Oct 12, 2009

How I Decided to Make a Video Game

Being a game designer wannabe is hard.

I am not complaining that it is too much work. I enjoy the process of designing games: idea, concept, rules, prototype, test, refine, repeat.

It is the failure to get published that drags at the soul; failure nibbles away at resolve. I love making games. I also love watching people play (and enjoy) a game over which I have labored. Being a game designer wannabe gives you plenty of the former and little of the latter.

I wanted to remedy that. I wanted to have people outside of my playtesters play my games. So I decided to make it into an online game.

I began teaching myself ASP.NET. It seemed perfectly suited to making a turn-based, asynchronous online version of a board game. I was going to model my interface on the one at SpielByWeb, where I play under the handle "rellekmr".

A month ago, I was at one of the New York City Board Game Designers playtest meetings. Another designer there, Chris Choi, asked me about what had happened with Titans of Industry. Chris had played it some time ago at a previous NYCBGD meeting. I told him that a couple of publishers had seen it but no bite yet. I also told him that I was exploring the idea of making an online version of the game.

Chris immediately recommended that I speak with his coworker, Malachi Griffie. Malachi was an experienced Flash programmer. After the playtest meeting finished, Chris, Malachi, and myself spoke about the possibility of collaborating on making an online version of my game. Chris told Malachi that my game was solidly designed and he should try it out.

A couple of weeks later they came over to my place and, joined by a couple of my playtesters, we did a session of Titans of Industry. They enjoyed it enough to stay after the game was finished for a couple of hours talking about how we would do the online project.

The work is still in the opening phases, but as I related in my previous post, you will eventually see an online version of Titans of Industry.

This effort will pay off for me in three ways. In increasing order of importance:
  1. Immediate Revenue - whether subscription or ad-based, this game could provide some income.
  2. Visibility - if the online version develops a following, it might attract the attention of a publisher.
  3. It Gets Played - this is by far the most important thing for me; I want people to enjoy the games that I create. An game that will go unplayed is a game not worth designing.
What I would like from all of you is to know this: Would you play an online board game? If not, why not? What could be done to make you want to play one online? Please respond in the comments!


  1. I really like to play board games online (though I've been doing less of this lately since I have less time and don't want to make people wait for me), but I only play on sites I'm already playing on. I don't think I would join a site for just one game, especially if it were one I weren't already interested in.

  2. Anni, when you do play board games online, do you prefer ones where the entire game is played in one sitting simultaneously by all players? Or do you prefer games that take place over weeks?

  3. Definitely prefer the asynchronous. It only takes a few seconds at a time, you can think about it between site visits, and if someone yells at you for being too slow, you definitely deserve it in that format.

    But I'm not exactly a representative sample. Why don't you try a BGG poll?

  4. That's a good idea. I'll look at doing one when I get home.

  5. I only play online games that are turn based and minimal players... it's too easy for one player to kill the experience for everyone else otherwise (like ditching out halfway). I play GO online a LOT for this reason.

    The main reason I play games is for the psychology and social aspects. Online gaming removes this experience.