Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Big Game Hunting - Game design pre-qualification

Want to design a game? Have you got an idea of the type of game you’d like to do? Good! That’s a great start – but it’s often there that people get stuck. How do you go from idea to game? Concept to completion?

Once you’ve worked out what you want to write – and once you’ve got the idea on paper, whether that’s the key NPC, or the background story, or a mix of a whole pile of notes, the next thing you need to think about is your game system.

Because there are so many game systems out there, thinking about your game system is probably one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. It not only dictates how you’ll design your system, it also gives you the support you need to work out how to take those first steps.

When I’m designing a game, I actually work with my own hybrid systems – partially to do with chance (d10) and partially to do with set attributes - based on various criteria. I’ve seen other games that use chips, dice, or counters, so don’t feel you’re constrained to complicated character sheets – while many people enjoy building characters, it’s often a good idea to make your first game something you could write and play with ease. Most people that decide they want to write a game have been playing for a very long time – so have systems that they like, and don’t like.

One of the other recommendations I was given, when starting game design was not to start with the ‘big’ game I had in mind – I’m still in the process of writing to games that are huge – one forensics based, and one based around the sci-fi serial of books I was writing. But the first game I ever wrote was a 24hourrpg project. It was a lot of fun and was very easily broken, but it gave me the chance to write and play something very silly, and very easy to test. It also showed me the areas that games break, straight away – both games I wrote that year for the 24hourrpg broke exactly the same way.

In the next couple of articles, I’m going to talk specifics. What sort of game systems there are out there? Why you need flavour text (and how to decide how to write it)? And how (and who) to test your games? But for now – what’s your idea? Got one?

This week, Kai is writing furiously, enjoying the peace and quiet of school returns, and is really geeked out about Animal Man. She still can’t fix the problem with her forensics game.


  1. I often think that my ongoing Forum Adventure would work well as a tabletop game, if the scope was expanded considerably:

    Its called You Have To Explode The Sun, where you're a captain of a spaceship sent out to explode a sun (no reason, its just your 9-5 job), but suddenly a paradoxical Evil Space Bunny teleports onboard and steals/hides your sun-exploding rockets! You have to retrieve them from your paradoxically changed spaceship, with each room full of weird puzzle craziness and monsters.

    But I digress. It'd be cool with an eclectic band of surviving ship's crew in an RPG, I think.

  2. :) My forensic one is kinda horrible. I can't address the needs of the complexity of forensics closely enough without making the dice rolls horribly complicated, and can't boil it down to 'easy' stats either.
    My sci fi one is based around the books I'm writing after Darkness is over and done with. Black Monday is a really cool novel, and was once contracted by a gaming company, till they went bust, so it's kinda fun, and kinda sad that it's languished for several years. But I'll get there ;)
    Your forum sounds like it rocks!