The idea for this project came to me in the very early hours of the morning, while trying to coax my newborn daughter back to sleep. I have recently got back into board games after a very long break. Recently, one of my friends pulled out Risk ©, a game I had always wanted to play but never had an opportunity to. It turned out to be quite a good game, although the new rules of this more recent version found us playing very quick games. There was still a great deal of strategy involved, but the games were over too quickly. We soon began to make changes to the rules, finding out what worked well and what didn’t. We dropped and added rules each time we played. Without knowing it at the time, we were also adjusting the game rules to suit our player skill and style.
I was curious about how we could develop a board game that would have a flexible rule system, and whether designing with this in mind might give it a better result. There are, of course, as with all open source projects, some limitations to flexibility. It can’t be everything, and so I decided to stick with a strategy war game. There is not really any special reason for this beyond the fact that this is the type of game my friends and I are into.
Setting wheels into motion
Being a good academic, the first thing I tackled after my initial idea was the research. I didn’t really want to embark on a journey like this without knowing if it had been done before. There were a few things online, although quite a number of them had not really advanced very far, or the projects were no longer alive. Many games were much simpler than the one I was considering. The main issue was not so much whether there were opensource games like this, but the fact that there was a huge variety of strategy war-games.
Core areas of research
Game design processes
I have always had a keen interest in games, and have been designing games since I was a young teenager. While computer games were a favourite of mine, back then it was not really an option for me. Computers and software were not what they are today, and programming was not something I was that interested in at the time. So I stuck to designing board games early on, making a number of games using a variety of systems. Shortly after starting secondary school, I discovered this thing called Dungeons and Dragons. This was great, as it had all the elements that appealed to me about gaming. I could draw maps, I could write stories and scenarios and plan a whole sequence of events, plus, it used maths! I would then unleash these scenarios on my friends, and watch it all unfold. Luckily I am not a control freak, so I was fascinated with how my friends tackled my game-play. They would often take the game to places I never thought of, or solve problems in ways I hadn’t imagined. This was great, and I learnt a great deal from their playing styles. Balance in games is something hard to judge without test playing, but Dungeons and Dragons really helped me learn to predict potential problems. But as the game involves a lot of number crunching, you learn how to balance battles very well.
The design process for games is interesting, and through developing ‘Sovereign’ – the board game, I would like to formalise each of the stages or steps. I hope to address each stage in the blog and describe and define the steps so that it can easily be applied and matched to other game design processes including computer and card games. While I understand that one size does not fit all, I think some valuable information should come from the analysis.
Education and instruction through games
Another area that is close to me is my love of games as a learning tool. We learn a great deal from play in our childhood years, and I’m not sure that this ever really changes. It may not always be practical or efficient to learn through games, but maybe we are not trying hard enough. While ‘Sovereign’ is not specifically an education game, I feel we could still benefit from considering the implications that game-play can have on the player’s ability to learn something. So with this in the back of my mind during development, I am hoping to discover a few useful techniques that might benefit game development in relation to education.
Crowd sourcing development
Crowd sourcing is a brilliant way of developing products, and while the usual commercial models do not always work well with this, I think this is something that could be investigated further. My inspiration is drawing from two main sources. One is Firefox, and the fact that it has managed to grab as big a share of that market as it has. The other is the Italy tourism website development; a brilliant effort from like-minded, passionate people who were so appalled with the governments effort that they took matters into their own hands. I am hoping to find a similarly passionate group of people to work with me on this project.
Social media networks and marketing
I have been working hard in this blog to maximise my search results. Having done a fair bit of SEO before, I am familiar with techniques available, but there is always more to learning. I am following a range of professionals giving advice on improving one’s results, but also visiting conversions. I will research theories behind social networks and how they are being used to build a brand or promote a product. I will document all this information as it comes to light.