Design Workshop Wrapup 3/15/14

by Loren Norman on Sunday, March 16, 2014

Game Design Workshop

We had a great time with a small group at today's workshop. Here's a quick brain dump of the activities we did in order...

Abstract Inspiration

An addictive little web game came across my radar this week: 2048. I played through a round or two of it while I should've been working, and it struck me that the mechanics were simple enough to replicate by hand, so at the beginning of the workshop, I worked up a quick paper prototype:

2048 paper prototype

Explaining how this worked to Dave, he interrupted me to show me the app that inspired this game, Threes! (apparently Dave actually plays this frequently throughout the day; and I thought I had productivity issues!) Threes! too could be easily mocked up on paper, but why would you do it?

I immediately imagine multiple players taking turns on the same game board. Going in turns and keeping score already adds some strategy. What if...

  • the players control the random item that enters after each move?
  • the players are constrained to a hand of "direction" cards to move with?
  • "match and combine" aren't the only interactions between tiles?
  • the tiles aren't number-based at all, but utilize some new symbolism?
  • the tiles are "owned" by a player?

It potentially gets interesting fast. I mocked up a quick rock, paper, scissors style game (but of course using Soldiers, Archers, and Knights because I miss Warsong):

Military 2048


Working titles are always changing, but before now we referred to this game as "Secret Society High School". Its lead designer, Chanse, is planning it as the first in a 3-game series that follows the exploits of those who would control human existence from behind the scenes.

Of course we start in high school, where the boundaries between social groups are stereotypically tangible. Each player takes up the mantle as leader of one of the usual high school cliques: jocks, nerds, weirdos, rich kids, etc. Each faction has its own special abilities and initial popularity rating.

You'll use your followers to sneak around the school, gathering the materials for mischievous plots that will help garner the popularity you oh-so-dearly desire -- née need. But watch out for the Hall Monitors! They meander the halls, making it more difficult for popular kids to get their plots hatched. Wily rivals can also tip them off and have them shake you down for particular items of contraband, getting your follower a stay in detention!

Cliques by Chanse Horton

Today's playtest involved many new rules (most of what you just read above), but went rather well. I commanded my Nerds to the Principal's Office, where they deftly lifted an administrative password for use in the Computer Lab. There I hatched a hilarious plot, changing all the faculty's screen savers to compromising photos of them in their own high school days.

Dave's Weirdos were a bit more ruthless. They produced a bottle, some electronics, and gasoline to rig up a freaking carbomb. "Yes, someone actually died", said Dave, triumphant. Chanse chimed in to let us know that this was actually expected. The juxtaposition of high school kids doing actual intense mafia-esque things was part of the flavor. (The excellent movie Brick comes to mind.)

Flip the Script: Instruction Manual

We didn't spend long on it, but I presented my recently compiled instruction manual for our first game to hit beta: Flip the Script!

Writing an instruction manual yourself? Keep this outline in mind:

  1. Introduction and flavor
  2. Materials manifest, descriptions of each if necessary
  3. Setup
  4. Procession of Play
  5. Game End
  6. Credits

The game is still undergoing final polish, but if you'd like to take a look at the instructions now we've opened the document up to the public for reading.

Epic Design

Finally, we ended the day with a few rounds of the Epic TCG. Dave knows the designers well and was playtesting it at an early stage, and he wanted to bring it to our attention for its design sensibilities.

I was shocked to see how well balanced it was despite having drastically powerful swings. Dave played a 30/30 champion on the very first turn!

Alright that about wraps it up, see you next week!

  • Loren

Leave a Comment

Oil and rope logo

New Here?

The very best stuff from Oil & Rope at your fingertips.

  1. Design Games not Graphics
  2. SO you want to game with your S.O.?
  3. Game Prototyping Tip: Cheap Resource Cubes
  4. Tech Talk at Big Nerd Ranch

...and you'll find more to read in each article.