First off, this is the guy behind FableSmith…
That would be me, Joost Das. Born in the Netherlands and happily living in Utrecht. I am now dedicating my time, energy and passion to creating fresh and exciting new physical games for educational, social and promotional purposes. What follows is a short why and how:
The beauty of gaming
What is a more perfect way to elevate a gathering of human beings than playing games? A lively discussion? Cracking jokes? Sharing stories? Gossip and intrigue perhaps? Settle around the table with a good game and you can have all that, only richer, deeper, juicier and simply more enjoyable.
Creating an environment where people can meet in competition or cooperation and have a fantastic time together is the most beautiful way to channel my design skills. Every step that needs to be taken from a sapling idea all the way to production is wildly interesting to me.
Very important in game design is the realization that games are completely dependent on the people who play them. Games can provide an extensive world full of exciting challenges but it are the players that venture here who will shape it with their own creativity, inspiration and imperfections. This is why I believe that a game, in its design, should embrace the wonderful dynamic of the human mind to get the most out of a gaming experience.
Second, in every design step there is one simple question that needs to be asked: ‘Will this make it fun to play?’ What constitutes fun or what makes a good game is of course open to discussion. I always make sure that the following 6 ingredients get stirred into my games:
The best games get picked off the shelves over and over again. For this to happen a game’s most vital ingredient is variety. People will return to a game if it offers a new experience each playthrough. Great randomizing factors are of course dice rolls and card draws, but the biggest opportunity to create a varied experience is the unpredictability of the human mind. Ideally a game offers enough venues to let players chart the course of the game through their own creative input. Having players come up with new strategies, cunning tricks and bold new ideas will make sure a game keeps its shine.
People invite others to a game for myriad reasons, but enjoying each other’s company definitely stands out as the most important one. One of the best ways to grant players an enjoyable experience is having them interact with each other in order to play the game. Nothing sparks a laugh, creates suspense or offers surprises like human-human interaction. The communicative nature of humans can be exploited by offering plenty of room for discussion, temporary allegiances, codependency, treachery etc. to create an engaging back-and-forth between all those that joined the table.
Luck is a welcome element to spike a game with tension and unexpected turns. However, players need some level of control, meaning that the choices they make will have an actual impact on the game. If the game plays itself and players can merely cross their fingers and hope it will come out in their favor, they will start to lose interest. Keeping everyone involved for the entire length of the game is important and can only be achieved if each player feels that his or her decisions actually matter.
When you consider that joining a game is like taking part in a story, it makes sense that the game is steadily working towards a conclusion while playing. From the very start, it needs direction where players feel that in every turn they take a step forward. This flow should prevent players from feeling aimless and keep them involved for the entirety of the game.
5. Fighting chance
For at least the biggest part of the game, all involved should have the feeling that they have a chance to win. Of course, players can find themselves in an unfavorable situation sometimes, but they should be supplied enough chances to have a victorious outcome if they make an effort. Giving up halfway through the game can have a toxic effect on a player’s experience. Plus, the more players that have a shot at the gold, the higher the tension will rise toward the close of the game.
6. Exciting win conditions
A hard ingredient to mix in sometimes, but very important to make a good game, is creating a victory condition that inspires players to fight for a win from the onset up to the conclusion. A goal should tie together the game’s main mechanics and in coherence with the theme rewards all efforts made by the players. Games that provide the possibility for a cunning cut to victory, an unexpected conclusion or a spectacular sprint out of a tight race, can bring players on the edge of their seat and find a way into their hearts, being the victor or not.
Melting all these aspects together with a strong theme to create a game that will have players laugh, work together, get their pulses raised, in other words spending their time together as well as possible is what makes me tick. That, in a tiny nutshell, is how I create games and why.