Prototype deliverable due for playtesting next week

Today you will be teamed up to brainstorm and design an entirely new game. Following along with one of the game design challanges below, your team will be tasked with creating a game protoype to be presented for play-testing next week. (Note: The following game design challenges have been borrowed from Challenges for Game Designers). 

Reading for next week: Chapter 6: Interactivity in [Rules of Play]

Concept 01: Following a Path

This game design challenge with explore the race-to-the-end gameplay dynamic found in many games, from Chutes and Ladders to Gran Turismo. The game will be for two to four players, who will concern themselves with progressing along a predetermined path, with a start point and an endpoint. The first player to the end point wins.

As the game’s designer, it’s up to you to figure out the theme, the game bits, and the mechanics. 

Components Required

Materials to create prototype

Deliverable (due next week for playtesting)

  • Board-game prototype or
  • Card-game prototype or
  • Tile-based–game prototype

Suggested Process

1. Determine a theme and a goal: Where are the players going, and why are they going there? Choose a theme that involves some interaction between the participants, to make things interesting.

2. Identify the mechanics: Start with a basic game structure. Think of a track that goes from beginning to end that’s broken up into a bunch of different sections. It may be 100 spaces or tiles or cards that ultimately build the track on which your players are going to “race.” Now think of the mechanic that will get your players moving on that track. The simplest one is rolling a die. 

Next consider things you could do to make play more interesting. For instance, you could have an action that speeds you up or slows your opponent down. Does the narrative suggest any obvious mechanics? For example, if your game is about a relay foot race, you’ll need a way to pass the baton (perhaps suggesting a tradeoff where maintaining a higher running speed gives a higher chance of accidentally dropping the baton). To add some player interaction in a foot race, perhaps you’d change the theme so that the racers are robots with lasers that can shoot at one another, which suggests mechanics for shooting and dodging.

3. Identify the conflict between players: How can you screw up someone else’s progress or accelerate your own? What’s the tradeoff?

4. Playtest.

Every time you add a mechanic to the game, test it. Does it make the game more fun or less fun? Does it support the core of the game? Does it work the way you originally thought it would? 

5. Create the deliverable for playtesting next week.


Concept 02: Territorial Aquisition

For this challenge, you’ll be exploring the dynamic of territorial acquisition. You've seen this before, as this dynamic is present in the great majority of board games made today. As in the previous example, this game should allow two to four players. The game must obviously have some kind of territory which will be acquired. You may select from one of two win conditions:

  • The first player to get all the territory wins.
– or –
  • The player with the most territory after X turns wins.

As the game’s designer, it’s up to you to figure out the theme, the necessary game bits and the mechanics.

Components Required

Materials to create prototype

Deliverable

Board-game, Card-game, or Tile-based–game prototype

Suggested Process

  1. Start with a theme
    • Precisely what are the players trying to conquer here? A swamp? A piece of turf? Maybe it’s a wild band of monkeys who are determined to take over the zoo at night. Remember that you don’t need a theme, but having one often helps game de- signers new to the process identify potential mechanics.
  2. Continue using the same process as in Concept 01

Challenge 03: Territorial Acquisition and Race to the End

For this exercise, you will focus on the exploration dynamic. First, consider how it is used in Massively Multiplayer Online games (or MMOs), adventure games, and Role Playing Games (or RPGs). In some adventure games, the “explore every location” dynamic is the whole of play. Consider how it is used in board games such as Clue.

You are tasked with creating a game that two to four individuals can play. Since the game involves exploration, it needs some kind of space to explore, even if that space isn’t a physical one. You may use this dynamic in conjunction with another. 

It will be up to you to determine the theme, mechanics, components, and additional dynamics, if any, for this exercise.

Components Required

Materials to create prototype

Deliverable

Board-game, Card-game, Tile-based–game prototype

Suggested Process

  1. Start with a theme

    What are the players exploring? It could be the Lehman College campus, an undersea city, the entire borough of the Bronx, or a galaxy far, far away. Wherever you choose, be mindful of the space or place you’ve chosen, as it will determine what types of things your players will do while playing. These dynamics will give rise to the mechanics you need.
  2. Continue using the same process as in Concept 01

Challenge 04: Collecting

In Super Mario Brothers, the player avatar (often the titular Mario himself) certainly jumps around and defeats enemies...by jumping on them and stuff. But the avatar also collects coins and other useful items to enhance game. For this exercise, you’re going to explore the mechanic of collecting and make a game out of it. This is slightly more challenging than starting with a dynamic, which, by itself, suggests both a beginning and an ending.

You must create a game for two to four players in which players “walk” over objects and pick them up. What players need to collect (three of a kind, similar color, and so on) and how much they need to collect is up to you. Mechanics that modify the primary mechanic of collection are fine. For instance, you could have players pick something up when they land on it, or have a wheelbarrow that they first must acquire in order to pick up the objects.

You must choose the theme, components, and tokens, if applicable. You may also add additional mechanics, as needed. In particular, play attention to the narrative. It will help as you brainstorm. Think of this as a gardening game, then a gangster game, and then a car-racing game. Each theme brings different possibilities into play.

Components Required

Materials to create prototype

Deliverable

Board-game prototype or Card-game prototype or Tile-based–game prototype

Suggested Process

1.)Identify the Object of the Game: If you can’t think of how to begin, one way is to start by naming the goal or objective that ends the game. In other words, how does a player win? This will suggest additional mechanics and dynamics for you. 

For example, if the object of the game is to have the most points when time runs out, it immediately gives you two more questions: how do players receive points, and how is time handled in the game?

The object may be connected to a theme, so you may find it easier to develop a narrative and objective concurrently, or start with the theme first and then find the objective. For example, if you are gangsters returning from a bank heist, maybe the object is to keep as much money for yourself and get out before the cops show up.

 

2.)Identify mechanics and dynamic: 

From the theme and goal, you probably already have all kinds of ideas for mechanics and dynamics in the game to support the core pick-up action. If nothing occurs to you, come up with a new theme and goal and try again.

 

3.)Identify the conflict between players: In the Super Mario Bros. example above, players can play in single player, going to each world collecting things and stomping different characters. However, they can also play against another player, where the object is to race to the end world before the other player gets there. Added to this, a player can challenge her fellow player to a duel, of sorts, that essentially has them enter the very first Super Mario Brothers game. Here they can stomp on enemies, collect things, and also stomp on each other. This makes the game so much more interesting and exciting.

Think about how players in your game relate to each other, and how one can sabotage another’s progress.

4.)Playtest any changes you make: the game will play different each time you modify, so carefully note how these changes effect the game and if the change is a good one.