September 25th, 2007

can't take2

Game Design Principles

Steve Jackson pointed to a bit of game design advice in the style of Sun Tzu: "General Tso: The Ten Points". I've designed a Firefly card game that I hope to publish someday so I thought I should test how I met the principles.

1. The supreme principle is this: To design a game is simple, to sell a game requires the patience and will of ten thousand men.

Yep. The article expands on this with the advice "If you desire a long and prosperous life, you will not publish a game." and at this point I'm taking it. I've contacted the companies in the intersection of "Whedon stuff" and "deck of cards" and not gotten a taker. I'm not going to bang my head against this brick wall.

2. You must test every design. No man has designed a game that is complete and correct.

Check. I've dragged dozens of people into playtesting the thing. Most of them had fun. The game's evolved in the course of this and the most recent version is holding up well.

3. You must test the written rules with the same harshness that you test the design.

Mostly check. They've been heavily revised and tested by other people. But I haven't had a full blindtest of them, which they need.

4. The game begins balanced. Is it still balanced on the first turn?

Check. It's possible to get a very bad deal but unless the rest of the table has an immediate orgy of self-destruction (hi, jazz007) you can recover.

5. 'Balance' applies to other facets of the design. Rules must harmonize, each following the dictates of the whole game, as family members must harmonize for the family to prosper.

Yes. This took a redesign. The first version made attacking other players more effective than taking on profitable jobs. Now it's an option but rarely the best one.

6. The foolish man asks: Should my game be realistic, or playable?

A card game with no active cards on the table is hard over on the "playable" end of the spectrum. But the main goal was to give the feel of Firefly even without all the gritty details. What I'm proudest of in the game is creating an elegant mechanism that gives you the "Oh, God, too many bills and not enough money" feeling Mal Reynolds is always suffering. No, I can't give you money for a slinky dress, we're @#$%ing broke.

7. The successful publisher understands the techniques of printing.

As with #1, I've punted on this. Although I think I do have the highest quality cards I can get from Kinko's at this point.

8. The scholar takes the time needed to complete his work.

Well, I might've given in to the temptation if there'd been a chance to ship it. But circumstances allowed me time to polish.

9. Therefore, also take proper care to research the subject.

No problem. Let's fire up those DVDs again.

10. Never hesitate to throw away parts of the design that do not work.

Done, several times.
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