About a year ago I completed my first game*, Deduction Name Game. Today, I’m revisiting my design to see what I’ve learned since then.
*Kind of…keep reading, you’ll see.
Deduction Name Game is a game that my wife, Anna, taught me many years ago. It’s a name memory game (which brought about my spectacular working title Namememory) that builds teams as player’s secret names begin to get guessed. The game ends when only one player’s secret name remains un-guessed, usually when two teams are going back and forth trying to remember each teams’ name.
It wasn’t my favorite game when I was taught it, but it is easy to play with big numbers, and is usually a good game to end the night on.
Since I learned it years ago, Anna and I have been slowly adjusting some of the rules, which I published last year. Now, I use the phrase “I published” with great hesitation. I didn’t create the original rules to this game, as it was taught to me as a “summer camp game.” While I did adjust some rules and tweak things based on my experiences with the game, I mainly published it due to the fact that I couldn’t find the rules online. I felt it was important to codify the rules somewhere – in particular the version we had come up with in our home.
What I Learned
If the goal is a free print and play game, becoming a published game designer is a very low bar. In fact, all I did was create a pdf with poor graphic design, and put it on the website. I was published!
I also added the game to BGG to see what that process would be like. While I did have to research how to accomplish some of the steps in order, the process was relatively straightforward. I put the game in their queue, they told me I did something wrong, I fixed it, I waited, and then it was added to their system. I added some images, some attributes, and now there’s an official listing!
Looking back at the process, there is quite a lot that I wish I would have improved on.
What To Improve Next Time
To keep this short, there are three main aspects I need to focus on improving for my next published game – rules, graphic design (and art), and marketing.
The rules to Deduction Name Game are not horrible, but they certainly are not great. Since then, I have written rules for other designs of mine. Rules writing is not easy! I need more practice at this.
Graphic Design and Art is also something I have really not much experience in, and certainly need to improve. Art may be something I will be looking to outsource in the future – which means paying more up front. But I’ve always believed that great art is essential to most great games, and can really set the mood. Good graphic design is also necessary. I do think it’s possible to create a clean rules set without much practice. Recently I was reading both Microscope RPG and Monster of the Week RPG. Both of these publications have fairly straightforward and simple Graphic Design – at least to my untrained eye. I think it’s doable for me to publish a reasonably clean looking rules pdf.
When it comes to marketing, Deduction Name Game was really a control case. I didn’t really do anything besides publishing the game and adding to to BGG. Without doing any promoting, my game was mentioned once in a blog post, and put on 3 different wish lists. The only person who has any plays is me, and I would be surprised if more than 10 real people have laid eyes on my game for more than 5 seconds. If, or when, I begin to design consumer games, I think this is an area I will truly need to spend my time and energy on.
Overall, I am happy I was able to accomplish one of my design goals so early in the year last year. The end product is not as polished as I would like, but the next time I begin creating a final version of a game, I know where to spend my energy to improve.