Board Game Design 101: Prototyping and Playtesting | Ben Panter | Skillshare

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Board Game Design 101: Prototyping and Playtesting

teacher avatar Ben Panter, Alternative Photography & Game Making

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (1h 9m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. Prototype Design Concept

    • 4. Prototype Making

    • 5. BONUS: A look at my prototypes

    • 6. Play testing Your Game

    • 7. The Game Design Cycle

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About This Class

Welcome to the final class in the Board Game Design 101 series. In this class, I'll be helping you make your first prototype and guide you through the process of playtesting your game. 

I know when I first began making games I wasted SO MUCH TIME making prototypes. I made too many pieces, spent too much time designing them or I didn't really know what game I was trying to make. And don't get me started on playtesting... I would subject my wife or brother to sitting through a "first run" of the design with no rules, missing pieces and no clear outcomes. It wasn't fun and it didn't really help.

So in this class we'll use a couple worksheets and I'll be giving you some tips so that you can quickly make a series of effective prototypes and then use them to gather all kinds of data to improve your game during strategic playtesting sessions.

Let's get that game of yours to the table!


This is a standalone class, however, I do reference some worksheets and principles which are covered in two of my other classes listed below.

Looking for a more hands on class that helps you design a game? Then you should check out my class that is a Finish This Game project, where I give you the skeleton of a game and then walk through what you need to change or update in order to make the game your own. This class is great for newer designers that need more practice actually finishing games so they can level up their design skills. Check it out here!

Meet Your Teacher

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Ben Panter

Alternative Photography & Game Making


My name is Ben Panter and I am an artist, professor and game-maker. My art is photography based and I enjoy experimenting with and combining new and old media. I've been honored to have several artist residencies through the National Park System over the past few years, including Rocky Mountain National Park and Acadia National Park.

I've also been designing board games for about a decade now. Like many in the field, I started out very casually, but have more recently committed to creating a more steady flow of games. I especially believe in helping others enjoy game design as a hobby unto itself, and through my classes on skillshare I hope to make it accessible for more people.

You can view more of my photography work on my website,, and follow me on Instagr... See full profile

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1. Intro: Hi there. My name is Ben Painter. I'm an artist, professor and board game designer and welcome to board game design. 101 Prototypes and Play Testing Thing is the last of three classes in a short Siri's about beginner game design. How how have new board game designers start their first game and this class is going to be the most active? The other ones were a lot about planning about thinking about your game. This one is about making your prototype about play, testing it with other people. And so I'm really excited to see what you come out with. And I'm excited about the tips I'll be able to give you to move your game forward. It's important in this class to keep grounded and the things you've already decided right? You've put time into planning out what kind of game you want. You've thought about what your components are that you want to include in your game. And so now you're to the States of actually making a first version. You need to constantly be looking back at those earlier worksheets from the previous classes to make sure you're staying on track with a game that you want to make at the end of this class, you're gonna have some worksheets filled out in terms of how you're going to be setting up your prototype. How your play testing your game. And hopefully you will have at least the first version of your prototype game ready to go. And that's what I'm gonna expect you to be sharing in the projects. So let's go ahead and jump into the supplies video where we'll talk about what you will need for this class. Another thing to keep in mind is that really board game design is not a linear process. I've presented these classes with six major steps in the process, going forward with this video being the last to. But really, it's a cyclical process. You're gonna do different parts, and one part is gonna make you jump back to another part and fix something and then go forward a few steps and take on the next challenge on. So it's more of a cyclical process. And so one video in this class is gonna talk about how all these pieces that I've talked about really fit together into a cohesive process. 2. Supplies: Okay, back to this video where we're gonna be talking about the supplies you'll need for this video on before we jump into the ones that we're gonna need for this video. I want to do a quick review on the ones we've used in past videos. So if you're jumping in and this is the first video in this board game design 101 Siri's you're doing, that's fine. You can jump in right here and follow along, but there's a couple things you might want to grab from those other videos. First eso In the first video, we talked about the ideas worksheet on that looks something like this. This is how you're capturing ideas and writing them down in a way that you can really work with them later. And also from that first video, we have the foundations Worksheet Foundation's work. She is all about writing down the kind of game that you want you deciding ahead of time. In the next video, we talked about theme and narrative. There's several pages to that one where you are writing down kind of that some of the finer , finer points of your theme and narrative for your game on then. Also, we started working on the rules on DA again. That was getting an early start of you just saying, You know what has to be true in this game? What rules need to be there for this idea? Toe work on DSO in this video, what do we need? Well, we have two more worksheets to follow the pattern and there's some other things you might need as well. So first, the worksheets there's a components and design worksheet on its ah, several pages, some grid paper essentially as well as some hex paper. And what this is gonna allow you to do is drawl up your ideas for the first version of your game. This is not final design. This is writing down some quick ideas and making a first copy. So that's what we're gonna be talking about with that worksheet. And the second worksheet you will need is the play testing worksheet. So once you have a working prototype, then you're going to need to play it on, and you're gonna start by playing by yourself with family members getting quick games in so you can see ideas. And so we're gonna look at that worksheet to ah, kind of keep you on track So you know what you should be doing in a play test? And all of these worksheets are gonna be available as downloads in this class, so make sure you go to that area, download these and you can print amount and follow along with your own game. And as always, I'm gonna be giving you examples from a game that I'm currently designing. Paint rollers, rollers is a rolling right game based in the art world in the 19 sixties. And I've been designing this game as I've been making this Siri's and so I've been using the exact same worksheets as you. And I'm really excited about the game I've been making, and I hope that you can have success with yours as well. With that in mind, you are gonna need some other things, but it sort of depends what kind of game you're making now. There's a lot of components in games that are simply paper. So if you have paper construction paper, that type of stuff at home, you can use any kind of paper you have on hand. But many games also have other components, whether it's people's or tokens or, you know, counters, cubes, dice all those types of things. And certainly you can use paper for some of that and the first version. That might be a great option, but it's also useful to start gathering. Some of those Resource is for you to design games with, Ah, and there's some good sources for those that you might have on hand, like old games that you don't play anymore or even games you still play. You might be able to just kind of take a few of those elements to use them for the current design you're working on. Another thing you could try would be like, uh, thrift stores or dollar store games that have components in them that you could buy very cheaply and use. There's also places online where you could buy, you know, a whole bucket of little wooden cubes of assorted colors if you have a game that uses a lot of that, or there's also online stores like the Game Crafter and other similar game components stores that specifically make just about everything you could ask for in terms of game components and of course, I'd have to mention your friendly local game store wherever you're located. There is likely a game store of some kind within driving distance, and many times they will have little bits and pieces of games that you could buy one of the time and make your game into a reality. So you should start sourcing some things like that and you'll be ready to go sooner than you know it, All right. And one more thing in this supplies video is that there are some templates that I have available for you to download. There's three files that you can download and these air for helping you get your prototypes into a digital software. There's canvas, There's Power Point and there's in design. You can download any or all of those to see which style of software really suits you for your play testing and prototyping. So in the next video, we're gonna actually start talking about the first worksheet, which is prototypes. So jump in and almost forgot. There's one more thing I wanted to mention, and that is all of these work sheets, of course, are yours free to use as much as you want. But if you want something in a more organized format. All these worksheets come from a game that I made and is available on Amazon called the Gamemakers Journal on. And this has, uh, all the work sheets and then some, along with some writings and other tips. Ah, and things that we don't necessarily get to talk about in this class. So if you're interested in having a single organized place to have all your game designs, I'd highly recommend that again. That's the game Makers journal. You can get to that through Amazon. 3. Prototype Design Concept: I think this video we're gonna be talking about prototype design concept were actually dividing prototyping into two videos. There's a concept video, which is this one. And then the next video, we're gonna talk about prototype construction, right? How do we actually make those things talk about some ideas and some techniques that I've found useful. And of course, there's tons of ideas out there on the Web that you've probably come across as well. But in this video, we're talking about the concept, the building blocks of your prototype and one of the main ideas. The thing that I want to get across more than anything, is that this is an M V P. It's called the minimally viable product. That means the lowest grade of something that will still work. And that might not excite you, right? You're saying, Well, I want a really cool looking game, right? I don't want the minimally viable one. I want something that makes people really want to play with and look at it, and that's great. I want that, too, for my games, and I want that for your game. But when you're making a prototype, you need to be able to work really quick and be able to turn through ideas as fast as possible. And so if you're investing a lot of time in each prototype, it's going to slow down your process and you don't want that. So you want the M V P, the minimally viable product of your prototype game, the number one mistake of game designers and I certainly fell into this for the first few years of my game. Design is spending too much time on your first prototypes. I would come up with an idea, and I would think about I would start thinking about the visuals. What should it look like? How should I draw it or design it? And I would spend all this time getting it, so it looked really cool. And then I'd start play testing it, and I would lose steam because I knew that everything I changed me and I'd have to go back to the drawing board and redesigned this thing. This thing that I just spent a lot of time working on. So the right process for prototype design is to work really quickly and honestly to make an ugly game the first time right. You don't want this to be pretty. You want it to be functional. Um, and that brings me to my next point, which is form versus function. This is something that comes up in design all the time, and that is the idea of Is it more important how something works, arm or important, how it looks? And in the case of this early prototyping, it's definitely more important how it functions. How it looks doesn't really matter that much. You only need the things there that are helpful, and you actually playing the game. The field be aesthetic, the artwork. None of that is really that important to start with. So if you hear nothing else in this video, keep that in mind. The first prototypes you make need to be bare bones basic the most simple version of your game because it's going to change. Keep that in your mind. It is going to change. It's going to change a lot, so you need to make it easy to change. So to help you decide what the most basic version of your game actually is, I've come up with three basic questions that you need to answer and then you're going to use your worksheet in order to start jotting these ideas down and then actually writing out some stuff. So grab your components and design worksheet. Looks something like this is gonna be blank on. You can see, you know, in mining, I actually did mine in my book. Um, I have all this stuff jotted down just like you will. So grab your components and design worksheet and start working through these three questions. Question number one. What components must be in my game. Now, this is actually familiar. Question if you've gone through the other classes, You wrote this down earlier on one of the work sheets of saying, You know what components need to be in this game for it to work, right? Are there cards involved? Are there dice tokens? Are there people moving around the board? What are there? And so the first thing you need to write down on your component and design worksheet is what are all the components if you have them already written on another worksheet, that's fine. You don't have to write it down again, but go back and double check. Are these the things that I must have in this game. Question number two. What information must be on each component? Okay, so now we're starting to get more detailed. And this is where with your components and design sheet, what I would recommend is actually drawing out each component you need. You can see, for example, in my game I have some cards. And so I started to draw the mountain and writing in some of that information, right? I knew there was gonna be some some types of cards that I needed. I needed some information at the bottom of each card. And so I started actually writing that out on my component worksheet. And you should do the same. So if you have cards, drawl up a rough version of the card and start jotting down what information, right? Does there need to be a suit on their does? There need to be color information, numbers, different classes of whatever your game is directions, right? If you're using it for movement or things like that, what needs to be on each of your carts and then move on each of your tokens? Whether it's a map token, right? What type of information needs to be on their or their icons that are needed. Um, and this early on, you don't have to know everything, but you need to think about you know, what do you know right now? I definitely need to be able to move around. I need tohave point values associated with things you don't even necessarily need to know what point values they are. But think about what you're going to need. And, third, think about what form your components must take. Okay, so you've already thought about well, I need cards and tokens and dice and things like that. But now it's your chance to go back and kind of audit what you've written down and say, Well, is there a particular size of card that makes sense now that you've written down all the pieces of information that needs to be on a card, for instance, would you say, Well, this could be a standard poker card? Or could this be a mini card that's like half the size of a poker card or doesn't need to be an extra large card that's more turns into more of a player card in any of those situations? It's helpful. Once you've written down all those pieces of information to say, Can all this fit onto this standard size poker card or not? And then you go through again. Each component if you have tiles if you have a player, pieces with information if you have player boards. If you have a game board itself right, what information needs to be on there, and what size is that going to have to be now? One important thing to keep in mind is you don't have to start from scratch with this. I would highly recommend going to a game printing site and using standard sizes. In fact, on the components worksheet, I have standard sizes of cards outlined for you to be able to make quick sketches of those cards because so many games have cards in them. Uh, and so I would recommend going to the game crafter dot com. That's the site that I use for my prototypes, and you can go on there and look at the products that they have and see what exact size our thing. So if you want a poker card versus a domino deck or something like that, they tell you the exact dimensions. And so, as you're prototyping, you can be working in those rough dimensions. It's very helpful to be working with close to the rial size of objects that are possible a print, because what you don't want is to make this incredible prototype and then come to find that everything you've designed is like a weird custom size that becomes very difficult to design or very expensive to produce if you actually want to go in print a final copy. So it's far easier to work within the bounds of standard pieces. But don't think that's a limitation. The game Crafter has tons of options when it comes to cards tokens on all kinds of game components. So I'd recommend going on there, especially when you're answering this third question of what form must these components take and see what the possibilities are for your game, and that's really it. I mean, I know it seems simple, but if you've written down all your ideas on these earlier worksheets, and you've already worked through a lot of those details well now, making the components and beginning toe layout, some design ideas and things like that, that's just kind of the natural culmination of all these ideas you've already written down . So to me, it makes that process much simpler and just keep in mind as you begin sketching down what cards? What components? All that stuff you need. Keep referring back to these other worksheets. Keep them in mind, right? If you want it to be, Ah, fast game, then you need to be using components that are easy to look at quickly and put down right that you're thinking about, maybe icons to use very quickly. Or if you're gonna have ITM or intense or more secretive, you might have toe have a player blind, right where things are laid out in front of people and it's hidden. So again, I wanted to show you just how simple these early sketches can be. Right? You can see in my workbook, right? I have very rough sketches of numbers, and I'm dividing line up into a color wheel. So I have this, like a color wheel shape up here that I've divided into spaces. It's a rolling right game, so I kind of wrote down some of the information that I'd be filling in on then on the other side. It's also card based. So I have cards written down of the various information that I would need on there, and so that made it really relatively easy for me to decide which components I needed to use and then how to move forward with an actual design. And that's really all there is to it. I mean, I know it's pretty simple, and it sounds simplistic, but at this point it's up to you, right? Sketch down the components and start laying things out. Start saying, Well, I want points on one side and I'd want the suit on the other or I'd want a picture of the middle is to just draw like a smiley face at the middle. And I need a title and a little description of what happens with that card. Or, you know, mine is, ah, map card. And so I'd want streets and some buildings. Very rough sketches at this point for your overall design concept. In the next video, we're going to go ahead and jump into some actual ideas of how you make a first prototype, and this is where you take these ideas you've just sketched down and start turning them into something you can actually play with. So I'll see you that way. 4. Prototype Making: back again. My name is Ben Painter, and we're walking through this game prototyping and play testing process. And this video is all about prototype building techniques. Now, I want to give a disclaimer upfront. I'm not gonna walk through all the finer points of how you get perfect prototype cards. Um, because, honestly, that's a little more advanced than where we're at. What I'm talking about is how do you get prototypes that help you move your game design forward? So I'm gonna be giving a lot of ideas. But it honestly might take a little bit more work on your part to be going through maybe learning a piece of software or spending some time thinking about design and things like that. So I'm gonna do my best to kind of put you on some solid footing and then give you a great direction to go for your own prototype creation. So let's jump into some solid ideas for what you should be doing now. So at this point, you should have at least your first sketches done on your components and design work sheet . And again, these don't have to be pretty. In fact, it's probably better if they're not pretty, if they're pretty, you've spent too much time on them. Right now, we're talking about function. So where do we start with this actual prototyping production? Well, you start with the components, in my case, my game. As you can see, I sketched out, I have some cards that I needed. And then also, there was a player sheet because this is a role in right game. And so those are the two things I needed to design. Ah, And so, you know, the earliest sketches were pencil and paper, and so that would be my recommendation. If you're making a relatively small scale game, you know, less than a full deck of cards. Not that many components than I would almost always start with pencil and paper. Let me give you some examples, right? I was making a game, and this was the first version of the cards. Okay, there was, like, triple use cards, kind of, and I just had pencil, and it was right side up and upside down, and I made a deck of, like, 20 cards or so like that on. Here's another example from a different game that I was working on again. Very simple. Just writing down the, uh text sketching things out with maybe, you know, pencil colored pencil. Very simple and very quick, right? So it allowed me to get the idea out of this book and onto a piece of paper so I could actually start holding some components in my hand, laying them out on the table in front of me so I can understand how things were going toe work together because that's one of things I've been talking a lot about what's going on in your head, right? You're planning and your ideas. But it starts to feel a little different when you put it on the table in front of you. And so that's why you want to be doing this relatively quickly because you might change your ideas based on how it starts looking in front of you, right that you might think it's cool to have a tableau of, you know, 30 cards. But then once you start realizing what 30 cards takes up a lot of space in front of each person, and in order for that to be feasible, we'd have to have a table that's like eight by eight toe. Have a four player game. You know, that's that's just not that good of a design. So you need to go back to the drawing board. Eso It's good to have these quick prototypes get out there and really gives some credibility to your ideas as quickly as possible. So my first recommendation again. Pencil and paper. Okay. And if you want to get crazy, maybe colored pencil and paper, right? If if the colors of suits or things like that are important. Okay, so your second possibility this one is far less common. Although I do know plenty of designers who design games this way, I've done some this way. We'll know that not that much on, and that is laminated components. You are able to either laminate blank pieces of paper or blank cards yourself, or you can actually buy pre laminated cards off Amazon. You could also do that with tiles as well. And so why you want them laminated is because instead of using a pencil and paper, you can use laminated cards and a wet erase marker. Soweto race is going to allow you to still shuffle cards and be, you know, messing with them, and things aren't getting wiped off easily, but they allow you to change values very quickly. Okay, so if you are putting points on things and you realize you know I don't want I don't want these to be 10 points. I want them to be five points. Then you can just go through with a little towel What went and wipe it off. Change all your values very quickly, and you don't have to create a whole new set of carts. It's definitely in the same vein as paper and pencil, but some people prefer a little bit more, Um and, ah, it just kind of depends on you. So that would be another recommended very low fi way of doing this. But again, as long as it's something you can do quickly, I would recommend it. Okay, And your last major option for designing a an early prototype is the computer on, and your mileage may vary with this one. If you are very familiar with computers and software, this is a no brainer. In fact, this is the way I do. Probably about 75% of my games I go into the computer very quickly because I'm a designer. I deal with the computer every day, and so it's easy at just as easy or easier for me to work in the computer as it is to be drawing things out by hand. Ah, and the other reason why you might want to push yourself towards a more digital solution instead of doing a handgun, paper and pencil version would be if you have a lot of components. Okay, so once you start dealing with, you know more than a standard deck of cards for every change you make, you're talking about, you know, hours of work of going, whether it's going back and erasing things and replacing numbers, or whether it's going back and actually having to recreate an entire deck. So if you're dealing with lots of components, or if you're simply just more comfortable working on the computer, then I would probably recommend getting to a digital workflow as quickly as possible. Ah, and if you're not really sure what type of software you would use or how difficult it would be, I would really give three main options, although there's really a lot of options out there, depending on your familiarity. So let's talk through in order of your comfort level and your ability to design on a computer. So first would be Can Va. Canada is a piece of software. There's, ah really great free level of this software that you can use its Web based, made for easy kind of social and quick graphics print graphics as well that you can make very user friendly. It's got a lot of options, and there's lots of pros to using a piece of Web based software that no matter what computer you're on, you can log in. Everything is getting saved to the cloud. You can even invite other people to look at or even work on a document. So if you want someone to help you, that would be great. So this is Can Va Eyes was originally created by some people who worked at Google. It's a really great piece of software that I recommend to a lot of my students that they use for some simple design work. Um, the cons of this is, you know, it's sort of like a digital version of making things in paper. There's ah lot of advantages of digital, but you're not gonna be nearly as advanced as some of the later software we're talking about that allow you to have templates and things like that. This is going to be still quite a bit of work, but it's still digital. So when you go through and make a change, your typing on a keyboard instead of having to hand draw things. So if that still feels like an advantage to you, then I would recommend working with Canada. It's especially good for people that aren't that familiar. Or aren't that comfortable designing on a computer? It's dragon Drop. It's very intuitive, and it keeps things simple, which I think simple, of course, is better. So I would recommend working with Can Va. If you feel like you're a beginner, when it comes to designing or making things on a computer, the next piece of software I would recommend is one that I've actually never personally used for making an entire game. Although I know there is ah lot of game designers that do use it, and that is power point, they might say. Well, I'm not that familiar with power point, but I do know it's about presentations, not about making cards and components, and that is absolutely true. I think the reason most people use it is because they are familiar with the tool right. They use things like Microsoft Word and Power Point for work, and so they're familiar with how it works, and so they're able to work in it more quickly. So if you, uh, I work in an office setting where you're using that piece of software, you can actually use Power Point to make print documents, things like cards and other components. There's a lot of customization in there, and there's actually ah, lot of shapes and helpful tools that help you make cards on. Some of the things that people create with it are really impressive. So I would recommend that if you're a person who uses that kind of software for a living, then that might really fit you well. The last option that I would recommend, and this is where I land myself most often is adobe in design. Adobe in design is their print production software. It's professional level used by designers all over the world, and it has tons and tons of advantages. The main disadvantage is if you're new to it. It is extremely daunting. There's menus on menus on menus. It is not what you'd call an easy software to get into. And so for that reason, if you're not familiar with the DHOBI products already, I wouldn't recommend you start there. Um, if Game designers something you're really interested in and you want to learn, you say I want to learn the real tools will then absolutely, I'd recommend in design. And it's an industry standard for all this type of design print design work. But I don't want you to get discouraged because of the software and not end up making the game you want. So in design is an incredibly powerful tool. It really helps with a lot of the automation things that make game design easier. But it is a very daunting thing. Toe learn on last. I wouldn't really call this a recommendation, but if you're a person that already knows how to use photo shop, and I know there's a lot of those people out there who have used it at some level, then you can certainly use Photoshopped to make game components on. And that's something that is entirely plausible. It's not as designed to do that as something like in designers, but it's not impossible, either. So I don't want to steer you away from a piece of software that you're already familiar with. So those are the Big Three that I would recommend you start with. If you are looking to go with a digital prototype, there's Can Va. There's Power Point, and then there's in design and to help you out. I'm going to be creating a template in each of those pieces of software for you to use on. And it's just gonna be for a basic poker card that you can use in one of your games so you can open up the file, see how it's made and make some copies of it to make more files of it. And I'm sharing those with you to help you get started in that software, and so you can decide very, very quickly if you think you're gonna work faster in a digital format, or if you think you'll work faster in a pen and paper format and again there's no right or wrong way. It's really the way that's going to help you finish your game faster, Okay? And this is sort of a repeat from the previous video, but again, there's one big take away. I want you to take away from this video. I don't want you to forget it, so don't miss it. Remember, prototypes are going to be designed and redesigned many times. So whatever process you decide, whether it's paper or whether it's software you need to design it with knowing that you're going to have to redesign it later in mind. Okay, So don't invest too much time and as much as possible, make it easy to redo. So that means if you're writing with on a paper used pencil, so if you can just erase something really quickly and change it, do that instead of pen. Okay, If you're designing in a piece of software, make sure you're doing things so that they're changeable and movable. Don't bake him into a final J peg and just say it is what it is. What you're looking for is flexibility and speed, not a final version. OK, it's not going to look pretty. I can't reiterate that enough. OK, so that's really it. For the prototype building, you can see, there's still a lot of work. You have to do it right. You have to take those original concepts and decide. Start putting it down on paper. I want to see really Before you move onto the next video, you should have at least part of the game. Designed as a prototype written up on some paper, very rough copy. In the next video, we're gonna take this first version prototype you just made and talk about how Teoh and one final thing one final thing I don't want to forget and that is your first prototype doesn't necessarily have to be the entire game. As I mentioned before, sometimes all it takes is writing down an idea and writing it down on some cards very quickly and laying it out on a table to realize that you need to change something. And so you can think about prototyping as something that's done in stages. The very early stages, you might even be prototyping little bits and pieces, right? Just prototype 10 of the cards and start thinking Well, if I have three of these in my hand and I'm discarding one and I'm playing one, you know what is that going to do? Is does that change the information that needs to be on here? Do I need other components involved? Right, So the first version of your prototype might not be your entire game. In fact, it probably shouldn't be your entire game, and that's fine. And then, once you get a little bit of feedback from looking at them, may be moving on to the play testing stage for a little bit with that early version. Then you cycle back and you're gonna come back and make an improvement on your on your prototype and maybe add some components or rearrange how they're done. So don't get hung up on feeling like you need to know what your entire game is. Just start prototyping what you know right now, and that'll keep you moving through the process. 5. BONUS: A look at my prototypes: I've been talking about how you're gonna make your prototypes and what you should and shouldn't do. But I think would probably be most helpful if I just show you exactly my prototyping process for the game I'm working on. Which again is paint rollers a rolling right game. So let's take a look at what I have on my table here as the various stages of my prototype . Okay, So if you remember, this is what my original sketches looked like. Okay. Very rough. This was the color wheel is going to use with all the different colors. Some ideas I was sketching down, and then here was the idea for my cards. I had just written down the basic information that needed to be on there and sketched out some very rough designs. It was kind of like a first version. Then, after doing some quick prototyping, then this was a second version here. Okay, so let's see how this I looked in my first prototype. First the cards. Okay. The cards. We're very, very basic, as you can see, right? I knew I needed some type of point value. I knew I needed the colors on there. and then, uh, some mawr, Uh, like how many of each kind of color I needed. Okay, the dice value of all the colors added together and these were very basic. I threw together very quickly, using in design again I was using in design a digital software because that's what I'm most comfortable with. But this easily could have been done on paper with pencil. And you can see some things as I played with it a few times, I was writing in some other things, changing some variables as I went. OK, so with those cards, I also had my first version of the Roland right, okay of the actual paper that I was gonna be writing on conceit. Very simple. Okay, just three circles essentially divided up, and I was writing. I was rolling dice and writing things down in this first version, I didn't even have, uh, different colors of dice, which is really an essential part of the game. I was just using black and white dice and kind of adding things up to get a feel for how the the color wheel and how the cards system would all work. Okay. And you can see, this is not a full version of the game. I made about 20 cards, but that's nowhere near all the cards I was going to use in the game. It was just enoughto have a proof of concept. You can see. You know, this was very functional to kind of prove an idea for what worked and what didn't work. But I did not spend any time making it pretty. So let's move on to the second version of my prototype. Okay, here's the second version. You can see a few things have changed. Let's start with the cards again. Okay, Here I started going towards what I was thinking of with a final design, right. I still had the colors down the bottom, but I simplified it. Didn't have the whole word written out. I had just shortened versions for yellow, green, red and violet K. Inside those circles, those values that were down at the very bottom, I moved over to the side and I kind of clarified them a little bit up in the top. Right. I made it very clear where the point value waas and then I added these categories. Okay, This was after play testing with the other version. A few times I realized I wanted to make categories of the different kinds of paintings in the deck. Okay. And you can see I added some artwork and a little guy there kind of thing. I was thinking about final design, but I spent very little time making this. You can see most of the deck is made up of the same painting again and again. It was just throwing in some artwork in there so that I could get a sense of Would there be enough space on a card like this to have everything that I wanted to have? Would it be readable? All those types of things? Okay, so those were this was the version to deck of cards, and you can see I made some more of them here. Okay, this is more than the original 20 and started moving towards how many cards I thought I would use in a final game. Okay, then. See, at this point, I also got some prototyping dice. These were just white dice I got from the dollar store. I think I got 10 for a dollar and I used some sharpies and colored them the colors that I wanted. I had three yellow, three blue and three red, and I was using those to mix the colors for the game. Okay, Very low fi. I didn't have to go out and source different colors of dice. I just colored them. Keep it simple. And unless I started with really Ah, very similar to my original design color wheel. But then I added in the scoring mechanism right away to make who won the game and how all of these points add up more clear. And, um, I had written down ideas for things I wanted in terms of paint values and categories and stuff like that. But this was very much kind of a brainstorm in a design. I put it together very quickly and in design, and again, this might look complicated to you, but this is a piece of software that I'm very familiar work with. I I work in it every week. And so throwing this together was really relatively quick for me. I wouldn't recommend that you get bogged down in anything. Okay? And you can also see the scale got a lot bigger. I scaled it up because I was worried that the text and the original was getting a little too small right, that it would be hard to read and you wouldn't be able to see anything. So I made this a lot bigger and I didn't end up like that. So I got rid of that in the next version. So let's look at what the next version looks like. Okay, so you can see there's a lot of similarities, but some changes to I'll actually start with the dice this time. One of the key things from my foundation's work she is that I wanted it to be a quick game . It needed to be about 40 minutes or less, ideally about 30 minutes. But with all those days I had nine days and there's color mixing. It just slowed the game down, and I tried changing some of the other variables to simplify things, but it just wasn't quick enough. And so I think my wife actually suggested just going with a different set of colors that simplified the color, mixing a lot. The first I was resistant. I didn't really like it. I like to the real color mixing, but This ended up working really, really well. So instead of nine dice of blue, yellow and red, I also included Orange, Green and Violet and pared it down to just six dice, which really spend the game alone. Really, A two player game can get played in a little over 20 minutes, and that was perfect for what I wanted. So I adjusted the dice in this version, the cards. The cards are very similar to the previous version. I just added a few things, and I changed a lot of the values I really did. Overhaul of the points that run here based on all the play testing games that I had done, you can see also, I started adding in some more details right at the bottom. I added in not just the letters for each color, but also the colors to make it easier to identify, which was on which each card, the artwork was the same. I just used that same one and a new design, okay, so you can see similar in a lot of ways. But since I had that digital file that I was working with, I was able to make changes and create a new deck of cards, and at this point I was working with the full number of cards that I wanted in the final game. And then there's this actual sheep. Okay, I shrunk it back down onto a standard size that the game crafter creates. So I was making it inside that window. Um, and you know, I just rearranged and squeezed everything so it would fit in that area. I've added and changed some values and some scoring things, and you can see from this stack of paper. I also just played a lot of games of this. You know, I needed to really hash out a lot of these things. Different players, different player counts, trying it out with two players versus six players and everything in between trying to figure out what worked and what didn't work again. Not just randomly, not just saying. Is this OK? But saying, Does this game now meet my idea from my foundation's worksheet from the original idea I had of this game? Does it work? And with this protect it was getting there. So then we can move along to what is my current prototype. You can see I've upgraded the papers. So instead of just thin printer paper, I've actually put this on card stock just so I can play more games of this before they get destroyed. Um, and I've changed the design. Okay, I've gotten a little bit more different artwork in there, although there's still a lot of recycled stuff, and I've just been fine tuning the points and the way the colors and everything are represented. This is the updated version of the scoresheet that you're writing on. And again. There's a few differences from the previous version, but it's starting to look more and more similar. I am making smaller changes as I go alone on last. What's important to mention is part of this prototype was also writing out a full version of the rules, making sure that I was able to have someone pick up this game when I wasn't there, read through the rules and play it. Now I still have to do more testing with that, but I'm getting there. Okay, so I have the rules just printed out on two pieces of paper, as well as some examples for someone to look at and really understand how this game works. So if you look at this last version of the game that I've been working on and you compare it to the first version of the prototype of this game, you can see all a lot has changed. But it still resembles the same thing, right? I was always building on those original ideas and improving and modifying things as I play , tested the game and needed to improve them. And this isn't the final version. In fact, I'm in the middle of designing the next version, which would be one that I would feel more comfortable actually printing from a service like the game crafter. So hopefully, looking at my prototypes for the game that I'm in the middle of designing helps give you an idea of what your prototypes can or should look like. Remember, I was dealing with digital software because that's what I'm very comfortable with. But if you wanted to do your game with pencil and paper and markers, that's entirely plausible. There are plenty of people that make games just like that, so whatever is gonna help you get your idea out onto the table quickly is the method that you should use 6. Play testing Your Game: they're moving back to this video, and in this video we're gonna talk about play testing. Play. Testing, I think, is one of the most crucial aspects of game design. But it's tricky. It's tricky because I think it's a blend of two things, right. It's a blend of art and science. The science of it is the focus on the variables, right on on the components and how the game works, essentially asking the question, Is this game viable? Do the points add up and make sense. Are the things the right values? Can people move and do what they need or want to do Those types of questions That's the science of it. And then there is the art of it right where you are taking in the outcomes of the game or taking personal feedback, what people are saying about the game and weighing those things of saying, Well, someone said that it was too slow But I want this to be kind of a drawn out game or saying , You know, I wish I had more choices, but I know if I give more choices, it's going to slow the game down and I want to make sure it keeps moving. That's the the art of it. The interpretive part where you have to say, I'm taking what happened and what people said and I need toe put them together into an idea into a fix or an update to this game. So in order to play test, of course, you have to have a prototype. And as I said in the last video, this does not have to be a complete game even to start your play testing you want to be begin play testing, even if it's just you laying things out on a table in front of you as quickly as possible in your game design process, because that's going to help you make decisions, gonna help you see what Ken or will work and what doesn't. And to help you with that, we have your play testing worksheet on DSO. First thing we're gonna do in this video is just talk through what is on that worksheet. So you understand what you're expected to write down, and then we're gonna go into five main ideas for play testing to keep in mind. So let's take a look at your play testing worksheet should look something like this. It's broken down into three sections, so you can have three play test sessions on each page, and this is where you can keep a record of each play test session. And then I sound like a lot of work. But that's really what sets good game designers apart from the rest that you're taking notes that you're writing things down so that when you go back and you're thinking about how to improve your game, you actually have the records to back up what you're doing. So look at the top of the page, and first you just have the date and the play testers right right down when this happened and who it was that was playing the game on and ring down. The who is really important because you're gonna be weighing your feedback. Depending on who said it right. If it was your eight year old nephew that said something that should waste differently, then if it was an adult friend who plays a ton of games, that's not to say your eight year old nephew doesn't know what he's talking about. I think you should take that into consideration, but you're going away it differently than someone else next. And this, honestly, I think, is the most crucial piece of information for each play test session. Your primary question. The primary question is your goal. When you're going into that play testing session, you need to think ahead of time. What is one thing that I want to really focus on observing? Many people, myself included, go and do a play test, and they just want to analyze the entire game and that can work. I don't want to say it won't work, but it becomes much more difficult to focus in on single variables when you're looking at the entire game. But even said, If you start and say really, when I want to look at in this game, is the movement mechanics, right? How do people move around the board when they roll dice and they have other cards that affect that? Does that mechanic work in this game? And I'm sort of gonna ignore everything else? Not that you won't take observations on it or anything like that, but this is the main thing that I need to answer in this video. Okay, so right that primary question down so that you can focus on it the whole whole game, depending on who you're playing with. Sometimes it's helpful to make people aware of that question ahead of time so they can know what to pay attention to. Other times, it might be a good idea to intentionally not share that with people and then just asked them blankly afterwards. It's a type of thing. If someone's paying attention to something, there are always gonna notice something, even if there's really nothing to notice underneath that we have our observations or our reactions to the play test. And this is just space to write down things that you've noticed as you were playing things that other people that were playing with you noticed. Okay, this can be written down during the course of the game, so you don't forget or this can be you asking people that primary question after the game and writing down what they thought. Okay, this is just keeping a record of how that game went in relation to that primary question. Of course, you're welcome to write down any observations you have. But again, keeping it focused is gonna help you in the long run and then last adjustments. You wanna write down kind of a quick idea of How would you address those comments? Sometimes you can write down no adjustment needed because, you know, the suggestions didn't really fit with your idea of the game right. They would have made the game too long or too slow or something like that. But other times you can think right away. You know, I need to cut all the point values and half because of the end of the game. You end up with these really inflated numbers and it doesn't really help anything. So I want to change this variable on all my cards. You want to write down action points or takeaways from those observations on. This just gives you a really clear path when you are prototyping, a game of things that you need to do because it's not always going to be the case. And it's probably not always wise to do one play test, make some observations and then have to make another prototype. With those changes immediately, you should probably play a few versions of a game with a given prototype to kind of get several pieces of data, several pieces of feedback before you go making drastic changes. Games get played thousands of times over the course of their lives, and you need to take a broad enough sample that you're seeing a normative game before you make any drastic changes. So that's all there is to it. You're writing down inside that box at the top. What the who's playing, what time it is? And the main question. And then you're writing down responses to that question and then action points to take away . Just doing this is gonna make your play test sessions so much more valuable that you're actually giving yourself some actionable data points. You can see in my book right here. I have the same worksheets you do, and I have written down many things through various play test sessions, and I've taken lots of notes in terms of things that were working right, and as I moved through the game, I was updating things, and that feedback changed right and my my play test sessions adjusted with it. The questions I was asking went from pretty broad of like does this mechanic work of rolling dice and mixing colors too, you know, are the the point values of this particular kind of painting the right values? Okay, so I was getting broader questions to start with getting more and more specific throughout each plate test session, and your should probably follow a similar pattern. Start broad to start these big questions, Does it work? Type of thing with particular mechanics and mind a particular ideas in mind, and then you can get more and more niche with your questions as you go along. So now that you're armed with this play testing worksheet, there are five things I want you to remember first. As you play test, you must be the one to know your game. Okay, this is hearkening back all the way to the idea page, the foundation worksheets, the rules and all the other worksheets you've done to say that you need to know exactly what kind of game you want to make. You don't necessarily have to know exactly how that needs to play out. In fact, your play testing a game, which means you you aren't exactly sure if it's right. But you do need to know what kind of game you want to make because one thing I've learned is that every piece of feedback comes with a little baggage, right? It comes with the perspective of the person you're playing with, and so maybe they want to make a very different game than what your idea is. They're feedback is still valuable. It's still good to take that into consideration, but it doesn't derail you when you know what type of game you want to make. If they're suggesting toe, add extra mechanics or add extra things, choices the players have to make, that might be an awesome game, and that might be something that they would really find enjoyable. But if it's not the game that you set out to make, then you're just going to complicate the process and get confused into the design process for your game. So number one is no your game. Use those worksheets we've done before in order to make sure you know what type of game you want to make number. To start with solo play testing before you inflict your game on other people. And yes, I mean inflict because the first versions of a prototype game and the first ideas that come out of your head onto a board game, likely aren't that good, right? That they're not fleshed out. Things don't really work together yet, and you're still making decisions of how the game will work as you're playing it. If you try to rope in a friend or family member into that situation, they're probably not going to like the game. They're not going to want to play with you anymore, and you're gonna burn that bridge in terms of people that are willing to help you out. So what I would recommend first is with those partial prototypes or even a full prototype of the game sit down, play a two or three players version of the game just yourself. It might feel ridiculous, right? They might feel like, Well, I know what the other players have in their hands, so it doesn't really work, but all you're doing at that point is testing viability, right? You're testing. Will this mechanic work when you're dealing with it in a game, or do I need to add or remove things so it works? What you don't want is someone you know, grudgingly sitting through a two hour play test session And as you are figuring out how this game needs toe work, you should already have the basic set up so that the game works. When someone is playing with you, do your friends a favour. Make sure you do solo play testing first, as we've talked about from the play testing worksheet. Focus on answering a single question again that's going to give you a real focus as your play testing that gives you more valuable feedback. If every time you play the whole game is up for grabs, you're gonna keep getting these, like, one off comments that you don't really know what to do with. They don't really fit into things that you necessarily know. You need to change, but you also need to weigh them into your overall design. It gets very confusing, but if you're very pointed with the questions you're asking people and the feedback, you really want your going to get better results, so make sure again you're using that work. She boil it down to the one main question that you really want to focus on Number four on. This is more of a suggestion than a rule, but again, I found it to be so helpful. And that is every time you change something in your game, try to only change one variable at a time, right? If you're any kind of scientists, you should know that if you're changing lots of variables, you can't necessarily say that the changes you've made have produced the results that happen because it could be one of them. It could be a combination of all of them. It could be something else entirely that you just haven't experienced in your game yet. But if you're methodical with saying, Well, first, I'm gonna you know, I decided that I needed to add a new suit to my deck of cards, so I'm gonna do that first and see what happens. And then I decided I needed to add a few higher value cards to each suit. So then I'm going to play test a few times with that to see how that works, and then, you know, one variable at a time to improve your game. It shouldn't. A prototype game should not look entirely different and feel almost like a new game every time you re make it. If you're doing that, you might be trying to move a little too fast or making too large of a jump in your conclusions about anyone. Play test session. Give yourself time. I know it takes time, and I'm impatient to make gains as much as you are. But you're gonna get better calculated results if you move slowly with the changes you do. The one caveat to that is of course, early on. If you find mechanics that simply don't work or things that simply have to be added, you can add those in right. Get your game to a point where it's working again, hopefully with the solo play method and then use these very methodical changes. For instance, in my game paint rollers, when I went from nine dice of three colors to six dice of six colors, that was a pretty significant change. And so for a few games I didn't change anything else, right? I didn't There were point values that I knew weren't quite right. And there is the design of the cards and other things that I knew I wanted to mess with. But that dice change really had to get ironed out, and I had to see how it worked across several games before I was changing other stuff. So take it slow, be patient. I know it's tough, but it will reward you in the end. Okay, And number five for tips on play testing is ask pointed questions and way responses. Okay, sometimes this is where it's really helpful. If you're playing with friends and family members that you play games with a lot, that you'll know that you know your one friend prefers heavier games, that arm or, you know, logic and drawn out versus if you're playing with another family member that prefers really light quick games. Their responses to your game are probably going to be very different because they have the games they like in mind. And so you need to ask very pointed questions against starting with that primary question, at least, and then you need to weigh their answers right. You can't just implement everything people suggest, because it is your game and you have to decide the type of game you want. That being said, you should not hold on to ideas that people are saying aren't fun, right? That air saying this mechanic, you know, it looks cool maybe on the card or I've never seen it before. But maybe there's a reason I've never seen it before because it didn't really work, you know? It was slow. It was boring. Was confusing Any of those things. You do need to take suggestions with a grain of salt, but you do need to take them. You do need to consider them. Don't just dismiss things out of hand because you like your game and other people didn't seem to. Okay, so now you're all equipped, you can begin play testing your game, use this worksheet, use it well, to make good decisions about improving your game in the next video, we're gonna talk about the big picture. We're gonna take a step back and say, How does this process from the idea worksheet all the way up through the play testing worksheet? How does it actually all fit together? Do you actually start at one end and go to the other? Let's talk about it in the next video. We'll see you there 7. The Game Design Cycle: thanks so much for coming back to this final video in this game. Design 101 prototyping and play testing video. In this video, I'm going to talk about the big picture of game design and how, uh, these videos and this class kind of fit together with the earlier classes in one cohesive idea of game design. Really? The central question is, you know, I've presented these classes as a linear process of going from idea all the way over to play testing, but in reality, it's not linear. I think it was helpful to present that information in an organized way, but in reality it is very cyclical. And so there's some things I want to point out to you of how these ideas and these worksheets actually interact with each other. So, yes, it is a cycle, not a line. Okay, so we're going around in a circle here in this process, and we start with the ideas worksheet. You have your idea and you're working through, and yes, you're probably gonna go to the foundations worksheet because you want to get really sell it on what type of game you want to make. And it's a good idea to talk about theme and your rules very quickly, right down the big ideas. But you actually want to go from your idea to your prototype as quickly as possible. Okay, so that means those in between worksheets you're sketching down your very first ideas without getting bogged down so that you can take those ideas and that those thoughts you've worked through and make your very first prototype because a prototype generally is where you can put some proof to your idea right, that you can see whether or not your idea will work. So we've spent a lot of time talking about those earlier worksheets of the foundations and the theme and narrative and rules. But that's probably not where you're investing the most of your time to start with. Certainly use them. I'm not saying skipped them at all because you want to write down the main ideas, but you're not writing full paragraphs. You're probably writing down bullet points the first time you go through those pages so that you can get to your prototype and have something very quickly. But you're not done with those first worksheets. Oh, no. So you get your prototype and you start doing your first flight test. It might even only be part of a game. And from those first few play tests, you go back to the drawing board. You look at your foundations and say, Is the game that I said I wanted to make? Is that plausible? Like, Is it possible toe Have you know, Ah, card game with 200 cards play in five minutes. If that's what you wrote down, that might not be that feasible. So you're gonna have to adjust, maybe what your foundations are, what you really want your game to be like and then go into your theme and narrative and you can start to fill things in Mawr of, you know, as you have ideas of what you're playing. You know, when I move things here, too. Here. We could call it this because that fits thematically into the game. There's lots of things that, as you play it feeds into those worksheets. And those worksheets really have value because the more you write down into them, the more valuable they become to make decisions later on, he's become your working document of the game. You are making, and the prototype is kind of the outcome of those documents. So as you prototype and play and play test and learn, things need to go back and fill in those worksheets more so that you can understand your game better. And then there's the play testing and prototyping cycle. Okay, the whole thing is a cycle. You start with your idea and you go all the way up through prototyping and early play test , and then you go around and around and around. But once you get your main idea down and you're not making these sweeping changes to your prototype anymore than often, the cycle is just between play testing and prototyping. You're all the way down at the end, and you're just cycling back and making some small changes. It's not changing the structure of your game or what you want your game to be. You're just changing some values. You're changing how the game plays a little. It just in the design and the components and of making it more fun in the in the way That seems fit. So you're gonna be play testing a few times and then going back and changing your prototype a little bit adjusting things or maybe printing a new version because things have changed enough. Then you go in and your play testing some more and taking some that feedback and then jumping back. And you're doing some more making a new prototype. And at times you're going to say, All right, I've kind of changed. You know what is the goal? What is the player trying to do? And so then you go back into the theme and narrative and make some adjustments, and then you go back forward to your prototype and make adjustments accordingly. Then you keep play testing, so it is not a linear process, but there is sort of an order to the cycle. Okay, you're going around and you're making these adjustments. So the important thing to remember is you want to always, always cycle back and make changes to those early worksheets, because again, that is your living document. That is your your written out version of this game that you want to be able to reference later. I mentioned this in an earlier class that I think there's probably lots of games that don't get made simply because people don't write ideas down, assuming they'll remember them. And then you know it doesn't make its way into the prototype, and they forget that I d entirely. And so the game just never gets made or it gets turned into something else entirely. If you write your ideas down, you're going to make a document that you can reference later and use it to make your prototypes exactly the way you want to ultimately make the game exactly the way you want. And then there's the big question, and this is where we're gonna end up for this video and for this class. How do you know when you're done? Play testing. I know you're a long way from there now. It probably doesn't even cross your mind. But eventually you'll get to a point and say, Am I done? So how do you know you've reached that point? We'll really. There's three main things that would decide that Number one. Keep play testing until your game works. That's number one right. It has to function that you can play a game and there's a winner at the end. If you can't do that reliably, or if there's always things you're having to tweak. It's not done yet. Uh, the second part is that it resembles your foundations, right that if you are playing your game and your play testing it and suddenly you realize, like this is exactly the game I set out to make. Well, you're probably closing in on being done. And last, the feedback from players starts to get less and less OK, so they're not talking about Oh, you need to fix this or that or the other thing starts being small tweaks. Or you just realize that play testers are just having fun right there. Just enjoying the game and they want to play more. Once you reach that point, your play testing is coming to a close now. One big caveat here because I can hear some more seasoned gamemakers in my ear saying, like play testing is never done. You continue play testing until it is produced and sitting on the shelf in a store. And that is true if you are going the route of actually producing your game to get sold on shelves. If you are interested like I said at the very beginning of this Siri's, if you're just interested in making a game that your friends and family can enjoy. A fun, playable game that is the focus of what I'm helping you with here. Then your game is done once it works, once it resembles what you wanted to make. And once everyone is having fun and not making suggestions to fix things, then you're done. You could make the final version of your prototype makers good equality as you can or then move on to a final design phase. And that will be another Siri's that I'm gonna be introducing here on skill share of getting to a finished design. So thanks so much for joining in this video before you leave. I have two things I want to ask you. One. Please, please share your prototype. Share the game you're working on in the projects for this class. I really want to see it. And of course, if you have any questions about any part of your game, I'd love to answer them for you. And the second part is I'd love to know what you need help with with your game design. Tell me in the comments or in the project that you post tell me what you need help with most. Where is it that you get hung up with? Is that the ideas? Is that the rules? Is that the play testing? I'm sure there's some parts that you find more difficult than others. And I want to hear it because I definitely plan on making Mawr videos about the game design process that will help you out. And the only way I could do that is if you tell me what will help you out. So that's all I have for this class. Thanks so much for joining me. Keep moving forward with your game design. I'm really excited to see what you make. I'm sure it's gonna be fun. Thanks a lot. I'll see you next time.