The Roller-Coaster Ride of Game Design

The Roller-Coaster Ride of Game Design - 07/12/2019

Let me start off by saying – game design isn’t for the faint of heart. It not only is a very time intensive process (that will take years) but you also get put under the microscope. That is both terrible and fantastic… let me explain.

Why is it terrible? There are a lot of critics out there that aren’t constructive at all. People can be especially brave when they are hidden behind a screen. Truthfully, I love feedback on my game. It gives me the chance to re-evaluate things and refine it. Is my game perfect for everyone out there? Absolutely not, I recognize that. Some people want it more complex, some people want it to be simpler. Some people love the art, some people hate the art. I’ve learned to listen to everyone’s opinion, but to also filter what gets to my emotions and what gets play tested.

On one particular day I was venting about my frustrations to another game designer. He could tell that I was a bit shaken and so he sent me this quote from Theodore Roosevelt. It has helped me get through those tough days when I want to throw in the towel:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Why is it fantastic? Well, it produces great results. When you have the “hive mind” of a community you get opinions that stretch you to do better and are also things that you may not have necessarily thought of.

For example, in the early stages of Queen Bee I was trying to balance the numbering on the Warrior and Worker Bee dice. I reached the point where I felt good about the balance of the numbering. At the time the numbering included numbers 1-3 on the Worker Bee dice and numbers 1-4 on the Warrior Bee dice. But I would still run into the situation where dice wouldn’t need to be rolled in a battle. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just left it as is. One of those situations came up in a playtest and the playtester said, “Do we even need to roll? The best I can do is tie?” He then continued, “You should add zeros to the dice so that there is always a chance of winning.” Duh, of course! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before. I shifted some numbering, re-balanced the dice and now they are better and there is always a chance for either team. Four bees against one bee? Not great odds, but still a chance. And as Lloyd Christmas would say, “So you’re saying there’s a chance!”

So, what’s the point of all these ramblings. Well, I suppose that it is two-fold. One, if you find yourself in a similar situation where you want to give up then I’d encourage you to keep your chin up and stick with it. It’s worth it. Secondly, I just want to say that making this game has been a great learning experience to me. I have enjoyed the ride. I have enjoyed the time with my wife and kids in playing this game. My family LOVES it. I think a lot of families are going to enjoy this game someday – and that will be a fun experience for me.

One of the highlights for me happened on June 26th when I got my prototypes in the mail - and I wanted to share some of those pictures with you. It’s such a beautiful thing to see it all come together! Right now, most of these prototypes are with reviewers, social media influencers, bloggers or other content creators. I look forward to the opinions and feedback that will come from those. I have a great feeling about this game – and I appreciate all the support that I’ve received along the way.