How to Build a Game #84 Look For Dead Space

Be on the lookout for what I like to call dead space in your games. I consider dead space to be a spot in the game that is being underutilized or being utilized in a way that could be accomplished in another way.

That was a bit clunky and I don’t have the words right now to make that sound better so let me use an example from a game we are working on to explain. In our trading/colony building game, Harbor Master, we have cards that represent the weather conditions on the ocean. As ships are coming into port, bad weather will reduce the number of goods a player can collect, or there might be a hurricane and no one gets to collect any goods. The card I want to use as our example are the smooth sailing cards.

When we were playtesting our game for the first time, every weather card had some kind of effect on the market. All except the smooth sailing cards. When we were done, I was thinking about that card and thought we could use the space on the smooth sailing card for something. I don’t know what that something is at this point but the point is, be on the lookout for cards, spots on the board, other side of a token, that could be used to supplement a mechanic.

Now, I don’t want you to start filling every nook and cranny in your game with a thing. It is possible that the smooth sailing card could be removed. The fact that the card only performs one function at this point, means we need to look it over and figure out should it be added to, taken away from, or is it a singular point where we need the card to stay as is.  At least we know we have spent the time looking at the dead space on this particular card and we can feel confident it performs the job we want it to perform to create the user experience we are going for.

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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.

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