Game Creation Guidelines
Part of Board Game Design
Game design and testing are both iterative processes. Three basic concepts form the fundamental pillars upon which iterative design is founded: Design (or Refining), Testing, and Analysis. The philosophy that underlies iterative design is that the lessons learned from one testing cycle feed directly into improvements in the refining phase of the next development iteration.
A variation on the theme of the run-of-the-mill iterative method is the Spiral Model (Wikipedia link here) of design. The Spiral Model starts from brass tacks, prototyping and evaluating only the essential core of a product. Once a successful prototype is developed, it is thrown away and the scope of the product is expanded, prototyped, and tested again. In the realm of game testing, this might be especially useful with games that are highly abstract and mechanic-driven. Prototyping the central mechanic (especially if it is uncommon or new) allows you to test the fundamentals of the game before adding on additional features. This might also be useful in simulations. Being, by nature, complex, simulations can be made comprehensible (and far more tight) by starting with the essentials and adding on realism in successive design iterations.
This simple iterative design process can be interpreted in many more ways. For example, another style of iterative design is the Design-Prototype-Test model. In game design, you will find that prototyping is an essential component of testing. Playing a game without a good prototype makes it difficult to get the feel for the pieces and flow of play. Prototyping is thus an integral part of testing in the process detailed here.
Some design philosophies encourage the rigorous examination of “usability” throughout the entire design process. This is called Pervasive Usability. While we wish to introduce a rigourous design methodology here for board game design, Pervasive Usability is more suited to things that are made for use, not things that are designed for entertainment. Besides, which game developer has the time or money to assemble a focus group in the early stages of design?
The process given below is arranged in a novel fashion. Since game design cannot start at the "refinement" stage, the start of the process (design) is marked by an alpha. While a great deal of the design phase is repeated in the refinement phase, there are important things (such as getting the idea in the first place) that are typically not repeated. The omega is production, when the game leaves your hands and is finally produced. The numbered phases of this process are the iterative portion.
- 1. Refinement
- 2. Testing
- 3. Analysis