The Inquisitive Meeple just posted a very long interview with me over here. We cover a LOT of territory there, including graphic design, getting started in the game design craft, and the false binary choice of print-on-demand vs. traditional publishing. Here's a snippet:
When you talk about elegant games or game design – what do you mean?
Daniel: Smarter people than me have talked about this at length, but these days I prefer the term “eloquent” over “elegant.” The past few years, “elegant” has become synonymous with “minimalist,” but that is not always the case.
Elegance is simply a ratio of the complexity at the start of the game to its complexity in the middle-to-late game. A game can have a relatively high learning curve, but if it opens up into a constellation of even more interesting choices, then it’s still elegant. A game can have a very shallow learning curve, but not open up at all, so it’s not elegant.
Meanwhile, I like “eloquence” because it implies you’re choosing a game mechanism not because you fetishize a particular design aesthetic, but because it is the right mechanism for the job.
On your blog, you talk a lot about layout. Could you share some tips on how to properly layout prototype (or final version) cards to? What should we be keeping in mind?
Daniel: This is a big question! I’m actually covering a lot of this subject in a presentation for Unpub 5, which I hope will be recorded on video. Generally, for a prototype, your goal is feedback on the game. But people are visual creatures and you’ll get just as many comments on presentation as you will the actual gameplay. The three things to keep in mind for a prototype are clarity for the player, ease of iteration, and an accurate sense of completeness.
On the first point, clarity for the player means having clear text that is easy to read at the expected distance. It also means using visual cues like icons, placeholder art, or colors to make learning and playing the game as easy as possible. Finally, it means using components that fit your gameplay well. With all these things, hopefully players will slide easily down your learning curve and give you constructive feedback on the game itself.
On the second point, I iterate my games very rapidly so I’ve learned some techniques to make that process as simple as possible. Using black and white graphics with minimal ink coverage makes a prototype much more affordable for playtesters to print or re-print. The DataMerge feature in InDesign lets me take a spreadsheet and rapidly export a fully designed deck of cards in minutes.
Third, you never want your prototype to look more finished than your game. My years in graphic design business really urge me to make a game look 100% polished, but I learned that this leads to unfair expectations. The feedback I get for a good-looking but unfinished game is less constructive because playtesters assume the process is too far-gone for fundamental changes to the game. That is not the impression you want to give if your game is going to improve.
Boy, I sure do ramble. Go read the rest!