My friend Brian came by yesterday evening to test out a board game I’m toying with. It went pretty well, all things considered (which is to say it successfully illustrated several ways in which I failed dismally), but it reminded why it’s so easy for a game design project to bog down.
It’s easy to design a game — logistically, anyway. All I need is my brain and something to write on. I may need to spend some quality time crunching numbers, but that’s a process that I can fit into my life without too much difficulty. To playtest, however, is another process entirely. I have to find someone interested in playing a game that is, as I like to put it, “not guaranteed to be in any way fun”; we need to find an adequate slice of time that is available for both of us; we need to avoid the temptation to gab on about whatever comes to mind.
And when all is said and done, all that’s accomplished is a handful of data points. With card games, an evening usually gets two or three sessions in; last night we didn’t even finish a full play-through. This is OK for a first prototype, as even a partial play-through reveals all sorts of stuff that needs to be tinkered with that will change the gameplay pretty radically, but as you move closer to a final version, it’s damn hard to get in enough play hours to really put a design through its paces.