A few months back I got an email out of the blue from a relatively new board designer who’d read this blog (that is at least one reader 🙂 ) and wanted to get together, hear about my experiences as a new designer, and answer some questions for him. Needless to say, I was quite flattered as I don’t feel like I have that much to offer a new designer, as I feel like I’m still learning and growing in this new found passion of mine, but I readily agreed. We arranged a time, and I had a nice chat with him and hopefully I was helpful in answering some of his questions.
Now that I’ve had a little more time to reflect on things, I thought I would share with you some of the things we talked about, as well as some other of the lessons I’ve learned over the last almost two years.
Lesson #1 – You don’t have to do this alone
This was the topic of part 14 in this series, but it is worthwhile mentioning again. The board game community as a whole, as well as the design community, are amazing people who are more than willing to help out. This is likely the biggest reason why I met with the aforementioned game designer – to give back to this amazing community that has been so welcoming and helpful to me.
Along with the recommendations I made in part 14, there is another aspect to this topic to consider – the co-designer. While I currently don’t have one, a lot of the people I’ve met along my journey do and they have nothing but positive things to say about it. For more information on why you might want to consider a co-designer, check out Go Play Listen’s post all about it.
Lesson #2 – Designing a board game and funding it on Kickstarter is time consuming and takes a lot of work
When I first decided to make The Hackers Guild, I had the naive impression that I’d be able to whip a game together in a couple weeks, put it up on Kickstarter, and be off to the races. Boy was I wrong. It is important that people be realistic in regards to the time it takes just to develop a board game, never mind the added time and effort in running a Kickstarter. While this rule isn’t set in stone, you can expect to be working on developing your game and preparing for your Kickstarter to take at least eighteen months, then there is the actual running of the campaign, and provided you are successful, the fulfillment of the Kickstarter rewards. You have been warned! 🙂
Lesson #3 – Kickstarter isn’t for everyone
Considering all the work involved in a Kickstarter, as well as the sheer number of board games being launched on Kickstarter each month, not everyone is going to want to use Kickstarter as a means for publishing their game. While I have no direct experience with pitching games to publisher, there are a number of designers that are doing quite well for themselves by focusing on the game design and letting a publisher take care of the rest. For some additional insight into the debate of Kickstarter vs pitching to a publisher, check out this reddit discussion and board game geek article.
Lesson #4 – Order does really matter
This is probably one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn because doing things out of order will ultimately mean wasting money and/or time. There really isn’t any reason to pay for art for a game that you might not even finish making, or spending large amounts of money for “nice” prototypes are prime examples as things I’ve done but shouldn’t have. Instead, use placeholder art of off the internet, or don’t bother with any at all. When you go to make prototypes, don’t worry about making them fancy. There are a number of excellent resources on prototyping on the internet, some of my favourites are Fox Tale Games’ Prototyping 101 and Go Play Listen’s How to design a board or card game: 10 prototyping tips. Prototype and play test digitally as much as possible it will save you a lot of work in the long run. James Mathe also has some great advice and resources on the flow of game design that is well worth a read.
Lesson # 5 – Tools of the trade you shouldn’t be without
Whole podcast episodes have been devoted to this topic, but I will mention some I use, and some others that I’ve heard work well.
- Tabletop Simulator and/or Tabletopia for digital play testing and prototyping
- game-icons.net for free icons
- DeviantArt to find an artist once ready
- Photoshop/Gimp for card design and photo manipulation
- Google Images can be an excellent source of placeholder art
- Google Drive/Dropbox for storing and sharing game files
- Indie Game Alliance provides help with play testing, game demos, convention presence, and various discounts on manufacturing, shipping, displays, and more
- Print Play Games is who I use to print my nicer prototypes and review copies
- Slack/Trello are great tools for team communication
- Google Hangouts/Skype are great collaboration tools
- Component Studio one stop game graphic design tool
- Game Crafter is another option for prototype and review copy printing
- Prototype conventions like Protospiel and Unpub are amazing resources for play test feedback as well as opportunity to network with others in the community
That is everything I have for this post. I’d like to hear from you. What advice would you give a new designer? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, happy designing.