The Broken Things team all came to this project of working together with a bunch of different backgrounds of creative experience. Art, writing, game design, and more. That meant that when we started working together, we knew that there had to be a process. Coordinating a team of people all working on a project means that there just has to be a process.
Creating a Creative Process
The first thing we did for our approach is to decide who is the lead for each project. That doesn’t mean they’re in charge of it necessarily, but merely that they are the person in charge of project management and coordination. In the early stages, this is integral.
It is so easy for creative folks to get distracted and work on some other project that also catches their eyes. When you’re in the early stage of trying to figure out if it is worthwhile, we all have to put in the effort to check to see if it will grow into something that can be something real.
Minimum Viable Product
First step is almost invariably figuring out a minimum viable product. For board games, that means that we need to figure out if there is the basis of a cool idea or mechanic there. If we are building a game this means figuring out the first couple of mechanics that we’re going to be playing with. For Builders, this meant a basic deck building mechanic, and figuring out how constructing building would go.
We didn’t need anything resembling the full set of cards for this. We created about a dozen cards for a two player situation, then ran through a couple of turns for what we thought the game would look like. That meant we could figure out the barest sense of the game. This isn’t necessarily the part of the process that is the most fun, and this first version of the game isn’t necessarily very good.
From there we figure out if we need to iterate on this initial sense of the game. If there is anything resembling a basic game in there, we can start to build on that. If not, we iterate on this most basic sense of the game. If the mechanics just don’t work, we can gently put the game down without putting too much work in.
The next phase is to create an alpha. For builders, setting up a “full” deck of cards with basically no graphic design or other elements included. Some of the play testers who looked at this game saw it at this point. Pieces of paper with writing on them. For us, we had some of the funny names already included at this, because the jokes were always a part of this game.
Iteration and Creative Process
Then we iterated on this part of the game until we figured out a basic sense of the rules and the sense of the math behind the game. Hidden somewhere in an excel file is a mathematical equation that determines the power curve for this game.
From there, we continued to develop the game. We knew that there was something we wanted to work on some more, so on one hand the graphic design began, the art began, and we continued to develop the rules. The process meant that we could have multiple parts of the game developing at the same time. From there, we could figure out edge cases and determine how they should be resolved.
Then it was a matter of continuing to iterate and develop the game, clearing up edge cases, and then finalizing the game. We kept working on it, and starting to hone it in light of printing realities. For example, when one printer came back with the requirement of a different number of cards compared to the others, we were able to pivot and tweak the game to fit that printer, should we decide to go with them.
And that’s how we develop a full game, while adjusting our creative process to match.
What are your biggest successes and tricks to establishing your creative process? Comment below!