Birds of a Feather Design Decisions

birds_of_a_feather_cover_finalThe Birds of a Feather Kickstarter is right around the corner (March 10th!), so I decided it’s time to share some stories from the game’s development. If you haven’t already checked out the free print and play, you might want to do that before diving into some of the details below.

Birds of a Feather is different from my previous games in many ways, most significantly because it’s very simple. It has a few core rules, but almost no special rules or exceptions. The rules fit on the front and back of a single sheet of paper with plenty of room for diagrams. This made the entire design process for the game very different from the other games.

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Corporate America Sell Out

When we last left off, over a year and a half ago, Corporate America had just begun hitting store shelves, and I was just beginning to get a grasp on its financial situation. Even though the Kickstarter was successful, I had to spend a pretty penny to finish and release the game.

corporate_america_kickstarter_vs_costSo, what’s changed in the 19 months since I posted that article?

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Basic Human Actions

Today I’m discussing something a little unusual. I thought it would be interesting to think about the basic actions humans can make and see how they’re used in games. Do games use all actions that people can take? Are there certain actions that stand on their own, preventing other types of actions? Are some actions just more fun than others?

I think my initial idea was a tad ambitious: listing every basic action a human can make is a little much for one blog post (or probably one lifetime, honestly). However, I still found the exercise to be both interesting and informative. I hope you agree!

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Going Wide

I recently started a Patreon. It’s a bit of an experiment, but I’m hoping it will give friends and fans the chance to show their appreciation for this blog and help guide me by requesting article topics. Today’s article is the first of those requests.

Cardboard Edison is a husband and wife duo who have done great things for the game design community. They scour the internet in search of articles, podcasts, and forum threads about game design and publishing and share them with interested parties, helping content creators get exposure and making sure everyone has access to quality resources. It’s a win-win, and I highly recommend you follow them on twitter.

Nothing Sacred Games' releases are diverse. Perhaps a little too diverse...

Nothing Sacred Games’ releases are diverse. Perhaps a little too diverse…

Cardboard Edison asked me a very interesting question: “You seem to have designed games in a pretty wide range of genres. Some designers and publishers prefer to work in a narrower range to build a brand. Could you talk about the pros and cons of the different approaches, both as a designer and a publisher?”

For those of you unfamiliar, the games I have released and am working on are all over the board. The first game I released, Corporate America, is a negotiation game set in the contemporary US with a satirical bite. Shadow Throne, scheduled for release in March of 2015, is a drafting, hand management game set in a dark medieval kingdom. And Birds of a Feather, which will be on Kickstarter in a few months, is a quick, simple card game about bird watching. And this isn’t even considering digital games!

The question really got me thinking about what I’m doing and whether I’m moving in the right direction or not, so it naturally makes for a great article! Join me as I weigh the pros and cons of having a diverse portfolio of games.

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Emotional Game Design

Believe it or not, you shouldn't always look like this while designing games. Image from Internet Reaction Face Archive.

Believe it or not, you shouldn’t always look like this while designing games. Image from Internet Reaction Face Archive.

Emotion plays an interesting role in game design. On the one hand, people tend to do their best work when they are excited and passionate. On the other hand, strong feelings of pride and attachment can cloud your judgment, make it difficult to empathize with others, and ultimately lead to an inferior game.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you have no trouble getting excited about game design. Few of us do. Instead, I’m going to focus on how excess emotion can cause you to make bad design decisions, and what you can do to avoid it.

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The Joys of Birding

Today I want to discuss something a little unusual for a game design blog: bird watching.

The long-billed curlew, one of the majestic birds from Birds of a Feather.

The long-billed curlew, one of the majestic birds from Birds of a Feather.

Before you immediately close the tab, let me explain why you might care. My next game, Birds of a Feather, was designed after I thought carefully about why I enjoy birding. I broke down the activity in terms of how people enjoy it, then thought about how to convert some of those joys into a card game. I found this method to be extremely valuable, and you might benefit from it if you want to make games inspired by other hobbies. And, because I was abstract in the way I thought about the activity, the resulting game could have been themed in any number of ways (though I ultimately stuck with the initial inspiration, bird watching).

So join me as I pick apart why anyone would ever enjoy birding, and then explain how I put some of those pieces back together to create an original card game.

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Shadow Throne Outtakes

shadow_throne_box_whiteEarly in theĀ Shadow Throne Kickstarter, a backer asked if I had any fun stories about cards that didn’t make the cut. I’m finally getting around to it… four months after the Kickstarter finished. Better late than never, right?

Between the initial conception for Shadow Throne and when it funded on Kickstarter, I worked on a year’s worth of prototypes. When I discussed the evolution of the graphic design, I discussed seven versions of the game, but that doesn’t cover every little tweak I made along the way. Needless to say, I experimented with a lot of cards and mechanics that didn’t make it. Today I’ll cover some of the most interesting ones, explaining what I was trying to do and why they didn’t make it.

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Shadow Throne Kickstarter: Outreach II

Welcome to the final installment of Shadow Throne Kickstarter here on the Nothing Sacred Games blog! In case you missed the earlier posts, I first covered the core Kickstarter, then discussed the periphery, and started going over outreach last time. Today I’m going to finish covering outreach, talking about advertising, online communities, and miscellaneous strategies I used.

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Shadow Throne Kickstarter: Outreach I

Today I’m back at it, discussing the Shadow Throne Kickstarter in detail. Previously I discussed the core Kickstarter and the aspects on the edge, and today I’ll begin to discuss how I reached out beyond Kickstarter. Because I used so many strategies to do this, I’m going to break up the list into two posts. Today I’ll start with reviews/previews, interviews and podcasts, and game nights at local game stores.

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Shadow Throne Kickstarter: Campaign Periphery

In my last post I discussed the Shadow Throne Kickstarter at its most basic: the page, the video, and the reward tiers. But a Kickstarter is so much more than just what you put on the main page! So today I’ll to continue examining the Kickstarter by covering some of the peripheral elements: the stretch goals and the updates.

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