One Missing Corner

Game design metaphor time, because what game designer doesn’t like metaphors? Are not all our games metaphors??? Anyway.

When I’m stuck on a design, it almost always looks like this:

a square missing one corner

I’ve got a solid idea of what I want the game to be (it’s a square!) and I’ve got most of the procedures that create that thing (three corners are set!). But then… there’s a missing bit. The last corner. I know the exact size and shape of the gap, but I’m not quite happy with what I’m putting there to complete my square.

And of course if I put the wrong thing in, I don’t get a square at all. No matter how solid the other corners are, if that last corner is wonky I might wind up with a totally different experience than I intended for the people playing the game.

squares but with one corner gone wild

Fast forward months or years of me poking at that one elusive corner. That’s my curse. It happens with just about every game I make to some degree or another. Some designers might just go “meh whatever” and send it out with some spackle over that hole. And ironically, I’ve seen games that were accidentally genius, because some part of the rules did something the designer never anticipated, but that’s not in my genetic code. I want to know what my game is going to do.

A square makes a nice graphic, but it also implies the missing bit is a full quarter of the design, which is generally not true. So pretend the graphic is a pentagon, hexagon, or most accurately a shape with a whole bunch of sides. But the concept is the same: no matter how many corners you have figured out, if one is messed up you don’t get the shape you intended.

For bonus points, look at my different games and see if you can guess what singular element remained mysterious and unknowable long after everything else was settled! Relive my nightmares!

    Ben Robbins | December 22nd, 2022 | , | show 6 comments