Ideas for Design: Gamification of Things You Know

This week's design story is about one of the methods I personally use as a tool in designing a game.

As I've been mentioning in previous posts, though we currently have two games finished, there are more that we are working on. Some of the designs we are pursuing independently, while others we are working on together. I'll be focusing on one of my personal designs along with what we've already done.

With Shipload o'Gold's design, we were definitely influenced by other games we have played. Both Marshall and I were slightly better than average competitive Magic players, and I was a Rules Advisor, so we had a fairly intricate knowledge of what worked in that game. I also was a fan of Mark Rosewater's (lead designer of Magic) podcast regarding the development of Magic sets. Since I had played in essentially two eras (back in the early days and the current sets at the time), I was able to see how a lot of the design methods ended up working in the respective sets. What was also brought to my attention was the evolution of their design philosophy as the game got older. It was clear to me how his 10 Things Every Game Needs were the core fundamentals that make a game good.

When we evolved Marshall's initial idea, Tides, into Shipload o'Gold, we used all that knowledge of what was enjoyable about Magic. It ended up being a relatively simple process translating ideas in Magic to cards and concepts in Shipload o'Gold, and gave us an excellent starting point to iterate off of as we tuned the game into what it became. In that sense, we didn't really have to "gamify" something we knew, as that something was already a game.

Stir Fry 18 was a gamification of making stir fry, which Marshall had been doing quite a bit at the time he designed the game. It was a good inspiration, and something that could easily be made into a game as you already have pieces (the ingredients) and a goal (making stir fry). Marshall's also talked about how quick it was to design, illustrating how effective it can be to focus on something you're very familiar with and try to turn concepts from that into a game.

One of the larger games I've been working on is based off my experience as a special agent, and tinged with all the noir/detective stories I've seen in movies or read in books. There's the obvious "investigation" game that nearly everyone knows - Clue. While it recreates the idea of investigating different places to obtain evidence, it's lacking the concept of a criminal antagonist that is acting against the players. I'm currently working on mechanics that would allow an antagonist either as a player working against investigators, or a non-player ruleset similar to the "big bad" in Arkham Horror.

There are also a lot of aspects of investigations that can be included, and I'm focused on figuring out which of those aspects work in a game, and which are not really all that fun. Things like confidential sources, witnesses & their unreliability, recovered evidence, private investigators versus law enforcement, population awareness, and the like. 

The game is by no means in a state to share at this point, other than describing the concepts that I'm trying to incorporate, but using that starting point of something I know has been very helpful in guiding the design process.