Game Design Status Report #4: Pre-Playtesting Playtesting

(I apologize for all the game design posts lately: this is what medicated chronic depression looks like.)

The game I’m designing is pretty straightforward, but I’ve still come across what must be a perennial issue for designers: interlocking pieces. In order to know if A works right, I have to figure out B. But B relies on C, which relies on A. I’ve tweaked B but now A is broken. And do I even need C anymore?

The only way I can see to get all the parts together is to actually put them together, and that means prototyping and playtesting. It also means knowing full well that you’re building something broken, but that’s the only way to fix it.

Before I started in on prototyping, though, I wanted to see if what I was doing was even workable and fun. So I created a rudimentary version on paper that simulated some basic ideas in the game. Along with the dice I made, I was able to try some things out to see how they worked.

Here are some of the things this helped me discover/figure out:

  • I want damaged components, but right now it happens too often and isn’t fun. I think I know how to adjust this.
  • A change in how dice are selected
  • A change in how cargo will work
  • The dice faces may have to be rejiggered
  • How ship upgrades will work
  • Starting dice pools
  • Win condition possibility

All of that just from a little time spent with a bare-bones version. Most importantly, though, I discovered that there is something here. Oh, it’s not going to displace Puerto Rico or Agricola, but I think I’m on track to design a game I won’t look back on and go, “yeah, that was a waste of time”.

So this week’s task is: design some planets!

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