A finished game is a unity of combined activities (game design, art, programming, management, prototyping, testing, publishing, promotion…) done by lots of people who all know exactly what they’re doing. Before being able to distinguish between all of these elements let’s start from the drawing board (it’s better than getting back to it).
You only know what your game looks like when it’s done.
You’ve probably heard this saying before and while it’s mostly true, there are a few place where you can see your game before you actually SEE it. The first place is your head. It’s the place where all ideas are born and it is imperative to transfer your game from your head to the real world as effectively as possible.
To do this grab the most trustworthy tools of the HUMANS – pen and paper!
Board games, card games, miniature games(even Pen & Paper RPGs) – you can make them all just by investing time. These are the games you should start with. And today we’ll start a series of articles and youtube videos in which we’ll make a simple board game together.
Before we start, I’ll just make some notes here in this article that will guide me:
- Our game is going to have two players
- They will play against each other
- Both move on a same path formed of fields
- Fields have effects when players step on them
- Effects could be determined by a six sided die or cards
- Each player has to reach the opponent’s starting field
Through these six notes I’ve made the basis for our game. At this point it’s really important to continue with actual work rather than letting your creativity get the best of you (don’t think about the story of the game, don’t think about the characters, the theme, the name or anything else that will help you lose your focus).
So let’s start! Two players, two starting points, each player has to reach the starting point of the opponent. Good enough. Time to draw a board (as SIMPLE as we can). Thought about using Gimp or Photoshop right now? Bad move(takes more time, and design is our least priority now).
Sticking with pen & paper I got this:
Having this done we have A LOT! We now know where players start (or where they are summoned if they’re demons from other worlds and now they’re here in the arena of gods to prove who is….NO NO don’t go there! Stay here!) and how many fields they need to walk to reach their goals. Every game has some rules or boundaries in which players play. Board games, card games and pen and paper games usually have turns too. Instinctively we have already made the first rules:
- Players start here and here
- Players can walk
- Players walk only on fields
Let’s focus a bit on the second rule and ask ourselves? How do they walk? Well we could make them walk only in opposite directions, but if we do that and say “Each player can move 1 field on his turn” then they’ll both collide in the middle and then what happens? Are we stuck? No, in game design you’re never stuck, you just need to explore all possible options with the rules you’ve created this far. So let’s write this question down:
What happens when both players are on a same field?
- They could both die and re-spawn at their start positions
- They could both bounce one field in the opposite direction
- The second player that reaches the same field kills the first player on that field (ludo board game)
- They both roll a six sided die. The one who rolls less doesn’t move, the other moves one field forward – we’ll use this for now
- Nothing happens they both stay on the same field together
- Or even something better that you can imagine
So, now we know that players move in opposite sides only(for now) and we have a question about their collision. We’ve chosen one answer for now in order to go on.
Writing everything down Is really important don’t forget that!
Next Stop – Field Effects
The simplest form of making effects for fields is making one effect for all of them. This is good enough to start with. Let’s create a simple rule where a player rolls a die once each turn after he/she moved. Now we have another question? What happens when the dice rolls. Let’s give some options here:
- From 1-2: Player moves one field backwards
- From 3-4: Player doesn’t move
- From 5-6: Player moves one field forward
With what we’ve done by now we are ready to show our prototype game. Yes! It was that fast.
Let’s look at our notes and form a quick rule book out of them polishing our prototype a bit:
What happens in our game:
- Both players roll a six sided die to determine who goes first. (this is a classical board or card game rule)
- The one who rolled the highest number moves one field forward and rolls.
- The player who goes second moves one field forward and rolls the die.
- If they happen to be on a same field they both roll a die. The one who rolls the highest number moves one field forward, the other doesn’t move.
- The player who reaches the opposite starting position WINS the game.
I hope that through our article and video I gave you some insight into beginner level game design in action! I will continue with these types of articles and with your help we’ll have a basic game in our hands. This is OUR game and we can shape it any way we want. If you have any ideas on how to improve this simple idea, please share your thoughts with me in the comments bellow.