Game Design and Development: 2014 Review

The New Year is an obvious time for reflection, so please excuse the navel-gazing.

This was the first year that I had any specific goals related to game design that I set out to achieve. Sure, there were several times in my life that I tinkered with game design and even constructed substantial prototypes, but I built those to play with friends or to train my mind. In December 2013 I decided that I was going to make an honest attempt at completing some of my game designs. By “completing” I meant making multiple thorough ideation-design-build-test iterations with the intent of developing a quality, marketable game. Having been supportive of several games on Kickstarter by that time, the power of possibility had grown enough that I was going to make the investment. By that time I had a couple new game ideas and one that I had iterated through 3 or 4 prototypes.

There are those who advise that without SMART goals, you have no hope of achieving anything. My one stated goal for 2014 as a game designer was to explore the possibility of being one – a year of discovery. Otherwise, I did not write down any specific SMART goals for 2014, but here are some goals (little “g”) and perceptions that I had and my progress on them:

Goal: Explore modern games and educate myself on game design. It had been a while since I had looked seriously at the art and science of game design. There are those who propose that knowing what everyone else has done will automatically result in a replication of what has been done. I have heard this from fiction and play writers as well. One in a million creators benefit from ignorance of what has been done before them. The other 999,999 are obvious novices.

  • I certainly explored many different games and their designs.
  • I categorized and decomposed every game I played or watch played. (Thank you Rodney.)
  • I sought out and listened to every podcast related to game design I could find.
  • I sought out and read several game design blogs and one book (others are in the queue).

Goal: Design some games. Develop some games.

  • Like most game players, I have no shortage of game design ideas.
  • Like most game designers, I have no shortage of game designs in process.
  • Like most game developers, I have no shortage of games in development.
  • Unlike successful game designers and developers, I don’t have anything “complete.”
  • I do have a few game designs that are ready to pitch and have prototypes that are functional, if not beautiful, and about a dozen others that are documented to a degree that they are ready to prototype.

Goal: Develop a personal game design process. Game design is a creative process which means that there are at least as many “right” ways of doing it as there are people doing it. There are also many more “wrong” ways of doing it. There are some general patterns for success, though. As a director of software development, I know several patterns that lead to success. Applying what I use for teams to a personal process and enforcing rigors that are usually ignored took effort.

  • I established a process that approaches to meet my mantra as a director: “Every desired artifact must be a natural product of the way you work.” This not only includes the product itself, but the documentation of the product, monitoring of production, reporting of status, refinement of the process, etc.
  • I continually revise and refine the process.

Goal: Explore the possibility of self-publishing and crowdfunding. At the time it appeared that the only way new game designers were getting their games published was through this option. I thought that I would have something worth Kickstarting in early 2015.

Goal: Establish a personal identity in game design circles. We can probably have a whole other discussion (and probably argument) over “establishing a personal brand,” but much of what is accomplished in game design is the product of a lively community. This is great if you are part of that community. The community appears to be a generally welcoming one, but as with becoming part of any group, it takes time and effort to establish trust.

  • Most advise to use your real name for everything online. This is great advice unless you have a very common name and 1) that name is not available in any forms, and 2) Googling that name results in 10 billion hits.
  • I started using a consistent identity Johnny Opie that is always used with my real name.
  • I started participating and contributing to the game design community wherever I saw opportunity to be a positive addition. One such forum is the Board Game Hour weekly meet-up hosted by The Minister of Board Games on Nurph.

Goal: Launch a brand and website related to game design.

  • I launched Opie Games and this website. If you really want to read more about Opie Games progress, then see the Opie Games 2014 Review and 2015 Preview.