TOG Design Diary: 2 – Idea → Prototype

At what point does an idea about a game become a game about an idea? 


My game TOG (code name) was inspired by reading the original pitch document for the PC game Diablo:

To make this game my own, my goal was to distill out the things I love about Diablo (character progression and loot!) and capture those feelings in a board game form. 

Building blocks

A game needs a system and a system needs building blocks. That’s where I started. My characters needed attributes to make each player’s character feel unique. This was the very first system I created.

I wanted something simple and visual, similar to a personality chart. The basic attributes in blue (Brawn, Guile and Wisdom) combine to give heroic attributes in orange (Prestige, Genius and Virtue).

I’m not a fan of adding unnecessary complexity to the lexicon of a game. Wherever possible I try to take advantage of familiarity and scaffolding (e.g. call a Victory Point a Victory Point not an Illustriousness Quantum). 

So why didn’t I go with the usual Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, etc? I wanted opposite attributes to feel like opposite personality traits and I wanted the heroic attributes feel like a combination of the basic attributes. I think this justified bringing out the thesaurus in this case. 

What’s the next building block my game would need? 

Resources! I decided on three resources (Skill Points, Experience Points and Gold Coins) and on how they would be spent (unlocking skills, leveling up and buying items respectively). I wanted to associate each resource type with one of the three basic attributes: 

Game flow

Once I had these building blocks in place (attributes and resources), I moved on to the game flow. Players would earn resources by selecting actions from a game board consisting of quests of increasing difficulty:

Players would then spend their resources in town to prepare for the next questing phase:

Mechanics vs Theme

So far, I have covered the first day I spent turning my idea into a game (I’m now 190 days on). 

I often see the debate between mechanics vs theme as a driver for game design. I think of myself as being very mechanics oriented, but when I reflect back it is clear that I started with a theme and used this to develop the basic building blocks of my game. It was only once I had these building blocks that I actually came up with the key mechanics. It was one week later that I had actually fleshed out the mechanics to the point that I could print off my first prototype and play. 


Below are a selection of the pages in my initial prototype print out.

Over to you

At what point did your idea about a game become a game about an idea?

What was the very first system you created for your game?

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Design Theory, Designer Diary, Prototyping

Design Theory
Carla Kopp

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