Some time ago we started a new serie of game tips on our blog in which we want to help with game designer issues. How can our publisher’s perspective get your game to the next level? The idea of doing articles about a publisher’s experiences in dealing with different types of designer personalities came to us through twitter.
Last time we wrote about the noble (and sometimes somewhat overprotective) Guardian. In this installment we’re going to write about another stereotype game designer we meet a lot during our Open Door Wednesdays: the Railroader.
Railroading is a term often used in roleplaying games to describe a certain GMing style. No matter what the players do, the gamemaster will make sure that they experience the game according to his plan. Players are riding down a road they can’t get away from, and they can’t make meaningful choices that influence the course of the game.
The Railroader is a game designer who wants his players to have a planned experience when they play his game. He is very thorough in the explanation of the gamerules (to the point at which he will tell you when to do what…each round), and constantly comes up with added rules and warnings during the game. The players are kept from exploring the game themselves, so after all the pizza slices and cans of Mountain Dew have been devoured, no one can actually tell if they really liked the game.
GAME DESIGN TIP: while the care for a player’s experience is something to respect, the Railroader has to try to let the players loose and explore the game for themselves. At the moment you have a game up for publisher consideration, you should also consider that it will be a target for all matters of feedback. Some of it will actually be quite handy to tweak your game to get to that last level of professionalism. A good game designer is always open for tips about the game itself and other factors he might not have noticed before, while keeping the core of the game alive.
Does this mean that a railroader needs to get his hands off his game and fire it away at anyone who is willing to play it? No. Like we said before: the care for a player’s experience is something to respect. Giving them a good time is of course what a game should be about. If you still want to railroad and at the same time let the players experience it for themselves, you could use a carrot-and-a-stick approach. By this we mean showing the players a desired outcome in a situation (the carrot), but only give them the reins to figure it out for themselves. With your carrot-on-a-stick you can lure players back on the railroad without giving them the feeling that their choices aren’t meaningful!
So much for the railroad. Next stop: The Omega Supreme!
Whether you are an aspiring game designer, an experienced gamer or a casual player, nearly everyone has a cool idea for a game at some point in their gaming life. We know, because thanks to our ‘Open-Door’-policy we see a lot of these ideas!
An awesome looking prototype is one of the most rewarding and useful stages in having your game idea come to life. A good prototype allows you to pitch your game with confidence, gives you better insight into its mechanics and always makes for the ultimate gaming trophy!
Sadly, most people with an awesome game idea are relegated to their trusty home printer, scissors and glue stick to make their prototype. This often makes the quality of your prototype dependent on your crafting skills…
Ever visited a Quantuum Magic booth during gaming conventions? Then you’ve seen the quality that goes into our prototypes. In fact, we often get requests to sell these prototypes on the spot because people mistake them for finished products!
We decided to help you out and OPEN UP the Quantuum Magic prototype lab in this very special contest for everyone who has ever had a cool game idea. This is your chance to win (a) professional, Quantuum Magic-made prototype(s) of your own game!
- Anyone can join, you don’t have to be a game design professional
- Have an awesome game idea that is ready for prototyping (artwork is not provided by us)
- Send us an email introducing your game (manual, box-art, etc.). For big files we suggest the use of wetransfer.com.
- Share and retweet this contest (You can use the buttons at the top of this page)
Thank you for all the positive response to our prototype contest. It was very hard sorting through all the cool entries in our contest! The entry subjects ranged from dancing moon spirits to possessed werewolves, haunted houses and everything in between! Card games, board games and tile games all became a whirlwind of creative game designing. One thing stood out most to us, all entries were strongly themed, which is a good thing to us.
The game we picked as a winner offered a strong theme, a realistic economy of content and scaled very well to a varying amount of players: The Ghosts of Whixly Manor, by Liam Ginty of Sandy Pug Games, an independent board game/RPG design team. You can actually find more of his games on his site. Go check it out! So, this game is off to our prototyper! We will keep you updated with some behind-the-scenes pictures of prototyping a game, and of course a final picture of Liam holding his prototype in his hands. Thanks to everybody for participating, and see you at Spiel!
An excerpt of The Ghosts of Whixly Manor:
Within Whixly Manor, restless spirits roam the halls. A forgotten family, the ghostly shadow of a murdered bride, the disturbed auras of a suicide cult and their maniacal leader. It is no surprise Whixly Manor has not stayed occupied for long.
You play a spiritualist, at the turn of the century. The small town has hired you to finally clear our the building of its otherworldly inhabitants. Armed with your magical implements, your investigative skill and your knowledge of the spirit realm, it is up to you to exorcise the restless ghosts inside the dark Manor.
But beware, for it is not just the ghosts that stand in your path. The house itself creaks under the physic strain of this many ghosts, and will collapse at any moment. The town has also hired several other ghost hunters, and only the one who has exorcised the most spirits will receive the reward and the admiration of all.
Artwork is an important part of a board game. If done well, artwork and design have the potential to take your game to the next level. While some games just need some colors and simple illustrations to to achieve this, others have a harder time getting to the right spot illustration-wise. The choices you have to make in this area are of course dependent on your game. What is your target audience? What’s the story behind your game? What did playtesters think of the chosen artwork, etc.
At the moment, I’m still very busy making the Fameroo! commercial (check out my trailer! on the pre-order page!). Artwork is a very big part of that, seeing as we wanted the commercial to consist of artwork that is present in the game. So, the whole day I’m being greeted by artwork of happy cows, grinning goats and jolly farmers, and I hope the different elements in the commercial will really show all the choices a publisher like Quantuum Magic has to make before a game gets to the final design.
Fameroo! was specifically designed to function as the first board game that parents are able to play with their children. Every choice along the way has been made with that simple concept in mind. It shows in the story, the gameplay, and especially in the artwork. The final design of Fameroo was made by Dutch artist Miriam Bos. The first thing you notice about her drawings is how colorful and happy everything is. The big eyes, the big expressions… Its kind of her trademark. And it really suits a happy little game like Fameroo.
So, being as interested as I was in her artwork, I decided to call her for a little chat. Just to show you game designers out there that it isn’t hard to reach out to cool artists.
So how did you join Fameroo! ?
Quantuum Magic contacted me! They probably stumbled upon it unintentionally, my sister is known to show my artwork around on twitter and in her shop. They must’ve seen it somewhere and contacted me.
Edit: Not true. We keep tabs on a lot of artists we eventually want to work with. Whether they know it or not! Miriam is an example of an artist that has been in our art portfolio for quite a while.
What happened then?
Well, they already had a design. The inventor of the game had made a lot of illustrations to clarify his idea (pitch tip!) which I could use as a starter point. Quantuum Magic was looking for artwork especially made with kids in mind, so I drew some sketches and showed it to them. They thought it fit the game really well, so after that I could start drawing the final design.
Edit: This is always a magical process for both publisher and game designer, to see an idea come to life in illustrations. It really is something else.
Is it different to draw for a board game?
Not really. Not the drawing itself, anyway. Usually I just make illustrations in photoshop and send that to, for example, a publisher. That publisher then takes care of the rest of the design. Not here, I had to make the designs as well. I designed the logo and the back of the box for example. This was exciting, because I had never done it before. Luckily for me I got help and feedback from a good friend.
What do you think of the final result?
I think it turned out pretty well! Am I allowed to say that of my own design? Hahaha. I was really nervous about the design as a whole, because I didn’t know if I was doing it correctly. But it turned out I did, and I am very happy with the final results.
And I can’t say she’s wrong! All the art for Fameroo does exactly what its supposed to do, display what kind of fun and happy game this is. THAT is what good artwork can do for your game, it can emphasize the strong suits of your game and really breathe life into your concept.
Well, that’s it for now. If anyone is intrested in Mirian be sure to check her twitter @irrimirri, and I’ll see you next time! If you have any questions for me, ask me on the @quantuummagic twitter!