Accepting and incorporating feedback from playtests is a unique challenge for a game designer. It can be perilously easy to dismiss the opinions of others because “they don’t understand what you are going for” or chalk a problem up to a small mistake. On the other hand, you are a designer and you have a vision for what you are creating; sometimes you can ignore them.
Me, I use every comment as a prompt to reevaluate the decisions that went into any specific game feature. I try and work through what an alteration that addresses the comment would entail and then test out any attractive options.
When altering a design it’s critical that you remember your core objective. Do these changes bring your closer or farther from that, regardless of how they may or may not disrupt the rest of the design. I believe that the skill of development is not in designing a game that requires no tinkering or changes but, when faced with changes, to incorporate them harmoniously, or to have a design that enabled flexibility from the get go.
Game systems, especially in analog design, hsould not be brittle and prone to fracture when an element is altered. Unlike a digital title we have fast and easy freedom to adjust variables and rules on the fly and immediately see their results. Just do that a whole bunch.
During Metatopia we were able to get a number of good playtests of our upcoming game Hearts Blazing. While I am terribly proud to report that the phrases “Brilliant” “Beautiful” “What you are doing is important” and “The most fun I had all weekend” were used in the feedback; that’s not exactly actionable information.
For me the key to Hearts Blazing (and many of our games) is in their approachability and ability to encourage play. If we have rules or structures that disincentivize players or enable players to be ostracized or crowded out that is a major problem. If our players feel locked in to specific by the tools we are providing, then those tools are not serving their purpose. Ideally HB is a garden. The the structure of play is the plot, the episodes are the soil. Your player archetype/motive and are what your are sinking into the earth while your deck is the implements that ease the process. The story and keyword collection is your harvest.
Metaphors are stupid, I apologize.
Anyways. Metatopia let clued us into a few important changes.
- Cliche cards had very limiting interpretations that didn’t inspire creative play.
- Supporting cast characters were not utilized well and crowded up the episode cards.
- There were no specific calls to include supporting cast characters them in the story.
- Players were not specifically encouraged to give detail and life to their character.
- Playing cards face up made it unsatisfyingly easy to game the threshold system and negative trait cards were too specific
To amend these we made a few changes
- We’ve added additional phrases to the cliche cards to illustrate multiple interpretations of each cliche.
- Breaking out Supporting Cast characters into their own small deck that the Supporting Cast caretaker has control of. Putting the SC in play is open to all players at all times and they are not limited by the episode cards they appear in.
- We are hoping that the SC deck will alleviate the need to make specific calls for SC interaction by giving a useful narrative tool to players. When possible we would prefer to encourage additive play rather than mandate specific play.
- We’ve made some rule text changes to add character detail at the start of the game and directions to create an index card standup containing pertinent info for your character that fellow players can reference.
- Cliche cards should definitely be played face down. Additionally we re balanced the values slightly and changed all negative cards to “Frailty” which provides direction for the player to create an implement their own negative character trait, rather than mandating that all Engineers are addicts and all Aces are smug bastards
Please have a gander at the new cliche decks, I am terrible at spelling and grammar so please feel free to alert me to embarrassing copy.
I made a little RPG game/experiment because I have been having concerning moments when I am not sure if I am dreaming or not. That blur between dreaming and waking is fantastic and scary. Hopefully this will help me/us explore the concern. Before you ask I have no desire to commit self harm and this is not what this is about.
At this past PortConMaine we ran a poorly-thought out, “Make a Game” panel. Therein, hopped up on 2 cappucinos the GbyPD crew collaborated with the audience to design a game.
This is that game.
Hearts Blazing is a collaborative card-driven RPG about speculative fiction conflict and romance. Basically we made a homage to mecha anime (like Evangelion & Robotech) and space operas (like Star Wars & Battlestar Galactica. The game assists 3-5 players in creating an entire season of “episodes” of their favorite sci-fi show that never existed. Taking the roles of Ace Pilots, Captains, Rookies and the like you recount the weekly adventures of your crew in rapid fire acting-light and enthusiasm-heavy evening.
Besides the Hearts Blazing PnP document you’ll need a few scraps of paper for notes, some card sleeves and a willingness to make free-wheeling sci-fi mayhem.
We sincerely hope you enjoy this experience!
– Glenn, Meg & Dan
It’s been a crazy few weeks! PortConMaine! MassiveComicCon! These things happened and we are exhausted. Games by Play Date had the honor of providing more than 120 games to the fine folks in Worcester, CT. Meanwhile in Portland we designed a game with our PortConMaine audience in an hour! Heart Blaze will be an anime-inspired deck driven semi-collaborative RPG about futuristic wartime pilots love lives. And, a greater accomplishment, we avoided arrest and entertained two audiences with lurid fan fiction shipping tales.
Now I’m tired, and I must rest.
We are pleased to announce the release of Drunk Uncles a push your luck card game. As idiot uncles attending a family gathering you must get as many of your terrible opinions off of your chest before you wear out the welcome of your fair-minded family. Players draft dice to determine their tolerance level and carefully play from their hand hoping to duck under the judgement of their family.
If you would like to grab a copy please support us at Patreon.com/games where our backers will receive our first run copies!
If otherwise feel free to Download the Print and Play version, you’ll need to supply your own dice.
Special thanks to Daniel Solis for his assistance with rules language. We especially thank our patrons: Adam Pinilla, Angela Toebbe, Bob Kelly, Tiffany ralph, Frank pitt, Jason, Kristopher C. Hunt, Wesley Toma-lee, Jr Honeycutt, Nathan Hansen, steve C., Michel Ivey, Cardboard Edison,Noah BIllings, Nate Plunkett, Aerjen Tamminga, J. Walton, Matthew gravelyn to become a patron visit us Patreon.com/games
Friday night Rocket Shipping made it to table. It was kind of a mess. Here is the takeaway:
Dynamic Resource Pricing model seems good
Math game! Algebra game!
Similar to Modern Art
Can’t just count ahead because of board changes
Deterministic way to make value, eliminates randomization.
Scoring is tight
If you can figure out the math you have a large advantage
Physically difficult to
“Muddy in the middle” managing orbital phase can be confusing
Too much emphasis on the ship movement; trajectory & velocity
Fuel to cheap?
Needs space pirates.
Most you can make is $50 per trade
Combine movement with buy/Sell? It is needlessly separated.
A lot of waiting; Could movement be simultaneous?
Perhaps reduce the variety of goods
For reasons beyond comprehension Glenn spent the past week or so making a pick up and deliver intrasolar trading game called Rocket Shipping. It was inspired by a twitter exchange with RPG designer Quinn Murphy about an Afrofuturist solar system setting. While much of the flavor for that universe will have to manifest in the art and language the core concept, that players make their living by rocketing goods across the solar system on family owned space freighters seemed fun. It’s parts Cargo Noir parts Ticket to Ride and Perry Rhodan and it is far from complete. We wanted to do accomplish a few basic design goals:
• Dynamic market pricing and eliminate order fulfillment models
• Include velocity and trajectory management
• Play with the orbits and spins of planets.
Read The Rules (link fixed – G)
Watch a shakey video overview!