Design X 4

In 2009, I met with a game designer who became an informal mentor to me during this design process.  At the time my head was spinning with so many questions related to design of the game.  He told me something that helped me organize my thoughts all throughout the process.

He explained that when designing a game, your design has to balance at least four major considerations.  That is to say, you have to design for…

  1. Playability
  2. Aesthetics
  3. Manufacture
  4. Shipping / Retail (depending on your distribution model)

In other words, your design needs to be playable, beautiful, manufacture-able, and shippable.  A game that is designed for play but is ugly won’t do well.  Similarly, a game that can ship easily and cheaply but isn’t efficiently manufactured will struggle.  The challenge for designers is to make decisions that balance each of these sometimes conflicting priorities.

For the longest time, our biggest issue was with #3, manufacture-ability.  We had no experience with printing and no sense of how various decisions would impact costs.  I guessed at various rules such as “standard playing card size is probably cheapest” and “color is more expensive than only black” (both generally true by the way).  But I had no idea how many cards were printed on the same plate and how much each plate would cost.  On the first few factory quote forms we filled out, I encountered a lot of choices I didn’t know I had (i.e. “bleed” vs. “no bleed”), but I didn’t know how much they were impacting the price.  So it was difficult to determine which design decisions were the best bang for the buck. Most of the factories did not care to take the time to enter into that conversation with me.

The company's display shelf of past games came in very handy as we talked about all the options.

It was for this reason that we really came to appreciate Beau at Civa Printall.  The first two hours he helped to give us a sense of how much various components of the design would cost.  That in turn helped us to figure out which or our design ideas were the most practical for manufacturing. Here are some of the important design decisions his information helped us make:

  1. No separate instruction sheet.  Doing so would have required another separate plate for just that one piece.  That gave us the idea to put the instructions on the bottom box instead, which ended up being great aesthetically as well.
  2. The size, number, weight, and finish of the two card types.
  3. The thickness, cut, and size of the top and bottom box.
  4. * We also learned that cards are generally the most expensive component of any game, which gave us a lot of perspective.

Before we met with Beau, we were designing by three.  After our meeting, we were finally able to design by four!

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