Pace yourself. Your game is young, and it does not have long legs.
I am going to get straight to the point with this article. When you design a game it’s a lot of fun. I mean the actual thinking about the theme, mechanics, flavor, balance, components, and everything in the concept stage is a huge blast. I love it. It’s my favorite part. I suspect anyone who has ever designed more than one game would agree. Sure, play testing is a lot of fun, one would hope, but for me the creative process is plainly put, the best.
OK, I completely failed to get straight to the point. I paced myself in getting to the point, and now with the clumsiest segue ever I say “in game design taking your time a good thing.” For me this is one of those lessons learned type of things. As I’ve mentioned before, with Prophecies: In the Shadow of the Titan I was really lucky in that the game has barely changed since the first time it hit the table. It just played well, and was really balanced. The only thing was it didn’t have a ton of content, so being very excited that things were going so well I started making tons of new heroes, cards, Titans, and anything else that could expand the game. It was a blast coming up with all of these new pieces that could alter the game in so many interesting ways. I then began to play test with all of the new additions. At first everything was fine, but then.
I’ll do a quick montage of what happened. I’ll let you choose the music for this montage, but I suggest something from the Karate Kid. It starts with a scene of me playing the game with others everyone is having fun, but then things go a little funny in final scoring. Another scene of the same. Another scene of the same, and I’m starting to look frustrated. People are having fun, but still the scores aren’t where they should be. Another scene, and things are OK, but then the final scene shows a weird final score, and I have this look of confusion. I think that was the anti-training montage actually. Maybe the Karate Kid was the wrong sound track to use.
It took me a half a dozen plays to realize what had happened. I introduced too much too fast. To test this I played Addictive Alchemy roughly 20 times before I tweaked it. After that I tweaked one card. I played it another half a dozen times, then tweaked a second card. Now only after about 50 plays have I come up with a new set of expansion cards. I’m purposely making it only 6 or so new cards, and things are progressing a lot more smoothly with this paced approached.
I’m not saying it’s still not tempting to make a ton of new cards for the game. Especially when play testers keep asking me when they can buy a copy of the game. Addictive Alchemy has over 100 cards I’ve written down in a spreadsheet that could expand it. I’m just now resisting the urge to bring them into the wild until I have more data. The best part is that data helps me refactor those 100+ cards in my spreadsheet, so when the time comes to introduce them I already have a better sense of their impact on the game.
Giving my game time to grow more slowly has actually allowed me to bring it to maturity a lot more quickly. So remember your game just needs time to catch up because when it’s young it has tiny legs.