2016’s Lessons Of Gaming #6: 51-60

51. Test The Mental Load

Interrupt a playtest and take a five minute break. How hard is it for the game to resume? What information got lost? The longer the game you make takes to play, the more likely people need to interrupt it for food, toilet breaks, phone calls. If your game collapses when people stop looking at it, too much of the process of the game is stuck in the players’ heads.

52. Test The Soundprint

Try to avoid game text that’ll accidentally make players say something rude or annoying aloud or often. MTG has a problem where ‘counter’ and ‘counter’ mean two different things in two different context and this cuts off design space. Similarly right now a game in development is being reworked because I don’t want players to say ‘my [character] is triggered by that’

53. Borders and Boundaries 1

You have less space than you think. Everything needs some margins, some padding between it and the things it’s near.

54. Borders and Boundaries 2

You have more space than you think. Printed material has a HUGE resolution, so you can cram in lots of pixels.

55. Flooping The Pig

Players using game language is only a problem if your game language sounds like ass spoken aloud. In RPGs this is a goddamn scourge. If you name your mechanics and use good game language, players talking ‘gamey’ should SOUND NATURAL.

56. Diversify Your Knowledge Base

Learning about how things work, things that aren’t games, gives you tools for designing games. Three things I’d recommend are traffic, voting systems and rudimentary linguistics, which all have given me interesting starts.

57. Constructive Space

Players love building things! Let them assemble a ship out of parts, build a deck, organise staff. Cards are good for this. I have a half dozen different game ideas that are just trying to give players different tiled things they can put together that they think are cool and neat.

58. Dice Pools

Dice pool games are super cool but add a challenge to the materiality of design. Custom dice are very tricky to distribute easily. Gamecrafter can do custom dice, custom faced dice, but consider that custom etched dice are like $6 each there.

59. Looking for Gateways

I use DriveThruCards because there’s almost no up-front costs and I personally have felt very cared for by the administration. They’re actually non ideal – they’re located in America and their postal rates reflect that. But Brian has been unfailingly helpful. DTC however, do not Do Your Marketing For You.

60. Stir It And Stump It

This is more a personal failing than actual advice, but: I don’t talk about my games nearly enough, at all, ever. There were people following me in December this year who had no idea I made games. Advertising my shit is hard and I’m not good at it. Be good at it. Get good at it.

So far I have yet to have anyone ever tell me I’m obnoxious about talking about my games. I am always afraid it’ll happen. Always. But it so far hasn’t. People can tune out of my content if they want to, so respect that agency and don’t stress too much about hiding what you’re doing.

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