Proto T.O. and designer night

November 2, 2017

I know in my last post I said that I would make this blog post about the gameplay of Primal Ordnance, but since then I attended two prototyping events and wanted to discuss my experience. The first event was called Proto T.O., a tabletop game prototyping event held here in Toronto. I had first heard about this event while I was attending Fan Expo back in August. After one of the panels I had the pleasure of meeting Pam Walls, the founder of the event and a game designer herself. She gave me all the info and I knew immediately that I wanted to attend.
Unfortunately all the designer spots were full (not that I would have been ready to playtest the game with other people since I hadn’t even started to do it myself) but I did sign up as a playtester. I figured it would be great to get that experience so I could learn first hand how other designers playtest their games. I wanted to see how they ran a testing session, the kind of questions they asked, and the type of feedback they would receive. I also figured it would be a lot of fun and another great way to meet more local designers. Networking has been key in my profession as an animator so I figured it’s no different in game design.

After the opening talk on Friday night by Scott Nicholson, a professor of game design theory, there was a design showcase where I got to see all the games that would be playtested that weekend and sign up for the ones I wanted to play. Unfortunately I could only attend on Sunday so I signed up for those 2 sessions. In my rounds I met a fellow first time designer named Andy Kim. He was great to talk to and during the open gaming session that evening I asked him if I could test his game. We grabbed 3 other players and we played. It was a great tile laying game with a fun theme. I don’t want to get into details about the gameplay since I don’t know if other designers would be cool with it. Needless to say, it was really fun and I hope it gets published someday. I would buy it.

Speaking of Lanterns, I also had the privilege of testing one of Chris Chung’s (designer of Lanterns) prototypes on Sunday. It was a deck builder where you used the cards to spell words . I definitely had fun and we had a good discussion after about the game’s strengths and weaknesses.

I ended up being able to attend the event for a bit on Saturday and got half a playtest in of a Tim W.K. Brown game that had to do with buying and selling shipping containers. Once I played a couple of rounds I started learning some strategies and could definitely see the game’s potential.

The last game I tested was a worker placement Euro style game by Thomas Volpe and Earl Aspiras. At least I’m pretty sure that was what their names were because I left their card in my pants while they went through the laundry and ruined their business card in the process. Bonehead move. We didn’t get to finish the game in the 2 hours we had, but this was only the 8th time they had playtested it. Surprisingly it played fairly well for not having been tested much yet. But we gave our remarks and hopefully the game gets even better.

Designer Night

The second event I attended was a monthly designer night held at Snakes & Lattes, a game cafe in Toronto. It is a really casual event where many local designers come and playtest their games for a few hours. I saw a lot of familiar faces from Proto T.O and I playtested at least 5 games. I was most excited about getting to replay Chris Chung’s prototype that I had played a few weeks before at Proto T.O. I was able to see first hand the improvements he made based on some of the feedback we, and other playtesters, had given him. Even more importantly I saw what he didn’t change even though we might have critiqued it. I’ve learned that as a designer you need to know what feedback to spend time thinking about and acting on and what feedback to kindly receive and ultimately ignore. It was definitely a better game with the changes he made so I was very happy to see firsthand how important playtesting is and the kind of changes that come from it. Another thing I learned is how rough some of the prototypes people bring in can be and that I probably could have done a much simpler prototype for Primal Ordnance. I’ll be keeping that in mind with future designs.

It was a great experience to attend these two events and to play all these different prototypes in different levels of completion. Some were still in the early stages and some felt almost complete. I’m definitely going to continue attending designer night regularly.

I’m still putting the finishing touches on my prototype. Every time I think I’m almost done I find something else I need to finish. When it is done I’ll be posting pictures and a full description of the initial gameplay mechanics. I’ll be back soon.

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