One of the most difficult things about designing a game is determining the size of components.
In the game we’re currently designing, Slasher Clash, we have figures and cards and dice and rule booklets and boxes and… you get the point. How big should any of these things be? In millimeters.
I found the best place to start is by looking at games you currently play. See how big their dice are, how big their boxes are. That can serve as a good starting point for your game.
For example, we liked how the dice in Biblios were slightly over-sized so we made the dice in Slasher Clash the same size.
Not rocket science, just common sense.
The second place to look for advice is your manufacturer. We’re using Panda, and they have a super handy design guide that will walk you through lots of the decisions (especially things you’ve never thought of like box sizes). They can do custom sizes, but they also have standard sizes for cards and boxes. I found those standard sizes gave us useful comparisons when making decisions. For example, we used bridge sized cards because they were only slightly smaller than poker-sized, but allowed us to fit more cards on a sheet for printing (hint: that saves money).
Panda’s been great so far, and we intent to work closely with our account manager to iron out everything the details.
Another thing that helped us tremendously was simply mocking up the components and the box. We literally built the box out of cardstock and put our playtest components in it. That way we knew for sure that they fit and that the dimensions made sense.
Other stuff to consider: shipping. How heavy is your game? How many boxes will fit on a pallet? Does it fit in a flat-rate shipping box? All valid concerns. I really wish that I had rock solid advice about this stuff, but, clearly, we’re just figuring this stuff out as well. I will keep you posted.
I’ve seen it plenty of times. Chris used to struggle with this immensely.
Working on too many games.
Anyone who follows entrepreneur blogs and podcasts are familiar with the concept of “shiny object syndrome.” It’s when you constantly chase the new idea because it’s cool and fresh and fun.
But, like Admiral Ackbar says, “It’s a trap!”
Balance. It’s a metaphor.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s ok to bounce around a little. Creating games is a creative endeavor so when you have an idea, you have an idea. The key is to put the idea down somewhere and revisit later when you have time. Don’t drop everything and pursue every idea you have. Finishing projects is much more important and much harder.
With all that said, you may have multiple games at different stages of development, which is awesome. If a game is in playtesting and you’re not actively making changes every day, you can apply some of your creative energies towards another project.
In fact, having lots of new projects can be a benefit because it allows to you to find something that works – potentially much faster than taking it one project at a time.
But you can’t have too many projects in actual development at a time. It’s just not feasible.
The key, the real key, to succeeding at this game or any other game is finishing. It’s extremely easy to start a project. Starting is fun. Everyone loves starting. But when times get tough, it’s super tempting to retarget and start a new project. If you can avoid that temptation, you can win at this or anything else you put your mind to.
So work on multiple games, but make sure your finishing games, too.
Please don’t hold it against me. I’m still mostly human.
In any case, I think writing rules for games falls right into my wheelhouse. In fact, when our game group gets together, I invariably get the job of reading the rules for a new game and explaining them to the group. I pretend that I don’t enjoy it, but, secretly, I love it.
Look at all those juicy, juicy rules.
But, to be clear, I am a new school attorney, and we don’t favor the legalese of the past, mostly because no one knows what ‘wherefore’ and ‘hereinafter’ means. Just as I expect my legal documents to be easy to read, I demand the same simplicity from my game’s rules.
The goal when you write rules should be that when a person reads through them they immediately think, ‘makes sense to me.’
They should be laid out in a manner that makes sense as well. I prefer games that order the rules in the same manner that you will encounter the components of the game. Start with how to set up the board, explain what each player can do on his/her turn, etc. Complex rules should be deeper in the manual. Ease people into the hard stuff.
Always remember that you may have played this game hundreds of times, but your players have just started their first game. Baby steps is the best approach.
I’m also a big fan of beginner versions of the game and expert or expanded versions of the game. Meaning, that the players’ first game might have some components removed for simplicity. Let people learn the core functions of the game before hitting them with the juicy strategic elements.
Basic setups help, too. During your first game, it can be very challenging to put together a cohesive strategy. By forcing players to make big decisions (like where to place a town, etc.) right away, you can set some people up for failure without them even knowing it (Ever built a mine instead of a farm on your first turn in Through the Ages? I have). Little things like that can ruin a game for someone before it even gets started.
Last bit of advice, have a non-gamer proofread your rules. I know your game might be designed for hardcore gamers. I don’t care. Have a non-gamer, who doesn’t read rules every day, proofread everything and make sure they can follow it. Not everyone who tries your game is going to be willing to handle gamer jargon or common game rules. You want to make sure your game is accessible to everyone.