I believe to be vital to any good game's design to create with the player's feelings in mind. Without that aim, you are merely just conjuring tasks for players to do until a win condition is met. Don't misunderstand; this could be fun and seen as a good time, but there's no way to create a unique user experience using this method. Games designed in this manner are usually designed with two or three games in mind, which makes sense. In the back of the designer's mind, they are attempting to recapture the fun they had with one game, but mashing that game together with a couple of others, in their head, should create an enjoyable and exciting time akin to what they had previously experienced. It makes sense because without designing with the player's feelings in mind, the only way to develop a good game's resemblance is to copy. Designing with feeling is complicated and tricky to do. Still, today I'm going to share the steps I take in the early stages of any concept to ensure that I have a goal to aim for, which helps me create the same player experience that I want.
I had begun my board game development journey when I started my game design course at the University of Huddersfield in September of 2017. Though as I first started to attend classes and work towards my degree, I didn't know this. I thought I was learning the trade, getting foundational skills that could set me on the right track for a game development career, something which I had always wanted to do. I thought getting a degree was something I needed to do BEFORE I started game development, but I was wrong.
In my first year, Dr Daryl Marples, my tutor for my concept development course, set us on the task of making a board game. To be clear, the degree that I am taking is mainly a digital game development degree, meaning video games. This assignment was to teach us the fundamentals of game design, to show us that the structure and skeleton of games, whether they be on the television or tabletop, is vital to creating a meaningful experience for the player. This assignment is when my game development journey truly began.
To get a quick primer on what Blockers: The Stacking Game is, please check out the Kickstarter page here, in which you can watch the gameplay trailer, and read some review quotes like this one.
Despite having already published Blockers: The Stacking Game, I have decided that the project warrants it own development blog post or two. Partly because I can be a little more wordy in one of these than on the more visual showcase pages on the site, but also because the journey isn't quite over yet. The manufacturing process for the units have finished and they are on their way over from China to the UK, but once they are here, there is the initial distribution of the units ordered by Kickstarter backers. Not only that, but I would also like to document my journey into getting copies on Amazon, in board game cafes, and selling them at conventions, as I think that could be interesting to learn from as a reader of this blog post. Anyway, now onto a comprehensive overview of Blockers: The Stacking Game, and the development journey thereof.
Blockers: The Stacking Game was my first endeavour into board game design, development and publishing. It was initially created as apart of a university assignment for my concept development module. It was met with great success among my peers in the classroom, when we would have playtesting sessions, once or twice there would be a line to play my game, and when the current player's turn had finished, they would make haste to the back of the line raring to go for another round. Near the end of the calendar year in 2018, my tutor for concept development suggested to me that it might be an idea to look into the cost of manufacturing the game... so that's what I did.
It's safe to say that the first campaign did not go well. It launched in late March of 2019, and ended 60 days later, only achieving about 25% of it's total goal needed. This was a due to a mixture of a lot of things, but primarily, this was a great lesson in how to, and how to not market your game. Due to my lack of experience, coupled with my gung-ho attitude aided by my tutor's ambition for the project, I hadn't properly prepared the brand or project ready for a Kickstarter release.
However, nine months, a complete visual redesign, 13 reviews, 2 conventions and an award for best board game design later, Blockers: The Stacking Game Relaunched on Kickstarter, and was successful, being overfunded by 10%.
As you can see in this image, the visual aspect of the design went through a whole heap of iterations (some of which aren't pictured). This was due to a number of different reasons, but the two main ones were regarding how modern the game looked (or more accurately, how it didn't look modern) and gameplay problems with regards to colourblind players.
The modern design was slowly resolved over time, it took a lot of iteration and a lot of throwing ideas at the wall to see what stuck. I am not a visual designer by trade, and it has been an aspect of my development journey that has been a constant hurdle, but something I have more recently begun to enjoy tackling, and I believe you can see that in, for example, my Food Time Battle in Space concept.
The honest reason why the colourblindness issue with the blocks and the cards wasn't fixed sooner, was purely down to costs. However, I made the decision that it would be more beneficial for the game to be as accessible as possible. The solution was simple enough, identify the most likely "problem" blocks, and add a pattern to them. The image above is an image sent by the manufacturers, as the blocks have just been freshly sealed, ready for boxing.
Speaking of, the manufacturing process has been very slick and smooth from my end, and it looks like from their end too. I have been receiving constant updates from them, all of which have been very professionally handled (which can be a rarity in the board game industry). Here's and image of the box.
Just to compare, these are some of the original designs for the box art.
To conclude... for now.
I've realised that I have sort of rambled on a bit for this blog post, but I think for people that are interested in the project, as well as just looking at developers original projects in general, they may find something interesting in this.
Thanks for reading, and hopefully I will have an update on shipping and conventions for 2021 in the next post.
Hello, my name is Niall Crabtree, and this is my comprehensive blog showcasing all of my game development
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