April 30, 2012

Ogre Game Labs: A Proposal

By Daniel

(This is intended for one person, really, but I thought I’d put it on here so you all could see a new project I’m wanting to work on and maybe express some interest.)

Myself and several other members have a particular interest in designing games, and enough new online tools have emerged recently that I want to pursue the thought of an extension of the OGREs. The Ogre Game Labs would be something a little different from a traditional chapter, as membership in it would be as temporary or permanent as the OGRE choosed, though they would need to first be OGREs to make use of the Game Labs.

The Ogre Game Labs has a few immediate goals and a few stretch goals. Immediate goals are:

  1. Provide a resource for game designers to get support in the designing of their game, through (mostly online) playtesting, consulting with other game designers, working with people that have experience in online game designing tools such as Vassal (www.vassalengine.org), Roll20 (www.roll20.net), and Magic Workstation (www.magicworkstation.com).
  2. Provide a way for gamers to get involved at the ground level of new games and designers/design teams. They can find a game concept that’s of particular interest and volunteer to playtest games, or find a group with a similar schedule. One resource will be that all OGREs will be able to set their availability by day of the week, and this will be public. By joining the Game Labs you opt-in to being contacted by designers who are available when you are.
  3. Answer some basic questions on copyright law as it pertains to card, board, and video games. Not legal advice but links to useful resources on how you are protected (and not protected) as a game designer.

Some stretch goals are:

  1. Provide connections to artists, graphic designers, distribution chains, game stores that would do further playtests. Make it a real one-stop place for a game designer no matter how far along the project is to completion.
  2. X-TREME STRETCH GOAL: I’ve toyed with the idea of designing a modular game engine in HTML5. We may be able to turn some games into something that the public can play, and if there’s enough selection of quality games, turn it into a monthly membership service.

I’m fairly flexible on the overall structure of the Game Labs, and I think people would take on some self-granted titles. Jesse Schell’s excellent “The Book of Lenses: The Art of Game Design” is very adamant about this fact: To become a game designer, all you have to do is say you are one. The games will come later, but it’s important to take on the role first. So there are some positions that anyone would be able to take (with no limit), and some permanent positions.

Director – Likely myself in the dual role of webmaster, responsible for the overall direction of the Game Labs. Catches all the requests that slip between the cracks (and assigns new positions if enough slip through the same crack).
Head of Development – The member with the most experience in gaming and rule systems, available as a last-level resource to ask questions of all sorts on game design. A sort of “Resident OG” position equivalent to a chapter’s Senior DM.
Project Coordinator – Provides designers with new subforums and blogs for their project, and passes on other technical requests to the webmaster. Also responsible for answering questions on the new designer process.
Chapter Liaison – One member from each OGRE chapter that want to use the Game Labs should have a Liaison that matches people up with projects, and helps raise awareness of the Labs as a tool open to all members.
Design Head, (game) – Self-granted position once a game is far enough along that the designer needs to start recruiting for playtesting. Multiple people can be heads of the same project if it’s a team, and team accounts can be made to speak as one voice. One person can be Design Head of multiple games.
Designer – Position granted on entry to the Game Labs. I considered making “Playtester” another option on entry but if you playtest, you are helping design, so you’re a designer first.

That’s just a list I came up with while writing this so I’m sure some things aren’t covered but it should give an idea of the structure and day-to-day operation. Chapter Liaisons, the Project Coordinator, the Head of Development and Director would make up a Board of Directors that would vote on issues every so often (Not sure how often, and it seems silly to decide on a timeframe before the project goes live.) I’m open to suggestions on term lengths and the like, but also bear in mind this is going to be almost exclusively online, so voting will be forum-based before a deadline (and likely count as an abstention if not submitted).

I can have a forum up at ogregamelabs.com within the week you all decide you want to go ahead with it. I’m excited to push this idea forward and maybe even make the OGREs known as a think tank for up-and-coming designers. I’m available for questions via email at daniel.tharp@gmail.com.