Let’s talk about replayability

I am obsessed with replayability in my designs. You probably know it pretty well from Robinson Crusoe – 300 different cards with events and adventures, 6 different scenarios in the box, 3 more scenarios as a free expansions downloadable from our website… You buy Robinson and I promise that you’ll have like 100 hours of fun. This is me designing games. The same is true for Stronghold, Imperial Settlers, for all the games I make. Replayability is the king.

But!

Even though my design philosophy is all about putting in the box so much content that you will never get bored, I actually agree with Tom Vasel who once said in his podcast that if he play a game and have a great gaming night with his friends, the game would already be worth buying and it might have the replayability value of 0 (zero!) and he would still be happy.

Probably most of you now think that this is dumbest thing you’ve ever read on this blog.

Believe it or not, but I am with Tom on this one.

Let me explain.

Grab your 3 friends and go to the cinema to see Spectre. 4 x 20 = 80 usd
Grab your wife and 2 kids and go to the ZOO. 4 x 20 = 80 usd
Grab your girlfriend and take her to a concert. 2 x 50 = 100 usd
Grab your friends and buy and play Robinson Crusoe. 1 x 70 usd

OMG, I would never buy Robinson if I could play it only once!!! Well, really? How about giving it a second thought, huh?

***

I am writing about this because Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock did something extraordinary. They convinced you to buy a game that has a limited replaybility. You’ll play about 12 games of Pandemic Legacy and that’s it. You are done with it.

(yeah, I know, the first step was made with Rob’s Risk Legacy)

And yet the players are not complaining.
The players are happy like a kid who just got his Sphero BB-8 Droid.
The players praise it to be a great game.
The players value the experience they had, just as they would do with watching an amazing movie or reading an amazing book.

The players are witnessing a revolution, even though they might not be recognizing that yet.

***

Back to Tom Vasel statement – the question we might ask today is if we are ready to pay 60 or 80 usd for an amazing one-time experience, just like we pay for a cinema ticket, a Rolling Stones concert or a visit to the ZOO.

I think we are not there yet. But the wall has been breached. Pandemic Legacy has showed us that there is a new world out there.

I am very curious what’s next. Are you?

edited by Piotr, thank you!

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Let’s talk about bits

rattle_NET (26)Some time ago Rob gave me this topic for a blog post: “Bits, it’s all about the bits in the box. Do you get component-envious and how do you decide how much to spend on in-game components? When do cardboard tokens become wooden pieces?”

It’s a good one. Most gamers really love good pieces and value quality components. Just today I had a discussion with a friend of mine who brought The Gallerist to show me the quality of production. ‘Look how thick these are!’ he said showing me the game’s tokens. Oh, yeah, thick they were!

Thick tokens, custom wooden pieces, miniatures, metal coins. It’s an amazing time for gamers.

I would risk a thesis that the biggest influence Kickstarter had on board game industry was not a flow of new revolutionary ideas, not indie designers and publishers, not promoting our hobby outside our circles, but the huge change in production value standards.

Because of stretch goals, because of competition, because of user demand, games published on Kickstarter raised a bar for production value to an incredible level. Soon after it turned out that gamers are looking for the same quality and production value in a regular games, games published without upfront funding, without stretch goals, without KS support.

Take any game published in 2010 from your shelf and compare its components with those of games published these days. You’ll clearly see the difference.

Try to find custom wooden pieces in games published in 2010. What about those released in 2015?

Try to find miniatures in games from 2010. Compare with these released in 2015.

Look for custom dice in games from 2010. Compare with 2015.

And my favorite – money. Do you remember how we dissed paper money in 2010 and we praised games that had cardboard tokens instead?

In 2015, money in the form of metal coins is not a standard yet, but we are so damn close to this point, huh?

***

With higher production value comes higher production cost and  higher MSRP. Even though our market grows, and trust me, it grows fast and it grows worldwide, game prices stay the same or – as we could see lately – go up. You would expect publishers to offer better MSRPs for their games because they print more and more games and the market is growing but it’s not happening. Quite the opposite. Prices go up.

I watch it happening and I analyze this every single day. I see what other publishers put on the market and I watch out for your – gamers’ – feedback. I look carefully at every piece in The Gallerist, I look at the MSRP and I hear what you say. I see announcements coming from FFG about another 100 USD game and I eagerly listen to what you say. I publish Rattle, Battle having pushed the production value to my dream level and I wait for feedback…

If Rob asks me about components I can say only one thing – our market has changed a lot in the past few years. It’s fascinating to watch this, to be a part of this and to wonder what’s next.

What do you think? Can publishers add even more good stuff to their boxes?

It’s so damn important

This weekend I played one of the big Gen Con 2015 releases. Artwork – amazing, components – amazing, I couldn’t wait to play. I make tea, we have cookies, we play. After a couple of minutes the first question arises, we check the rulebook, we look for the answer.

We don’t find it.

I mean, we do find the right chapter, we find the right paragraph, we understand what the rule says, but it doesn’t explain the issue we have. And believe me, this is not some super rare situation. This is one of the basic actions, and yet the way it is explained explains nothing.

I am so frustrated. I am pissed off. If not for the fact we play with our kids, I would stop the game and put it back into the box. I don’t want to set a bad example to the kids, so I keep on playing, but man, I am really angry. I want to score high, I want to win but actually I doubt if we play correctly, I doubt if I score legitimately, I doubt if what we do has any sense.

I browse the rulebook over and over, but still nothing. Only pure frustration and huge disappointment. I can’t even explain it, I am just pissed off.

***

I’ve done a few very bad rulebooks in my life. I failed gamers many times. I disappointed them. I ruined their experiences. In the afternoons like the one yesterday I can see this crystal clear – a poor rulebook ruins the fun.

I might be testing games like crazy.

I might design great mechanisms.

I might choose the best theme, the best artwork and the best components.

If my rulebook sucks, if people can’t understand how to play my game, I will fail eventually. I won’t deliver what I’d promised. I won’t even have a chance to show them how cool the game is.

***

Be strong. Be focused. Be warned. A rulebook, this last lap is so fucking important.  Don’t fail here.

edited by: Piotr