Tag Archives: video games

Video game devs: make a board game, it’ll be good for you!

Last year I started to play more board games. I wanted to find an activity that would allow me to socialize a bit more and that would also satisfy my love for games.

Then I came up with an idea for a card game. As a video game designer, I often come up with ideas, but this one was different; this one was simple, clear, and most importantly, I could see it not taking over my life.

The thing about video game development is that it can become pretty demanding physically and emotionally. If you have a specific vision for your game, there’s a good chance it will require lots of time and technical resources. Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenge and video games will always be my first love. But when you work on the same thing for 2 to 4 years without ever collecting the fruit of your labor, can you really say that it doesn’t affect you?

I’m not saying that making a board game is easy, it’s not. But their scope can be smaller, they can be little side projects that can take your mind off video game projects. And being able to release something in the short term, even if it’s a small card game, will make you happy.

Why should I make a board game?

If you are a game designer, there’s a good chance that the perspective of designing something other than a video game already sounds appealing. It can definitely improve your craft by broadening your understanding of games.

But that is not the only reason why you should make a board game. If you think about it, all you need to make a prototype is a design idea and a nearby dollar store. You don’t need the latest graphics card, a professional rigger, or to understand a dev kit, you just need yourself.

At first having another project on your plate might seem like something that would hinder you more than help you. I think it depends on your point of view. I can tell you from my experience that making my first game as an indie developer took a lot out of me emotionally because of how long it took to complete it; there were times when I would grow impatient. But today I think I saw that project from the wrong perspective.

Maybe making a game should not feel like a sprint, or not even a marathon. Maybe making a game should feel like a stroll in the park. We often don’t want to think of a project that way because we want to finish the project as soon as possible; either because we are running out of resources or we want that sweet positive reinforcement we get when delivering a successful project. But that same feeling might make us rush, cut corners, and most importantly lose our original passion for the project.

Once we understand that, we can also understand what a small board game side-project can do for us. It allows us to have that necessary positive reinforcement in the short term while keeping us engaged on our main video game project.

At least that’s how I’m feeling right now with my card game project. It feels good to know that I can clearly see the progress of one of my projects. I’m able to finish the card game within a year and that feels good. I want more of that.

Where do I start?

Once you have a good idea of the design of your game, you can start putting together a prototype with basic materials such as pen and paper. You can do this alone or with others.

You don’t need to turn this into a commercial project but it wouldn’t be such a bad idea if you do; after all Polygon reported that data from Kickstarter shows that tabletop games in 2018 were on the rise while video games were not.

If you have a background in  video game development as I do, everything will seem like uncharted waters. Here are a few things that you should know and that can help you get started:

  • Go play board games. Either with your friends or maybe at a local meetup. This can help you understand how the design of a board game is different from a video game, and you’ll have fun at the same time.
  • Make a small game first; the scope should be smaller than your video game project, that’s the whole point. Avoid making those big games with 100+ miniatures, manuals that look like bibles and 8+ hours of gameplay.
  • You can re-use your video game IPs and start off with fans you already have.
  • There’s a popular online forum called Board Game Geek, where you can find tons of resources on the subject. There’s even a Works In Progress section where you can gather feedback as you make your game.
  • Making high quality prototypes of a board game is easier than ever today with site such as Print & Play and The Game Crafter.
  • And once you’re ready to do a final print, professional printing companies such as Ad Magic can help you with that.

While I took some time to do some research, I must admit that I still don’t know everything about the board game scene. I did finish making a card game but we still need to go through our Kickstarter campaign and see what we can do beyond that. Hopefully I can cover this topic further in a future post.

Conclusion

If you are game developer and the idea of making a board game seems appealing to you, I think you should start. Just remember to manage your time carefully and take it one day at a time. What you will get out of it can be very rewarding.

Setting up a small gaming event in your hometown

Last March, me and another game designer friend decided to launch an indie gaming event in our hometown of Montreal along with the help of our friends and some very kind volunteers.

We never organized a major event before and a great deal of experience came out of it. I want to share our experience with you in case you are planning to organize a gaming event yourself.

The idea of the Montreal Independent Games Festival (MIGF) came to us when we realized that there wasn’t a great deal of events that focus solely on celebrating indie developers in Montreal. Gamers of Montreal know all the big studios already, so we thought it would be only fair if they had an opportunity to know the little studios as well. Been inspired by events such as BitSummit that is held in Kyoto, we thought that this kind of project could be feasible with the resources that we had. The activities of the event would be kept simple for the first year, focusing on showcasing indie studios on the show floor and giving non-cash prize reward for the best games.

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We soon realized that we were right; in fact, the event surpassed our personal expectations. We had over 40 game submissions and we estimated that about 900 people came throughout the day.

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Finding the right sponsors and partners

We learned that if you have schools in your hometown that give courses related to video games, they can become essential partners. Even if they can’t help you with funding, they can offer so much more. Schools often have rooms that are specifically made for events and they can already have a system in place for planning such events. In our case, we already had good relations with Dawson College, a local college that offers courses in independent game design; they were more than happy to give us access to one of their conference room in exchange for promotional space for their programs.

Working with a small budget

Ok, so we did manage to get a venue fairly easily, but we also realized that there would be costs involved such as for artwork, printing, awards, etc. We knew that since it was our first year, it would be very hard for us to get big sponsors such as the Microsoft or Nintendo. Also, we decided that charging people at the door or asking a fee from the indie studios would not be a good option since it would compromise the accessibility of the event.

Our strategy was simple: Focus on the activities that are low cost and high value for the first year to keep the budget low. Since the showcase of indie studios on the show floor was an activity that required little cost and management from us, we decided to fully focus on that.

As for the awards, we decided not to focus on prize money and rather on the prestige of winning an award. One of the awards was voted by the public and added even more drama to the scene. As organizers who were also indie developers, it was clear to us that we should not participate in the awards or be part of the nomination process.

Reaching to the local media

I contacted websites before as a developer to promote my game, but I never did it to promote an event and I never really contacted the local press; I didn’t know what to expect. As it turns out, we got excellent coverage; two key local newspapers wrote about us and also a few noticeable local blogs. On this point, I would advice to be ready to tell your story and also answer questions; reporters find personal story behind an event very appealing.

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Things to improve

Things went very well for the first year of MIGF, but we also know that there’s always room for improvement. Here are some things we want to improve.

  • Our most common critique was that the room was too small. The truth is, we didn’t expect the show floor to be so packed; I guess it’s kind of a good problem to have. We already have a bigger room planned for next year.
  • We should have contacted the sponsors earlier and be more active in our search. Alot of the sponsor work was done too close to the event date and that put some pressure on us. We would also like to get more partners and sponsors that not necessarily help us with funding but with supplies and other benefits as well.
  • As for promotion, we focused on blogs and newspaper this year, but I would also like to start reaching out to other media outlets such as local radio and TV shows.
  • Hopefully, with more partners and sponsors, we can add new activities to the festival such as musical performance and also guest talks.
  • Also, we noticed that the work done by our volunteers was fantastic and we want to give them more rewards for their help in the future.

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Conclusion

All in all, our festival was a success and we are extremely happy with the result. We learned a lot of things while making the event and we are also very grateful to our friends and the local professional in the gaming scene that took the time to give us advices. I hope that this post was able to inspire you or help you if you are planning a gaming event yourself!