Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

23 December, 2008

Weekend Design Challenge: Another week for rules
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 2:03 AM

Given that I was the only person to respond to last week’s challenge, I’ll give everyone another week. But, if I get no more responses, I’ll end this project for now.


  1. I wasn’t planning on participating; I’m more of a maintainer at heart than a designer. With that said, though, is this normally how game designers work — going from a general concept to a detailed draft of the rules in one step? I suspect most people won’t be able to take that single step as rapidly as you did; I suspect that they weren’t expecting to be “called” on it so rapidly.

    You might possibly want to modify the development process to expose your thinking to more of us, both so we can learn how it’s done, and so that we can all participate in the development.

    I work as a systems engineer (in short, an engineer for problems so large that no single person can hold it in their head)… As such, I have to learn how to deal with distributed teams operating with different assumptions. You might try to break down the problem differently.

    You’ve got a concept now. You’ve also got some top-level requirements. Perhaps a good midway step would be to have us come up with a requirement breakdown — what will this game be accomplishing; what sort of challenging tasks will the user be doing in the problem domain (the hospital)? Later on we can handle the detailed design of how the user does those tasks (with cards or dice or bidding competition)…

    Comment by Wm Tanksley — 23 December, 2008 @ 9:24 AM

  2. Thanks for participating. :) I enjoy it when people contribute.

    As was pointed out in the first two challenges of this series, there is no one “true” way to design games. Some people wanted to work on themes first, while others were able to focus on the core gameplay concepts. Each person has their own individual way of doing things, and there really isn’t a right or wrong. There are also a lot of factors that may be in place already. For most designers, they don’t get to come up with an idea themselves, they often have to do the grunt work to work out the details of someone else’s design. A small “board game” type project is fun because it’s something a single person can do, so you get to see the whole process yourself. This is different than, for example, a modern MMO game (especially RPGs) where a typical designer can’t hold the whole game in their head at once.

    To expose some of my development process for my rules suggestions: I basically just looked at another game’s basic rules and altered them to fit. This is a first pass, and we’d need to work out a lot of the details (for example, the cards in the set), then play test the game to see if it’s fun. As we test the game, we might see holes in the rules that make the game unfun, so we’ll have to adjust them as we go along. This is the cheap and sleazy way of designing games, and one of the reasons why we see so many clones of existing games. It’s not high art, but it gets the job done. :) There are a lot of other ways to accomplish this, though.

    My goal was that people would be able to create their own requirements based on the challenge from two weeks ago. There is where we discussed some of the initial ideas about what we would do for gameplay, and where the requirements would come from. I didn’t want to proscribe too much of the game, since some people might want to be working on individual concepts. I’d love to see a few games created from this project, not just one I’ve blathered on about.

    One practical problem with trying to state all the requirements up front is that game design, especially video game design, is rarely that clean. We might also get more requirements for the game as we go along; for example, our boss might come back to us and say that solitaire games are making a comeback, so include some rules for playing a solitaire version of the game. Or, hospital themes might be out of favor, so we have to come up with a new theme for the game.

    And, some of the best games come from people who just think, “What would it be like if…” The classic example here is how the concept for Sim City came about while Will Wright was laying out levels for a more traditional arcade type game, Raid on Bungeling Bay. From his musings we got a series of really fascinating games. Of course, not all of us are Will Wright. :)

    Comment by Psychochild — 23 December, 2008 @ 2:59 PM

  3. Good points; I especially appreciate your point about “stating all the requirements up front”. Ugh, so true — slow, messy, and sometimes chokeingly boring. Don’t do that if you’re not working on a firm fixed price contract. I didn’t mean to imply that.

    Anyhow, I agree, now that you explain… I just don’t want to lose this interesting lesson, even though I don’t see how I could participate.

    Comment by Wm Tanksley — 24 December, 2008 @ 10:02 AM

  4. The big problem with requirements for games is that there is one main one: it should be fun. However, we don’t understand fun down to a science yet, so you never know if the end result will be fun. The team making the original Half-Life realized that their first iteration on the game just wasn’t fun, so they had to re-do a lot of the game even though they had put a lot of work into it. Releasing a game that isn’t very much fun not a good thing.

    As for the project continuing, I might make a summary post about how I would finish up the game for people who are interested. But, there has been less and less participation in the project as the weeks go by, so I’m taking that as an indication that there is less interest. Or, people just aren’t reading my blog during the holidays. :)

    Have fun!

    Comment by Psychochild — 24 December, 2008 @ 2:31 PM

  5. Yeah, this does seem to be problematic… it’s hard to invent an entire ruleset out of a topical brainstorm, and with the collaboration happening over the internet, prototyping and testing becomes a trial as well. Is there a way around this? For my part, I’d still like to participate. I was just away for the Holidays!

    Comment by Bret — 31 December, 2008 @ 4:12 PM

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