Sometimes you sit down to a game, like Agricola or Power Grid and although you have a good time and you definitely feel like you played a game, did you actually have fun? Well that’s what this week’s guest post from Jake Leeman is all about, designing games to deliver fun in a box. Take it away Jake.
Emphasize the Fun
It’s amazing how much thinking goes into every little detail. Some might think that creating a casual game somehow means it’s less work, but we’d beg to differ (but we’ll readily concede that creating a full-blown board game is an even more daunting task!).
Something that I’ve been particularly keen on lately is in keeping “fun” as a core tenant of my game design philosophy. There are lots of great games that I’d classify as strategic, or intense, or some other fancy adjective… but how many are just plain fun? Creating a fun game has been the main focus for the development of IncrediBrawl, from both a gameplay and visual standpoint.
Throughout the initial stages of the game, the first thing that tried to creep its way into the game was complexity. Can we make the combat more complex? Shouldn’t all the characters fight different ways? Should they have stats? While none of these ideas are bad in and of themselves, each time something like this was added to the gameplay, it turned into a very different game experience. Gone was the beauty of simplicity, as combat became the focus instead of the characters and their unique abilities. The fun was missing, so the complexity had to go.This emphasis has carried itself through the whole development process. Each game rule, character concept, and special ability has to been viewed through this lens of fun. Another great example was in the Locations game mode option. Locations are the areas that the characters’ brawl takes place at each round. Each has a unique condition that if met gives the winner of the brawl a bonus Glory (VP). Several of these abilities are based on character type, classifications such as “Humans”, “Sci-Fi Characters”, “Supernatural Characters”, etc.
Several playgroups expressed concerns that the characters weren’t typed on their cards. Was a Werewolf human or animal? Was a Robo-Shark a Sci-Fi character? Our rules stated that this was up for player discussion and debate, encouraging table-talk and fun banter. We looked long and hard at this ambiguity after that feedback, and it really came down to what best kept with the tone of the game.
Our initial inclination was to keep it as is, as that really fit the spirit of the game. However, one of the beautiful things about Kickstarter is the ability to listen and adapt, before the game is printed. The feedback we were getting was that while some liked the humorous banter, even more were put off by it. We deliberated on what to do, if anything, for some time. But again, we came down to using the lens of fun to guide our decision. Was it fun to use clear-cut definitions to avoid arguments and frustration? We could see that to a lot of groups, that would indeed be more fun. And in the end, we decided to shift the rule around to use this “typed” way first, with the optional rule to play more casually if desired – that way each group could easily play the way that is more fun for them.Lately we’ve been getting down to some very nit-picky, but important, details on the design side for IncrediBrawl. One example I’d thought I’d share is something as simple as our card backs. We designed so many options on these backs… with the main goal being differentiating between the four player decks clearly and quickly.
In the end, we had two great options. One was in perfect harmony with the card fronts and matched completely, and the other introduced something new to the printed cards that felt slightly different, but also felt a lot more fun. In the end, we decided on fun. That’s the point of the game, after all. So why not let it shine, wherever possible, and let it shake things up? Well we did, and we love it. So much that it’s now creeping its way into the other design-related aspects of the game, from our ads to our Kickstarter graphics.
In the end, for a casual game like IncrediBrawl, tone is everything. The theme, the art, the game rules… they all need to live in harmony and emphasize that key element: fun. To me, it results in a more cohesive experience for the players, and makes for a more memorable game. And hopefully leads to a whole lot of laughter and good memories, game after game.
You can get your own copy of IncrediBrawl on Kickstarter now
You can learn more about IncrediBrawl on the V3G website