I want to spend time most weeks talking about my design work both as an encouraging example of how someone challenged for spare time can make progress on game designs, and to offer some incidental insights into how I view the design process that could be interesting or helpful. I intend this to show how I break down my process into digestible nuggets of work that can be done between my job, family, and other responsibilities.
So here's what I worked on this week.
I just participated in Pegasus Designer Days, where I had the opportunity to pitch games to Pegasus Spiele. They schedule you 10 minutes to pitch a game to them, then they move on to the next pitch. They were doing this for 4 days, so they got hundreds of pitches back to back to back. I was fortunate enough to get 2 time slots to pitch 2 games, Poisoners' Soirée and Galaxy Alpha Team. Knowing my strict time limit, I put a lot thought into preparing for how I would present these games.
Galaxy Alpha Team is the harder of my games to pitch in 10 minutes because it's got more interconnected systems, takes up more space, has more rules, and is just bigger in most ways. I don't know if I can do a full rules explanation in 10 minutes, but that's definitely not how I wanted to do this. My approach was to write out all the high points I want to hit, then come up with a way to connect those thoughts together. I remember from playtesting that the cool stuff people think are the highlights of Galaxy Alpha team are:
- Managing when and how your ship takes damage, to strike a good balance between damage output and breadth of options.
- Repairing and upgrading your own ship from the alien ships you destroy, encouraging you to be thoughtful about your targets.
- If you coordinate with your team, you can pull off impressive combos.
So I made notes to highlight those aspects, and only add the extra details necessary to provide context for these parts.
Poisoners' Soirée, on the other hand, really is simple enough that I can talk about the setting, explain every rule, then have extra time to talk about what players have identified as the highlights for them. In fact, this was the first of my two pitches and I did just that and still had a couple of minutes left over to start preparing for Galaxy Alpha Team.
The thing that stood out to me the most about my pitches as I was doing them and later as I was revisiting them in my mind, was how stark of a contrast there is in complexity between the games. I call Poisoners' Soirée a "family weight" game, and refer to Galaxy Alpha Team as a "core gamer weight", which I certainly believe is true (I've never made a heavy game), but especially when I pitched them back to back, it was striking how different the market is for these games. I have played Poisoners' Soirée with both my non-gamer parents and my children, and would not hesitate to play it in a setting with co-workers and really any random person who seems interested. Galaxy Alpha Team is a game I am extremely proud of that I believe executes on my intent for it very cleanly, but I expect it would fall flat in many more situations than Poisoners' Soirée, just because it's a "core gamer weight" game that plays better with people who are accustomed to games with more complexity. None of this is a value judgement of course, but a categorical reminder that a mid-weight or even a medium-light game is complex enough that tons of people would immediately have very little interest in playing.
They say your game is always more complicated than you think. My experience this week reminded me of that.