How I Prototype, Part I

Like most, I start with an idea. Often I write down the idea and file it away for a time. Other times I don’t, and my subconscious works on it until it decides I’m ready to sit down and do something with it. Sometimes my subconscious is more active than I might like, but that is, perhaps, a story for another day.

This is a high-level description about how I go about prototyping games, with more detailed bits to follow. Some of the tools I use deserve their own articles.

The first couple of games I prototyped, I used index cards for the first draft. There’s nothing wrong with this; it definitely makes for a very quick and easy way to experiment with ideas. At this point, however, I find that it’s just as fast to create prototypes using my tools – and they look much more finished too!

I have written code which takes images and descriptions from a config file and then produces PDF’s of cards, stands, play aids, and more. I will be Open Sourcing it shortly, as well as creating a graphical front end for creating cards, using nested blocks (similar to those used by Scratch) to describe how a card or other items are templated and then filled.

It’s easy to change the templates and re-run the code. Adding a symbol or changing a font on hundreds of cards need only be done once, in one place, and then Voila! all of the cards are updated in seconds.

I then print cards or other artifacts, and cut them by machine.

A few weeks ago I literally created a game prototype in about six hours – typing up the rulebook, deciding on placeholder art, then designing, printing, and cutting 60 two-sided cards. Admittedly, the first draft of rules inherited from an existing, though perhaps somewhat obscure, game, but nevertheless, I am pretty pleased with the results.

At a high level, here’s a list of the tools which I use:


Images and other Resources


I’ll tackle this another time.


More soon!