Game Design: Where Do I Start?

Green Fairy Studios has been working on development of a new game! While I’m not ready to share any details just yet, I did think that it might be useful/interesting to blog a little bit about the process itself. I’m sure I’m not the only gamer who’s thought, “I should try my hand at making my own game,” so maybe if I record some of my experiences in the process, it might help others who want to take the journey.

Publisher, or Published?

One of the first things to think about is whether you just want to see your game in print and available for others to play, or if you want to handle not only writing and making your stuff, but also handling its distribution, and offering that service to others.

For Green Fairy Studios LLC, we opted for the later. We want to not only produce our own games, but eventually help others bring their own games to life. What does this mean?

For any game, you have to do lots of writing, even more playtesting, some prototyping, some more playtesting, getting art assets, and some more playtesting. If all you want to do is see your book published, then usually what you’ll want to do is go find a publisher who will print it and distribute it for you.

If, though, you want to be a publisher, then there’s a little more involved. And by a “little,” I mean a ton. Not only do you need to do all of the above for game development, but you will also need to figure out what parts you want to manufacture yourself (if any), and what you will subcontract out. Do you want to buy (and learn how to use) production-level printing and binding equipment? What about plastic injection for game pieces? Or CNC for wooden carved parts? What about packaging? The list is nearly endless. It’s a lot more work, but at the same time it can be a lot more rewarding.

Green Fairy Studios is still nailing down exact details, but our plan is to use outside printers (I don’t need to learn all of that technology, or invest in the equipment!) to handle any books, cards, boards, boxes, packages, etc. that we need done. Other material production–namely, miniatures–is planned on being done in-house, because that’s where our passion lies, and where we think we can make the biggest impact.

Hey! That was my game idea!

Usually, game development takes some time. Sometimes a long time, several months or even a couple of years. During that time, even if you’ve told nobody but your cat about your idea, if you watch various gaming news sites and Kickstarter, you may see someone pitch or announce a game that sounds an awful lot like yours. It’s tempting to give up, and say “screw it, it’s too similar! Nobody will buy both.” But, you really, really shouldn’t do this.

Unless your game is just a “re-skin” of an existing game (tip: do not do this), you should not give up. Keep up with all of your design work, staying true to your original vision. Sure, there may be something else that just got released or announced that is similar, but the likelihood that it’s exactly the same is extremely small. What you should do–and what I’ve had to do a couple of times already–is remind yourself that even though some folks might say “oh, that game is just a knock-off of so-and-so,” it really isn’t. Unless your idea was a “re-skin,” which I might have mentioned you shouldn’t do. 😉 (Not only because it will look like, and be, a knock-off, but because there could be some iffy IP issues if you do that.)

Watch any games that are announced or released that seem similar to yours, whether it’s mechanics or setting that’s similar (hopefully not both, but it could happen). See what people say about it: what do they like? What do they dislike? Use all of that as indirect feedback to try to make your own game better. If your idea was original, and you put the work into making it more unique and more interesting and innovative, it will show, and it will be apparent that you didn’t rush something to market just to “cash in” on some other idea that was popular.

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That’s about enough rambling for now. I’ll try to keep these blog posts up semi-regularly. If you have questions or comments, feel free to post here or head over to our new forums (linkie in the menu up top!) and start discussions there.

2 thoughts on “Game Design: Where Do I Start?

    • Yup. I want to be able to (eventually) offer other game designers an opportunity to get their dreams out, too. As I mentioned, I’m not going to have every possible bit of equipment needed in house (e.g., not going to actually become a print shop), but I will build relationships with other vendors so that I can get everything that needs to be done, done. 😉

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