Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rules - now with 50% more diagrams

I spent much of today editing the rules for Diggity. I incorporated all the feedback I've received from my playtesters, including a new rules change I mentioned a couple posts ago that Christina and I have tested out several times.

The rest of the edits included drafting new images and tweaking lots and lots of sentences to make sure my meaning is clear.  I've found that diagrms are a lot easier to understand than text; a number of my playtesters have gotten basic concepts wrong, concepts that were (I thought) clearly stated in the rules.  A couple of these, like legal card placement and connections, are very easy to address with images, and that's made me think that the more pictures and the less text I use, the better.

Also, crafting the text of rules documents is very, very tricky.  You have two goals which are diametrically opposed; on the one hand, you need to be a lawyer - totally complete, covering all possible questions, leaving no unlikely scenario uncovered, so players always know what to do.  On the other hand, you want to be a poet - you want it to be fun, clever, and easy to read, with simple, clear, engaging language.  That's tricky - there's a reason lawyers don't generally write poetry, and poets don't write contract boilerplate.

Another thing I did, which is really helpful, is read the rules aloud.  This sounds dorky, and believe me, if you'd walked by my basement office door and saw me orating my game rules, you'd know that it was.  But it's a great way to get deeper into your writing, to hear your sentences differently as they come to you verbally, and to catch any grammatical or construction issues that you'd miss on a quick silent reading.  I give this advice to my students in writing-intensive classes.  I don't know if they follow it, but I've been reading out loud any work that's really important since a writing instructor first suggested the technique to me back in college.

I'll get another crack at these rules in a few weeks when I get some more playtesting feedback, and hopefully I'll be able to continue replacing text with diagrams once the new artwork comes in.

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