PX 6: Player Experience Beyond the Time Box

This is the sixth entry in a multi-part essay covering board game “Player Experience” or “PX”. We’ll reference a few earlier installments below, so maybe peek back at them before coming back here!

During early research of this topic (the Player Experience / PX) I discovered an earlier research paper by a group out of northern Europe. Their paper was focused on video games, and in general mobile, but included a great deal of interesting inquiry.

One of the concepts which struck me first, was how their concept of the “Experience” of a game extended well beyond the literal time boundaries of the session. A player begins experiencing your game from the moment it’s brought to their attention, and will continue well on into the future after the game is put away.

A different kind of time box. (Photo Credit: Flickr user rooners)

Everyone’s favorite time box. (Photo Credit: Flickr user rooners)

In Agile development and workflow, there’s a precept while running meetings to “respect the time box” — if  meeting is scheduled from 2–3, end at 3. Don’t let it drag it out. (There are likely volumes to be written about board game “play time” estimates, but this article is not that.) Here, we’ll focus on developing the context of experience reaching beyond the time before the moment the first die is rolled, and beyond when the components are packed away in the box and returned to the shelf. “Outside the time box.”

Clearly the core of the player experience is the time while the game is on the table, but let’s run through some examples of experience outside this ‘time box’:

  • How does someone hear about your game? Through a website like BoardGameGeek, an excited friend, a board game group? The way a thing is introduced to us becomes a powerful part of our memory of it, our willingness to try it, and how we view it when we do.
  • When I’m planning a session of Battlestar, while everyone coordinates their schedules, I’m reliving stories (both in my mind and in the email thread) from all previous tablings of that game — because for me, the shit talk and the paranoia begins the minute the invite goes out. In fact, I’ll sign off “—not a Cylon, Jonathan”.
  • All the buzz surrounding a regular poker night. The experience of that game includes the morning-of when your buddy texts you: “Can u believe Nate took all our money last week? I’m totally getting him back this time”. And the one the day after: “Shit, why did I fold on my pocket fours[1], I should have known that jerk was bluffing!”

Continue reading

Announcing “The Wackiest Race” — Short Story RPG Adventure #1

Short Story RPG adventure #1: The Wackiest RaceIt’s finally here. The first adventure in the Short Story RPG library: “The Wackiest Race” is on sale now!

Graham Elliot of Denver weaves a nostalgia-soaked adventure through a world born out of love for 80s cartoons. One player takes on the role of ‘StoryMaster’, facilitating a collaborative storytelling experience with four other players, each of whom plays a member of the intrepid Channel 9 News team, investigating a mysterious letter which arrived at the station.

Check it out here!

“…Wait, but what is Short Story RPG!?”

For a long time, I’ve been of the opinion that tabletop role playing represents a really powerful and unique way to interact and bond with friends and family. People are being cheated of these experiences by imposing barriers to entry — from complex rules, to weird dice, time commitments, and too-nerdy genres. With Short Story RPG, I’m going to change that. Short Story RPG employs: very basic rules, dice you can borrow from your Monopoly set, stories you can complete in one sitting at a dinner party, and themes everyone can relate to reaching across all genres. I hope you’ll give it a try. Our first offering, “The Wackiest Race” involved a lot of work by a group of super talented individuals: Graham Elliot, Charles Reid, William Niebling, and Jared Diganci.

And this is just getting started — the production pipeline is built, and several adventures are currently underway. Make sure to get on the mailing list to get the early drop on new stories as they come out!

Woohoo!

 

Guest Post: One-Shots v. The Long Game

This is the second post in a guest series on One-Shot RPG adventures. This week’s post comes to you from Justin Helmer. Let’s go! – jw

I guess I’ll start with a little background. The first time I had ever played was in 1978 (I know to some of you that was before time began!), my 1st game was a one-shot adventure and I was hooked. Anyway, I digress. Personally, I don’t run a lot of one shots.  Most of my games feature very long, very dark storylines. So my setup can take months to even a year or more.  Lately I’ve run a few one shots (Thinking they may require less setup, less writing, less fuss);  I was wrong in some ways and correct in others. Continue reading

Designing from First Principles

I’ve written before about different tools for running play-tests, ideating on designs, and interpreting feedback, but none of those have ever really covered how to develop a framework around implementing that feedback.

After I sent my proto off for publisher review, I started mentally projecting myself into a future where I would be asked to make hard decisions about Valour’s final incarnation, and I could picture this publisher having to interact with designers who were defensive about their baby, and making the process challenging. Based on conversations I’ve had with play-testers, I knew there were some things I was totally unwilling to change, things I would happily change, and some gradient in between. But if the publisher came back and asked me about changing “X”… how would I determine where on that spectrum that landed? Continue reading

Short Story RPG

An unexpected side benefit of sending off Valour to a publisher for evaluation, is that I got a chance to turn my focus to a project I’ve had cooking for a while but has been stalled (much to the chagrin of my collaborators) while I worked to push my board game across the finish line.

That project is Short Story RPG. I love tabletop role playing — it’s such a dynamic medium for human-to-human interaction, and a few dice and a little bit of imagination, you and your friends can spin a tale to rival many mainstream movies. Some of my fondest memories involve sessions of Dungeons & Dragons or Call of Cthulhu.

But those games have a problem. Two, actually: Firstly, while I understand that nerdy genres like high fantasy and sci-fi are gaining ground in public opinion, let’s face it… they’ve still got a long way to go. Ask a person on the street what they think of Dungeons & Dragons, and you might as well have said Dungeons & Dorks. Secondly, even those of us who are into such things have an entirely other problem: Scheduling. An ongoing tabletop RPG campaign requires coordinating the calendars of five or six people with jobs, other hobbies, possibly kids, etc. etc. etc. We’ve all been there, the group misses a session, then by the next session, half is spent catching everyone up on what was happening, then your mage has to leave early… Continue reading

Protospiel 2014

Since last year’s Protospiel, a lot has changed for me, both with regards to the state of my prototype, as well as my level of contact within the board game designers’ community. So this year, trepidation and rookie mistakes were replaced with excitement to see some other designers (whom I know primarily online) in person and a clear sense of purpose.

Whereas before, I thought I was only a few small tweaks from a finished design, this time, I knew I had work to do. And my mission was to get some hard-hitting feedback in order to confirm things I knew, experiment with changes I had in mind, and get a few really workable suggestions in areas I was still scratching my head over.

This year, perhaps feeling a little guilty about having clear personal objectives, I wanted to make sure I paid it forward, so I tried out a few games before attempting to table Valour. I didn’t take great notes on several of the prototypes I played, so this is from memory, so a few may have slipped my mind. The highlights: Continue reading

Flightless.co Site is Live!

Flightless.coBig news! I’ve just launched the website for Flightless.co — a central location for all the apps, games, and projects I’ve been working to develop along with some super talented folks: Valour, Ignite Ticket Swap, and a few upcoming surprises.  In addition to the new site, Flightless can be found on Facebook and Twitter. Go ahead and give us a like and a follow, so you won’t miss any of the coming excitement. (I promise, you’ll be glad you did!)

I have to give special thanks to Charles Reid, for creating Penguin Dreams, which might just be my new favorite piece of art ever, and Andrea Tuttle who helped immensely with (let’s be honest: completely fixed) the site copy!