Friday, March 12, 2010

Diggity Design

The game I'm initially trying to publish is my card game, Diggity (see Diggity on the main Plankton Games site). Here's the design process.

First Prototype:

I made the game on some half-size index cards (A8 paper size, about 2"x3") I could get in Germany, where I was living for the second half of 2009. Nothing fancy - just ballpoint pen on tiny little cards. The game was fun - I played it with the family on some of our train trips, and then we tested it some more in our apartment. I changed some of the rules and added new ones, and together we got it into playable shape.

Design Prototype:

For the next phase, I made up computer art for the cards and got the game printed up through, a print-on-demand (POD) service that's been really helpful for me in getting nice-looking versions of my games printed up for not too much money. More on POD and later. I ordered a copy for myself and was able to get it brought to me in Germany thanks to a visit from my mother-in-law. It was really neat to see it in print. The cards were poker-size, which initially seemed very big compared to the half-index cards, but they are also a more traditional size and feel like real cards.

Playtesting and Refining:

I played the game with whomever was willing, and I sent copies to some friends. This was really useful - each group came up with different questions about the rules, and I don't think any of them got everything correct. I used their problems and suggestions to refine the rules to be more thorough, including more examples and pictures. I haven't had a chance to do much blind playtesting yet, and none with people who aren't my friends or at least acquaintances. The Yachting Club at Guilford College has been very helpful - they've been willing to play a number of my games.

Initial Release:

I released Diggity on (it's listed here) after getting back from Germany. I sold a copy almost immediately; I still don't know who bought it, since TGC fulfills the orders. A few days later, I sold another copy, and I think this one was bought by one of the GameCrafter employees, since he reviewed it (see the complete Diggity Review). So, my first completely independent blind playtest by somebody I didn't know was actually by one of my first two customers, which isn't ideal. However, I'd done enough testing with different groups by that point that I was comfortable releasing it, and the positive review indicates it was probably OK to have done so.

Future Plans:

I haven't sold any more copies in the couple of months since the release, although some of my friends have expressed a willingness to buy copies if I had any to sell. TheGameCrafter is a great service with quality products, but it's expensive (as you'd expect from a print-on-demand shop). I've set the price for the game low enough that I only make a dollar or two per game, and the shipping is expensive. I've tried to get some more copies printed through, which would be a little cheaper, but so far, that's been a black hole - I made the art to their specs, submitted the art and my payment, and have heard nothing for three weeks, despite e-mailing and calling repeatedly.

I've also been looking into actually publishing the game, either by submitting it to an established game company or by self-publishing. That journey I'll describe in more detail later.

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