Fail Faster

The last Game Design was to create a dice game, and during the process of making my dice game. I certainly experienced why “Fail Faster” is essential for game design.

The first brainstorming idea I had came from Jesse Schell’s comment of balance between skill and randomness during lecture. I thought that a dice shuffleboard game would definitely require players’ skill to play  well but the game would also depends on randomness from the dice. And I thought that would be exactly what I wanted and I decided to give it a go. I first thought about making the whole thing physical but I settled down the idea pretty late so I did not have enough time to design all the parts I needed for play-testing. I decided to go for craziness and made the game digital in Unity.

Everything felt very good in my mind until I actually made the game. I certainly didn’t realize the biggest “marshmallow” (obstacle) I would face would be the digital format. I could not get the depth from a flat screen so there was no way for me to actually accomplish the shuffleboard feeling and I could not get the collier to work and it was just so hard to simulate the magical feeling of rolling a dice in the digital world. Besides, as mentioned in the previous post, after conducting couple play-tests. The results from the play-testing were astonishing as well. And one comments from the play-test made me to decide this was a failure: “Why would you throw a dice? I feel like the dice doesn’t play an important role in the game that you could replace the dice with anything.” That is very true, why would I throw a dice knowing that the result would change from time to time.

Screenshot 2014-02-12 18.25.54

(Try the game at: http://tianweiliu.net/dice if you would like. Unity Web plugin is required.)

However, failing is not  a bad thing. I still have one more week to go and I was very glad that I realized it was a failure sooner than I usually do and I did not put any more time on a failed idea. I have plenty of time to restart from the ground up with all the lessons I learnt and make sure I would not do it again. A week later, I had a Human vs Zombie board game. And by the time I heard “This game is fun.” from the play-testers, I knew I did it better than the previous one.

I never thought of failing would be a positive thing and I never thought about failing faster would be so essential in game design. But the fact is, nobody would know that I had failed and it would only be a failure if I did not realize how bad my idea was that soon or at all.

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4 thoughts on “Fail Faster

  1. Mingxun says:

    Thomas Edison once said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

    As victims to the watchful eye of society today, we often perceive failure to be more public than it actually is. We despise it, fret it, run away from it and worse, question our own ideas and ideals when they are a little unconventional.

    But the truth is, none of the greatest successes were ever achieved without failure. From Edison’s 10,000 unsuccessful attempts to Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team. Failure is a necessary stepping stone to achieving your dreams.

    It’s great that you learned that failure is a positive thing. Especially in games, developers make the mistake of trying to salvage a broken idea that they go down the path of no return because of the amount of time and assets already invested into the idea. The idea of failing faster and rapid prototyping is something we have all learned well in BVW, and is something that is invaluable to us in the future.

    • I’d be interested to know what your zombie dice game ended up feeling like. Did it take any inspiration from your original idea or was it completely different? If it was completely different, then I congratulate you on being able to let go of the idea that you knew wasn’t working. If you kept some of the elements of your dice-throwing game, then I’m glad that you were able to sift through the mechanics to find elements that you like. Really, since you ended up with a fun game it’s a win-win situation.

  2. It is difficult to throw your ideas out into the abyss on any level as a creator. Somewhere it has been ingrained in us that when we fail it reflects back onto ourselves as people until the end of time. As CMX pointed out, we feel like the world is always watching our every step, judging us and constantly determining our worth.

    Luckily that is almost never the case. Human beings are very narcissistic in general and don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about your successes and failures as we think they do. This is quite liberating, as it allows us to experiment and develop ourselves through experimentation and failure without these entirely self-created repercussions. Following the fun and learning when to trash your idea are perhaps the two most valuable skills you can have as a game designer.

  3. Linus Chang says:

    I can totally relate to your situation. In fact, your game sound eerily like my game, Golf Dice. In my head, the game sounded like fun. In fact, I went through a number of play tests where it did seem like fun, even to the people who play tested it. But, the novelty of the physical aspect I was focusing on wore off quickly. My inspiration was that I wanted to incorporate the ability to change your roll using skill so my game allowed the player to blow their dice and change their roll. This was not easy and took some serious lung strength, especially for a D6. Unfortunately, like your game, this made the dice rolls feel less important and took the fun out of rolling. Unlike you, I kept trying to improve my game, thinking I could somehow make it better. Little did I know, I was polishing a turd and I wish I had the foresight like you to just change my game completely. Nice work!

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