This week on the show, Nick and Billy break down …
This week on the show, Nick and Billy break down the design of, and psychology behind board games.
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we're in the double digits of human factors cast so we're gonna switch it up and talk about board games
welcome to human factors cast your weekly podcast for all things human factors psychology and design here are your hosts NIC Rome and Billy Hall
my name's Nick wrong I shouldn't do this here alone so I'm joined here today by mr. Billy Oh my co-host hey buddy how's it going today Billy how are you buddy I'm doing fine actually I am I'm looking forward to this you're always you're always looking forward to every episode I really like spending time with you that's not why you're looking forward to this episode I like attention that's not why you're looking forward to this episode I love board game it's the content it's the content Billy what are we talking about today we're talking about board games especially in the sense of design board games man I am bored just thinking about games I'm just kidding man so so this is this is like a big topic for you man because you it's it's not only just a big topic for me I think it's also important for anybody out there who's looking at getting into game design well yeah and and any design really like there are some important things that you can hammer home from game design like there there's been some tremendous sort of steps forward in UX and design just from the gaming field alone like it's it's pretty important yeah it's it's really what it comes down to is board games are a narrative it's a narrative that's really explored it's a it's it's a storytelling thing you know I'm reminiscing right now you were the first person who introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons oh yeah I remember that man Vic are the bar Nick are the bard and I remember when just on a whim I was like I seduced the Paladin and everyone was like no you can't do that and then I roll the natural 20 and it totally happened I think your character sadly ended up tragically trapped in the Underdark turned into a statue of stone and one of the priestesses of law yeah that is so nerdy of a sentence man anyway good times do you have a huge history of board games yeah I do I've only played a couple so this is almost gonna be like the Billy Hall Show oh let's not go too far I still need your scientific expertise look man I can only bring so much human factors to board games you're gonna have to almost leave the board games part of this and I'll take us through the science of it I like that idea I'm excited about this I think this would be good all right so what's up first okay let's define a game from your perspective all right so to me a game is something that you play right at it's that's that's what it is to me you play a game mm-hmm now whether that be you know physical or mental or whatever a game is something that you play Oh the technical definition here that we've pulled a form of play or sport especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill strength or luck hmm okay so there's a couple elements here yeah there's a few right so you could you could play it or it could be a sport or a mix of both right now there's there's competition involved here I think yeah I think that's what sets a game apart well I mean you're absolutely right but competition has changed over the years of what the definition of competition is what do you what do you mean well like for example when you play D&D with me were you necessarily competing with the other people in the party that's a good point and technically were you even really competing with me I mean you were the DM but I've mastered you master but the idea of it is is that if I wanted to I could just set down a red dragon and kill y'all I think maybe maybe we were competing against the circumstances under which we were exposed to but who's the person that you were competing against I don't it the definition doesn't say person it says competi right but I mean the idea of it is to keep in mind that a game does not have to be competitive against the person that's true that's that's a good point right and then there are these three kind of pillars here skill strength and luck mm-hmm yeah and when I think of strength I think of like physical physical sports football baseball baseball maybe it's its skill using see I would consider baseball more of a skill using a bat yeah where skill throwing a ball it doesn't necessarily have to do with strength so steroids shouldn't roll there just typing away at the right away now no so that's what I think of strength but when I think about board games right and it often requires the skill of the player right knowing these rules strategy intelligence knowing the rules creativity right it often revolves around the player knowing these rules like if you get an experienced chess player and they're just sitting there and they're they're always calculating seven moves ahead right and that's because they've played this so much and that skill that they've you know developed over playing this so long allows them to see those things that a novice player might not mmm absolute right and now this could be for exploitation yeah I mean like I mean like skills go into the idea of Poker even though poker has a sense of luck when you what cards you deliver the idea of the mental fortitude reading the other players not being read yourself you knowing when to hold them and when to fold them oh yeah I completely agree and then you said it right there too there's this luck-based component to it too right it's not just skill no matter how skillful somebody is they can still roll a natural one when they're rolling on their fortitude saved was a fortitude er will pound it was willpower but still you're absolutely right there is a sense of luck to it because there has to be a sense of danger a sense of being able to lose if you can't lose what's the point of playing right yeah exactly is it even a game anymore cuz there's no competition you're just gonna win I think Star Trek said it best the idea you can't really fully appreciate victory without the chance of losing yeah no I think that's great and I think this next question that we have lined up or her I think this one's more of a question for you so I'm gonna switch it up and I'm gonna ask you oh okay so obviously we're talking about board games now we've already mentioned things like sports and you mentioned poker but what kind of to you what are the different types of games and what kind of makes board games stand out over all of them well I mean there's a lot of different types I mean board games have to answer the second question board games have pieces that people move around the table right right okay so is that what sets board games apart from everything else not necessarily because a board game is a tabletop game and it does involve those types of things predetermined board including you know checkers chess but the idea of it is is also a board game can also involve things like concepts ideas moving to places a sense of a map almost okay so it has like this sort of a spatial awareness yeah going on with okay and that's something that distinguishes it I think so I think the idea of a board game can distinguish it but see it's a difficult question because there's many variants like you love the game and we'll get more into it later but you love the game x-wing miniatures right yeah is it played on a board it can be it can be but it's considered a board game right but moving on the board in a directional space is more I mean like I've seen people lay out those big Galaxy maps that look like a thing and put pieces on it that are asteroids right but that's not going to do that you can do that off the board too you can do it on this table that we record this podcast on yeah as long as you have a 3x3 set absolutely that's the same thing with Warhammer that's not a board game either but it does use miniatures now why are those not board games or there's not board games because they don't physically have a board that you play on no because of the idea I mean they fall a miniatures game is its own it's become its own specific thing it started out like a board game okay but a miniatures game is its own specific thing I digress I'll get to that more later but I mean the next one of course and what most of our fans would probably be interested is video games right and we all know what a video game is and it's something it's basically a game right that's electronic that you play on a TV or you know that it involves some sort of interaction with with an input device right like a controller or a keyboard and mouse or something like that and then of course there are card games in any game using playing cards as a primary device which game is played be they traditional game specific like for example poker poker uses traditional cards right right or Magic the Gathering or is you yo if you're a fan yeah uses game specific cards I'm right right and they have usually their own art and style and ideas and then of course there is the spore scan sports games yes well yeah I think they're most commonly referred to as just sports but what do I know I don't follow sports good for the sports games no and these are just these are physical activity right right that's that's what we kind of set aside for those no this next one this next one I have fond memories of finding you in the middle of a night pretending to be a vampire we're going to go that deep huh okay yeah yeah no no no that's fine so you're a role player though you you I I do a lot of variations of role play I mean Dean that's the other thing I want to get on with the idea of miniatures because a board game is a board game and a role-playing game is a role-playing game but miniatures game uses both you are commanding an x-wing army right you could these these are what we'd call hybrids right like actually they kind of they kind of incorporate elements of each one yeah right and and you could even go as far as to say that the you can you can play a sport inside role-playing right absolutely like you want Bowl is a sport game that's played on a board right you guys could like joust yes right and that's physical yeah and there's many variants like I used to do role playing games you're absolutely right I used to I used to LARP all the time what is LARPing now saref is live-action role-playing games most famously known from that silly youtube video where the guy is saying lightning bolt lightning bolt lightning bolt or the movie role models and all the time that there's very many that was the best one but those are that is a specific genre of a specific type of role-playing game mostly it's any game where you envelop a character right but roles of a character today though we're talking about board games right yes we're talking about games that you play on a board mmm that are not anything else that we've kind of covered right mm-hmm mm-hmm absolutely I mean that's the main idea here I mean there are many different hybrids like you said there's many different variants and genres to different types of games I mean hey I don't know if Quidditch the the professional Quidditch league of college is necessarily a sports game or a role-playing game or both I don't know which one that really is like we say it depends so look here's the thing I I'm gonna kind of approach this from like the broad stroke AB game game design but I need you to reel me in and say like okay but how board games like what what's how does this apply to board games and it's really tough like you always like we can always say it depends but it is a tough thing to peg down how do you write down a video game right you know like you've been recently playing journey oh yeah journey but some people would say Call of Duty is a coup is a video game that's just a walking simulator they like to use yeah that term walking simulator and see that's the problem it's hard what is a game and that's is all games art but let's let's say video games for an entire episode you know we'll probably do several video game episodes over the course of but yeah but let's focus on the idea ok designing a board game ok so to me mm-hmm board games are kind of like when art and then math have a baby yes yes it's like you you designed this kind of concept or theme and then you mix it with mathematics and and complex algorithms to you know make these mechanics by which the players utilize for playing and that makes a board game you're absolutely right I could go on for all the time about the different algorithms and math that goes in to designing a game basically you have to taking things like spatial awareness the age level of your players and everything like that you need to reside on a theme you need to stand on mechanics cards dice game pieces yeah kind of thing I mean for me like when I when I think about this I would go to like I'm a spreadsheet guy right and so I like making really big spreadsheets with all these complex calculations uh-huh and that's that's what I kind of find exciting about this right if I were to make a board game I'd be like oh so this player gets this equation and this player gets this equation and does it doesn't equal out and I'll talk about balance later but but you're absolutely right in that standpoint I mean the idea of it is is that board get you it is math and the great thing about this math is you're trying to get complex concepts of like fear action adventure across when you're doing it you're talking about themes yeah themes you but you're trying to do it with math right and that's exciting that is exciting and really unique it's cool I mean yeah and you need to extending of relationships you want the players to have with other players like we said in the game exactly like D&D the players are working together or an x-wing players are fighting each other right or or or in D&D they're fighting against the DMS ID they're barred but that usually involves fistfights no or like new games like pandemic or zombicide where a player is fighting the actual game itself yeah that's cool to me yeah is that it's like you've you've almost developed this artificial intelligence within a board game and it reacts based on how the user is able to sort of make their moves so I know you have actually been you've actually developed your own couple board games right and yeah I just kind of want to like probe you for your experience on working with those like what did that like because this is something that I I don't know I like this is unfamiliar territory to me well the thing about it is is like I said I love the idea of algorithms and math trying to tell a narrative I like the idea of telling a story you spend ten minutes with me I'll tell a better story and I've been planning and designing a lot of games most of which probably have never seen the light of day I would like to play these games someday just FYI I've also I've also helped in the designing of games by playtesting coming in talking to people on the things like that or taking an existing game and changing it up so that it has a different feel to it right you know yeah um but that's a lot of things that I do i I've made a role-playing game and a couple other things and I know it's but it's in the in the in the gaming world it's very hipster to be like I designed my own game that's so his Billy Billy haul hipster everyone right my beret is coming and my beanie is coming in the mail dora fedora yes Fedora is coming in the mail Dora fake glasses that make you look hit big huge mustache all waxed up but yeah III I'd like to immerse myself in the form of design like this and I feel that it has a lot of a lot of applications like communication communicating thing writing skills things like that which I lack but I work on through these things and also the reality of telling a narrative that can be told without you present you know that's that's a really good point too is that you know you're relying on the players to kind of tell this story even though you the creator is not there absolutely that's the idea you know and I'm three of the things I can really tell people is is one if you want to get into designing a board game or jazz just a hobby like I do or you want to look at it as a profession or if you even later on down the road you want to get into video game design because it's true all the great video game designers will tell you we started out with board games yes and and I have a really interesting story about that go on Knights of the Old Republic which is widely regarded Star Wars fan or not as one of the greater games of the original xbox generation yes they actually took their combat system I believe from a modified D&D one yes a Daniel it did come from a modified Dungeons & Dragons I have the beholder game okay yeah but it wasn't actually ever it never actually saw the light of day it was just a engine that was built for that concept and that idea and they took it yeah yeah so I mean you know even some of the greatest games are based their mechanics are based off of board game mechanics and that's cool yeah exactly I mean like the thing about it is is a board game you make all the rules you read all the rules and they have to be clear to the player who ever reads it right when you're playing a video game there's a bunch of little algorithms and rules going on in the game that you never see you know right yeah no it's kind of like the behind-the-scenes Excel equations exactly it's it's the it's it's a more basic version like one of the game designer once told me the best way to get into video game design is make simple board games and write out a rule book and then hand it to a person to play and not say a single thing which brings me to my points right so you said play a lot of games play a lot of games all types even if you don't think they're good even if you don't like them that's that's not an answer you can necessarily just get exposure to it exactly what's out there because if you tell me if you come up to me and tell me that Candyland or Papa matic trouble can't teach you something about games games that have been around since the 40s and the 50s dude I learned about life from guess which game which game life no Candyland all right see that was your first point you said you had three points what was the other one okay the other one is lore comes last everybody always has this grandiose idea of what their game is about with this lore this very deep storytelling and that's great for telling and that's great for writing down and telling a narrative but your Lord change it if your Lord doesn't you always end up having things that are stronger or weaker or your game mechanics don't reflect it and it's maddening okay so get the game mechanics down first hold up I'm gonna humbly disagree with you okay only because if you if you're developing this concept right like I feel like you should be able to sort of like we said it's it's the mix of art and mathematics and so if you have to find a way to make mathematics work with your lore then that's a challenge of game design I wouldn't say that it comes last I think that you know if you incorporate it along the way and maybe you know use the mechanics to maybe generate some more ideas that would be oh I mean like I agree like right now I've been working on a a
battle suit a battle mech to use general terms type of game you know I'm working on this yeah exactly you and your pagan rituals yeah um no I I am I'm working on a battle mech game right and and so you've you've developed this concept of a mech that's that's what you want you want mechs right I want mechs and that's my general concept I haven't come up with things like factions abilities or or what's big and what's not how teams interact with you I haven't come up with that idea because I even though I have the idea of lore like you know there are mechs and people fight in them right but that is more like a pitch than a lore does that make sense okay so what I'm hearing is like polish comes last like polish on the lore polish on the lower side okay you want your you want your mechanics to be able to translate almost anything that's why games like magic gathering have been around for as long as they have okay cuz when I saw this point initially I was like oh it disagree so much with that but okay I'm glad we came to agree and agree yeah I mean like they came up with the mechanics for magic gathering first more came so much later all right okay so maybe the third one and the third one is don't be present another plate other people play test your game instead hand the rules to someone else and I have others play the game I mean if you have to be in the room be in the room if you want to watch be a watch but try to make sure that your rules can be handed to anybody and played don't uh don't ask them if they ask you questions unless it stops the game completely like they can't play any longer don't answer them see I'm gonna humbly disagree with you okay I am going to disagree with you on one aspect of this don't be present that's true don't be in the room but don't leave them alone either leave a video camera in there to watch them like you want to know exactly how they're playing at how they're using it right absolutely absolutely the valuable feedback and that's I mean like you a Mac is an important aspect obviously but my main idea if it is is like a lot of people want to they play in their board game we make the games you want to play in don't do that because you understand the rules clearly and if I sat down here and pulled out a board game and played it with you and you didn't have time to read the 30 page rulebook what are you gonna do the whole time man Billy I have taught you so well no seriously that's that's like one of the core things of usability testing and we'll cover we will talk about that a little later I mean we've talked about it before but that's yeah it's essentially you play testing is essentially usability test absolutely and the idea of it is is that you understand what's going on but can day with what information you've given them but what other HF principles can we use in board game design though so human factors principles that we can use in board game design right at least for mine I was trying to get trendy with the h-f h-f h-f what are we each factors podcast on Twitter yeah we're the H factor and we gotta just figure out a way to but the but there's an X in the middle of factor to make it more edgy or three X's at the beginning followed by an understand we show like you know X X X underscore H factors podcast underscore X XS like one of those like one of those gamertag yeah I've always wanted to read those hey xxx xxx I think they like watch too many Vin Diesel movies who hasn't watched too many Bendis or movies those things are horrible but amazing Fast and the Furious ones for exactly everything and if their point of ride okay sir running gate oh can we use a board game design alright so so so from my perspective these are these are the things that I kind of pulled out obviously I think you can kind of apply the entire design process like we talked about in our design episode and if you guys are just tuning in if you're just tuning in you're listening to a podcast where when they say that it's my old radio if you're just tuning in if you're just tuning in to the Podcast go check out no seriously go check out our design episode we kind of break down the process a little bit more but I think that's what this episode idea came from maybe maybe a little bit oh yeah I don't know if that's where we generated this one I don't know we just you have to listen to them all to find out yeah yeah
like man cried so so from my perspective things that we can use in board game design are like the design process right so obviously you're going to sort of establish what needs you have like obviously you want to make a game right that's that's your need you're gonna kind of what requirements do I have well what kind of game is it gonna be is it gonna be a board game is gonna be a card game is it gonna be a video game whatever it is in this case it's a board game uh-huh so the first real step that I have on here is research right cuz cuz really you'll have these ideas in your head before you approach the game right unless you're a multi-billion dollar company that is like hey we need another game like go make it right they have a little bit like they have a whole gallery of people that that's all they do right so research right so you want to take a look into what's out there already this is what you kind of said earlier with play lots of games right get exposed to what's out there get a sense of what people have already sort of made and you know how you can incorporate certain elements into your own game to make it your own like it'll also help you figure out why certain things are the way they are like one of the one of the things is is there's a game called House of betrayal where you build a big stack of rooms right and there's first basement rooms first floor second floor rooms okay okay so the idea of it is is they the game tells you put it in one stack so it's literally just like one house with one room and a house with it no that's the thing if you're on the second if you're on the second floor and you need a room tile there you have to keep pushing room tiles away until you find a second floor room hmm and my buddy's always like why don't you just separate the room tiles it was like you can't separate the room tiles why not and then we figured that out if you separate the room tiles it's really easy to stay the deck room tiles like the basement floor it doesn't have many is the second or the or the first floor so it's easy to stack them up meaning that you're guaranteed to get certain tiles but if you're not you're going through 2nd and 1st tiles then you have to shuffle it up again I can go on for hours about the stuff right now I won't but I understood that because I played the game right right so yeah so we're talking about the research right and just see what's out there get exposed to new ideas after that you want to sort of imagine like what your game could be right so this is this is kind of refining your overall concept of what your game is this is where you're outlining your goals yeah your narrative yeah like why what kind of game do I want to make do I want to make an action a game an adventure game a battle game a strategy game yeah that comes in here I mean that kind of comes into it in the initial stages but you know definitely refining it here you can this is where you also refine your theme like is it gonna be a fantasy isn't gonna be a war game is it gonna be a futuristic game is it gonna be you know all these different things mm-hmm like if I have miniatures you know what what kind of miniatures will I have will I have ships well I have people will I have absolutely mechs yeah this kind of thing and you also want to develop a tone right isn't is it gonna be funny is it gonna be scary is it gonna be like cards against humanity' where it's totally inappropriate if you play it with your parents absolutely did you do that no oh my god I can't imagine anyone who does I own a copy but I tell my folks I don't you're not sure you better I got this new you BAM it's called cards against humanity's do you want to play with your father and me don't you know you know they have like little expansion packs that are like actual like card packs now yeah yeah yeah those are cool oh man so and then you're gonna develop your mechanics yes right and you're gonna get them to fix your car okay bad joke no that one's look and we can cut that out now it's not that I don't have a producer yet to do that we're doing it live doing it all right so so this is a unique part about a board game to me right because this is this is that math that we talked about yes you have pieces that the players need to sort of move across the board uh-huh right and and for this you basically want to consider things like I think about almost like the ergonomics of this right like are people gonna be stretching over a board to play this you don't want a huge board now or else they won't be able to reach their character that's halfway across the board but sometimes you want a large board to give a sense of scope yeah for the scale like look how far I've traveled in this right word no yeah I agree yeah so I mean it kind of depends but it depends well right and and you know it it needs to be easy not only for them to reach their thing but to to pick up their their pieces and move them yeah right so if you think about chess pieces those things are pretty economically sound they have like this tall lengthy sort of profile to them that allows you to pick them up from the top of them without like you know touching the base of them and and knocking over other pieces right and also the larger pieces that you try have to move across the board are always taller pieces so the fact that you can move record without hitting other pieces exactly and and they do another thing and remind me to talk about it later talk about the other thing later god yeah yeah no they remind me when we're talking about heuristic review okay because because that's it it gives you a certain thing and I don't want to spoil it yet because it's it's really cool actually let me write that down Jeff all right all right so so yeah these are kind of things you also when you're creating mechanics you also want to consider things like how people feel when they roll dice mmm-hmm how did you feel when you roll dice well it depends on how the games go and what the game is but sometimes I feel really excited sometimes I want I feel excited I feel euphoric I feel pumped I feel sometimes I feel fear now I wonder if this is conditioned from things like Yahtzee or like no seriously when you're gambling you get that same sense right it's like a sort of euphoria right now you don't know what could happen right if you're rolling these dice and it's like tension there's no skill there's no skill to rolling dice no I mean unless you weight them but if that's not even skill that's what can that's no that's not McCann I mean that's not mechanic that's cheating that's cheating but I meant like the dice is made for that reason no yeah and dice provide you with this this like like everybody has the same chance right that's the likelihood that's the probability aspect of like getting a you know winning or losing yeah yeah particular situation so so there's that uncertainty aspect that people are like I don't know what's gonna happen but it could be really good it could be really bad it could be okay I mean that's one of the things about like very simple kids games simple kids games don't have that sense of euphoria or gamble or chance because they always want the kids to win that's why newer games coming out nowadays give kids that sense of it like Dixit apples to apples and things like that they don't they don't want to get them addicted to gambling but they want to still give them that sense of tension like pick me choose me but he will it long he will they won't they you know it's like a romantic comedy of emotions yeah I mean you said it they're like gamers your games don't just have to be for children right right it's it's not just for kids anymore no and it never has been just for kids right I mean look at chess right five-year-olds weren't playing chess man today I mean I think that's what a lot of people associate with board games those leagues yeah children land Candyland monopoly but I mean like II you as a designer of a board game or a developer of a board game you have to understand sort of like who your demographic is absolutely know who your players are like who are you targeting right exactly I mean that age group of 10 and up is the moment broadest standpoint you can possibly make it really is like swing minis is not gonna be like we're going after Star Trek fans now they're going amazing a Star Trek version for that exactly exactly they they were like I'm going after Star Wars fans and you know they did a lot of research on what Star Wars fans like oh god that would be so metal stuck we I got a fleet of Star Trek you get a fleet of Star Wars we have a battle to see who will use the same mechanics I know we could do it my USS Enterprise versus your Luke Skywalker I will blow you out of the sky son I'm sorry the Falcon will wreck you oh no because I just had my two Klingon battle cruisers come out of khlo okay it's a nerd fight here fine no but you have to so yeah you have to know who your players are absolutely how much this is an important one right cuz like are you designing a game that people are going to devote a whole Saturday to where are you designing a game that people are gonna want to pick up and play for 20-30 minutes and be done well actually that's the thing that's going into game design now people are giving rules for options first time player quick gameplay and long-term gameplay yeah games are starting to become more module yeah and I that goes back into heuristics dang it man tight I need to break that down to games are becoming more module like I mean even clue has a modular sense even if it's just rounds you know I mean um x-wing miniature game has a 30-minute time limit rule well you can you can like x-wing for example you can really stretch it you can say like I want a 100 point battle and that's typically about a half an hour yeah I want a 500 point battle that'll last you okay yeah yeah so uh so yeah and we're seeing that in some games like war member sales are going down because of the fact that it takes all not because of the price or the time right it's because it takes like a day to play one game right you need to consider like are they going to you know like put this down and pick it back up later after lunch oh yeah you know how do we secure the game board like our figures secured if you're doing miniatures exact that kind of thing also you want to consider like where are people gonna be when they're playing this game are they gonna be in the backseat of a car in an airport right are they gonna be like in a gaming what do they call them like a game shop game shop yeah or we have living room living room a CD garage for all these a podcast all these things are are really valuable you have to know where they're gonna play so that was that was imagine Wow that was all one step yeah do all that and then so once you have your idea right you're gonna plan mm-hmm so you have all this information plan out how exactly your theme and your mechanics and all these things that we just talked about are gonna interact and basically how you can take advantage of one or the other and this is kind of what I was talking to you about earlier or when you were saying you know lore comes last know learn how to incorporate them you know into each other like how can that lore affect your mechanics right like this guy has four arms so you roll for dice or you know I want this mechanic to be a d20 so like a boulder damage I don't know something like that I I don't know I don't know I know what you're saying I get what you're saying by the idea of it but they I but the other thing about it is is if you come up with it's kind of like when you're doing math you know write y equals x plus a number okay that is the most basic way of solving for Wapping right you know but it gets more complicated than that you know what I mean yeah building more circuit but it all boils down to you know y equals blah blah blah blabbity blah bit above you know what I mean that's what it all comes down to it all comes down to basic math but you can make it more complicated you should get that complication out there because then it's a lot easier to say okay if he has four arms how does this affect the game right is everybody gonna be a four-armed maniac yeah and what kind of you know what kind of negative attributes does he have we're having those four arms like there's there's a ton of things that you have to guess doesn't make it playable doesn't make it unplayable right and then so we balance so once you do have that plan in motion then you prototype and I really dig this you know as I was looking into this today you know prototypers or not prototypers you know the building a board game is a lot easier now than it has ever been because you can 3d print like a miniature or a game piece like there's actually a there is actually a website that you can go to that you give them all of the outlooks and aspects of the game a little bit of drawing from adobe creative studios and they will print you and send you your board game yeah that's it's the cost is incredibly low and these are you you build you prototype it and then you test it right this is what we were talking about earlier with you know watching them play the game I just want to make the point to anybody who might be listening to this for designing a board game you can also do this with Legos and paper like most of my games I've ever created were to used Legos and paper that's a great idea too yeah just like low-cost you you can make it cheap and it's great to do it then because if you have to change something major in the prototyping stage which you're about to talk about you can just you know resend it and do it other than buying the whole set right and these things are useless now right yeah no that's that's great and and that goes with like low fidelity like that's that's what a low fidelity prototype is like you don't don't care about the character models right now that will come later the polish mmhmm right that we keep referring to so yeah you test it right and and to me the mark of a good game basically says like at the end of it do I want to play this again I agree full-heartedly right well yeah if you play a if you play a game that you don't want to play again then that's you don't ever play it again yeah you haven't done your job as a board game yeah you know that's the idea it's it's supposed to be fun exciting thrilling easy to learn easy to learn things like that everybody should be able to pick it up and at least even if they don't understand all the rules right away they have a way of planning out a win right make sense yeah and and this so once you've usability tested right you want to go back and iterate and this is what you're talking about with Legos right you don't have to send it back in to get more stuff printed out you just there Legos yeah your Legos they don't have a paper yeah you don't you just alter the pieces of paper and that's it at a rate on it now question about I mean like when you're talking about these things like from Europe let's say for example you stop making mechs for a minute there and somebody gives you a board game to create for some reason right okay and you're at there at the prototyping usability stage okay so so they're coming to us with a product that is already kind of made and conceptualized and they're there they're bringing me something that they have a prototype of right and you have to sit down I mean you you are doing the usability testing of it how don't do that well I would sit them down in a room like we said earlier I'd watch what they do I'd gather feedback on it like did you think this was fun would you just take random people and do it would you take people with different backgrounds I'd take the people in the demographic mm-hmm that they're looking for like would you take people that don't believe in your games versus people do play video games to test that out I would probably grab a mix like the the healthiest thing you can do is grab a representative sample of your users and obviously there's going to be variation within Star Wars fans for example some are going to like Star Trek some will not like Star Trek some will play video games some won't play video games get get a demographic form together of things that might matter things that might impact the way they play the game you know make these these sort of demographic traits known and then and then push them out to them and ask them and you know get a good mix right that I think okay okay okay that's good see that's the idea like I would think that would be also a thing to do you know don't just pull from your friends who are like-minded people pull from people that aren't like-minded and don't even know you have no problem telling you your game sucks if they have to be brutally honest sometimes hey I'm twenty bucks yeah like I mean we're talking about local slice of pizza yeah I mean we're talking low cost here but yeah that's one thing you can do is just invite random stream off the street and who knows I think it's half of a new-agey boardgames that I actually get as people just send me an email saying hey if you pay for shipping and handling we'll send you this complete game it's not complete but it works and I play testing and tell them what I think so you know more human factor we're talking about human factors principles that we can use in board game design we're still on this question Billy is you this is like a really wide question this is a tough one to answer but I mean we've handled we can do it we've having all right so what else I have on here is a heuristic review this is this is something that we do when we you know take a look at products or whatever or your products if you send them in to us yeah yeah feel free to send them in we'll review them on the show but these you know it's just simple things that you can do like and this is oh this is what I was talking about with chess okay so the chess pieces this sends some are bigger and some are smaller it really gives the user a visibility of the heuristic review is system status but right now the overall status of the game board right miniatures are great for this because you can actually see where they are on the board spatial relations between them how they're interacting at that moment and you can look away from the board you look back you know what's going on versus a card game where like if you look away and you don't know what somebody else played you know like it might be it might take you a second to realize what's going on or you might make a Mis play because you didn't see what was going on exact agree that let's see here I think annex yeah so I also have you know consistency and standards that's a thing you know just make sure you're doing what the industry is doing in terms of like you know is is this going to be completely foreign to somebody or is this concept relatively similar enough and it's really interesting with board game design because you know you want to make your game unique but you also don't want it to make it super confusing I agree I mean a lot of people miss the idea of the old Hero Quest game but I've got like four on that shelf over there oh yeah you do yeah like I got four variations of the same game with different types and different styles right sitting right there and then and then lastly with heuristic review you know almost all games have help and documentation you got like that startup guide is a play otherwise yeah otherwise you're not gonna build viable of your game a couple other miscellaneous notes with human factors principles for game design keep it simple don't make the user read don't make overly complex rules those just get in the way yeah you know provide illustrations definitely that's really cool like Lego instruction manuals like I know that's not yeah but those are awesome because they just show you like this is where this piece goes or IKEA I hate UI here yeah this is where this man is doing this praise to the Sun for some reason man alright so but I mean you're absolutely right the idea of it is is that when you're when you're your rule book and everything like that you need to be able to have clear concise conversation this whole time we've been talking about the idea of can someone play it without my input right yeah I can yeah that comes straight down to the robot exactly if they can see it happen they can do it themselves or they make a mistake they can actually come back to it but yeah alright and then the last piece of advice I here have here is a allow you obviously you have mechanics but you want to allow the player to have some freedom and how they accomplish their goals right and that that makes it the strategy that's the strategy aspect that absolutely I can accomplish this goal in this many ways and that's the idea it creates that idea of luck and tension and narrative that you can do it that's why people have are really bored by games like Candyland because there is no different way of going about it angela is what it is it's one path exactly so but what kind of things do you think are overlooked in designing these board games that's a difficult question to answer but I think I'm just gonna go with the most important that you know obviously all this stuff that we talked about it's important up till this point but one thing is balance I say that is in my opinion and again I'm not as familiar with these as you are what balance is a crucial issue in board games like I was saying about the idea of lore I've played so many games where it's like like for example the Old West End Star Wars game role-playing game there was no reason not to play a Jedi right it was just too powerful it was just there was the guy who plays a Jedi you can just go home right you know because after a certain time he's just going to deflect all the bullets and get all the things and save the galaxy and you'll make a pop shot when we do enough but now newer games being a Jedi is still really cool but the balance is there because you need the smugglers and the troopers and the soldiers right yeah yeah so you want you want to basically make a game that a lot of people can have fun with it and play their own way right that goes back to the options thing and I have here that you know at least in my notes I put that balance is kind of hard to come by hmm because you know unless it's a free-for-all where everyone's just kind of you know going at it it someone whoever this is will always go first someone will always go second there there's like most almost all the time there's turn-based and and this for better or for worse provides an unfair advantage to somebody somewhere because the people who go first you know have the advantage of going first and then the people who are going second have the advantage of seeing what the first person did absolutely again it depends on the game so you know a balance is really hard to achieve not to mention the fact that sooner or later people are going to think up of ways to break your game that you haven't right exactly you know and you got to keep that in mind and you got to just kind of roll with that right let's see here so I have also that with balance you know there's it's got to be balanced but there's still that element of chance and luck that kind of plays into it and then you want to make them feel like they have this opportunity to win even if they're playing maybe a disadvantaged role or character or whatever it is yeah exactly I mean like you also want to take into consideration certain element you want to take him that chance the idea of chance and luck and I see these way this is why people use dice and games the random chance is equal across all people meaning the balance is there right there's an equal chance that everyone will or will not do or do not there is no try right they'll do well or they won't do well or exactly it's all right there and that's the thing you also got to look at like we said before the relationship with the players in the game you can make it compatible competitive and you can make it more balanced you know but how can board game design help other forms of design he you know applicable to the real world right like we talked about the idea of the video game design but what about other stuff yeah so this is something that I was thinking about as we were you know preparing for the show and and I think you know there's a lot to be learned from board game design in that you know just like we talked about the design process again that that is pretty ubiquitous across all good word usage thank you that's pretty ubiquitous across all all platforms right you always want to do that design process to make your product as best as it can be absolutely you know and and specifically though these these principles that we've talked about in board game design can be used in other games right there's a lot of transfer over right yeah whether that be sports you can design a new sports game that incorporates math that would be cool Golf and rugby came from somewhere that's true that's true yeah I mean like golf takes into account like how many swings you took yeah never once did the clouds part and the gods came down and said I bring the football everyone came up with these ideas yeah so new sports new sports I have video games card games basically any game that you think of you can just just what I'm what I'm saying here is that you there's all these intricacies and and properties that will be unique to each one of these and so to think about those as you're going through this and basically how can you utilize those yeah I mean and and often time companies will make virtual counterparts at the same game right so like you see like Scrabble yeah you'll get like words with friends and and you know like look at your phone right now chances are you have a couple of games on your phone even if it's just Tetris and snake right but like yeah with like these board game analogs right you have you have to think about how you have to accomplish the same mechanics that you accomplish in on a board in a video game in a video game so you have to show a digital representation of the board how does that happen like a lot of the grape than we talked about before a lot of great designers come up with that idea you know they come up with the same do board games to make video games some of the greatest board game designers of our time moved on to video games why because they had a bet and made success one prime example is Brian tinsdale Brian tinsdale made seven launches for Magic the Gathering since he made seven different magic gathering sets he was the lead director of design for Wizards of the coast for about 12 years now he makes a lot of money making video games now mind you it's war xanga no I'll say what you will of they would work the millions of followers and people play like I said don't discount any game and you know he designed some of the most the greatest and most played xanga video games man and you know yeah these successful adaptations are these these board games they're they're crazy to me and you have to think about like how web design and app design come into play mmm I see what you're doing there yeah I think web design or app design I think mobile or - is app design should be next week's episode I agree I agree because the idea of it is that you're trying to get a clear concise idea in a small almost condensed format it seems like yeah let's talk about this next week I do agree I agree I agree okay so what next so this is the part of the show where we hear from you guys our listeners Billy who do we have today today we have an email from Ellen Alka Pia hey guy you've mentioned mental models on the show before and it got me thinking about how there are some things that I can't even begin to understand how they worked like how a my devices in my home are connected can you you how do you can you how do you know design the absence of a mental model I think what they're asking is can you and if so how do you yeah I a mental model that's okay so thanks for the question Ellen so I think you know at the at the basic level everybody kind of has a mental model of something right uh-huh like even if she has no idea how the devices in her Omar connected she has you know she at least knows that they're connected she probably no idea how Wi-Fi works I just think it's like giving off radiation that goes out that's your mental model yeah that that is it yeah and so when you when you design around that like for me at least when I when I think of my devices in my home I think of them all you know kind of like like Wi-Fi is almost like the wire between them and I'm really into the internet of things so I have advanced diagrams of how each one talks to each other and which protocols and which languages don't believe the Internet's all in one giant server room in Miami it could be how Gore is sitting in a rocking chair think about things you look Sam one day I'm gonna turn this whole thing off man yeah so so but yeah to answer your question Ellen I think I think you you would still probably have a mental model even if you don't know how it works you know you you have some sort of idea or representation about how it works do you remember what shall we we mentioned this in mental models potential models was in our was I think it was also our design show was it designer displays oh that's a tough one yeah I'm not sure I think we actually talked about it in design okay because we were talking about how we design something so many tiebacks design yeah right download design listen to it tune in for that one but yes so so so yeah in terms of absence of a middle mount mental model I don't think I don't know I think that you know even at the very basic of senses you have some idea of how words like the other question about it is is what's holding you back from that mental model not being wrong yeah I guess that's a good question but I mean that's the thing Allen this is this is dope don't it doesn't matter if you think it's cherubs that come down and pick out the information if that's how you that's if that's how you think it'd work that's how you visualize it the only idea is as it goes from one place to another the how well yeah the ends and and here's the thing that's that's what US human factors folk come in and do we look at how you guys sort of look at the the situation and then we design around how you how you view it right oh like for me if they're just talking to each other over the air that's how I would design my interface I'd say this one needs to talk to that I agree I agree all right so anyway I think that's gonna be it for the deeper today if you guys want to be featured on our show we're all over social media go ahead and comment on our SoundCloud Facebook or Twitter send us an email at human factors cast at gmail.com with all your questions you'd also get to the front of line at front of the question line by supporting us on our patreon site at patreon.com slash human factors cast yeah be sure to LIKE subscribe and reveal some iTunes the Google Playstore SoundCloud or whatever your favorite podcast directory is we're always trying to keep in touch with interesting topics that you guys our listeners want to hear about on the show so feel free to suggest away as always I want to say thank you to my co-host Billy Hall for the suggestion hey Billy where can they find you they can find me on Twitter and screen on YouTube at comstar klarik as for me I've been your host Nick Rome you can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter at Nick underscore Rome thanks again for tuning in to human factors cast until next time