How to Build a Game #14 Prototype Problems…..How Much Do I Need?

How many chits should we make for the space ships for this prototype?

When we started making prototypes for our games, we would always spend time thinking about how many bits and bobs we needed for the game. Wow, what a waste of mental bandwidth that is! We would think about the number of players and how many pieces they would need and make the perfect amount and it all turned out awesome. But it was a waste of time. The number of pieces you should make for your prototype is one of two things: 1. As many as you can make with the supplies you have on hand or 2. The rough number of bits you think you will need times three.

This is an exercise of saving time later and developing versatility in your head

Unless you plan to send out your prototypes never to see them again, having lots of pieces sitting around from previous prototypes is going to save you a lot of time as you develop more and more games. Assuming you have built a few prototypes and you have lots of pieces on hand, you can jump into playing around with physical pieces and give your mechanics some “life.” Your design process will improve because you will be able to work with alpha protos much earlier in the process and when you are creating a game; the prospect of having to cut out 200 bits might turn you off to moving along in the process. If you have those pieces on hand, you can quickly jump into the game and determine if you have something there. If you do, your motivations are changed and the building of specific pieces for your new project becomes more about the excitement of creativity and less about the hurdle of having to build a proto to see if the game works.

Another side benefit of using proto pieces meant for other games is that you will have to apply old pieces to a new concept. Simply put, in some small way, you will have to figure out ways to use the pieces you have on hand to accomplish the mechanical and thematic goals you are shooting for.

Something a designer will never say

“I wish I didn’t have so many pieces of stuff.” You will never hear a designer complain of having too many pieces to work with. Too many design idea, yes, but having pieces around is good, it fosters creativity and helps the process when you least expect it. When you make protos for games, make lots of pieces, materials are cheap, what you can do with those pieces is limitless.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.


3 thoughts on “How to Build a Game #14 Prototype Problems…..How Much Do I Need?

  1. Great article, and right on the money. I did a design a while back that needed Credits in one’s and five’s. I had a whole bunch cut up from some acrylic and they looked the biz! I also produced way more than I needed, resulting in these Credits being used in several other designs and even as just plain old tokens.

    • I was thinking about doing the math on how much time we save by using old proto pieces for current games but I don’t think I need to figure out the exact number to know it is a big number. Thank you for taking the time to comment and I am glad you liked it.

  2. Pingback: News Bits: October 20, 2014 | iSlaytheDragon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s