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Design In Detail: Prototype Selection

Once an idea has passed basic examination and made it onto the list it is usually allowed to settle for a few weeks at least but most for far longer. Every few months I select one of the ideas on the list and start working it up into a basic prototype. Step one of this process for me is always roughing out the general rules on paper. This first version of the rules always needs re-writing before the prototype is finished but it has a few purposes. Firstly it allows me to see if the idea fragment deserves to be built into a full game, some turn out to be bad ideas and get dumped at this point and some are only a section of a game not yet ready to be fully realised. Secondly, at this point I can judge if a game will be best served by being a set of rules for miniatures, a print and play or a full game release project. Those that need to be and are ready to be made into a full game are then made into a prototype.

For me personally a prototype is a working tool and it is constructed from bits of paper and card written on with pen and stickers. This is for two reasons, firstly I often don't know what the game will be at this point and I don't wish to commit to a design before I know for certain. Secondly, those cards will be written and re-written over time so designing and printing a high quality version at this point would be a waste of time and money.

The process of creating a prototype is a highly involved one and for me forms the first stage of a sort of pre-alpha testing. Even with a relativity simple game I am not capable of holding every card, rule and interaction in my head at once so usually, having written the rules first when writing the cards I will find a contradi