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Author Topic: Make Something Playable ASAP (Open to All)  (Read 3471 times)
mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« on: July 29, 2009, 09:57:56 AM »

THE INSPIRATION
While browsing through the forums I came across this bit of advice:

I do have one piece of advice: prototype! Thinking about your game is a whole lot harder when nothing is nailed down yet. Don't worry too much in getting it right on the first go. Instead, try to make something playable as soon as possible. Once you have something solid to base your questions on, it becomes much easier to see where problems may lie or what is not helping your central premise.

Although it is not a new idea it is the first time that it made a real impression on me. I think it is the use of the word "prototype" the strikes me. It recalled a TED presentation that I had seen in which the speaker (who is a product designer) basically made the same point: having something tangible to talk about gives a frame of reference that you don't have with nebulous ideas.

THE ACT
So, I'm calling myself out (and anyone else who is interested), to get a playable game in writing by the end of next week. That's 11 days, including today (Wednesday, July 29 through Saturday, Aug 8, 2009). I've been thinking about and taking notes on a game for years but have nothing solid to show for it and I think it's time.

THE EXPLANATION
If you are wondering why I'm not allowing for more prep time it's because I am a terrible procrastinator and perfectionist (a wonderful combo), so when I feel like I should do something I have to start now or it will never happen. It's not like this is an optimal time for me, in fact, quite the opposite. I have family staying with me this week and more coming this weekend for my daughter's birthday. On top of my full-time job I have a sick (pregnant) wife and 3 kids. I also do freelance work in my "spare" time.

Truth is that there will never be an optimal time to write a game. There will always be something going on and without a set deadline it is much easier to makes excuses than a game. So, I'm creating this deadline and posting it here to force myself to act.   

THE CALL TO ACTION
I'm inviting anyone who also wants to act to join me. This is completely an experiment to see what can be done when a person is pushed. On Aug 8 I'll send out whatever I have to anyone who is interested (whether you decide to participate or not). I would be happy to receive, read through, give feedback on and play any games that other participants write*.

Post in this thread, or message me if you want to participate.


THE GOAL
  • To create a playable game. Nothing entirely polished or finalized, but complete enough to actually use.
  • To force participants to make solid decisions about their games that they have been avoiding.
  • To create a small group of like-minded game designers who are all currently actively working on a game that is (more or less) at the same stage of development.
  • To finally be able to get out of the First Thoughts forum and into the elusive Playtesting forum.
  • To be able to say "I made a game" rather than "I'm working on a game." Because, honestly, who isn't "working on" a game?

THE DISCLAIMER

*No existing game texts, please. Only texts generated between now and the deadline.
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
Thor
Member

Posts: 70


« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2009, 03:15:24 PM »

This is very cool. I think that we have a need for simple prototypes to prove that we can do what we want with the ideas we have before spending a year or so to "get everything right".

I went to Protospiel in Ann Arbor MI last weekend with Paul Czege. It was a three day con with everybody playing everyone else's boardgame prototypes 24 hours a day. After the game, we would sit for a half hour or so and give feedback. It was a lot of fun and we played some really nice games.

There were some incredibly finished games and others that used paper cut outs for pieces but there was little correlation between the coolness of the games and the doneness. I did play a few that were not done enough to get  all the way through but none that weren't going anywhere.

There is no reason we could not do it for RPGs as well. While it is not the point of this thread I encourage anyone with space to hold Prototyping parties everyone bring what they are working on and play them.

I applaud you and your effort and will try to play along. I was trying to get my Roman Space Game done for the end of this month and got caught up in other things; another week won't hurt and the encouragement of seeing people play with paper slips is an inspiration. I will try to have a working prototype by the end of next week.
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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2009, 07:16:22 AM »

Great. Glad to have  you on board.
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
Ctrlphreak
Guest
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2009, 05:24:56 AM »

Ok, I'm a bit of a newbie here, but I'll bite - got a few ideas for a game system kicking around in my head anyhow so I'll see if I can't get it hammered down into a core rules doc over the next week Smiley very much looking towards the KISS principle rather than the "bring 10 different sized dice and half a dozen sourcebooks" approach... (Oh, and since this is my first post on the forums, if I succeed in getting the rules down in a week it'll be jumping past First Thoughts entirely)

Oh, and background about me bit: Player, Occasional GM, general RPG freak - Currently with my gaming group I'm playing a mix of GURPS, DnD (2nd and 3rd ed... avoiding 4th ed personally... whats with getting rid of chaotic neutral? I *like* my pyromanic thrillseeking mage tyvm), and a couple of games using the Call of Cthulu/BRPS rules. (Essentially, pretty much every player in the group is also GM'ing a game, rotating so its a different game each week)

One question about this little... contest? challange? - Obviously a playtestable rule system is the end goal for next saturday, but what about background setting? So (using commercial games for analogies) just the rules (e.g. GURPS), or with a basic setting such as fantasy or sci fi (e.g. D&D), or a "full" setting, background world (e.g. BtVS, Serenity, B5, Vampire:TM)
In all probabiltiy given the time constraints not much more than the rules would be achievable, but if anyone has a clear idea of the background setting it might be nice to see a half page or two on the world(s) the rules are "origionally" designed to be played in...
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Thor
Member

Posts: 70


« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2009, 08:26:21 AM »

Start with what you can use right away. If there is a pre made background you could use that your players will all know go with that. If not start with broad strokes. Or better yet, think hard about the genre and setting and let it come out in the rules. Try to make the rules convey the setting. So if you were doing a pirate game express the rules so that they carry the flavor.then when you have the rules at the table find what you are explaining of the background an go back and write that up later.
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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2009, 06:21:11 PM »


In all probabiltiy given the time constraints not much more than the rules would be achievable, but if anyone has a clear idea of the background setting it might be nice to see a half page or two on the world(s) the rules are "origionally" designed to be played in...


I don't think that it's necessary to have a fully fleshed out setting, but some setting details would definitely be part of a playable game.

However, feel free to interpret the project in whatever way you find most motivating.
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
M. Burrell
Member

Posts: 50


« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2009, 12:07:01 PM »

A little late to the party, but I'd love to make a contribution if you'll have it.

Any preference as to how games should be displayed? Googledoc? .PDF? Sent to you by the deadline or simply published somewhere on the net with a link here?
Any futher preferences as to presentation? Or structure? I'd imagine a title followed by 6,000 words organised into three loose paragraphs wouldn't be cool...
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mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2009, 01:12:09 PM »

A little late to the party, but I'd love to make a contribution if you'll have it.

Any preference as to how games should be displayed? Googledoc? .PDF? Sent to you by the deadline or simply published somewhere on the net with a link here?
Any futher preferences as to presentation? Or structure? I'd imagine a title followed by 6,000 words organised into three loose paragraphs wouldn't be cool...

Welcome! It's never too late to join.

I don't have any preference for final presentation (at least from the options you gave). If it's short enough I'll read it on screen, but if it's fairly long I'll probably print it out to read it. I can always copy and paste from a blog or website to a text doc to print it out though.

I'm currently working on mine in a text doc and updating to a blog semi-regularly, but I'm planning on delivering it as a PDF (so I've kind of covered all the areas).

I'm using Lady Blackbird as inspiration. It's a great example of a compelling, concise yet complete game (which happens to be beautifully laid out and illustrated, though those are not considerations for this quick, playable version that I'm promoting).

 
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
M. Burrell
Member

Posts: 50


« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2009, 02:08:17 PM »

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mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2009, 08:13:22 AM »

For any of you working frantically toward Saturday's deadline you might want to have a look at Troy Costisick's Latest Blog Entry on Socratic Design. It concerns common pitfalls for first-time game designers, and I found it incredibly helpful.

I've noticed that I'm still focusing too much on a finalized game rather than a playable game. I need to stop editing and spending so much time searching for the "right" words and get something down that's minimally understandable. I've considered recording as I explain my mechanics out-loud and then transcribing those explanations. I seems like, as soon as I sit down in front of the computer I tend to complicate things which are intrinsically fairly simple.

Good luck all and keep up the work.
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2009, 09:09:54 AM »

The more I work on this the more I realize I need to do.

  • I'm putting "fantastic" ideas, that I've come up with, together for the first time to find out that they aren't compatible.
  • I'm finding large holes in my design.
  • I'm realizing that my best ideas are stolen from other games.
  • I have renewed admiration for existing games.
  • I now know that I really don't understand game economy, or how to create rules to motivate certain behaviors.
  • I'm considering calling my game "Savage, Burning, Primetime Fate in the Vineyard."

That is all.
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2009, 05:42:26 PM »

Sooooo, Saturday has come and gone.

I have made a great deal of progress, but I don't have anything playable yet.

Some of the ideas that I've been working on are just not compatible (or, at least I haven't found a way to use them together). It's like I'm designing two games at once. One, a story game and one, a tactical game. I don't know if there is any way to reconcile the differences.

The document that I've been working on all week is mostly the tactical stuff. There is almost no room for roleplay in it. So, I'm at another crossroads. It's nearly playable, but it isn't an RPG.

I need to figure out whether I, in fact, do want to produce a roleplaying game. One of the goals that I've had in the back of my mind as I've worked on this game is making it accessible to my non-roleplaying (more like, anti-roleplaying) friends, and it's made things really tough.

So, I think I'm back to the drawing board. I'm not scrapping everything, I just need to rethink what my goals are and figure out how important certain parts of the design are to me.

I do have a document for anyone who is interested (just send me your Email address: micah at mjbauer dot com ) but I'm not going post it here because it's not playable and I don't consider it complete in any way.

So, in a way this whole exercise has been a failure, but it did encourage me to look critically at what I was working on and I think that was helpful.

How did everyone else do? Was it helpful for you? What problems did you run into? What problems did you actually solve? Is it worth trying again?
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2341


WWW
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2009, 06:37:00 AM »

Hey man,

I like this challenge quite a bit. Game Chef helps folks figure out what "playable" is, but when you're mulling independent game design projects it's helpful to be challenged with a meaningful "aim for something playable" milestone. The August deadline amid preparing for Gen Con didn't work for me, but I'd absolutely participate if you do it again. Maybe with an end of August deadline? And I wouldn't mind seeing it become a thing.

Maybe there's a way to institutionalize the challenge? A designer sets himself a target for "something playable" and challenges others to meet the same deadline? Does it need some structure of group identity to create forward momentum? "Join Protogruppe 83009 and make something playable by the end of August!"

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
M. Burrell
Member

Posts: 50


« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2009, 03:51:37 PM »

Sooooo, Saturday has come and gone.

I have made a great deal of progress, but I don't have anything playable yet.

Some of the ideas that I've been working on are just not compatible (or, at least I haven't found a way to use them together). It's like I'm designing two games at once. One, a story game and one, a tactical game. I don't know if there is any way to reconcile the differences.

So, in a way this whole exercise has been a failure, but it did encourage me to look critically at what I was working on and I think that was helpful.

How did everyone else do? Was it helpful for you? What problems did you run into? What problems did you actually solve? Is it worth trying again?

Bauer, Bauer, Bauer... you've got to love deadlines. The noise they make rushing past.

To be honest, I've done little better - but I've grown, learnt a great deal and in all it's been a mighty productive week.
 I sat down between double-shifts and started totally fresh, no loose proto-ideas, no flotsam from projects long-past contaminating this one and wrote a setting in 800 words (which, I firmly believe, is much harder then writing one in 80,000). With a style and tone laid down, it was just a matter of walking in the woods turning dice, matchsticks and marbles over in my pockets and mumbling to myself until drips and drabs of play mechanics and game-tools started hitting me. 
Saturday roared in, as saturdays inevitably do, and I found I was much more excited about my growing child and nurturing it properly than I was about draft copies and playability. I'm going to deliever on this project, but I'm going to deliever late and it's going to be good.
MJ, thanks. You've given me reason to make something and really concentrate on it, but it needs to simmer just a little longer. I'll get back to you in a few days and show you the seed.

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noahtrammell
Member

Posts: 56


« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2009, 05:59:37 PM »

  This is something I'd really, really like to do.  I came in really late to the party or I'd have still attempted it.  If you do it again, I'm totally in.  There's nothing like a group of people to help you get something finished.
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