The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Is your game good enough?

Sure, you want your game published. Who wouldn’t?

But here’s a question you may not have asked yourself:

Is my game publishable?

Trying to get your game signed is very much like looking for a job.

Let’s say you find a job that has great pay, good benefits, and is within a well-respected company with lots of growth opportunities. You’d absolutely love to get the position.

Unfortunately, you’re not the one to choose whether or not you get the job. That’s up to the employer.

They have to narrow down the field of candidates from all the applications they receive. Then, they will only interview those who they feel are the best match.

This will come down to the candidate’s education, experience, and if they would be a good fit for the company and culture.

Similarly, as a game designer, it’s important to look at both sides of the equation.

In the first of this series on getting your game published, we’ll discuss exactly what it takes to improve your chances of getting your game published.

Develop a vision for your game

When you come up with the idea for a game, it’s important to develop and truly understand what your vision is for this game.

Ask yourself what kind of experience you want players to have.

While the theme, mechanics, end condition, restrictions, and components could change dramatically, your vision is the one thing that should remain constant.

Do you want your game to evoke stories and memories that people will always remember?

Is tension what you’re aiming for?

Perhaps you want players to feel a sense of brilliance or accomplishment.

Whatever your vision is, you want to make sure that players are consistently having the type of experience that you’re aiming for.

Work out any rough spots

Once your game is meeting your vision and players are really enjoying the experience you’ve created, you’ll want to make sure the game plays as smoothly as possible.

Are there any rare instances where something strange happens or a problem occurs? These are known as edge cases.

You’ll want to get these ironed out, as you don’t want to have a lot of exceptions or rules required for those infrequent things occurring.

Keep your rules clear and straightforward.

Every time a player has to refer back to the rulebook, they are taken away from the game, and the flow is disrupted. If this happens multiple times, players may become disengaged and lose interest in your game, which is exactly the opposite of what you want.

So, playtest your game a lot, with plenty of different people. Identify and remove as many little exceptions as possible.

Your aim is to get your game to flow smoothly to keep players engaged throughout.

Players should be asking you this…

Here’s a question that I get all the time: How do you know when your game is done?

It’s a tricky question to answer, as it is more based on feel that anything scientific.

Some designers joke that your game is done when you’re tired of it and never want to play it again.

Others say no games ever get finished, they just get published. 😉

If you feel like you’ve taken your game as far as you possibly can, this may be an indication that you’re getting close. It may be time to hand this over to a game developer to finish the job, whether it is you contracting this out in the case that you’re self-publishing, or for the developer or development team at a publisher to help get your game across the finish line.

I always find that the best indication that my game is ready to pitch to publishers is that players are consistently asking to play my game again, or even better, if they can buy a copy. If you have several people wanting to buy your prototype, which isn’t even a finished product yet, you know you’re onto something!

Next steps

I want you to write down the vision for your game (what you want players to experience), along with the hook (what is unique and draws people in). This will help you to better understand the next steps to take with your game, along with how to sell your game to others, including publishers.

Not only that, using your vision will also help you stick to what you want your game to be about rather than go down every possible rabbit hole (and they are almost never-ending!).

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