DevelopmentJust how digital can board game development get?

Just how digital can board game development get?

You’re watching a movie or playing a video game, and BAM – inspiration – this would make a really cool board game! Or maybe out of the blue – a new idea for a game mechanic, theme, or story. Sound familiar?

For most people, the idea stays just that - an idea. But what happens if you really want to bring it to life?

Here’s the key things you’ll need to think about:

1. Why do you want to make a game?

2. Are you willing to invest the time and energy (I can say from experience – you’ll need lots of both!)?

3. Who is the game for? Do you want it to be widely published, or are you making it for a close circle of friends and relatives?

4. What tools and materials do you need?

5. How will you know when the game is complete?

Let’s assume that you’ve thoroughly considered steps 1-3 (answers might sound something like “because my idea is AWESOME,” “absolutely!” and “everyone – my game will conquer the WORLD”). From now on, you’ll need to really concentrate on your idea and, most importantly, you’ll need to stick with it. Focus on ONE idea. As hard as it is, ignore the others and just stick to one. Trust me – without this focus, your idea will end up in a drawer, or maybe even the bin.

After honing in on the idea and audience, consider your game mechanics. For example, do you have figures or characters that move across a playing field? How does the movement work? Do you need dice, cards or markers? A combination of everything or something completely new?

But before you get too caught up much in the mechanics, make sure you also consider:

What kind of gameplay should players experience and how do you achieve that? Should the players be curious and enjoy adventures together, or will they embark on a friendship-destroying (that is to say “friendly”) competition for fame and honor? Like in all things, when designing your game there is no right or wrong and the answer probably lies somewhere in between.

These are all part of the game concept. The key points I recommend thinking about at this conceptual stage are (the order will different for each game):

– Theme

– Mechanics and game material

– Optics/Design

– Publication

So, you’ve had your idea, thought about theme, audience, mechanics, and all that jazz. But now there’s one very important step you won’t be able to skip – extensive testing. This is no different with board games from how it is with video games. It is best to test a game at every single stage of development. This usually means: start with the pool of markers, dice and cards every game developer has tucked away in some mystery drawer of imminent creativity and let the tinkering commence: cut, glue, paint and write – use basic building blocks to bring your idea into physical form. Build your prototype!

Now it’s time to test. These days, tests often take place in a digital environment, as far as digital testing is possible. The platforms “Tabletopsimulator”, “Tabletopia” or “Board Game Arena” have unbeatable advantages: on the one hand, the game material is available digitally, so you don’t have to constantly cut out new cards; on the other hand, it extends the circle of test players to almost the whole world!

The digital game-test experience is by no means the same as sitting around a table with friends or family. The socialization aspect is missing – but at this stage this is no problem. We want to concentrate on testing the game itself. Once we’ve tested the mechanics and gathered feedback from the test players, it’s back to the drawing board – it’s almost guaranteed that you will need to make some changes to your prototypes. Thankfully in the digital world, you can implement changes very quickly and can move on to testing the next game element or mechanic.

Let's leave the pure game development process and talk specifically about digitization. Still in the context of board games, of course!

Tabletop Simulator of Nanolith
View on "Tabletop Simulator" of Nanolith

In my view, the future of board game development cannot be achieved without taking advantage of the opportunities and benefits of digitization. The advantages are obvious. Development is more effective and less expensive. Sometimes it’s much more pragmatic physically – for example, on digital platforms I can always see the playing field from an angle that is optimal for me. If I wanted to test this in real life, I would have to walk around the entire gaming table every time. However, testing in the purely digital environment does have its limitations, or is not always the most pragmatic solution. In addition, let’s be honest: a board game should still remain a board game – a tangible, physical game board. Otherwise I would play a video game right away. It’s all about the haptic experience. And let’s not forget – it’s also about the irreplaceable social interaction; experiencing and discovering things together.

So why not combine a physical board game with digital components that, for example, help me set up the game, explain the rules or, if need be, let me play with my friends around the world? I could create and experience a whole new atmosphere in digital worlds – but with all the benefits of the physical.

As a board game developer and publisher, digitalization – let’s call it buzzwords like NFT tokens, blockchain and Web 3.0 – opens up completely new possibilities for development, the game experience and distribution.

I actually can not wait to experience these developments directly

About the author

Fabian Eggers

CEO Woodpecker Games
“The process of creativity needs to be supported by the digitalization. Community and togetherness are key to future game experiences“


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