For more information about Ray see the experts page.
Unfortunately, our recording device failed and so no transcript is available.
After explaining our initial ideas and design to Ray he gave us some input.
Lot’s of input. Primarily our initial screening should consider the following:
- Number of Players – An allowable range
- Complexity – How many ways are there to win the game?
- Age Group
- Gateway Games – Games that are good for those new to a specific mechanic,
theme or genre or to board games in general.
- Mechanics – Aspects of a game that describe atomic elements of gameplay
(e.g. dice rolling, card management)
- Genre – What type of game is it (e.g. empire building, tech building, pure
- Theme – The setting and style of a game (e.g. 1800’s Britain mystery,
or a futuristic role palying game set in space)
- Light or Heavy – Does the game require the player’s full attention or is it
- Tactics or Strategy – Does the game require more on the spot decisions
(i.e. tactics) or does it more heavily involve long term plans (i.e.
- Average Player Skill – Measured in number of unique games played.
- Ramp – How quickly can the game scale?
- Tempo – Inverse of the time between turns.
Many of the aspects described above do not exist of simply binary choices. They
describe continuous spectra. To best capture the user’s preferences a
continuous slider must be provided with understood endpoints. These include:
- Tactics to Strategy – Checkers → Chess
- Light to Heavy
- Player Skill
All aspects are important but some will weigh more heavily than others for any
given user. However since the system we are aiming to design has the constraint
that users cannot be tracked, it will be difficult to determine the proper
weightings. For the best possible user experience these weights must also be
determined easily. Asking the user to eight the significance of either of their
inputs might be overkill.
Ray suggests that we use player skill as a base to indicate the relative
significance of the other fields. He suggests that the function comparing
significance of complexity to player skill is Gaussian. Furthermore the
acceptable number of standard deviations on complexity compares to player skill
like a well curve. Thus a novice player, who has less experience with games
might not be very good at gauging complexity and thus this rating should not be
highly weighted. Conversely, an experienced player is often impartial to
complexity which also explains why they would allow a greater number of standard
deviations. This sort of trend could be used on other fields as well with more
Types of Designers
There are three types of board game designers:
Thematic Designers – Considers what the theme of the game they want to
make first. From there the designer begins to consider mechanics and
the rest of the game.
Emotional Designers – These designers choose what they want players to
experience first. Diplomacy type games often come from Emotional designers
because of the focus on interacting with other players that leads to
Systems Designers – Often these designers start with the mechanics they
want in a game before considering other elements.
Thematic and systems designers represent opposite ends of a high touch to high
concept spectrum. High tocuh, which is sometimes referred to as right brain,
is used to describe individuals who are more artistic, visual and theatrical.
High concept, conversely called left brain, describes individuals who are
logical and think about process more than style. Thus a systems designer
prefers the logical, process driven approach to game design that involves
combining mechanics first while a thematic designer is more concerned with the
feel of the game. Emotional designers are somewhere in the middle. They start
with mechanics and theme as a tools to illicit emotion.
Ray, being a systems designer, suggested we also talk to a thematic designer.
Ray specifically suggested we talk to Jim Harmon.
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