65 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

This might be a bit off topic, but I invented some board games that do not need all the technology employed in HMH so far to deploy, so this might be really off-topic ... (they need only me implementing the computer playing against me which is beyond my skills as it needs minmax search).

They are just some variations of chess or hex/go, etc. So, no commercial value but that's not the main concern, but having a clue whether they suck as entertainment (of course without the sugary stuff like music, animation, etc).

How do you people who work on games usually have a clue before you show the game to anyone? Something like universal guidelines you keep in mind? I think my games suck but these ideas kept coming.

ps: there are variations of some games that could go as a HMH-like game, but then I'm even more clueless and think they suck even more, so for now I'd just be very happy if any of your would give some very abstract feedback about gauging suckness :).

Ben Visness
97 posts / 3 projects
HMN admin, Handmade Math contributor, high school robotics mentor/enthusiast, web developer, etc.
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

Have some friends play your game. Do they have a good time? Then it doesn’t suck. 🙂

Simon Anciaux
1185 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

Having other peoples play it is a good way to know if it's interesting.

But friends are not the best persons to test an idea in my opinion, unless those friends are interested in that specific type of games and are able to give honest feedback without keeping things to avoid hurting your feelings. If you don't have friends meeting those criteria, you may want to find a "community" that fits that description, for example here (or on the handmade network discord as you might not get much feedback in these forums).

While good art and sounds are not a requirement in a early prototype, you still need to have good visual and audio feedback when it's relevant to gameplay. More generally you want to minimize the friction between the player and the game so that the feedback can be about the game and not about the implementation of the game.

65 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

Isn't this a bit dangerous tho?

What if someone makes a clone and sell it? That would make me very upset. I think the games really suck, no one cares about board games that much, but people sell stuff that suck on daily basis (not what I'm trying to do, just that the point is if I just release it on discord I have no control of what's going on).

Simon Anciaux
1185 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

There is always that possibility. But it can happen at any point in the lifetime of your game as soon as you show it (trailer, demo, finished game, "dead" game).

In my (very) small experience the impact of external feedback on an application or game is far more valuable than the possibility of someone copying my ideas. It's more likely that nobody will care about what you're making (unfortunately) than someone copying it. And if you're sure your game is bad, maybe someone will make something good with your idea.

An alternative to a public release of your concept would be to ask people to "register" (could just go through DMs) to participate in the test to keep more control. Once again my small experience with that was a very small amount of feedback.

Mārtiņš Možeiko
2358 posts / 2 projects
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

Copying your game idea will happen whether you want or not. You should prepare for that happening eventually.

Just search on Google Play store "Wordle" or "Flappy Bird" to see how it happens.

29 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?
Edited by Shastic on

I found a great idea recently, that is useful to me. I looked at lots of ways other people had solved a problem. I only found one way that did what I wanted, but it was messy. I talked to a guy who is really knowledgeable (mmozeiko), and from his ideas found a way to simplify the idea I liked.

Jon Blow must have made lots of comments on the subject of serious game design. The ones I have seen, he talks about it like he is an explorer trying to understand things he doesn't understand yet.

I have also seen comments by Philip K. Dick, where he said he wrote his books in week long frenzies, after doing months of research reading technical papers.

If you can find any creative people talking about their process, see what they have to say.

I didn't really answer your question. You have to define what doesn't suck means. The Hollywood answer is, it makes a lot of money. Another answer, it will be original, you will know it when you see it and like it, but it may not make money.

Tobias Wolf
9 posts / 1 project
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

"no one cares about board games that much"

I am quite confused about that statement; why would that be the case. However, if it is really strictly a board game; then why don't you build a physical prototype of it (or create it in Table Top Simulator) before implementing it?

65 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

I did that, I bought cheap plastic pieces and drew a board, but really I'm playing against myself so it doesn't help much.

In reality, I already solved the small problem of defining game rules in an ugly way so I can just edit code and implement different rules in different boards (hexagonal, squared, MxN, didn't try like other tiling cuz just too much complication). I even put sounds, and square highlighting, so it is mildly playable.

But what I wanted to do is to use minmax search to find out if the set of rules candidates for a particular game setup are trivial, by that I mean whether they boil down to some boring dominant strategy that makes the game mechanical/dull. This part is very HARD and my minmax is very dumb and consumes too much resources I still don't know why because honestly I don't know how recursion works in detail in the CPU/cache, and not trying very hard to fix this because I'm still considering if the games are good to begin with.

65 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?
Edited by da447m on Reason: more stuff added :P

For the ruleset, it is not very difficult.

In abstract way, you define a coordinate system. You will have your logic to move pieces around, also capture mouse in precise "squares" and also draw them.

If they are hexagons, there is a math overhead for that, but that's pretty much it. You define moves according to the degrees of freedom in that particular coordinate system.

So say you have a small fellow called pawn, just make this fellow

struct
{
Axis top_left{-1,-1};
Axis top{0,-1};
Axis top_right{+1,-1};
}Pawn_Move_White;


Axis is just the object of your coord sys that you will make your coord sys logic with

struct Axis
{
Axis()                   : q(-1), r(-1) {}
Axis(int8_t q, int8_t r) : q(q),  r(r)  {}
int8_t q, r;

bool operator==(const Axis other) const;
bool operator!=(const Axis other) const;
Axis operator+(const Axis other) const;
Axis operator-(const Axis other) const;
};


Ideally you want this sort of stuff small because of minmax search.

Ok, back to rules. The first struct is nothing but a "physical" rule set for moves that fellow can perform. As opposed to "legal" moves. That fellow can go to "square" {q,r} physically (poetic license) if it is in square {q,r+1}, say, because top{0,-1} is a move, but it may not be legal if there is another friendly pawn in that square.

So now we define some other layer of legal stuff, who captures who, who can do special stuff with who, and so on and on, all the rules are nothing but a bunch of branching.

Some of them are not so trivial. For instance, if you have something like the Rook in chess (moves in straight "lines"), you want to do a check like this (hope I didn't screw up lol)

static bool rook_path_is_free(GPiece piece, Axis begin, Axis end)
{
/// trivial case
if (end == begin) return true;

Axis diff = end - begin;
Axis dir = Axis((diff.q>0) - (diff.q<0), (diff.r>0) - (diff.r<0));
Axis current = begin;

/// use do{}while(); instead of while(){} because we need to check when current == end
do {
current = current + dir;

if(Board.get_piece(axis_to_idx(current)).id != Pid::NO_PIECE) {
if (Board.get_piece(axis_to_idx(current)).color == piece.color) {
return false;
}
/// if the piece is an enemy piece before the end square, don't let it move beyond it,
/// but this check will return ok if the piece is at the destination (end) square
else {
if (current != end) {
return false;
}
}
}

} while (current != end);

return true;
}


And other stuff can get equally complicated, perhaps more.

So that's it for the game logic abstract layer, it is actually fun. There is only some extra complication for me cuz I use bitboards because of minmax search (e.g. axis_to_idx()` is such a func that will get the axis and actually retrieve from a uint64 bitboard a color, from other uint64 the piece kind, but that's not necessary to make any board game, prob a map w/ "axis" as key will do??)

65 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?
Edited by da447m on Reason: well I think I went a bit overboard there

I didn't really answer your question. You have to define what doesn't suck means. The Hollywood answer is, it makes a lot of money. Another answer, it will be original, you will know it when you see it and like it, but it may not make money.

What makes money right now is almost always saturated, so if the incentives were all just simply to make money, that's a big barrier.

What is perceived as original is also problematic. Just look at contemporary art. New crazy things all the time, things you've never seen, thus original. Nonetheless, most of it is just awful?

Maybe a humble tiny thing that is different suffice?

I'm not trying to be coy or arrogant, I do want to make money, just that I'm really not willing to do whatever for it (and also I can't, right? like really, as if I could go beyond my own self).

As a rule, I now write down anything that I think about. But even some of what I thought would be interesting to do are either already done or just suck according to my own assessment.

For example, suppose a sokoban game where the blocks are bongard problems, and what you want to do is to aggregate them according to some other rules that will solve the problem. This is the sort of thing that I think is bad because it is just extra layer of complexity without context. In the case of the board games, being different games is their whole point.

29 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?
Edited by Shastic on

The reason I mention Hollywood, is they copy existing ideas, but they spend a huge amount on the marketing, which is SFX, sets, expensive actors, etc, as well as the advertising which costs as much as the movie cost to make. You aren't Hollywood, so you have to make something that is original, and interesting if you want anyone to care.

I've been thinking about what makes an idea good or bad, and I think the reason you don't see your ideas as good, is they don't solve any problems.

So perhaps another way is to look at games that already exist, and change something significant about their rules to make them better, or to make them radically different. Then explore every nook and cranny of the new rules with your level design.

I am not a designer, just a keen observer. So perhaps seek out every successful designer you can that talks about how they build things from scratch. Then see if there is anything they say that works for you.

Jon Blow has made some videos on design. See his playlists.

Casey also talks about how he solves problems in Handmade Hero. He just solves the problem in front of him. Then if he sees it again he solves it. If he does this a few times, he will have the right idea of how the API should be.

65 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

I've been thinking about what makes an idea good or bad, and I think the reason you don't see your ideas as good, is they don't solve any problems.

I don't know the exact reasons as to why I think they suck, they simply do not make me really excited about them. Maybe you are right, but how would they "solve a problem"? That reads more like a technical demand.

29 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?

When I was looking for my good idea, I looked at all of the solutions I could find, and thought carefully about why they didn't suit my needs. Then when I found something with potential, I tried different approaches, and the goodness score rose from 65%, to 80%, to 95% of what I wanted. I stopped at 95%, when I realized there was no way with that approach to fix the last 5%, so I accepted the result and moved on.

So to do it that way, how about just start with something small like a simple level? Add terrain and objects to it, with a goal for the player to achieve. Then add very simple actions and rules the player and AI can use. Then build increasingly complex levels with different ways the player can win, and fix any problems with the rules as you go.

65 posts
How to properly have an idea if your game sux?