Game Design & Development- Part 1: People & Projects

One of the things we talk a lot about here is the way a game is designed. We praise or denigrate a game based entirely on aspects of the way it is presented, promoted or played. Right or wrong, design matters to us as gamers and consumers. We’ve ripped it up in the comments section or even in articles, discussing our favorite “big name company” products and how their design and development appears to us. Game design studios know that consumers care about the quality and integrity of a design, and anyone worth their sale these days does extensive testing and development to make sure their games meet our requirements.

We look for games that meet our ideals of design (in the previous series, we said those aspects were Art, Mechanics, Tone, Emotional Connection and Putting It All Together) and then we make buying decisions using those ideals as metrics. Obviously those aspects could change, but we certainly use the stated ideas when making a purchase.

Working forward from the idea that design is important to us, the question becomes: how are games designed and developed? And if the game is going to be published, how is it designed and developed so that we can buy them?

This isn’t perfect, but you get the idea. 

I plan to explore the game design and development process through several parts of this new series. I hope to share comments and ideas about making games throughout this new adventure.

The series will be divided up into several parts. I am asking for feedback from my contributors to help define the parts, but I expect something like the following (but may change): People & Projects, Pitch, Prototype/Playtest, Procurement/Parts, Production (Publication & Purchase), and Promotion.

The first part of this series involves people- who is designing games? I put out a call, and with the help of some VERY connected friends, I have reached more than 20 designers working on a vast array of projects.  What are they working on? I connected with people who are just designing for fun as well as a gentleman just hired by Paizo to lead a new product line. I was lucky enough to talk to all kinds of developers, too. I have video game designers, roleplaying games and lines, a miniatures game and someone working on a board game. It’s not just guys out there working on projects! I have met two women who are heading fairly large projects, too. It was very nice to see an answer to my eternal question, “where are the ladies?”

The people and their projects are featured below.

All games unless other wise noted are IN DEVELOPMENT and thus not ready for production.  While I have followup questions for these folks, I would love to hear from you, to see what your questions are as well. Please chime in!

Pat East: Unfortunately I don’t have a name for my game yet. I haven’t done the proper research required for branding. A working title for the game is “Mission Control” however. Mission Control is a card game in which players take on the role of a space program, building ships and going on missions to bring back science and minerals.

Mike Wallace: My project is called Talonspire, it is an RPG Campaign Setting that makes use of the Pathfinder system.

Jason Amodio: The name of the project is Dragonfly (working title not solid)The game is being designed in a living card game type style. The original intent was a collectible card game, but in my opinion the current market doesn’t allow for that type of game really.

Owen Stephens:  Well I’m currently working on lines of things for Rogue Genius Games — The Talented Ranged and The Talented Witch as writer; an adventure called Spring of Disorder as developer; two city write-ups where I am pretty much just the publisher. And there’s lots of stuff in the pipeline — PDF products for Mutans & Masterminds, Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, and maybe even Numenera.

Then as a developer for Green Ronin I am working on their Freeport book and the Advanced Bestiary for the Pathfinder RPG.

I don’t currently have a Paizo freelance assignment, but I do 3-6 of those per year as well. (The day after he told me this, he announced he had been hired by Paizo as the Developer of the Pathfinder Modules line of stand-alone adventures.)

David Sheppard:  Tentatively, the game is a tile-laying train game called Our Manifest Destiny.  I suppose I should explain the title a little bit.  I wanted to do a train game with the spirit of the old west but Sci-Fi so I gave it that title with the theme of terraforming and colonizing an alien world.

Carlos Cabrera:  I’d like to refrain from giving out the title my project before I get a copyright, but… It’s a turn-based RPG for Android, which will also be Pathfinder compatible books and PDFs

Sean Roberts, Cheron Fitzgerald, Patrick Ralph: Dragon Raiders.

Dragon Raiders is a board-game with a strategic focus, featuring a configurable board and multiple random elements that combine to provide a different experience each time you play the game. It includes player versus player possibilities – you can act to help or hinder other players if you wish – as well as a strong player versus environment element. The twist is that instead of playing as the knights or other human figures, you play as the dragons, raiding the fantasy kingdom.

Taylor Hocutt: I have a lot of projects in the works right now. Astraeus is my primary project, its an android smartphone game. I also have a couple games I’m working on for school projects, one of which is a computer based platformer called Waking, and another game is a turn based strategy game that doesn’t have a name yet. I’m also working on a string of board games for a different class.

Jonathan Nelson: Rise of the Drow: Prologue, Trilogy, Epilogue, Player’s Guide, Underworld Encounter Cards, Fantasy Grounds II builds, Realm Works builds, Hero Lab files.
Underworld Race books (numerous)
Underworld Class books (numerous)
Adventureweek.com website/PDF/POD adventures (numerous)
all RPG products for D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder 

Joshua Gullion: 
The upcoming Aventyr Bestiary for AdventureAWeek.com’s setting.
Am in development for a collection of race/class guidebooks tied specifically to the Underworld region of the Aventyr setting including the Ahool (a race of anthromorphic bat humanoids), the Zwiterc (when chaos dwarves go wrong, lol), etc. (all totaling 20+ pdfs)

Our upcoming Snow White 2 part adventure will be our next Kickstarter, compiling the adventure into a single hardcover, with all new art and several really exciting names getting involved with both writing and art.

Tanya Lee Botelho: We’re currently working on multiple projects and they are: Chronicles of a Dark Lord: Episode 1 Tides of Fate DLC “Nightmare Vision”, Chronicles of a Dark Lord: Episode II War of The Abyss, and Shenandor’ah: Zero Chronicle. They are all RPG video games for the PC. 


Richard Moore: The project I am working on currently is unnamed–that’s usually the last thing we do when we finish up a new book! This product is a series of short Egyptian-themed tomb encounters for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It is a direct follow-up to our recent publication, “Treasury of the Sands”, and is perfect for GMs who need to supplement their own desert- and Egyptian-themed campaigns with some shorter side trek encounters.

Shaun Mills:  DOOM – Complete RPG game system, WARMAGIC – Complete RPG game system, never actually played, RIMWAR – Complete RPG game system, slightly played — is known to need some rules revisions.
        XENOPHOBIA – Complete thematic card game — partly play-tested once, judged too complicated (I say my instructions were just too WORDY)
        HEXXER – Complete board game — play tested once. Judged (by me) to be too boring. But the board / movement mechanics worked great!

Christina Stiles: Ha, you’ll be sorry you asked! I keep busy, so I always have more than one project going. As I type this, I am currently finishing a mythic adventure arc for Kobold Press called Freeing Nethus. On the publishing front, I have Bite Me! The Gaming Guide for Lycanthropes moving forward, essays coming in from fellow authors for Medusa’s Guide for Gamer Girls that should be available in the summer, and I’ll be editing The Construct Companion by the Four Horsemen for Rogue Genius Games this coming week; two smaller projects are also in the queue. Other freelance work I’m doing includes working on an adventure for Troll Lord Games, editing for Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary for Pathfinder, development of The Temple of Jing (a Kickstarter project by Danny O’Neill) for Pathfinder, development for the Pathfinder version of Interface Zero by Gun Metal Games, and I do some projects for Paizo Publishing when they ask.

I recently quit my day job to pursue all these projects as a full-time freelancer and publisher. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than working on games.

Jon Hodgson: Right now the major projects I can talk about are The Cthulhu Britannica London Boxed Set and Rivendell supplement for The One Ring roleplaying game.Both are roleplaying game supplements.

Hal Greenberg: I currently have some freelance work, Fall of Man RPG, Pathfinder conversions for The Hunt: Rise of Evil, Bluffside, Foul Locales and The Awakened RPG, not to mention the anthologies for The Awakened.

Brian Nero, Chris Tavonatti: Aetherium – a hybrid miniatures/board game


So how am I going to keep all those projects and people straight?  I asked almost all of them the same questions, with hopes of developing answers for the various parts of the series I mentioned above. I am taking lessons from some people smarter than me, and developing a spreadsheet so I can make notes as we progress through the series. I’m hoping to add your questions into the mix as well- and looking forward to learning from these people about not only what they are doing, but how.

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