The Death of Prism

Dave Berlin Playtesting 5 Comments

This is part 0 of a series about our new game, The Council of Adventurers. I’m documenting the development of this game in order to keep myself honest about its prospects for publication, and to share some mistakes I’ve made with others on the same journey. This first post is about the death (at least shelving) of our last game in development, Prism. Part 0: The Death of Prism Part 1: Starting fresh but with constraints When I heard that a publisher wanted to meet with me to get a demo of our wizard themed, mostly co-op adventure built around the idea of a prisoner’s dilemma, I was more nervous than excited. I had just changed the “finding a portal” mechanic and its effects …

Using probability to improve your players’ experience

Dave Berlin Mechanics 1 Comment

In a cooperative game, it’s extremely important to get the balance right. Competitive games are typically easier to balance because the humans balance each other out. As your skills improve, so do mine, and the game continues to feel balanced as we both ramp up in ability. But for co-op games, the humans are playing against the game, and the game needs to respond in kind. Many cooperative games have a difficulty setting, but oftentimes game conditions result in a feast or famine situation where you can lose within a few turns or cruise to victory. These are issues I’d like to avoid in Prism. A specific problem in Prism version 5 is that the end game is triggered when …

Methods of creating cards for board games

Ways to make cards for your board game

Dave Berlin Prototyping 2 Comments

I’ve started working on what for lack of a better term I’m calling Prism version 6. I haven’t been very rigorous about versioning, and that’s a whole other blog post, but for today I want to talk about making cards. There are somewhere around 120 cards in Prism, and I’d like to make a bunch of changes to them for the next version. Initially there were very few cards, and so I made them by hand in Word. Then I added a few more, and then a few more, until I got to where I am now: needing to redo them for the next version and no patience to spend the next four days in Word. I only need to change …

Five tips to make your first public playtest a success

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 6 Comments

You’ve made an amazing new board or card game. You came up with an awesome idea, put together a prototype, forced your spouse or close friends to play it with you, refined it as much as you could, and now you’re planning to take it out into the wild. Playtest, playtest, playtest, right? You know you have to playtest this game as much as possible so you can refine it and make sure it’s really great. So, you’ve scheduled your first public playtest. Maybe you’re taking it to a board game Meetup group, a local gaming convention, or an Unpub Mini event. But, wherever you’re going, people who don’t know you are going to be playing your game. What do …

Don’t let art sidetrack you from designing your best game

Jessica Berlin Process 4 Comments

As a game designer, when is the right time to hire an artist in the development of your game? Do you need art to get people to playtest your game, or to get publishers to look at your game? We wondered this as well during the development of our first game, Micromanage. And our answer has evolved as we’ve begun development of additional games. The simple answer: don’t hire an artist unless you are planning on publishing the game yourself, e.g., through Kickstarter. There is just no need for “real” art in a prototype game before it is ready to be published. If you are planning on strictly being a game designer and not publishing or Kickstarting your game as …

Eliminate round upkeep from your games

Dave Berlin Mechanics 1 Comment

When you hear the word upkeep, you might think of Magic: The Gathering, where players take certain actions at the beginning of each turn. This becomes a habit that players execute without having to think about it. But what happens when you require players as a group to perform upkeep? In my experience, what’s designed to be less work for everyone ends up being a major source of frustration, as the group has trouble remembering to shift between individual actions (players’ turns) and group actions (round upkeep). In an early version of our wizard escape thriller, Prism, players were forced to do some upkeep at the end of each round. I thought it would be fun to have players go …