This isn’t set in stone, but I think there are two types of design sessions for a designer; fun time and focused fun time. Fun time is when a designer is playing around with a starter idea, not really designing a game but working on a small thing that could turn into a game. Focused fun time is when a designer should be working on the designs that have a plan and a place to go.
We have a system where we use index cards to rank all the ideas we have put together. There are a few ideas that are on the top of the list that we call our active projects. When we are working on those projects, we are focused and working to get the game to the next step in the development process. The rest of the ideas we have in reserve to work on during the week when we have free time and don’t want to work on a “live project” on our own, or when we get together on a Saturday morning, maybe we are both running on 3 or 4 hours sleep and we really aren’t feeling productive. Chances are on those days we will turn on English soccer and throw around ideas about one of the games farther down the list.
I have been asked how we know what we should focus on and how we go about deciding what to focus. Part of it is “deadline”. Even though we don’t have any deadlines as of yet, we know when we should be making progress on a game so we can take it to the next convention. We also have a sort of rule that we don’t add to the list of active projects until another project has been taken off the list. How do we decide which of the active projects to work on? That mostly comes down to who spent part of the week thinking about the next step of one of the active projects. I will usually think of a way to solve a problem we have been working on and we will jump into the solution the next time we meet. If Aidan has a fix he wants to try, we will start working there. We are lucky we have each other as “guideposts” because at least one of us will have something lined up for the next weekend and that gives us a starting point.
Maybe the moral of the “what should I focus on” question is, set some basic rules for yourself and follow them. Allow yourself some free design time, but keep in mind when you want to have your game ready for the next local or national convention. If you find that you get too distracted working on your own, find a friend that can collaborate. That friend may not be a designer themselves, but they can be a friend that is interested in play testing your games and they can act as a reason to focus on your best games so that you have something to show them on a weekly or monthly basis.
If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We are thinking about starting a regular Google hangout with other designers. We can try to design a game together, we can talk about designers we are working on, you can ask us questions. We can make it whatever we want. What we really want to do is get to know the people that are willing to read all the way to the bottom of our posts. Please contact Chris on Twitter or send him an email and if we are able to get a minimal amount of interest, we can work on putting something together.