Tuesday, April 05, 2011


I fatigue easily on a design. Part of it is that I don't really have a nice continual stream of playtesting. And so, as a game gets fudged this way and that, a new design experiment comes along that captures my attention like a moth to a flame. At which point the old design gets scuttled own the shiny new design....which winds up getting scuttled for something newer.

Strangely, I do have a relatively nice stream of play testing ability more than most. But we only meet for every other week, and typically only two games get to the table. So I maybe get only one playtest a month or so out of a game in order to try and make sure everyone gets a chance to be in the spotlight.

And so, My Little Vineyard continues apace, with a new change every month or so. The link off to the right there is really old and moldy...the link on boardgamegeek is about 1.5 versions behind. But I had thought I was coming close to actually finishing it. Really close. Everyone in the group seemed to like it (which is surprising given the wide array of tastes in games). And so, I figured the last playtest would be strong with just a couple of tweaks to points and such.

And I was wrong.

Maybe because people have become familiar with the game now, they are now able to see some issues that weren't there before. Not that this is bad...just discouraging as it seemed the finish line was close. Fatigue is really settling in with this game at this point, as these probably 3 other projects I have a great desire to work on at this point, and that "1 play test per month" is valuable, indeed.

The biggest issue was where one of the players felt helpless after realizing that the action he had taken three turns ago was a poor one, and now that he had realized it, felt there was no way to rebound from it and catch up to the rest of the players. This bothered me quite a bit the more I thought about it. If you make an obvious bad play in most games, you get "penalized" for it and learn from it and move on.

It left me wondering if the obvious bad play wasn't obscured enough; I've been playing Agricola some lately, and one of the comments that comes from that game seems to be along the lines of "I lost again! And I don't know how."

Anyway, this lead to a fairly interesting discussion of fixes for the game, which would seem to complicate things further. Additionally, the fatigue that had worn on in the design of the project I could now see stretching further out down many more months. Granted, these aren't working man-months; really just an hour or so here and there in between playing. But still, the real-time length to completion is painful indeed.

As things usually happen, over the weekend I spent some time digesting the comments, and trying to come up with solutions. What I've noticed is that a lot of my project usually wind up with me adding more and more things to them, then near the end, a great purging happens; suddenly there's a realization that a lot of those things aren't needed, and removed. And that is what is happened on this next revision of the game. I think the game will be better for it, and it addresses the issues that were brought up.

And hopefully I can move on to something else soon. Strangely, while I think that this is probably my most commercial-ready design, it is also somewhat less appealing to me than other designs which are a bit more experimental. And that's what I'm missing playing around with.

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Blogger Seth Jaffee said...

I think that's where it's handy to have a co-designer. When fatigue sets in, it probably doesn't set in for both co-designers at the same time, and one designer can spur a design back to life when the other has burnt out on it.

1:15 PM  

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