Project #1 Concept – Game Dev Deck Builder

Very rough notes when I started coming up with the basics of the game.

I’ve been wanting to make tabletop games for a while and starting this site has galvanised me into moving ahead with a few ideas. Project #1 is something I feel I can quite quickly define the game mechanics for, make a prototype or two of and most importantly; iterate quickly. The game idea is simple enough but I am hoping that the mechanics will make for a good competitive game for 2-5ish players. So what is it?

Project #1 is a Game Development Deck Building Game.

I’m using my experience in and knowledge of the Video Games Industry to craft a game about making games. The tone will be reasonably tongue-in-cheek and make fun of certain aspects of game dev, the industry and the people around it. While also, hopefully giving some insight into the process of developing a video game. This is because the longer I work in the Games Industry the more I realise that people who play games on the whole do not know how they are made. I’m a fan of Deck Building Games in general and those sets of mechanics seemed to fit well with the idea of making a game about making games.

Note: To make things make a bit more sense Experience refers to the deck building game as a whole and Game refers to the game players are making within the game. (Its game-ception!)

The Basics

During the experience Players take on the role of an Executive Producer at a Game Studio and are tasked with organising and making the next great AAA video game. It works in similar way to other Deck Building games but with a slightly more competitive Player Vs Player aspect to it.

The main mechanic is that players need to take cards out of play and lay them face up on the table to make them count as being part of the game they are making and earning them Victory Points at the end of the experience. Players also need to keep playing cards from their hand to acquire new cards from the line up. So the key thing is balancing between using cards as resources to buy more cards or adding them to your game in the hopes of winning. I am also thinking that some cards will have ongoing effects when laid on the table to make that aspect a bit more appealing. Another key mechanic is that there will be cards that allow players to tamper with or steal elements of the games their opponents are making.

At the end of the experience you add up all of the applicable Victory Points and see who wins.

There are lots of Deck Building Games that I can draw from for experience which is always good.

The Cards

At the moment I am toying around with the experience having two decks of cards. A main Asset Deck that would be completely randomised and have all the main cards for the experience in there and a smaller Project Deck which would be more structured and sort of dictate the length of the experience.

The Project Deck would take players through the different stages of Game Development with the major milestones of Alpha, Beta and Master being the toughest challenges to overcome. It would also contain things like big press/industry events that players can attend to increase the Victory Point total of their game and gain other bonuses. Project Cards can have one outright winner or 1st, 2nd, 3rd with varying rewards.

The Asset Deck would have cards like game concepts, genres, mechanics, key characters, settings and ideas. Along with things like tech being used, key platforms, staff working on the game, etc. That kind of thing. Most would also have the dual purpose of providing currency to buy more cards along with the value they add to your game when laid on the table.

The competitive aspect comes from players playing Setback cards against each other. These can range from adding negative Bug cards to player’s decks, stealing cards they have placed down on the table and adding them to your game knocking off VPs from their final score and things like that.

Example 1: You play the Headhunter card and can steal a Producer that any other player has added to their game and put them in yours. The end result is that your game is now worth more VPs and you have decreased the potential VPs of your opponent.

Example 2: You play the Broken Feature card and get to add 5 bug cards to any player’s deck. These will be negative effect cards, taking VPs of a player’s score at the end of the experience and also clogging up their deck with useless cards.

I'll also be looking at video games like Game Dev Tycoon to see how you make the different aspect of game dev entertaining for players
I’ll also be looking at video games like Game Dev Tycoon to see how you can make the different aspects of game dev entertaining for players

Other Bits

The game will have two main currencies that players have to manage, Time and Effort. With different cards costing varying amounts. Also I want to try and include a shift between Time being common at the start of the game and Effort being rare but gradually flipping that as the Project Deck nears the Master Milestone that ends the game. So you can throw all the time in the world at problems and things that appear early on in the game but at the end of the you have no time but your team is putting in the maximum amount of effort to compensate for it.

Getting back to the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the game means that I can have a bit of fun with the terminology and effects of the cards. Things like Victory Points would become your game’s Metacritic Rating with the highest one winning the overall experience. (If you manage to get over 100 for your final score that would be perfect because it would help highlight the ridiculousness that is relying on Metacritic) It also includes having cards inspired by famous people and incidents in the games industry. So that means having a Peter Molyneux inspired card that adds a lot of value to your game but you only get the points at the end of the experience if you have a ridiculous number of specific cards included in your game. Or a Setback card that is a press event going drastically wrong (like sacrificing a goat wrong) and it negatively impacting a player’s game. Also yes there might cards that target the various demographics and consumers of games because why the hell not!

Wrap Up

Overall I really like the idea of players creating really random concepts for games based on the cards they lay on the table and then them getting a nice big Metacritic Rating for it while also giving a weird sort of reflection of what developing a game is like.

There is also room for extra sets of cards focusing on different parts of the industry like Indie, Mobile, etc. but that is me getting waaaay ahead of myself.

The key to this first project is to make a good game (I hope!) quickly and to see where it goes. The Deck Building format allows me to do that and lets me spend a good chunk of time working out meaty things like card synergies and various playstyles that people can approach the game with.

So what do you think? I should hopefully be taking it to the paper prototype stage in the next month or so. That means some initial feedback would be awesome!


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