Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Design Brunches and Collaborative Creation

Some of you may be aware that my local gaming community hosts semi-regular game design brunches. We basically get together on a Sunday and chat about game design, and everyone brings a problem with them if they have it, and we'll discuss things, do rapid playtesting, try out designs, bring prototypes, and all of that. I've discussed them before, but I want to delve a little more into some of the stuff I find valuable.

The first thing is that we have a wide variety of experience levels, backgrounds, and types of expertise in the group. I, for example, am mostly a writer and player (aside from now designing), with experience playing more traditional games as well as story games. Stras is an ace playtester, a designer, and has tons of experience with trad and story games alike. He also has a lot of technical knowledge and baseline design knowledge that I don't have. John, on the other hand, is our graphics genius, and is a really good designer, with traditional experience and the same level of story games experience as me - however, both he and Stras have GM'd WAY more than me. Paul is a designer (the only one paid-published of us, I think) and writer, with a ton of trad experience and story game experience, and one of his biggest points of value (imo) is that he plays with games that most of us have not or don't anymore (like GURPs and Gumshoe). Marc is almost exclusively traditional/OSR, and has a great mind for math, and is a designer who does most of his own writing. Rachel is mostly a player, but offers a unique perspective, is a great storyteller, and provides us with a good sounding board. Jeff and Heather both have traditional and story game experience, and both offer a good player perspective. Nick, who just started coming, is a really fantastic designer and writer with a lot of experience developing his own games.

I don't think I'm forgetting anyone! I hope not.  

Reading that, I think most people can see how we'd have a huge variety of input and different perspectives at every brunch, even if some people can't make it. We also have a good group that gets along pretty well.

It's awesome. It allows us a lot of opportunities to find flaws in design, or just redirect design that seems to be going away from its purpose. We also can focus on a variety of things: writing, graphics, technique, development, and prototyping.

This week, we playtested Nick's Medical Bay 3 creation, evaluated Tabletop Blockbuster playsheets, discussed Stras's Calamity Engine (super excited about that) and looked at his art inspiration for another project he's working on, and had a long discussion about scenarios for Clash. All in a few hours! (We also talked about Patreons, Creative Commons, power dynamics in the indie RPG industry, and gatekeeping.)

The conversation about Clash was really interesting for me. One of my first scenarios is based on Romeo and Juliet and written by Stras, and I am planning on doing a couple more in the main book with some as stretch goals if/when we crowdfund. I have some great creators in mind and a few already signed up. I am hoping to make this a successful product, and I think scenarios are essential to doing that.

Anyway, one of the coolest things about this is that with all of this variety in input, we have managed to create things by collaborating. Clash would not be where it is without the input of the group, nor would Tabletop Blockbuster. I know that we have put a lot of input into Stras's Hexes and Eights (which you should check out, btw). We also often run into solving problems for each other - I've written monsters for Marc's Paramount, while John has created character sheets, free-to-use dice icons, and other such things for the group. The others have contributed so many things, it's impossible to list them all.

We've had some shakeups in people's availability so we might have to start working around an occasional design dinner but I am hoping we can keep this up. I think it's really valuable.

Do you discuss design with your group? Do you have any regular get-togethers?

Do you find you design better alone, or with outside input?