Failing, Informatively

This is possibly going to be a weird thread. Bear with me.

When designing games, sharing work, promoting our stuff, a lot of us make a lot of mistakes. And that's just the way it works. And, I suspect, some of us make mistakes that others have made before, because the process of screwing up and learning from it is too opaque - or too buried in other stuff. So, hey, let's try changing that.

Share a story of something you did badly in design, release, or promotion, and the lesson you learned. It can be something you corrected, or something you didn't - but it must be something you learned from.

I'll go first, just to break the ice...

The Exchange
This is / was a game I worked on over a year ago. It had a climbing series of player-created traits, and a core mechanic involving d6s. We played games with it, locally, and it worked pretty well. So I decided that maybe others could give me some input. So, I waved it around on my journal, and on the Forge, talked to a few people, and did a bit more work... and the work stalled out.

The big mistake I made was, though I went to others to get their attention, and asked for their input, I treated the attention as the good part, and the input as if it was somehow an obligation. Which skewed my idea of who I was writing for.

Reflecting on this, I learned to be thankful for constructive input, but not to treat it as an obligation. I've heard awesome ideas people have suggested for my stuff, tried to acknowledge them, considered them carefully, and then simply not used them if they didn't fit. I would have felt guilty about that, once.

And you?


  • In my design of NGHB, I made so many mistakes I lost count. I think the biggest thing I failed to do in design was sitting down and fully analyzing the tropes of the mecha anime genre.

    I had an idea for what I wanted to accomplish and I barrelled ahead and created this thing that was a start, but was pretty non-animeish. I have since learned that for every mechanic in the game, I need to find a trope that has been used across several examples of the genre.
  • I designed a game that uses custom cards in play, which has shackled us forever after to a minor logistical headache. It's a good design choice, it works well in play and adds value to the game, but I did not think ahead to production and distribution at the time.
  • edited May 2008
    I pushed too hard to have my game ready for Gen Con and I burned myself out for the next three months of creative effort

    I thought I had to keep working on my game when what it really needed was to sit on the shelf for three months.

    I didn't pay attention to my creative process and I kept breaking it until I did.
  • edited May 2008
    Which mistake to list? How about obsessing on a system, not letting the game go? I have games that are years (even over a decade) old, that I keep revamping and refining. It's ridiculous. I need to take a game to the next stage, if only to start breaking the habit. What I learned is that there's no satisfaction in endless refining, and that it ticks off players, who are usually very happy with the game long before I am.

    I used to use my lack of artistic skill and the oddity of my games as excuses not to publish. Now the indie market is allowing odd games to find niche audiences (even if you can't do it for the money), and I've got an artist who's offering her skills. Now it's up to me.
  • Too much research when writing the semi-historical role-playing game Draug. Draug has too much information, and some spontaneity and playfulness was definitely lost. I'm writing a Viking role-playing game/scenario now, and will only include historical stuff that's Fun (as in, "weird, I didn't know that!") or Necessary (as in "the players have to understand this bit, otherwise the setting will make no sense").

    Fun fact: While most Norwegians know (or "know", I'm not sure if it's even true) that many of us are direct descendants of certain reproductionally hyperactive Viking kings, very few know that we also have a lot of celt DNA - which comes from all the Irish slaves that the Viking raiders captured back then. The blood of slaves and kings runs in our veins, apparently.
Sign In or Register to comment.