When I started this journey, I had never considered how hard it would be to commit to a game choice.
In the end, I decided to use a checklist of 10 attributes a first-time indie game should have.
But more on that in a minute…
At first, I thought I had the perfect game in my head. I had spent days documenting the rules and thinking of every nuance – only to discover that it lacked a couple of important factors.
Firstly, the game quickly became too predictable (and boring). The replayability was surprisingly low. Once I discovered this, I realized that I didn’t want to spend a year writing a game that would only be played a few times.
In an attempt to mitigate this problem, I started introducing new factors and playing around with the scoring mechanism. However, it only made the game more complicated. As the game became more complicated on paper, it was certainly going to be much harder to code.
The second problem I discovered was how well it would translate to a computer screen.
My game design involved lots of dice and card movements per turn. On the screen, this would require too many mouse (or keyboard) movements that would quickly take away the fun factor and significantly slow the game flow.
In an effort to try and improve the mechanics and to make the game have better longevity, I started to look at the games on GameBoardGeek, Print and Play, and Kickstarter for ideas.
Just like Alice in Wonderland, I quickly disappeared down the rabbit hole.
There were so many ideas – so many genres – so many mechanics!
After spending days looking at games, I decided I needed to gather my thoughts and to put together a plan.
It was apparent that I needed to create a set of rules that would help me re-design my game.
Rule 1 – Highly replayable. Without a doubt, this is my number one priority. Having a random factor during setup or gameplay (eg cards, mapping, or scenario) has to be front-of-mind. The game has to be different every time it is played.
Rule 2 – Clear and simple rules. The rules had to be easy to understand. I didn’t want to create a game that requires more than five or ten minutes to get the hang of. It can’t have rules that change as you move through the game.
Anything with technology trees or reference tables would be out of the question. Lots of game phases would also require special consideration.
Rule 3 – Strategy With that said, the game has to require the player to think about their moves.
I don’t want to create a game where you mindlessly click a button or throw out cards or dice. If the game is going to work well on a computer, moves need to take more than a couple of seconds to decide.
Rule 4 – 30 to 90 minutes The perfect game needs to take between 30 and 90 minutes to complete. As long as the game is highly replayable and addictive, I don’t think a short game would be an issue.
Rule 5 – A genre I am interested in This is probably one of the easiest things to decide. A dungeon crawl, a (fictional) military battle, or a head to head fight to the death.
Rule 6 – A reusable engine Making a reusable engine would be the perfect outcome. Once the first game is finished, being able to release a series of themes or theatres would be a huge bonus.
For example, a head-to-head battle could be set in space, WW1 or WW2, ancient times or a couple of old wizards fighting to the death. As long as I get the game mechanic right, the imagery and story could be swapped to give the game longevity.
Rule 7 – Single-player or solo option Even if the final game requires multiple players, the game must also support solo play. Not only does this make the game attractive on gaming platforms, but it also means that I can create something I will enjoy when it is all finished – even if no-one else ever wants to play.
Rule 8 – It has to be a card, dice, or small board game (or combination). If I ever get to make it into a physical game, I really wanted something that I could easily make and deliver in a small box. I wanted something you could throw in your bag and play at a moment’s notice.
Rule 9 – No threaded story My thoughts are that anything that tells a story will quickly become old. (especially with short games) Once the story is told, the only way to make it interesting is to introduce randomness or the ability to challenge yourself to improve your score on future playthroughs.
Rule 10 – Multiple difficulties or leveling Once you get good at a game, it would be ideal if the difficulty level could change to make it more challenging. This could be by introducing extra rules, taking away options, or introducing new items. As the game proceeds, leveling should be introduced to make the game harder (until you eventually die or fail)