Designer To-Do List

The article is another one that may be of questionable value to you, dear reader. I just know that I think about these things all the time and one of the purposes of a blog is to catalog thoughts. Also, as with all posts, perhaps it'll generate a conversation? What are your goals?  

Post by: Grant Rodiek

When setting out to do things, grand things, things of great import, I find it useful to set goals. Goals focus the mind, ease the self-acknowledgement of priorities, and guide decisions that need to be made.

Goals should be sensible, but there should also be a few ridiculous ones. A few months ago I thought it would be ridiculous to have a game published, and yet Farmageddon is being manufactured in the thousands right now. It's good to check off the single (baseball metaphor) with some frequency, but also to achieve the grand slam on rare occasions.

Here are some of my goals for the board game design realm. Note that I didn't set a time limit as I'm in no hurry. One more thing to note! If you're curious how you can meet your own personal design goals, be sure to read Corey Young's outstanding article about pitching to publishers. It all starts with a great pitch...

Reasonable Goals: These are in no particular order. I define reasonable as possible through determination and time.

  • Have a game on the shelf at Barnes and Noble and Target. I'm obsessed with accessibility and reaching the mass market. With the board game audience growing and retailers showing more interest, now is the time.
  • Receive an invite to the Gathering of Friends. Attending this invitation-only annual event begun by Alan Moon would be amazing. Play games with the greats? Who see me as a peer? Yes, please.
  • Design published games within several genres. Vlaada Chvátil is known for creating games in a huge variety of genres. He has a co-op game that uses a CD Rom. He has an Ameritrash/Euro game about managing a dungeon. He has an epic adventure RPG like game driven by deckbuilding mechanics. He also has a game about building space trucks in real time. Over the course of time, I want to be known for great variety. Stefan Feld is also ridiculously innovative.
  • Win some Awards! My friend Cole Medeiros's game GUBS has received several and seems to receive new nominations with startling frequency. I want some shiny stickers for the box cover of a game I design. This also means competing in competitions. I'm currently contemplating submitting Field Marshals to the 2012 Premio Archimede, though the timeline is a bit rushed.
  • Have a game published by a large, traditional publisher. I enjoy competition. Submitting a game to a huge, traditional publisher who may only publish a handful of games every year is quite competitive. I'd love to design a game published by Days of Wonder, Gamewright, or Academy Games (three of my favorites).
  • Have a game translated. I love to joke that the German version of Farmageddon is Färmündgötten, but the truth is I wish it were really localized for the European markets. With success will come andere sprache, ja?
  • Sell games from my site. I don't mean I'll be a full on publisher (though that might be neat). But, if I created something fantastic that also fell within a price point that I could spend the money to manufacture it and sell it, I'd like to do so. Perhaps a simple dice game or a hand-crafted, boutique style board game? Doing this requires trust and a name that people respect, so succeeding here requires time and long-term diligence.

Ridiculous Goals: These are in no particular order. I define ridiculous as possible with a spark of brilliance and a little luck.

  • Design a unique mechanic. I will always try to come up with nifty mechanics. Currently I feel my game Field Marshals does a few unique things. But, nothing I've done so far, or perhaps will ever do, will be as genre defining as Donald X. Vaccarino with Dominion. But, it's the Holy Grail of Game Design, as Ray Mazza noted. I shall seek it.
  • Design a game that makes a fellow designer say aloud "I wish I would have thought of that." I say this all the time. I want somebody to say it about a game I made.
  • Earn a spot on a Top Ten list. Games with Two, a blog, has been updating their Top 10 list over the past few days. I'm not going to lie -- even though I KNOW I'm not on the list with Farmageddon, I really want to be there. Tom Vasel also has a Top 100 video. To have somebody say "something you designed is one of my 10 favorites" is a huge honor.

What drives you? What are your goals?


Great stuff, Paul. Creating the Genre is meant by my "unique mechanic" comment. I've really started grinding out prototypes more quickly lately and it's making a big difference.

I want to see pictures of my games played by families, and not simply middle-aged white guys. Speaking as a middle-aged white guy, I love the company and the competition, but I remember shelf after shelf of games in my childhood. I want other kids to have that experience.

I want to create a game in a genre no one had considered. Sumo Ham Slam wins this award forever and ever. I'm aiming for second place.

Finally, I want to get faster in my prototyping. I want to devote more time to faster mistakes. That, my friend, is completely under my control.