Thursday, March 1

Proteome: A Designer for Hire?

As I've mentioned recently, I've started designing a second game: Proteome: The Drug Discovery Card Game. I've mentioned before that I got the idea after a joke from the marketing department at work. We were discussing my games designing past and Beth mentioned that I should make a game for our company to giveaway at scientific conferences that we attend. We all had a laugh about it, but it sparked an idea in my head.

To make a game professionally, you need to make 500 copies at a bare minimum - 1,000 is a more realistic number. Making a board game, with several components, a board, cards wooden pieces, etc. is not cheap. A small run - 1,000 copies or so could be very expensive - £15 or more a copy, which would mean a £15,000 outlay. Clearly a lot to be spending on conference giveaways. The next morning, in the shower I had an idea for a card game that fit the bill. A card game is that much cheaper to manufacture - plus easier to pocket as you wander the convention trade show.

If the game is to be given away at conferences the audience is not going to be hardcore gamers, there might be a few gamers in attendance, but it'll be almost entirely people who've played nothing but Monopoly and Cluedo. The audience will be smart, but not into complicated games. Of course, being me I don't want to produce something rubbish that I'd be ashamed of if a hardcore gamer saw it - I'm looking for a fairly simple filler that is engaging and appropriately themed. Appropriately themed in this case means collecting and publishing data on proteins that could be a target for a new drug, while robustly refuting the discoveries of your competition.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be a good idea - both the game concept and the giveaway idea. So over the last couple of weeks I knocked up a prototype for my game idea, and took it to work (where I dropped it on the desk of Paddy, a vocal encourager, and said 'Done!'). We played it this week and it's not there yet, but the basic idea works. It's too complicated (a perennial problem with early prototypes of mine!) and could do with simplification, but there's something there. It gathered quite a lot of interest while we were playing it during lunch in the office :).

Marketing seem to be taking the idea of a game as a giveaway quite seriously. Who'd have thought that I'd stop working in games, go back to work and then still get to do games design as part of my day job? Of course, even if I can get the game finished there's no guarantee that management will go for the idea, so it may all come to naught. But it's fun while the idea is still a possibility.