I wanted to give you all a brief look into how a game grows and changes over time, specifically with Scatterball. Now, every game and designer is going to go through this process, but I find that whenever I mention the words “Testplay” or “Prototype” my friends aren’t sure what to think. Hopefully this will help you have a fuller understanding on what those words mean. I find that there are three hesitations people usually have about playing a prototype game:
1:The components are ugly.
2: The game won’t be fun and the mechanics/balance will be bad.
3: They will be too busy thinking about feedback to enjoy the game.
All three of these are legitimate concerns, but normally only in the earliest versions of the game. I want to walk through some of the changes of Scatterball to help explain this some. I’ll focus primarily on the first one (Components), but I’ll touch on the others as well.
The journey is of building a board game is a give and take between how much work a designer can put in to put together a prototype that he knows he is going to have to get rid of shortly. I’d like to point out some of the changes between the card versions and why they happened.
Below is showing of the progression between the Scatterball prototypes, the oldest is in the upper right and the newest version is the lower right.
If a designer is smart, usually only his closest friends or his design group will be the only ones who sees the alpha version of his games. I messed this up with Scatterball and had a lot of people entirely turned off from playing more completed versions of the game saying, “I played it and didn’t like it.” Which is a reasonable response from them since they’re not used to the stages of game design.
The Alpha had a number of things wrong with it, but I want to point out that you’ll see the cross hairs, the top icon. That actually referred to a mechanic of distance (similar to Bang’s). with this model of the game I learned that:
A: the layout didn’t work right.
B: Distance was not a good mechanic for the game.
The next version was the version I had with me last year when I went to Gen con. Here I fixed the layout for the balls and added about twice the amount of cards, going from about 50 to over 100. This is when I started to add more of the attitude of the game, giving each and every card a unique flavor text. I felt pretty good about this version at the time, but it had it’s own list of problems, but I learned some great things from it.
A: Color matters. A bit of (untrue) wisdom that floats around the design community is that you don’t need your prototypes to look nice, they just need to be functional. I have come to realize, especially when playing with people who are not in the design community, stylizing your prototypes is very important.
B: The layout of Equipment cards (Bandanna in example) needed to match the Ball cards.
C: players don’t like holding horizontal and vertical cards in their hands.
This version (Which was actually the 5th version of Scatterball) never actually got printed. I had a vast number of players say how much they would love it if the cards were round, but when it came down to it, while I was putting the cards together it felt too gimmicky and would be hard to handle.
I spent a lot of time doing something I’m really bad at… layout and design. As a result I have the cards you see above us, some neat things here is I’ve divided the cards with throwing stats always on the right and defensive stats always on the left on all of the card types. Now that I’ve done it seems obvious, but it’s taken me a while to get there. I’ve had very good responses and people like that the color on the cards matches the chaotic and flavorful play of the game.
On a side note, here are a couple Sell Sheets (one page summaries) of the game, one from last year’s Gen Con and one I’m taking with me this year. It’s exciting to see how much better I feel I’ve become in presenting my designs! All that to say is I’m excited to be reaching the almost completed point on Scatterball and getting ready to finish tie-ing it up!
Thank you all for stopping in to see the progression of Scatterball. I’d love to play it with you sometime! If you’re in the Twin Cities or going to be at Gen Con, send me a tweet or email and I’d love to share this or any of my other designs with you!
Thank you for reading!