September 2013 archive

JFDI

A couple of weeks ago, a guest article I wrote went live over on Games & Grub. The piece of it that seemed to really resonate with people was “Just decide”, so I thought I’d expand on what that means for me.

Learning to decide was honestly the hardest part of the game design process for me. Before the Tabletop Deathmatch came up, I’d had the idea for Cool Table for about a year – the theme, the name, everything. It’s not something I actively thought about, though, because it was missing mechanics. Or rather, I had some vague ideas, but because I didn’t know the details, I hesitated to actually get started. And yes, I’d playtested it before I entered the contest, but even those were lackluster, since I didn’t know what to do to fix it.

I kept waiting for inspiration to strike. I figured that if I just thought really hard about it, the rules would come to me fully-formed. Okay, so that’s not exactly true, but it’s close enough. Is a four-card hand not enough? Is a six-card hand too much? Should I build the economy based on trading, and then, how exactly would that work? HOW WOULD YOU EVEN KNOW?

I know, based on feedback I got, that I’m not the only one who had or has trouble with this. I have a few theories for why this is a stumbling block:

  • It’s easier to keep it locked up inside your head than to deal with actually playtesting your game
  • Deciding a zillion things is super-hard
  • I mean, what if you’re WRONG? 

Turns out, the solution is (relatively) easy. All you have to do is make a decision. Then, make another decision. Write your decisions down. Playtest them. Change your mind about some of them, and keep others. Start making decisions and write down your rules, as complete as you can get them. 

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No, you haven’t tested them yet, and that’s okay. Simply thinking about your ideas really hard isn’t going to lead to a solution. Putting your ideas on index cards and shoving them in front of people (ones who really care about you – this process isn’t always pretty) or even playing yourself is going to lead to a solution.

So go out there, write stuff down, and JFDI – just fudgin’ decide it!