Monday, February 27

My Juices Are Flowing...

Creative juices that is, before you get any ideas.

Reiver Games, my previous games publishing effort was formed after I got into games design. After years writing tiny bits of computer games I was in the mood for doing something that I could start, work through and finish. I'd played Mighty Empires with some friends for a weekend (and I mean a weekend - we played for 36 hours over three days!). I thought I could create something similar that was a bit less random (I'd been wiped out in a dragon attack after 24 hours of play!) and that played a bit quicker. Border Reivers was the game I created in that vein. On the back of Border Reivers and the perceived success of it (I sold out of the 100 hand-made copies within a year) I was in the designing mood, I started probably five or ten new games ideas, all sorts: an abstract game, an empire game, a beach-combing game and card game about the development of York.

After a year or so, I had another game out, designed by another designer and it was selling much better than Border Reivers had. With a little distance I'd realised that Border Reivers wasn't as good as I'd originally thought. In fact, I was beginning to think it was pretty weak. I'd played it with a lot of people by that point, and some loved it, some liked it and some were distinctly unimpressed. I could see there were flaws in the design, but as both the designer and the publisher I had no distance. I'd not played many games by the time I'd finished Border Reivers: Carcassonne, The Settlers of Catan and Citadels, maybe a couple of others. As I played a wider range of games I got a better grip on what a good game was. At this point I was trying to position Reiver Games as an independent publisher, and I was receiving more and more submissions to publish. The quality of those submissions varied enormously and it was clear that some designers really struggled to understand just how unfinished their designs were. As an independent adjudicator, I could clearly see these games were weak, but as the designer they were too close, too invested in their designs to see the flaws.

Seeing this from the other side made me re-think my own designing. I was that designer too, too invested in my own games to see their weaknesses and flaws. I start to be much harsher on my games, equivocating, second-guessing myself and struggling to make any decisions. Aware of the flaws of Border Reivers and the problems a lack of impartially brought I stopped designing my own games, afraid I'd publish games of my own design, after blinding myself to their flaws. After It's Alive! I published Carpe Astra (with some design input from myself) and Sumeria, neither of which sold very well. As Reiver Games slowly crawled towards the grave I lost confidence in myself, even to choose other designers' games.

Needless to say, designing was far from my mind for all this time. Now, a year and a bit after I went back to work I'm in the mood again. I've got two different prototypes ready to go: Codename Vacuum a Steampunk/Sci-Fi deck-building and tableau driven game, and Proteome: The Drug Discovery Card Game, an idea that sprang into my head after a joke from one of the marketing team at work. What's next? I've a tile-laying game knocking around in my head too, themed around Lewis & Clark's exploration of the American west.

What I really need to do now is get playing them, so I can start the improvement/design/development process. I've a weekly games night that I don't really want to become all about the playtesting (as the games will be broken a lot of the time and not much fun to play), and there's a bi-weekly games club in Newcastle which I don't make it to very often. I'll be going to Beers and Pretzels in May, but before then I could do with a few playtesting nights to get the games into some sort of shape before showing them to the discerning public. I need to find some time in my busy schedule.


Juan said...

If you need foreigner playtester let me know :)

Would be nice to see where those juices take you.

Jack said...

Hiya Juan,

Once the games are in a reasonable state I will be looking for playtesters further afield - I'll give you a shout then - thanks for the offer.