When to Fold ’em – Quitting on your Designs

I am calling it quits for now with the Brooklyn Bridge game design. This is the inspiration for this article.

So this begs the question: When do you quit on a game design?

You might think that would be as easy as asking if the game is any fun. But it’s not that simple. You see, there is this thing called “passion.” A lot of game designers utilize it when create their designs. I know I do. But let’s step back even further and discuss a designer’s philosophy.

Why do I design games?

This is an important question designers should ask themselves. Answers could be all over the map:

  • You want to earn bazillions of dollars
  • You like games
  • You want to win the Spiel des Jahres
  • You’re creative
  • You want people to like you because of your design
  • You’ve got some great game ideas
  • It’s what you love to do

Whatever the reason, it’s important that you understand the answer to the question of why you design games.

Once you’ve got that figured out, the answer to the first question, when to quit on a game design, can be more easily answered. Often it is important to remove the emotional side of game design before you can truly quit on a design. People put a lot of effort and time and money into their game designs. So to just quit on a design is like throwing all of that effort, time, and money out of the window. Sure, there are usually some takeaways from that design, but ultimately it’s a big loss.

Here is the reason I design games: it’s a fun hobby.

Therefore, if designing a game stops being fun, I dump it.

Why did I Quit on Brooklyn Bridge?

I was originally inspired to design a Brooklyn Bridge game when I was watching a BBC documentary about its construction. The discussion about the caissons was fascinating and I immediately had thoughts about a risk vs. reward mechanic built around how long workers would stay in the caisson. Sweet!

So I made a time based worker placement game about the Brooklyn Bridge. Workers could get sent to work in several different locations (Caissons, Brickyard, Cableyard, Training Office). Each turn the workers would advance some distance in those locations. The longer they advanced, the better the rewards when they would be removed. This is not dissimilar to riding the gears in Tzolk’in. But there was a big change… other players could help you advance even faster if you placed your workers correctly. That’s awesome!

That sounds great. But it didn’t work. That’s not to say it couldn’t work. I’m definitely keeping the mechanic for another design. It just didn’t all work for this design.

The game took too long. It felt same-y (meaning there wasn’t enough variability/replayability). And ultimately the decisions you made throughout the game didn’t get more tense or more interesting. That’s not good.

I got through about 15 playtests and after the final one I realized I just wasn’t enjoying working on this design. It was at that point that I detached emotionally from the game and felt at peace to let it go. I quit on the design.

I believe it has potential. I believe that are good elements in there. If a publisher wants it and is willing to develop it I would happily work with them. But I quit because I was no longer enjoying it.

Why do You Quit on your Game Designs?

I urge you to go back to my question of “Why Do You Design Games?”. Knowing the answer to that can greatly help you know when to quit on a design.

Most designs won’t succeed. As a designer it’s important to know when to give up on one and start on the next. If you spend too long on a design that doesn’t have a future or that isn’t enjoyable or that is unpublishable then maybe you should consider breaking up with the game. I’ve met a whole bunch of designers with tons of games that never made it. Some have been working on the same games for years. Others have thrown away games that are only a few days old. There is a level of recognition where they realized the game wasn’t worth it.

The sooner you can realize that a game isn’t deserving of your time, the sooner you can design one that is!

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Posted on August 5, 2014, in Brooklyn Bridge, Game Design, Lessons Learned, My Games, The Boards and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I must say I’m sad to see you shelf it, I enjoyed the one time I played it. I hope it makes a come back some day!

  2. Great post; thanks for sharing. I know it can be disappointing to stop working on something like this, but your concluding summary statement is spot on:

    > The sooner you can realize that a game isn’t deserving of your time, the sooner you can design one that is!

  3. Thanks for posting this. I always feel guilty when I pack in a design. I feel like I’ve been wasting others’ and my time with playtesting and design and everything else. But sometimes, it has to happen.

  1. Pingback: Today in Board Games Issue #208 - Tavern Brawl Review; Demigods Rising Interview - Today in Board Games

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