A Week in the Life

The game design work of a regular guy with a full time job and a family with 3 small kids who designs games in some of his spare time.

  • March 15, 2021 5:53 PM

I wanted to spend a little time most weeks talking about my design work for a few reasons. I think it'll be fun and interesting to put into words what I've spent time doing on my projects, I think there will be some incidental insights into how I view the design process that could be interesting or helpful to people who read this, and because I hope it's motivational for those like me who are challenged for spare time. 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 pulled up the rules document for a game I plan to shop around as soon as I get back to game conventions (hopefully Q4 this year). That game is Galaxy Alpha Team (a co-operative space alien fighting dice chucking team combo game). I've made some significant changes since last time I updated the rules. One of the difficulties in designing co-operative games where the challenge comes from the game system is making sure the upkeep of the game system is fast, simple, and difficult to get wrong. Turns out that simplifying the game's upkeep also can streamline the game's rules. I got through about half the rulebook in one sitting while my wife was running errands with 2 of the kids and our other kid was napping upstairs. Big success!

On a different evening I spent some time working on a 6th space fighter player board for Galaxy Alpha Team. The game plays up to 5 and I have 5 space fighters for players to choose from, but what that means is that in a 5 player game every space fighter is used. Adding a 6th board means that no matter the player count you have to decide which space fighters you'll play with, and I think that's nice. I already had some ideas I've playtested before and I was just picking which ideas I wanted to put together. I still need to transfer the notes into the file on my computer so I can print it out before next time I play.

I recently got the prototype copy of Poisoners' Soirée back from the Cardboard Edison contest. I printed out all the feedback from that contest and have been brainstorming on how to address some of it. It's a deduction game (among other things) and there's a fine balance in deduction games about making sure the right amount of information is available to players through the game. Some of the feedback suggested that we may not have that balance of information right yet. The way I tackle nuanced problem like that is by trying to find something concrete about the problem and start there. That's what I spent time doing this week. Taking feedback like "It was pretty clear what players were going for" and "I wasn't sure what I should be doing at the beginning" and turning them into more concrete questions like "The game ends when someone has 7 objects. Should that change?" and "Should a tie between antidote and poison be in the player's favor or not?" It takes some mental gymnastics to translate experiential feedback into questions about the system's variables, but that gets easier the more familiar I am with a game system and how players interact with it.