3 weeks ago I started Kickstarter campaign. This is a book with collection of best articles from this blog + few more written for the book (exclusive content, yay!).
It was planned as a small campaign for most dedicated readers of my blog. I needed 1000 bucks to have this book printed in a small print run. I planned to make happy… me and 50 backers. That was my dream – have a book with my articles about game design.
Soon after it turned out that there is much more readers here than I could ever expect…
In 3 weeks I have nearly 10 000 USD gathered. Campaign is heading to have 400 backers. Because of stretch goals achieved I have honor to have my idols as a guests in the book – great designers like Bruno Cathala, Antoine Bauza, Vlaada Chvatil, Geoff Engelstein, Mike Selinker, Seiji Kanai… All joined me to create amazing book with stories about game design.
Kickstarter has slogan that says 'Funding the dream.’
I want to say it very clearly – I could never ever dream about what just happened. This campaign went far beyond my imagination could ever go. I am publishing a book with best designers on this planet.
Because of your support.
I can not tell you how much I appreciate it. Thank you so so much.
When I am done with silent tester, prototype has its foundations ready. I am more or less satisfied with the prototype. It is time to play with new breed of testers – brilliant idea testers.
You need guys who have many ideas. They will try to change your prototype into game they would like. You give them a prototype and you watch what they suggest. I prefer to work with silent testers, but yes, there is this moment, when you need those guys. They will overflow you with their 'brilliant’ ideas.
’It would be cool if in my turn I could do…’
’Hey, what do you think if you add one more…’
’You know, I am missing in your game one element you could change…’
I hate it. But this is important part.
They give you ideas, but remember – you have your foundations. You have your armor – ideasproof prototype of the game. You know which of tester’s ideas won’t work for you. And once a while there will be idea suggested that really works. You take it. You improve your prototype. You say 'Thank you’ to the tester.
All the other ideas… discard them with no mercy.
Never sit with guys who have their own ideas and who love to share them before you are ready to do that. If you don’t have foundation ready, you will be like a flag – you will change your game with every suggestion of tester. This is bad. You will change, and change and change and not move forward.
Have a base.
Then listen to suggestions.
Discard most of them.
Use few – only those which work with the base.
First silent tester.
Then brilliant idea tester.
Then crazy tester. I will cover crazy testers next week.
Suddenly doors in my office opens and Ryu runs into. 'Did you see?’
’What?’ I ask.
’New game from Rosenberg is broken!’
’Bullshit.’ I say. Everybody knows Uve has an army of trusted testers and his games are always perfectly balanced.
’No, really! You check BGG!’ he says and goes back to his office.
Uve’s game has a small problem, as players pointed. Other Essen release, Cornish Smuggled has a bigger problem, as players pointed right after few plays. In next few weeks probably more games will have a smaller or bigger problem.
Every year I publish a game, I ask myself that questions. 'Did I tested it enough? Is there a winning strategy I haven’t found? Is there a smart ass somewhere out there who will play my game and find a hole in the rules, exploit it and create winning combo?’
I fear it every single year…
If you listen to interviews with designers who give advices for young authors, most of them, really, most of them say: Test your games. Test them and test them and then test them again.
But not too many of designers tell you how exactly you should test your games. Because, you know, testing is not just playing. It is something much more difficult. If you play your prototype and you think you are actually testing it, you are wrong.
In few short articles I’d like to share my experience about this process. I hope you find it useful.
First of all, I have my testers divided into few very important groups. Depending on the stage of prototype I need different feedback. Some testers are better in one type of feedback, other are better in different feedback.
It took me a while to get to know all those players I have, fellow gamers who wants to spend time playing my prototypes and help me here. I categorized them, I have them in different baskets and I invite people from particular basket depending on what I need at this particular moment.
So my first message – you don’t test with random people. You don’t test with just a bunch of gamers. You pick right people.
Because testing is work.
Because testing is not just playing.
Because you don’t need just players.
You need people to do a work for you.
You need to choose right people to do this work.
My Merry is a silent tester. I’d say it is most important type of tester, but let’s face it – each of those types is as much important, right?
Silent tester just plays. He is like living flower, he just sits, plays, and say nothing.
He doesn’t share his brilliant ideas.
He doesn’t suggest you anything.
He doesn’t comment the gameplay.
He doesn’t ask questions.
And he patiently accepts all changes in the gameplay you introduce in the middle of the game.
You began the game with 1 coin worth 1 VP, in the middle you change it into 2 VP, and later on you decide that coins doesn’t give any VP.
That’s fine. No problem for him. Silent tester just plays. He is fine with everything you came up. He sits and plays.
You need silent player at the beginning. Prototype doesn’t work, and you know that. Everything is a mess, and you know that. Game doesn’t make a sense yet, and you know that.
You don’t need tester to tell you all of that.
You need tester to shut his bloody mouth and just play with you.
It is hard to find silent tester. It is hard to find flexible player who accepts that game changes three times during 30 minutes, and yet he just shut up and plays. Flexible player who can improvise and follow you like a shadow, with patience. With lots of patience.
Yes, I have such a treasure at home.
Lucky bastard, I am.
Essen, the most important event in board games hobby is done. This is the event you can not ignore. This is the fair where you have to be. This is the release date you can’t miss.
Let me tell you about my every year calendar…
In February many publishers meet at Nurnberg fair and show new games and talk about plans for end of the year. This is beginning of the year, we are all excited about our new ideas and prototypes. Great time.
But months slowly pass…
In May many publishers and authors meet at Alan R. Moon Gathering of Friends (US) or at Bruno’s Faidutti Gathering of Friends (Europe) and play and test prototypes. This is much different story than Nurnberg – prototypes are almost ready, final tunning takes place.
Last year I didn’t go to Bruno’s gathering because my Robinson was all in blood after play-testing with Vlaada. I had to work very hard and very fast to meet deadlines…
May is not fun. May is lot of work and stress. Every single day you see that you have a few last weeks of testing and that’s it. You need to finish the game!
You play every day. Like crazy. June and July are so damn close…
So months pass…
Average manufacturer needs about 6-8 weeks to produce the game. That means you need to send files to print in August, so the game is produced in September and is ready for October (Essen).
July is not holiday time if you work in gaming industry. July is 100% opposite of the holiday time. July is a hell.
That is why I spent my holiday at Hungary working very hard on Beagle with my Merry mad at me every single day.
That is why I was kicking Mateusz Bielski (illustrations for Legacy) so hard that my leg hurt.
That is why Michal Oracz was nearly living at Portal’s office with finishing works for Theseus.
July is the moment of the year, when you literally hate your beloved hobby. Stress, bad tension, much too much work to do and deadlines that are so close, that you can not sleep without nightmares.
July and August pass like a blink…
End of holiday season. Either you have your files in print already, either you are begging manufacturer to do some miracle work and deliver the game even though you failed with schedule of sending files…
This is the month when you do some final things, but basically it is all too late. Every single day you are closer to Essen. It is too late to do anything about it. Either your game is at manufacturer, either you missed Essen…
When manufacturer calls, you have heart attack. And they call every single day. Few times a day.
’There is problem with your board file’
’Your font lost Polish symbols’
’Your insert is too big, components doesn’t fit.’
’We think cover is too dark, you better see that.’
Every single day new problem arises. And you have no time, no space, no chance to react the way you want. You react the way you can, but let’s face it – you have not too many options at this stage…
Essen fair. If you were lucky.
2009, Stronghold. First copy of Stronghold I saw, was copy that was sent directly to Essen. We were so damn close to miss the fair. It arrived to Essen on Wednesday, day 0.
2011, Pret-a-Porter. First copy of the game I got into my hands was copy that arrived to Essen on Thursday morning, day 1 of Essen. It arrived 2 hours before opening the gates for visitors. Never before I was so close to miss the fair with my release.
2012, Robinson Crusoe. First copy of the game I got into my hands on Wednesday, day 0. Once again, so damn close to disaster.
Whole October you just wait and just pray…
Essen is done. Tension, stress, huge emotions faded away. Now I have holidays. Now I can do all that stuff I couldn’t do in July. Read books, watch movies, play computer games… Yes, board games too. I brought from Essen 27 games…
Guess, what I am going to do for the next 8 weeks…
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