Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

On Development

This is an idea I’ve been infected with for some time now, and while I’ve talked about it with Ryan, Rich’s question about it here makes me realize I should unpack it a bit.

GMT Games, which publishes some of my historical war games, has process they follow for producing games, and I’ve stolen most of this idea from them. They don’t have any in-house designers; everyone except the warehouse staff and a few marketing-role folks are freelance. Designers will approach them with prototypes to see if they want to publish the game. If they do, they assign a developer, who is responsible for working with the designer, the art director, and anyone else necessary to deliver the final component specs to the printer. In a very real sense, the developer is responsible for turning the design into a game.

So what happens during development? Well, there’s already been playtesting done to the prototype, and the core design is solid (otherwise GMT wouldn’t have taken it on), but further playtesting takes place during the development phase to iron out ambiguities in the rules text. In some cases, parts of the design are streamlined or eliminated to make the game play faster or reduce complexity. Art is acquired. Component lists are finalized (and game play is potentially changed because of component cost). The game is distilled from idea to product.

How is this relevant to what we do? I think we need to be mindful of an intermediate stage between design and publication. Designing is where you hash out those big ideas and figure out what the game is about and how it works. Publishing is where you finally print, market, and sell the thing. There’s a lot of ground in between those two, and what I’m doing right now is a distinct activity from either of those points.

I will note that if you’re not planning on publishing your game (by which I mean charge people money for it), development isn’t as necessary.

I used to work for a software company that I described this way: “We build great technology, but we make terrible products.” In the gaming world, I see development as the process by which we bridge that gap.


April 10, 2008 - Posted by | General Advice & Thoughts

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