Archive for October, 2015

Lessons from Super Mario Maker

I’ve been playing a lot of Super Mario Maker on the WiiU lately. This is a videogame where players can design and build levels in the style of four flagship Mario games from different eras and systems, and share the levels with other players. As a sort of spiritual descendent of Mario Paint, it is a “sandbox” more than a “game”, a tool for creating an experience rather than an experience in and of itself. There are some game aspects added, challenging players to complete user-created levels. And of course, each level has a goal. But once you’ve gone through the process to unlock all of the tools and elements, you’re left to your own devices.

Mario Maker is sort of a game design toy. What can you do within the confines of the given ruleset. That tickles my brain as a designer, and I bought it as sort of an experiment. After spending some time with it, I began to wonder if Mario Maker was eating into my real game design time, or using up some of my game design mental energy. But as I played more, I realized that Mario Maker was giving me another way to hone my design skills, and I started to see lessons in all sorts of aspects of the game. So I wrote them down, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.
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Taking Care of Fish-ness with Ben Pinchback

Ok, sorry about that pun in the title.

One of my early purchases when I was getting into board games was a little game called Fleet. For me and many others, this cemented the design team of Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle as designers to watch. They have been making their marks in the world of boardgames with original games that blend Euro style and American flair.

They are fantastically fun people to hang out with in person, but also very busy designers. You might think a team of two would have more time to chat, but they are always some of the busiest people I know at conventions. Fortunately, I finally got a chance to ask Ben Pinchback about how they make everything work. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gaming Glossary: Worker Placement

This is a post I’ve been trying to get written for about 8 months, inspired by a post over on the Hyperbole Games blog, in which Grant discusses how important blocking is to make a worker placement game operate well. That struck me as odd, because I didn’t see it as a very firm requirement in a worker placement game. But it got me thinking about what makes a game “Worker Placement”. Worker Placement (WP) is one of those standard Euro Game mechanics that everyone seems to mostly agree on, but everybody has their own criteria. What some people see as excluding a game from being WP, others see it as the “twist” that makes it stand out. I consider my game New Bedford a WP game, but others likely disagree. So I want to try and establish what makes a game cont as WP.

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