For those of you just joining us, throughout the development of Corporate America, I’ve used the business card Deranged Fantasy Games to illustrate how the game has iteratively evolved. Today, I’ll continue that tradition.
In the first installment of Iterative Design in Action, I used the various versions of Deranged Fantasy Games to show how businesses had changed throughout the development of the game up to that point, and how numbers were refined with playtesting. In the second installment, I showed a new design for the card, which focused on improving the aesthetics as opposed to the functionality of the card. Today, I’ll discuss some problems with the more stylish version and how yet another design will solve those problems. I hope.
I Got Problems…
When I presented the new version of Deranged Fantasy Games last time, I hadn’t tested it yet, and I had a pretty good idea that it would have problems. It turns out I was right, and even anticipated some of the problems! While the design mostly worked, there are four problems that I hope to solve with the new design.
Price and Value – The first problem is pretty concrete: the cost and income of the business are not distinct enough. Cost appears in the top right corner, while income is in the bottom right. Income is slightly larger than cost. But nothing else differentiates the two, and it wasn’t uncommon for players to confuse the two numbers (a very big problem, since the numbers were carefully chosen to balance!).
Disparate Designs – The second problem is that I used several different designs for the same deck of cards. While there are some similarities to the different types, there were enough differences that occasionally players do not realize they’re part of the same deck. Additionally, since the different styles were just stylistic, and had no bearing on gameplay, there was also the danger that players might assume or even project functional differences on the different styles.
Pack that Stack – The third problem is something a friend pointed out to me. With this version of the design, there are important pieces of information all over the card, especially the industries on the left and the income on the bottom right. When you’re playing a game with a bunch of players on a small table, real estate is at a premium, so it’s really nice to be able to stack your cards on top of each other. Designing the cards so there is a natural way to do this is essential.
Which Way is Up? – This is another problem I knew was coming, but I didn’t realize exactly how it would manifest itself. Basically, people are used to cards that are vertically aligned, but this design for business cards is horizontally aligned. I think people are mostly able to handle this somewhat unusual design, but the main problem is how they should hold the cards in their hand. It’s awkward to hold cards horizontally, and the way they are laid out now it is difficult to see the important information while holding more than one in your hand. This will not do.
…But Deranged Fantasy Games Ain’t One
Behold, the latest iteration of Deranged Fantasy Games!
A thing of beauty, isn’t it?
I’m hoping that this new design will address all of the issues discussed before. Here’s a break down of my thoughts on them.
Price and Value – The new design features the cost and the income squeezed together in the top right corner of the card. The cost is still smaller than the income, and is located a little closer to the center. It’s also tinted red. Since the numbers are closer to each other, I’m hoping it’s easier for people to compare the two. The red color is supposed to indicate that the number is bad (you have to pay that, boo!). But the cost is less important than the income: as soon as you pay the cost, you no longer have to worry about it, so it’s smaller and more likely to be hidden behind another card.
Disparate Designs – I’m going to come clean with you here: I have the least faith in the new designs helping with this problem. I think the underlying issue is that the different style businesses have no functional distinction, and people are always going to try to find some functional difference between them. But I hope that the new designs, with similar layouts and color schemes, will at least help people realize that the cards belong to the same deck.
Pack that Stack – You’ll notice that a lot of the information that was spread all over the card is now aligned on the right side of the card. The idea here is that you can hide most of the card, only allowing the right side to peak out, and still know everything important about the card.
Note that some cards (like Deranged Fantasy Games, as it turns out) have special rules, which appear in the bottom left. Unfortunately, these cards just can’t have all of the important information squeezed to the right… real estate on the cards might be even tighter than real estate on the table! These cards are relatively infrequent, so I’m hoping that people don’t mind having a few cards that can’t be stacked.
Which Way is Up? – This is one of the trickiest problems, but I think the solution is pretty slick (so I really hope it works!). The idea here was inspired by another game, 7 Wonders. 7 Wonders makes the unusual graphic design decision to pack almost all of a card’s relevant information on top of it, so you can see what a card does just by peaking at the top 20% or so. This allows you to stack the cards both in your hand and in play. Pretty clever.
Since business cards in Corporate America are horizontally aligned, and people are used to holding cards vertically, the plan was to allow the cards to be held in your hand vertically and still get most of the important information. A clever illustration in the rules will plant the idea in players’ minds, and I hope they’ll find this natural and useful. Only time and testing will tell, of course, but I’m optimistic!
And That’s Not All!
There were a number of other small, non-functional improvements with the latest iteration of cards, too. For example, the fonts have been reduced and simplified. I’ve learned a ton about fonts (or typefaces, as graphic designers call them!) since the latest version of the cards, so I was able to harness less ridiculous and easier to read typefaces for a similar effect to the old ones. Who knew there was so much to learn about typefaces!
Of course, the latest iteration of Deranged Fantasy Games and the other business cards is just that: another iteration. It’s almost certain that this version will not survive until the final game is printed, and testing might prove that even dramatic changes are necessary. That said, time is ticking, and at some point, the cards will need to be printed, no matter how imperfect they are!
English teachers I used to have would say that a piece of writing is never finished, it’s only due. The same is true for games (and really every creative endeavor). My goal is to make them as close to finished as possible by the time they’re due. And the due date is approaching quickly!