Design advice

I often participate in open design groups, so I have met a lot of aspiring designers. The strange thing is that almost all new designers seem to make exactly the same errors. And I made them all as well 🙂

So based on my experiences, I have gathered some design advice for new designers:

  1. Don’t make a prototype. Instead try to think through all the possibilities in your head. Imagine exactly how great it is going to be. Don’t just think in big lines, think of all the little details. You already know it’s going to work, so why test it? If you just keep it in your head, it can remain brilliant. You can be that person who would be a hit designer, if you just had the time to actually make the game.

  2. Make your game beautiful. A game has to be pretty – even the first prototype. It is very important that you spend most of your energy on making really pretty cards with awesome pictures. Why not pay someone to make art for your game? It’s going to be a fabulous game, and you certainly wont have to make any changes that will force you to discard some of the art. That’s not going to happen. Don’t spend your energy on the game, spend it on the art, cause we all know that’s what really matters. Publishers are idiots. They cannot spot good games if they have bad graphics. They only pick games based on the looks. And of course they will use your art when they publish the game.

  3. Don’t share your idea. Watch out! When other game designers hear about your brilliant idea, they will scrap all of their own ideas and steal yours. Yes, they may have notebooks filled with ideas that they haven’t had time to work on yet, but your idea is so awesome that it beats them all. Game designers are only in the business for the money, so they will rather work on somebody elses idea than their own if that means more money for them.

  4. Don’t test with strangers. Strangers won’t understand the brilliance of your game. Be sure only to test with family and friends, who will give their totally objective opionons.

  5. Add more mechanics. If you have a great game mechanic, why not add a few more? A game’s quality is proportional with the amount of game mechanics. So you have a great idea for a drafting game, and a new auction system and a twist on worker placement? Why not put all of them into one game? It will be three times as good!

  6. Don’t listen to idiots. You are the designer, you know best. Even if all the testers point out that your drafting mechanic doesn’t quite work, don’t listen. They just don’t understand your game.

  7. Make it realistic. It is very important that games resemble reality as closely as possible. Realism before fun. Players play games to get an accurate impression of what it is like to be a renaissance trader. So remember to let random players die of typhus.

  8. Play along or don’t play along – make your choice. Some game designers play along in their own games to get an impression of what it’s like to play. Other designers will let the testers play for themselves to get a good overview of the game. It is very important never to mix these two strategies! Instead, you should pick one of them and decide that all designers who do the opposite are fools.

  9. If you don’t have an idea, just make a mix of other ideas. Take all of your favorite games and make a game that mixes all of them together. It’s going to be great! Afterwards, you should worry that other designers will steal “your” idea (see number 3).

  10. Hold on to your game. Okay, so your game didn’t work out quite as well as you imagined? Never give up! The game is brilliant, it just needs to be tweaked. Keep working on it for years and years. Or decide that the world doesn’t deserve you. Don’t make other games, that would be cheating.