2016’s Lessons Of Gaming #5: 41-50

41. Building For An Eruption

You’ll see this in games like Werewolf but moreso in games like Mysterium, where players will suddenly be allowed to talk openly about things they do, and they will explode. All WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT ON THAT TURN, WHAT THE FUCKIN— This is basically the best and I love designing things that cause this. It’s a catharsis from a mechanic. You can do this with mechanics, and they tend to be beautiful moments. It’s better in cooperative games; in competitive, it might be seen as bluffing.

42. Shuffling sucks

I mean, I like it, but every time you ask players to shuffle they all have to wait for the slowest shuffler. So don’t design a game where players need to shuffle every turn. If you do, make sure it’s a small stack. And shuffling 100+ cards? Fuck off.

43. Hands Are Not Universal

Your game will be played by people with one hand. Maybe they’re holding something. Maybe they only have one hand. Consider that.

44. Cards are material objects

You can literally throw them around. Manual dexterity games are games too. You have that option. That said, don’t make manual dexterity a ringer in an otherwise non-manual game. That works like olives in ice cream.

45. Your friends are part of who you are

Designing games thinking about them will help you empathise with different perspectives.

46. “I’ve Got A Great Idea!”

Is it ‘an edgier Cards Against Humanity?’

Fuck off.

47. Modular Mathematical Models

Cards are dice with memory. Can you replace some of your cards with a die? Can you replace a die with cards? Imagine a game of monopoly where you start with 6 movement cards and have to choose what order to move your 6, your 1. Imagine a war game where you use a handful of cards and choose when you roll well or badly. Oh wait, that exists, it’s called Malifeaux.

48. Modding is making.

There’s a bunch of academic study on this point but the long and short is ‘making mods is making games.’ Don’t sell yourself short for working within a framework that offers you advantages even as it offers you limitations. Alternate modes of Scrabble, Cluedo, Monopoly, Uno, any of that stuff is a place to start making games.

49. Ideas From Bad Jokes

Puns are SURPRISINGLY USEFUL for keeping people remembering game information, or expressing the core of a game idea. Murder Most Fowl is my favourite example, but it’s hardly alone. It also has proven really useful for explaining itself when I talk to customers; they just get it when I say it’s  game about birders committing murders. If your game explains itself quickly you get people playing quicker.

50. Know Your Monsters

Some games are what I call ‘art monsters.’ They will use as much art as you give them. Games like Star Realms, MTG, Arkham. When dealing with an art monster, you need to make a judgment call and say ‘no, you’ve fuckin’ had enough, you monster fuck.’ Some games need a ton of writing work, and will just endlessly eat more and more text you give them. Some games need endlessly intricate systems, too.

The important thing is to recognise that some projects need something to tell them to stop. You can put down those limits.

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