March 1, 2016

Game Design Podcasts

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Here is the second and final posting on gaming podcasts – this one looking at game design podcasts.

Game Design Roundtable is hosted by a few working game designers including Rob Daviau (one of the two people behind the excellent board game Pandemic Legacy). There is no set structure. Sometimes the hosts just have a chat catching up on what they are working on. Sometimes they interview another game designer from various parts of the gaming industry (boardgames, card games or computer games). Although my favourites are the “Listener Mailbag” episodes – a whole 40-60 minutes of the hosts answering listener questions, from quite specific game design problems to business issues. This is a really good series and I learn something new with each episode. It also should make indie computer gamedevs thankful for not being in the board game industry – the success of Pandemic Legacy aside, it seems like a much tougher way to make a living.

Designer Notes is a series of interviews presented by Soren Johnson, the lead designer of Civilization IV (although he does not actually conduct all the interviews). Each month an experienced game designer (usually from the computer game industry) is questioned at length about how they got into game design and the course of their career. While the names of the designers may not be well-known, the games they have worked on certainly are! I have listened to about half the series and heard from the designers of World of Warcraft, Crusader Kings 2, Triple Town and Planescape. The episodes tend to be quite long, some going past the 2 hour mark. There is definitely a great deal of game design talent present, but unfortunately little in the way of usable information for the aspiring designer. Instead the questions focus more on personality, personal history, how careers in the industry progress (or meander, as it appears), and the stories of how certain games were made. Still very interesting (depending on the interviewee), although I tend to listen only when doing something else at the same time.

RPPR Game Designers Workshop is a sub-series within the RPPR podcast. RPPR does tabletop RPG news and recorded play sessions (pretty good), but mixed in with the rest of their episodes is this irregular series. Two of the members of the usual team are designing their own RPG’s and these podcasts detail their travails as they go (or “failing in realtime, so you don’t have to” as they say). The series has been going for a while (10 episodes over 2.5 years) and demonstrates certain invariants of game design – prototyping, play-testing, iteration. It also makes me glad I’m not an tabletop RPG designer (computer game devs have it easy)! The presenters are entertaining and the content illuminating. Worth a listen.

Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff is Ken Hite & Robin Laws talking on various topics. They are both tabletop RPG designers with many successful games behind them. Both are excellent and entertaining speakers regardless of the subject matter. Unsurprisingly the podcast tends towards tabletop RPGs (how to play, game suggestions, etc), but I’ve also heard them cover (each multiple times) history, films, maps, politics, occult figures, even cooking. There is little directly applicable to computer game design, but the density of ideas is incredible. I’ve listened to over 100 episodes and always have an idea for a cool game afterwards. A great podcast to fire the imagination.


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