Game Design: No Mercy

I’ve been working on Project Fishsticks lately.

Originally, it was a dice game. For the first playable version it was quite happy being a dice game, though it wasn’t yet good enough for my tastes. More work needed. So I added a couple of cards to make it easier to track things and offer some extra choices.

As the testing went on I added some more cards because the game clearly wanted them. Some tiles also became cards.

Before long the cards had taken over and the dice were looking decidedly unnecessary. They just stood in a corner, trying not to get in the way. I gave them an ultimatum: get useful, or get out…

Gold dice

Very bling, but they need to be useful as well as shiny. 

One thing that I’ve developed over the years is a willingness to let go of design elements that have outlived their usefulness. This is not how I started out. I used to be much more prone to keeping things in at all costs, and I will still fight hard to retain something if I think that it’s performing an important function. However, if it’s not tier 1 I can be sanguine about its loss.

Overall, the ability to stand back and see the bigger picture is a healthy and useful one for a creative person to cultivate. It’s well worth learning to ask yourself why you’re keen on keeping a feature that isn’t working when you notice yourself arguing for such a thing. There may be a good reason, but there’s often no more than nostalgia.

In my case, I put the game aside for a couple of days and then sat down again with a clear head and looked at what I had. Where would the dice could fit in what it was now? What it had been no longer mattered.

In the end, I came up with a much better way to use the dice, and they fit in very nicely now. Definitely worth keeping as a tool, even though the original mechanic they supported is nowhere to be seen (except in my notebooks).

No element of any creative project should be held above the whole. If it’s not working, either make it work or show it the door. Mercy is not a trait for creatives.

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2 Responses to Game Design: No Mercy

  1. tornquistd says:

    This part of the process can be the most satisfying and it seems experience really helps. You don’t start with something that is perfect and that is not the goal. When you go through the process of review and improvement of an idea you gain the experience even if the final result is not what you were looking for.

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