A board game designer's web site

 Copyright Eric Pietrocupo


E-Mail: ericp[AT]lariennalibrary.com


General Information

My Designs

Game Design Knowledge

My Board Games

My Designer's Profile

Page: Main.DesignerProfile - Last Modified : Thu, 12 Feb 15 - 4631 Visits

Every designer has quirks of his own which would influence the kind of games they make. Some people like making games around mechanics while other around theme. Some people makes heavy games, while other makes light weight party games, etc. Sometimes, knowing the kind of games a designer makes will tell you if you would actually like the game before actually playing it. And there are other times when people want to stay away from a designer. So knowing who is the designer is sometimes useful.

I'll describe here what kind of designer I am which should gives you a good indication of what kind of games I should produce. I still intend to create different kinds of games. I will try to have a variety of games which could target various kind of people. For example, I don't want to only make war games, I want to experience designing a larger variety of games. I don't want more than 2 games which would look alike either. Which mean I try combining some game ideas together when it seems 2 games looks close to each other.

Inspiration

Most of my game ideas start with a theme then I try finding which kind of mechanics I could use in the game. Most people find it easier to design from mechanics but I find that these games feel somewhat artificial and boring.

My primary objective would be to make an immersive game, which is not always easy to do. The concept of immersivity is generally more common in video games. It's the idea were a game ambiance could be so deep that the player could feel the same way than if he was doing it in real life. In order to make the game more immersive, I ask my self "what kind of feeling I want to player to experience?". I try to find the right mechanics that will generate the particular feelings I want. This is what I call: mechanic shopping.

I also ask my self "What does the player need to do in the game?". Does he need to manage troops or cities, does he need to calculate income of investments, etc. By knowing this, you can determine if for example, calculating the income of an investment is actually a fun experience. Does managing the development of a city is actually a fun experience.

Strategy

I could say that most of my game are strategy games. By strategy I mean having to think to do an action. I have for example no dexterity game. Still, I don't like game with the brain burning syndromes. These are games where you have so much information to analyze and calculate that you cannot possibly make the best decision.

Most of the strategy games I have played before playing board game where turn based strategy video games. While playing these games, I always said to my self that I could actually do better. So many of my ideas actually originated from video games.

Strategy video games are a bit different in the ways you think. I called them loose strategy games. The main difference is that making a bad move cannot make you lose the game, it will just put you in a bad situation. It's only a combination of bad moves that is going to make you lose the game. So you don't have to put that much calculations behind every move you do, but you must still have an action plan.

This would be more likely the kind of strategy I would use in my games. Some people says that's it's not good. One of the reasons is that board games are shorter in playing time, so you cannot allow every move to have a less dramatic effect else you would need to have a much longer playing time. I like the idea that every move is important, but is is more the calculations behind that annoys me. So I am leaning toward placing some randomness or uncertainity so that players cfan make decision based on feeling rather than calculations.

Controlled Luck

I am aware that games based on luck seems to lose some strategic depth. On my point of view, it's all a matter of dosage and using it at the right place. Luck can be interesting in some situation in some games. Knowing when to use luck and when not to is the key of a good design. That it why I would not totally banish luck from my game design because it often has the draw back of adding brain burning effects in the game.

Playing time

When I play a game, I generally get totally bored and tired after 5 hours. So when I design a game, I try not to pass over this limit. For most of my games, I am aiming between 1h and 3 hours. But there might be some epic games where I would not mind to go up to 5 hours as long as the players feel in the game all the time.

Replay Value

I always try to make sure that the game is fun to play again. It makes me think about settlers of catan where we could easily play 3 different games in a row since we had various ways to play. One way to achieve this is to add optional rules and use modular board.

Optional Rules

I'll include optional rules for my own game. The 1st reason is because I want to add some replay value to the game. The second reason is because I want players to adapt the game to their taste. Third, since I modify a lot of commercial games, why not propose variants for my own games. Still, too much variant makes the game look like incomplete.

Modular board

Modular board is something which I like to design. The objective is generally to increase the level of replayability of the game. It's also interesting to design a board in a certain pattern that could make it reusable. It one of the many fun I have in game design.


Game Publication

I think my primary objective in game design is to have fun making a game, have fun games to play and watching other people having fun playing it. Of course I would love to publish a game, but doing so generally involves a lot if risk especially if self-published.

My best solution so far is to publish by PDF. It does not mean that I would publish a lot of crappy untested games. I will try to do my best to actually make a good game that I'll enjoy playing. I am not sure If I could actually publish a game that I don't like anyway even if other people likes it.

If after a period of time, for example 1 year, there has been a lot of sales and many people are interested in rebuying a real copy of the game, I might start submitting my prototype to publishers. The number of sales as PDF could convince them that there is some interest for that game.

Publishing as PDF first and then as a real game offer numerous advantages. First you get player feedback through sales but also through playing. Some players could find bugs or offer better solution to the game. The game could benefit from these feed back before being finally released. The designer makes also more profit per game by selling PDF games rather than selling real games. So I could get benefits from both marketing model. The only thing I am not sure is it the publisher would allow me to still publish the game as PDF even if they publish it.

Playtesting

Playtesting is a big issue in board game design, and it is right now my biggest problem. Currently, I do a lot of solo playtesting. I am part of a gamer's group but I don't have much chances to playtest since my prototype needs to compete will all commercial games people have brought. We once tried making a designer's group, but there were not enough people still interested to participate. Finally, I don't see my friends much often anymore, so I have really few opportunities to playtest with real people.

Lately, we have reformed the designer's group with 1 new designer and we seem to see each other every 2 month which is better than nothing. We might add a new member soon which could increase our group to 5. That would be great. SInce 2010, we try to see each other every month.

There might be some people who are willing to playtest game prototypes for free. Still, I would only give the prototype files to serious people. I don't want the files to get spread out over the internet. Considering I am willing to publish as PDF, giving the rules on the net for playtesting is almost giving the game for free. So I will probably define a procedure for distributing the files.

Free Games and Game variants

I don't do free games. I value my ideas too much so I want to develop them to their full potential. Most designers who does free games publish printed games, not print and play. In my case it would hinder my sales to do free games. But I do variants for other games which are free since these games are not mine. I'll do free games if using copy righted material or if adapting a publish commercial game.

One of my saying is:

 "Board games are made to be modified"

This is why I make so much game variants. Not all games are perfect and not all game fit for all taste. Instead of trading it or throwing it away, sometimes rule adjustments can make miracles. In my point of view, if changing a game could make you play a game you would normally not play, then it's a good thing.

Some conservative people are obfuscated when you modify a game and some even ask why I don't redo a new game from scratch? Making a new game takes way much time than making a variant. The advantage of variant, is that most of the time, players can play without buying or printing new material. The problem of variants is that it is very hard to reach the right target audience. People who likes the original game will not play a variant and players who do not like the game will not look for variants, they will trade it away.

I hope this page helped you to identify what kind of designer I am and I hope you like my games.


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