Sunday, November 20, 2016

Day 18: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 18 - Lens 101: The Lens of The Team
To make sure your team is operating as a well-oiled machine, ask yourself these questions:

Is this the right team for this project? Why?
Well it's the only team... do I have all the needed skills, no. That has forced some interesting design decisions that maybe have made the game stronger, particularly around theme and art. I think I lack the number crunching hard design skills that would benefit the tactical deterministic parts of the game. I do think that where I have chosen to involve others in the project I have chosen pretty well. Largely those have been people that I have close social ties with and that has smoothed communications. Also since I have asked for volunteer work I have been very careful about asking too much.

Is the team communicating objectively?
This isn't a very meaningful question on a team of one, but if applied to the playtesters and developers that I have had assess the game then I think it varies. When people are close to you they soften their feedback... at least at the beginning of development that can be ok as you don't want to crush your ego and give up on a project that may have potential, at the same time it becomes more and more important to question everything about your game as you go on because bad decisions will slip through and build on each other.

Is the team communicating clearly?
The clearest communications have been the most difficult. It's hard to hear negative things about your game or process. Language and experience with games can often ba a barrier when the team member (playtester in my case) just doesn't have the words to tell me what they have noticed about the game. As much as people resist the idea of unified language around games as a waste of time it would be useful here.

Is the team comfortable with each other?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Putting the game into the hands of people I am not comfortable around gives very different results than playing with people who I am relaxed around. The social tension in the case of my game raises the stakes of the social aspects of the game.  Also players often have a higher level of comfort with each other after playing the game.

Is there an air of trust and respect amongst the team?
If in my case we refer to the playtesters as the team then it's an interesting question. The game is about trust and betrayal and conflict, but within the context of the game I do think that players trust each other to follow the rules and to explore the space of the game together. Given the strangeness of real time play I think that I am asking for an unusual amount of trust from the players. Sometimes I get it immediately, usually from less experienced gamers. Sometimes it is earned in scraps. But the fact that almost all players now finish the game trusting my rules and me as a designer feels like an important metric. Perhaps there can be a question about that in the post play survey?

Is the team ultimately able to unify around decisions?
This one comes back to me being the only team member, when I make a decision there is no one around to question it... that is more of a problem than a blessing since not all of my decisions are good or reasonable. Doing heavy and immediate playtesting of every decision helps, but it may take more time than having a team-mate that can resist my bad choices, and my good ones. Overcoming that kind of healthy resistance would probably be faster than testing every decision.