, the Kraken and cheerleaders. I have no idea how (but you could go back through the Delve archives and find out, I suppose). In the course of this chat someone (I think it was Nathan) expressed a desire to see art from Nine Dragon’s Mike Dukes, showing a cheerleader, wielding a chainsaw and riding the Kraken. Mike, being Mike, had the piece done almost before the recording was finished. I present it here for your viewing pleasure.
So enamoured of this was I that an idea started to form and the next thing I knew Tooled Up Teenage Monster Mayhem had popped into existence. Okay, so that is inspiration taken care of (thank you Delve).
Next, the goals. Well, I really did want to try my hand at board game design so that pretty much put form front and centre. I was also trying to capture the spirit of some of the original indie games such as the RPG Teenagers from Outer Space, the computer classic, Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters and even TV shows such as Roswell. That accounted for perspective. My final goal for this was that it should be both collaborative and combative – that’s connection, and a nice challenge, a game which says “Work together but never forget to screw the other player!” A bit like Cosmic Encounters.
Now I have a game, even though it doesn’t exist I can tell you about it and you can construct a version of it in your imagination. So, what happens next?
Well, for me I need to start seeing things. The problem is, I’m not talented when it comes to art (that’s what’s known as an understatement). Luckily my partner in crime, Mike Dukes, is. So I share my broad ideas with Mike and he draws cool stuff. These images help me to further refine the ideas in the game. If Mike draws a load of really cool Kaiju, then I start to see kaiju cards. Likewise with the Teenagers.
Then I’ll give him my revised ideas and he’ll draw again and at this point he’ll usually start throwing out his own ideas. Luckily we think differently enough about mechanics that we tend to add to each others ideas, rather than simply agree or reinforce. I can’t emphasize how important it is to collaborate with people who are not you; people who see the project through another lens and add force you to reconsider your ideas. Also, at this point it is worth remembering that everyone involved in games production has a level of design experience, editors, layout artists, artists, sculptors, writers, stats boys and girls, hell, even marketing folk! They all have stuff worth listening too. Even bad ideas are good provocations, so get input from everyone.
From the initial inspiration, through clarifying goals we have arrived at having some concrete ideas. Next month, the final, but most time and energy consuming part of the design process – the iteration.