Chip Shop has been a labour of love for me over the past two years. It has been through many changes and revisions and isn't yet 100%, but I have always needed to get something live before it becomes a never ending process of 'polishing'.
After several play test sessions, I consider the game 'ready enough' to put up for sale and available to the public. It's not complete, there are still a couple of issues with the game that I want to iron out, but I feel that 'releasing' will help me get more players and more feedback on the path to near-perfection.
I also realised that no game is perfect, some of the classics of the industry are flawed, but people still love them, it very much depends on the player(s).
When I say the game is 'released', I mean that the print at home version is now available. I am taking this step first for a couple of reasons.
Profile and Finance Raising
Have something available, even in a limited sense, means I can start raising awareness for the game and bringing in limited income to fund future improvements and versions. The print at home version is pay-what-you-feel (a minimum of $1, but that's more the platform than my decision) and I feel that's fair for now. It's more about raising interest that money.
Continuing my decision to take experiences from software development into board game development, I will use this print at home version of the game to iterate and improve Chip Shop until 'final' release (i.e. the boxed version). All purchasers of the game will receive updates and fixes as I create and release them, be they small or large.
I still intend to take Chip Shop to publishers, or kickstart for a boxed version myself, I am conscious of building some 'buzz' before taking these steps, or these next steps will be a waste of time. This 'soft' release of the print at home version will hopefully help accomplish this.
What have I Learned?
(Balanced) Board Games = Maths
Creating a board game was harder than I expected. This may sound like a dumb thing to say, but I was surprised by the amount of mathematical calculations and balances needed to make a 'good' game. Most of the issues I experienced with Chip Shop are from flaws that allowed a player to rapidly gain a lot of points or resources. Even as I player, I never spot these sorts of tactics in games, or I choose to ignore them, focussing more on theme. I know that many players look for these and I thank my play-testers for helping me spot them as I don't think I ever would have. I found that every version of Chip Shop kind of suffered the same problem(s) but I just kept moving them around. I think I am closing these loops holes, but as I say, even 'classic' games share these flaws (some might say tactics).
Adding Boundaries and Direction
As I said, I generally play games for theme, I don't always play to win. This why I prefer games I can engross myself in and enjoy, no matter what happens. This can involve not playing with too many others that just play to win, but generally the balance is OK. For me, I tend to play along lines of what I consider 'realistic, or 'on theme'. This has manifested itself in the way I created Chip Shop and relates to my last point. I didn't want to restrictions on what players could do and wanted to allow players to choose a path they would like to follow during the game. I realised during play-testing that if I want to encourage players to follow a certain path, then a certain amount of guidance and encouragement might be required to send them in that direction. In short, the game you want to create may not be the game that players end up playing and you either ignore that or force it through game mechanics.
This is an aspect of Chip Shop that I am still smoothing out and it may be better solved with future expansions that players can choose to add or not, I am reluctant to add too many rules and checks right now to prevent making the game to complex.
I wanted to make the game creation process as open as possible, as this is my background and it felt a natural thing to do for me. I am unsure if this was worth it, or at worst, was a distraction. I do intend to package what I have created into a 'game making framework', but I'm unsure how interested people are in following the steps I have taken. For the software industry, it's a bit too simple and for the games industry, a bit too complex. But this remains to be seen. I have wondered in the past months if I would have achieved something far quicker if I had just stuck to using InDesign to allow for far more rapid and less fiddly iteration on the game. I have found it challenging (so far unsolved) to know how to create the game boards in an open manner.
I invested some time in trying to make Chip Shop playable on tabletop simulators and came to the quick conclusion that these systems are not ready yet and have limited functionality. I hope to return to improving Chip Shop on these platforms soon.
Buy, Share, Communicate and Play!
If you like the idea(s) behind the game, please buy a copy. If you have comments, please let me know, I want to hear them. If you like the game and want it/me to succeed, share your thoughts on forums and social media. Tell games groups and podcasts about it, tell your friends about it. I promise to try and mention or include everyone who contributes to the game in some way and will also look for a way to offer major contributors kickstarter or publisher discounts when I get to that stage in production.
Most crucially, play the game and enjoy yourself. I think that Chip Shop is a fun, fast and enjoyable game and I hope you share those opinions.