Plus: Assets and ideation, and charitable asset creation option.
Game Design Check-Up
Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to suggest a few exercises that can help deepen your gameplay, or may help identify problems with balance, or may simply work to pare down your Player Rules so that your players are more likely to feel that they “get” your game, and “know” intuitively what you want (an ideal situation, always).
Where I can find time, I will continue to engage with you individually, but the fact is that time remains a scarce resource. As of this evening, we finally launched the Class of 2024 contact campaign, so more time for what matters most from this point forward (you). I’ve said that before only to regret it later, though, so let’s both of us hold fast.
Game Submission Guidelines (All-Digital Edition)
This weekend (25 April) I will upload a copy of the Game Submission Guidelines (GSG) (All-Digital Edition), a set of guidelines that I have created in order to ensure that the submission of your game by the semester’s end is as friction-free as possible.
Reminder: 18 May at Noon, via Canvas, is the last moment to submit your document. The registrar wants grades on 19 May at Noon, and they share those with you on 22 May.
The GSG is more than a vector for submission though. It contains ideas about how to present your game; a checklist for what needs to go inside; and some suggestions about how to get started THIS WEEKEND so that the digital documentation of your game becomes a tool for improving it as well.
Some of you have been working on creating amazing game assets (graphics, game boards, cards, etc). That’s one of the parts of this process I love best, and as much as I always warn that you “must not invest significant time in polishing assets until your game can actually stand on its own wobbly legs,” the fact is I’m a terrible hypocrite and spend a lot of time there myself. I’m actually beginning to think that there needs to be a better way of accounting for the process of creative invention that is built around asset creation: Let’s call it “Asset creation as ideation.”
Example. Here’s a video, grabbed from the crazy good Procreate for iPad Pro. The quality of my doodles is not the point, so pls overlook that part.
Its a 3AM-can’t-sleep game-design doodle, as I tried to think through ideas for a “professional wrestling” board game. Doodling like this was a great way to think about aspects of the game, even if the images themselves are just silly drafts. But in this particular session (sped up by a factor of four, I think), I decided on El Luchador and Lord Pennyfarthing as two characters, and hit upon a specific mechanic for a third wrestler, LittleBigMan: LBM begins a round in the Ring as a helpless infant, but changes (at some random moment) into a nearly impossible-to-defeat wrestler. That effect is short-lived, though, and he transforms into a helpless old man just a few moments later. The doodles were a good way to think about that.
(It strikes me that, in effect, it isn’t that different from the way we spend weeks in Middle School obsessively writing the name of some secret crush on every page of a notebook: The name isn’t the point, but the act of writing it out and tracing over it again and again is a way of concentrating thought. Maybe.)
Minor Detour: Commissioning Assets
I’ve always belonged to Schools of Graduate Study or Schools of Philosophy: I’ve never been part of a College of Creative Arts before. But my colleagues in the College of Creative Arts (your professors) are much more fun than those dullards from other parts of campus. Moreover, they seem genuinely worried about the dire financial straits in which many creatives, freelancers, professional musicians, and artists may find themselves during this shutdown.
At a college-wide videoconference yesterday, the Dean of CCA, Prof. Mullenix, offered faculty a list of ways she felt we — not as professors, per se, but as people — could offer some small help to creatives. It doesn’t have to lift someone into a new tax bracket, obviously: It is a way of saying “I see you, we’re with you.”
And it made me wonder if we couldn’t do something too, even as you worked towards polishing your prototypes.
Have you ever been to fiverr.com? It was an early part of the gig economy. It is often very hit-or-miss, with shady characters looking to make an easy buck, but it can also be a cool way to generate professional-quality content for very little money (the word “fiverr” is slang for “five dollar bill,” although few services on the site seem to cost $5 anymore).
Here’s my small idea: If you are at a point where your game’s name is set-in-stone; or if you know what your game’s logo should look like; or if you think a custom illustration for the front of your game’s rule book would be a meaningful addition to your own work, then take some time to browse the artists’ portfolios, carefully review their recommendations and estimated turn-around times, and if you’re interested, contact your preferred service to request an estimate for your commission.
Once you get it back, review it to ensure that they would be able to meet your requirements. Then email me with a really brief description of your idea and the cost estimate. If we can swing it, I’ll send you money to cover it. It won’t affect your grade, and it may not improve your overall game by much. But every detail matters in the end, no matter how small. And this could be a chance to begin thinking more seriously about how to communicate your vision with artists.
Now: I’m not sure that ETBD or the University will cover this yet, and there are a lot of you (60 or so), and my wife and I only share a private jet (which means it isn’t really that private) so let’s work to keep the costs low: Don’t go over $15, and if it is $15, it ought to be awesome.
We’ll need to see how this goes, so DO NOT COUNT ON MY APPROVING THE SPEND UNTIL I CONTACT YOU AND SAY “I APPROVE THIS PURCHASE,” at which point I’ll venmo you or something.
Obviously, no one will grow rich this way, but maybe it is a good source of polish and inspiration for your work, and a warm feeling for someone trying to carve out a life for themselves through art.
There are a lot of game designers on Fiverr (as elsewhere). Maybe you’ll offer your services there too, one day. But do not so much as think of commissioning one of those services to build a game for you, or purchase from them any sort of game designs, game templates, or game documentation services for anything remotely related to this course. Assets are another story, and if you want to go down that road, that’s OK (as long as you indicate that in the GSD).
Otherwise, Do. Not. Cheat.