Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Design Workshop: Is Game Blogging Good Preparation for Game Design?

I’ve long wondered why I so highly prize session reports. They are not usually the most popular posts. And other people’s session reports, well… honestly, I can’t understand a lot of them. If I am unfamiliar with the system or the genre I often can’t understand what it was that made it so compelling at the game table. But the thing about those session reports… even if I don’t read them they are almost always a sign that the writer will have something insightful to say when he editorializes in other posts. I think the reason for this is that they are so much more likely to speak to problems that come up in actual play. Given that, I have hypothesized lately that game blogging might be good preparation for designing games. Reading through Lewis Pulsipher’s game design blog, I quickly turned up a solid lead on getting more insight into that. Check out the headings in the post, “things to watch for when playtesting.”

Is the game balanced — When Earlburt and I started playing Car Wars together, we soon found out that I had an unfair advantage if vehicle design was involved while he had an unfair advantage if unusual rules and situations were incorporated into a scenario. Our 2029 campaign was designed from the ground up to create a large series of games where neither one of us had an advantage. Also… a whole series of games were planned in advance so we wouldn’t be tempted to negotiate a scenario favorable for our personal styles of play!

Rules difficult to grasp — Oh my. If there is something about a game that is hard to explain or that is easy to mess up in the first sessions, that is instant blog fodder every time!

What do players tend to forget — Here’s another one. Earlburt and I had played dozens of games, but a cover-to-cover readthrough of the rules revealed several things that we were still overlooking. Some of them had pretty significant impacts on gameplay, too. Complex games like Car Wars, BattleTech, and Star Fleet Battles are always going to be like that… but odd corners of many role playing games that are often misunderstood or misapplied is also good game blog material.

So yeah… most all of the points that Lew brought up in his post are going to be intimately familiar to any serious game blogger– especially, I think, if they do a lot of session reports or play one particular game in depth instead of getting caught up in the cult of the new. Game blogging is almost indistinguishable from playtesting. That’s the tail end of the game design process, though. Thinking this through, I realize that though I’ve played games all my life and while I think I can hold my own in any sort of playtesting situation… I don’t know beans about the early stages of developing an all-new game design.

—–

Your move: have you written a post or two that illustrates one of Lewis Pulsipher’s “things to watch for when playtesting?” If so, please drop a link in the comments.

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4 responses to “Design Workshop: Is Game Blogging Good Preparation for Game Design?

  1. Douglas Cole March 27, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I think my mix of play report and design gripe about dodging lasers, or any other fast projectile weapon, in GURPS probably qualifies.

    • jeffro March 27, 2013 at 7:55 am

      I’d file that under Player interest/”fun”— if the players are saying “no frackin’ way” about something, then they’ll end up house ruling your game anyway. This point is going to be critical in any sort of simulation type game.

      • Jason Packer March 27, 2013 at 10:47 am

        And something to note – sometimes they’ll “house rule by omission” if you follow me – the rule is complex enough to be considered complicated, and therefore conveniently forgotten.

  2. morrisonmp March 28, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    I’m going to have to agree with you on this. I’ve written two games from scratch and worked on a few others to a “playable” point. I’ve also been a playtester. What I’ve learned from my experiences is that it’s a real struggle on the front end. Once the basics are down it’s not always so hard to edit and revise but it can feel impossible to get the basics into a shape you would even consider letting another human being read – much less play – and I have no end of admiration for those who are capable of producing their own games with confidence and quality.

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