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Differences between Board Game and Video Game design

Page: DesignArticle.Article-BoardGameVSVideoGameDesign - Last Modified : Mon, 20 Mar 17 - 100 Visits

Author : Eric Pietrocupo

There are certain important differences worth mentioning when designing board games versus designing turn based strategy video games. Even if both share turn based strategy game play, the design experience is not the same. This is just thought that you should keep in mind when chosing to design one or the other.

Text VS Numbers: Board games are more likely to use unique text special abilities as players simply need to read the text to understand the rule modifications. In video games, this is much more annoying to code because it could require a unique script for each text ability. On the other hand, video games tend to use numbers much more. Sometime, text abilities are subdivided in various numbers which are easy for a computer to interpret.

Designing with numbers is much more easier than designing with text. Because with numbers, you can easily define range of values and create all possible permutations of stats. While in text abilities, it's much more harder to define the possibility space and plan ahead all possible permutations. Sometimes a subtle replacement of the word "may" with "must" can change the game entirely.

All at once VS piece by piece: Video games can be designed piece by piece, this is generally the case because you can rarely program a whole game at once. So you program some features, test it, add new features, then test again. Bit by bit your game is build up toward your goal. Of course, changes can be made on the run, while sometimes you are stuck with certain elements because it would be too expansive to undo and start again.

On the other hand, board games needs to be built all at once because each element of the game is interrelated with each other. So changing an element will push other elements into another direction, so it's really hard to modify or add stuff without changing the balance of the game. It could be illustrated as building a puzzle, in video game design, you can build you puzzle piece by piece until it's finished while in board game design, you must assemble the puzzle in your mind and place all the pieces on the table at once. If you fails, you try again

Restrictions VS Lack of restrictions: Board games have various restrictions to take into account: The time it takes to play the game, the space used to store and play the game, the complexity of the rules which must be understood by the player, etc. This forces the designer to compress his ideas and mechanics to fit as a board game. Compression mostly consist in removing features and abstracting concepts.

On the other hand, video games completely lack of restrictions. Now this could be seen like a good thing, unfortunately, the lack of restriction creates bad design. Which can lead to games which are too long to play, have too much information to analyze, or where the rules are unknown or have unpredictable consequences. This is why I recommend restricting your self.

Single VS Multi-player: Most board games are multi-player and most video games are single player. Multi player games must receive extra care for it's game balance, because if there is a dominant strategy, players who know well the game will always exploit that strategy and win all the time. So you must make sure that all strategic options are valid.

Also, especially in board game, you cannot really eliminate a player, so you must make sure that even if some players are losing, they still get an interesting experience even if not winning. This is why most euro games does not have any direct conflicts in order to keep all players into the game.

So making solitaire games avoid many of those issues and since most video games are solitaire, they look easier to design.

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