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 : Sun, 29 Jul 18 - 4992 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.

Please take note that as time passes, design taste and objectives changes.

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 can 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.

Recently I had to change those objectives because playtesting long games is very hard since it takes a lot of time and it's difficult to find players. This is why I am aiming more around 60-90 minute games.

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 re playability 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.

4S (Simple, Small, Short, Social)

This is a recent philosophy that I decided to follow. Make games that are simple to teach, small to carry around, short to play and have a social aspect in it. There are various reasons for this approach including the cost of the game, the time to play test, the ability to playtest games easily, etc. Also by adding more restrictions it make the design more elegant.


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 original solution was to publish through PDF print and play, but this is at most convenient for free games as really few people want to assemble a game. Else I might use PNP for pre release games so that people could playtest the game more intensively.

Approaching publisher is now much harder than before, and it's more likely easier to publish thought kick starter, still I am not a fan of such publication technique, even if proven to be efficient.

Finally, if I really want to publish a game, I am more looking for print on demand systems like Game Crafters. If I keep my game small, the cost will remain acceptable. I could at most use a crowd funding mechanism on launch in gamecrafters.

Another approach I am willing to try in the future for non commercial games are Print, type and play. It's a digital game using mostly the command line that use printed assets to help play the game. The advantage is that only a portion of the components requires printing as the rest of the data is in the computer.

I consider that board game publication generate zero income and therefore I do not seek in making any profit from board game design, because from past experience, it seems impossible to achieve. This is why I am more thinking in making video games, or digital adaptation of my board game ideas on mobile devices.

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 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. This is why I am aiming more at game with few players so that finding playtesters is easier.

Game variants

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.

Still recently, I am trying to shrink my game collection and keep the cream of the cream. I don't have time either to modify games, so I am designing less variant than before. I really have to like the game to design a variant.

Video strategy games

I am more leaning towards video strategy game. It would remove me many constraints including time to play and resolve the game, space required to play the game, cost required to produce the game. As a digital game, much more deeper games can be created, without the need to constantly abstract the mechanics to end up with the "Fit an elephant in a shoe box" syndrome. The distribution is also much more easier and people might be able to play a few dollars for a digital ready to play game. But not for a print and play game.

So this is the direction I am aiming for in the future. Not sure I will succeed, I don't completely regret trying designing board games as I learned a lot of stuff from it. But now that I want to focus on video game design, I would have liked to know sooner that Board game design was only a temporary experience. What is done is done, I can only hope for the best in the future, That I'll finally be able to publish a couple of interesting games.


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