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Miscellaneous

How we made the Naylor Games logo

The site’s name is officially changing and we’ve got a brand spanking new logo! Here’s why and – just because I thought it might be interesting – what the thinking behind the design is.

With Magnate now going into mass production, I realised it was time that Naylor Games had a proper logo and for the site’s name to change. After all, once Magnate is out there, Naylor Games can truly call itself a publisher and this site won’t just be a blog anymore. And what better time to start building some level of recognition than having the logo you really want on your first game?

Like any good logo, I wanted something to communicate what Naylor Games is trying to be that would be both memorable and visually distinct. Of course, that’s much easier said than done and I thought this post might be an opportunity to explore the thinking and process behind how we came up with this design.

Why now?

I deliberately didn’t spend much time on it in early stages for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a game beyond Magnate. Getting this to market was my dream and although I committed to the self publish route back in early 2018, I wasn’t initially sure I wanted to publish beyond that. The whole game development process turned out – for the most part – to be even more fun and fulfilling than I expected. And even if I don’t do this for the rest of my life, I now know I want to take a shot at building a successful publishing house.

The second reason is that at the beginning, a logo wasn’t all that important. A classic thing I see quite a lot in new businesses is the rush to focus on the trappings of business; rather than what it is actually about: creating an organisation that generates value for its customers at a profit. I understand why. When you don’t yet have customers or sales, making a logo, a website or even getting office space (really not a great idea unless the rent is *very* cheap) makes the whole thing feel more real, which can be a morale boost. But those things should ultimately only ever be a means to a particular end. In my view the initial priorities were clear: get Magnate into people’s hands so they can enjoy it and – when they don’t enjoy it so much – give me feedback which will enable me to improve it. For that purpose a Naylor Games logo wasn’t relevant. People don’t have a lot of space for you that you get to rent in their heads. If there was one word I wanted them to remember it isn’t my name, it’s MAGNATE: MAGNATE, MAGNATE, MAGNATE. That meant all the focus needed to be on that when it came to marketing material. Besides, given the design blog focus of the site (which I dearly want to get back to soon!) a title that befitted what I was trying to do – “James Naylor: Game creator” was better than just calling it by a URL I purchased for brevity and future proofing.

What can a good logo do?

A logo is an opportunity to do two things: 1) Create something eye-catching and memorable that people can attach in their mind to what they think and feel about your business and 2) Communicate something about what the organisation is about in that image.

By default, people will associate some image with your company. So the first thing is really just an opportunity to be stickier: the bolder and more distinct the logo, the better chance that the whole company identity will likely stick in the associative web that is human memory. Lots of logos are pretty bland or similar to others. This can sometimes be deliberate. Some companies would much rather a project a clean, unthreatening and professional if bland image than risk something that sends the wrong message and sticks in the mind for the wrong reasons.

But for games companies, I think this is normally less of a risk than it would be for a professional services business, for example. After all, games are supposed to be fun: so appearing unserious or even ‘wacky’ is unlikely to ever lose a publisher any business. This is why I think its a bit sad when entertainment company logos just ape the professional, clean style. They’re missing an opportunity to communicate their creativity. I think the same is also true when they embrace the fun but don’t spend enough time thinking about what they want to say – they’re missing out on the power of the second thing logos can do. Instead they often just go for something jazzy looking that is a literal iconified version of their company name. Or they choose some archetypal game imagery, relatively randomly, to indicate the company is about games without thinking about what it could say about their games. As a result, the relative distinctiveness is also lessened: If you’re not thinking hard about your unique identity, it’s easy to default to using the broader patterns of design that all similar companies use.

What was the process?


In this case, I had a somewhat clear idea for the design immediately. I sketched out some ideas and created a digital one of my own for the Magnate sample box like this:

I am not an artist, so these weren’t very satisfactory to begin with (the one on the left looks like a mountain-wear brand!). But crucially, they helped me start communicating the idea. Next I briefed the logo into two different designers so they could do some concepting work. I provided my sketches, described what I hoped the logo could achieve and included multiple reference materials to capture the kind of mountain I wanted. They tried out many different ideas – which allowed me to think through what it really needed and what was more/less important. I showed these to friends and colleagues and got them to give me their feedback to help steer it further. The two front-running concepts were these:

As you can see, they are very different styles, and neither was quite right yet. But with them, I could re-brief to the designers and even begin iterating myself using Adobe Illustrator. While I am not an artist and don’t have the required visual flair to take something from brief to finished art, I have become relatively competent with editing vector graphics. To make all the small visual changes required to bring Magnate to market, it became a practical necessity. So it was easy enough for me to spend a few hours playing with the designs, iterating further with more feedback from colleagues until I had the final design:

Why this design?

Now comes the part where I could look very silly.

It’s all well and good to describe the theory and note where others have, perhaps, not used the logo to its full potential. Its another thing to do a good job yourself. So here’s my explanation for why I made the choices I made for the Naylor Games logo. It’s up to you to decide if I did a good job or not.

First practically, I wanted something with strong black and white lines. It would be high contrast (more likely to stand out) and fits nicely with what limited design scheme we’ve been using so far: the current Naylor Games logo, the site template and little “NG” insignia we use on Kickstarter or other materials I’ve created already. Black and white can also lend a little gravitas to a design. That is appropriate because as any who knows me knows, I take all projects quite seriously, even when they are about fun. Hopefully it can subtly suggest we take the business of our customers amusement pretty seriously: We will work and think very hard so other people in the future have the very best game experiences we can possibly create for them. We’re not a group of people having a bit of a laugh while we happen to make games on the side: that’s just not our style. We are absolutely committed to making them as great as they can possibly be, sometimes at considerable cost to ourselves. Making games is just so inherently fun the pain sometimes involved is absolutely worth it. So some degree of gravitas is correct when it comes to communicating what we’re about more specifically.

Crucially though, I also wanted a big splash of colour – which we tried to achieve here with the gradient colours of the dawn light over the mountain. Ultimately Naylor Games is still making games: Its about bringing moments of joy into people’s lives – not professionals solving problems (however seriously and professionally we may take it!). Highly varied colour palettes symbolize cornucopia, possibility, variety and diversity. We’re still promising that fun. We don’t want you, the player, to have to take things too seriously. This is a promise of fun.

This brings me next to the mountain itself. It’s a pretty bold symbol. But it captures – as a mountain peak to be climbed – at least what we aspire to: ambition in both product & game design. After all, our first game is an 812 component midweight, miniatures heavy game that recalls some Monopoly and SimCity nostalgia and aims to finally do a deep property game really well for modern tastes. On one hand, that’s an incredibly stupid first time project for a lot of fairly obvious reasons. On the other hand it is indisputably ambitious. And this to be honest, fits my approach, the rest of the team’s approach and many of our collaborators. We would all rather risk failing in a spectacular way trying to do something different and hard than play it safe. So I think of this also as a commitment to make sure we continue living by that approach. The sunrise over the mountain reinforces the same idea. We are trying to do new things – so the dawn is perfect. Symbolically speaking, it’s another big bet for us to live up to, of course. But I’d rather risk us looking silly in the future if this can, in some small way, motivate us to keep the faith and stay true to our ambitions.

Up the mountain there is a winding path leading towards its peak and where the snow gets thick. You could choose to see that as the difficult journey to make something as good as it can be. But that’s not really why its there. What it’s really about is a sense of adventure, the journey we want to take players on. This idea came from one of the designers who worked on it – to capture the spirit of old fantasy illustrations – like this original art from the Hobbit :

In that case, the path is straight rather than winding but it conveys exactly the same idea. A winding path in a more compact design is an easier, even more archetypal storybook way to convey a journey or adventure. And that’s perfect because most games are storytelling experiences too – although the players make the story. They can take you out of yourself for a time and participate in a world you’ve made with other players. Personally, I love games that use powerful theming to do this and such titles are, in general, the ones we want to make. Again it can say something about what we promise and we want to be remembered for.

Lastly we come to the bottom of the logo – the text itself. Here the story is pretty simple. I wanted Naylor to be a stark and boldly rendered. It its after all, the differentiating part of the company name: itself chosen because it was one less thing for people to remember in the early days. They know me and they know a specific game (e.g. Magnate). My view was that they don’t really need to know about a third thing – a company name – which doesn’t really begin to have a real identity of its own until many years and many products have passed. “Naylor” is also a name which is short, punchy and easy to say in pretty much every country I have ever been to. By pure accident of birth, that made it an easier choice than it would have been for other folk. “Featherstonhaugh Games” (pronounced Fanshaw Games!?!) is just not going to cut it in the same way.

Why is “Games” rendered in the more fun font that resembles the squares of a board? This is my attempt to balance the logo further away from the overly serious and finally eliminate the mountain-wear vibes. I think situations like this is where a bit of explicit game imagery can be useful. Alongside all the other imagery, it still highlights that we are a games company, but it’s also fairly subtle and relatively classy, allowing the mountain image to take centre stage. I tried a few other objects, but squares (with the odd triangle) turned out to be the best. I don’t think its a bad ting they could also look a bit like pixels too (a pure accident) as, since the end of the arcade era, such imagery also communicates the idea of fun & games.

Is this all a bit pretentious? Possibly. But I am willing to take the bet that the level of thought in this logo is substantially less than many successful companies spend trying to get the right one (even if they end-up crap in the end). Hopefully it will succeed. Only you and time can tell.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Mental Health First Aid for people in boardgames: My pledge

I’m pledging my support to the boardgame community as a Mental Health First Aider – a first line support person for mental health. You can contact me at james@naylorgames.com to talk about anything: everything you tell me will be confidential. Organisations interested in using me as a ‘virtual’ Mental Health First Aider for their team should drop me an email.

It’s already a cliche to say – using classic British understatement – that 2020 has not been a good year. I don’t need to re-capitulate why. But one aspect which is only beginning to really dawn on us are the profound and damaging mental health effects it has.

It should not be a surprise to us at all and should have been predicted by every sober thinking person from about March onward. Most of us are living in fear of a serious respiratory infection and watching an endless stream of updates about a worldwide natural disaster unfold. We’re having nearly all face-to-face contact with our friends and most of our loved ones cut off (in some cases, even before they died) and facing the prospect of a decimated economy where we may lose our jobs. An absolutely normal and appropriate human reaction to that is to be angry, depressed, grief-stricken and anxious.

When this does come to an end, many of us will bounce back. Some will even be mentally stronger for it. But many of us will not. The nature of many mental health problems is that, without attention, they can become a vicious cycle of negative emotion and unhelpful behaviours in the face of destructive experiences and worsening symptoms. For people already struggling, these kind of events can be a trigger for a long episode of abject misery or lifelong battle with mental ill health. That’s why early intervention in mental health is so important. Getting people the right treatment for the problems they’re dealing with early on dramatically improves long term outcomes. The hopeful part is this: If people get the support they need, most can make a full recovery from even very serious mental health problems. And for the majority of us, even simple measures can dramatically improve our own mental wellbeing: we can be better than we were before by consciously engaging in a positive way with our own psyche.

That’s why I recently got trained as a Mental Health First Aider. I am providing myself as a resource to help people overcome these challenges in our little corner of the world: boardgames.

What is mental health first aid?

Mental Health First Aid is a training program that teaches members of the public how to help a person developing a mental health problem (including a substance use problem), experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. Like traditional first aid, Mental Health First Aid does not teach people to treat or diagnose mental health or substance use conditions. Instead, the training teaches people how to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves.” Wikpedia

Mental Health First Aiders are becoming increasingly common in large organisations as recognition of the importance of mental health grows. Of course, given the size of most companies in boardgames, MHFAs are few and far between. Few companies will be able to justify the time and resources involved in getting someone trained. In tiny, passion driven outfits there’s always a thousand other things to do! But having someone outside the organisations to fill this role as a free, on-demand resource seems like a workable alternative.

Both the wikipedia entry and US website for the initiative have lots more great information if you want to learn more.

Why am I doing this?

Personally I’ve always been interested in mental health, long before I even experienced many of my own issues with anxiety and long episodes of depersonalisation/derealisation. The mind is an amazing place, and seeing people mentally thrive is something I have always found beautiful and energising. I have a very long term ambition to study to become a psychotherapist, but with this growing crisis, being able to help people with their mental health right now has never been more important. Early indications are not good: Depression has doubled during the pandemic and the London Ambulance service, for instance, are already receiving double the callouts to attempted suicides from last year. This initiative seems like a practical way I can help: By providing my immediate assistance to those in need while directing them onto other forms of long term support; including professional help.

How will it work?

The idea is really simple: If you have a concern about your mental health and wellbeing – or have concern for someone else – get in touch and I will do my best to support you, directing you to what might be the appropriate next steps for you, based on what you want to do.

My current plan is also that organisations can treat me as their own designated Mental Health First Aider as they wish to – letting their people know I am available for their staff and collaborators to speak to. As far as I know, this ‘virtual’ MHFA approach hasn’t been tried before. There may be limitations. I can’t, for instance, be there in an office to proactively watch for warning signs and let people know I am there if they should need it. But I can provide a very similar kind of support when someone does chose to get in touch. This is very much an experiment but I hope it can, at least, be genuinely useful for someone.

I don’t know what the demand for this will look like. If its very substantial, I may need to start enlisting other MHFAs to join me. Equally, it might be few people feel comfortable talking to someone they don’t know too well; and I don’t get many enquiries at all . But I figure, given what’s going, on why not try it? It can only help.

Can you provide professional help or therapy of any kind?

I am not a therapist. I can provide information and give you, hopefully, a fuller understanding of the wide variety of options there are out there. This can include self-help options if you decide you don’t want to take things to a professional. I will listen to you, we can talk things through and I can be a helpful sounding board or listening ear. But I can’t do the job of a mental health professional.

Is everything I or others tell you confidential?

Yes. I will not pass on anything you tell me to anyone else. However, it is my duty to get help and disclose what I have been told if I believe someone is in real danger of harming themselves or others. Outside of such a situation, I will always ask you first if its ok to share some details with people around you, if it sounds like that could help.

I don’t live in the UK, can you help me?

I can provide support to anyone, anywhere. We will need to be organised if the time zone difference is significant, but even that is only a small obstacle. The only major limiting factor is language. I can only provide support in English.

How do I get you to become our company’s designed MHFA?

Just drop me a line at james@naylorgames.com and we can take it from there.

How do I get in touch with you if I need help?

For now, just drop me an email at james@naylorgames.com. Only I have access to that email address. We can set-up a further chat or conversation using any means you feel comfortable with after that or keep it by email; whatever you prefer.

I’m James – don’t be afraid to ask me for help.

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Miscellaneous

Naylor Games Conventions – 2020

Even though all of the big physical conventions have been called off this year, Naylor Games will still be hitting the virtual convention circuit. Check out our event calendar below!

Events calendar

Our virtual events calendar shows all the events we’ve got coming-up:

Virtually Expo – 21st-23rd August 2020

At this replacement for the usual UKGE show we’ll be staffing a virtual stand and streaming some demo games you can watch:

  • Virtual stand number: V-23540 (Link will go live during the event)
  • We’re available to chat on Discord to answer any of your questions at any of the times shown in the calendar above.
  • We’re streaming demo games at several points throughout the weekend – check the virtual calendar above to see when and what we’re playing. Just copy an event to your own calendar to get a reminder.

 

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Magnate Miscellaneous My Kickstarter Diary

What do developers do?

The Magnate Kickstarter is still in full swing and is very close to raising $50,000 with about 5 days to go. In this post, Jaya Baldwin takes over the reins and writes about what Developers do – one of the most poorly understood roles in the game world. 

Wherever you see the game Magnate, you inevitably see the name James Naylor. He’s the game’s designer (and an all round great guy[James didn’t edit this bit in*]) so it makes sense. The name you’re less likely to see is mine, Jaya Baldwin, the game’s lead developer. There are obvious reasons for that, that’s the case with most media really, you can probably name the main actor in your favourite films; maybe even the director. But try to name the editor or the director of photography and you may struggle. It’s not too hard to imagine a game designer and the work they might do but try the same thing with a developer and it gets a bit blurrier. Hopefully this article will shine a bit of light on the enigmatic role of a developer by exploring some of my own experience working on Magnate with James.

If a game designer is responsible for the overall vision, design goals and fundamental mechanics of a game, the developer is there help refine and polish that vision. Where a designer might think in broad strokes, a developer will be looking more closely at some of the little details. That description is at least a rough overview of the role. In reality though there is a lot more overlap between the two. The following is a list of some of the core ways in which a developer can help a designer:

A developer can act as a sounding board and a trusted source of immediate feedback

Sometimes a design process can be greatly accelerated just by simply having someone to speak ideas aloud to. It’s an opportunity for the designer to hear their own thoughts and think them through. But of course a developer can do more than just listen, they can respond too. Ideas can be explored and discussed at twice the speed, which means the bad ones are filtered out and the good ones get found faster and then built upon. A designer working alone wouldn’t be able to necessarily verify if something definitely worked or not until someone else tested it. It is very common for James and I to get too carried away here and go down a rabbit hole of fascinating game design ideas until we realise we’ve become completely distracted from the more specific task we had set out to do!

A developer can be a player

This point is as simple as it sounds. For a designer, having someone around that can actually playtest the game with them at any time speeds things up significantly. There are always little hidden problems to ideas that you can’t necessarily see when you’re discussing them academically. Yet playing even just a few turns with a new rule or mechanic can often reveal said problems allowing the team to iterate and move forward. It is also the best opportunity to put oneself in the shoes of the customer. For example, I once lost an early game of Magnate because of a long series of statistically unlucky ‘attract tenant’ rolls. There was an advertising option in the game that could help me manipulate the odds to some degree but it wasn’t very efficient and even then could have still failed. I felt frustrated and like it made some of my decisions irrelevant. Obviously Magnate was not designed to make people feel bad, the dice element of the game is supposed to introduce risk calculation and playing the odds, not blind luck. So we revised the mechanic so that each payer started the game with advertising tokens that could rig your dice rolls completely if spent in advance. This kept all the joys that came with calculating risk assessment and chance while removing the emotional sting brought on by bad luck. The players were now choosing which of their rolls they were willing to take more of a risk on and which ones they wanted more assurance on. This meant when plans went awry, it was more a consequence of their choice, rather than just bad luck. Without being James and I being able to play the game as readily and as often as we have, we wouldn’t have had anywhere near as good an insight into the play experience and Magnate is much stronger for it.

A developer can kill your darlings

Sometimes a fresh set of eyes or even just an outside perspective can help a designer to question elements of their project that they had previously deemed completely finished or immovable. A good example of this in Magnate is that during setup, industry tenants were placed on the neighbourhood tiles rather than the city centre. James had done this because thematically and aesthetically, it makes more sense to have a town’s industry further out. There were some problems that came up as a result of that decision though, it made the setup slightly longer, limited the number of different layouts the neighbourhoods could take and very occasionally created situations where it became impossible to attract tenants. The aesthetic and thematic gain were in line with the design goals, but baggier setup and decisions that could leave players trapped were not. Shortly after I joined the project I asked why the industry wasn’t in the centre with all the other starting tenants for the reasons stated above: It turns out James had designed it that way originally because he liked the theme much more and hadn’t questioned it since. At that point, after some mutual wincing and sadness at the slight hit to aesthetics, we both decided that this wasn’t a good enough reason to keep it that way. Thanks to my question, James realised however much of a wrench it was, it was absolutely the right decision. We made the change and the player experience was  improved as a result.

A developer can design too

Some of the earlier examples already hint at this but sometimes if a mechanic or game element just isn’t quite working, a developer can propose a new mechanic or idea that could work instead. They still adhere to the overall effect desired by the designer but they use their own design skills in the creation of an alternative. For example with Magnate, the design for the crash system used to be determined via dice that were generated and lost each round. This generally worked well but could occasionally cause the game to end either too predictably or too unexpectedly. I proposed an alternative involving a deck of cards that involved shuffling steeper crashes in as time went by. We workshopped it for a bit, tested it and it had some of its own problems. James then proposed we split it into 2 decks and remove the shuffling element… the process went on through many iterations until we eventually landed on the crash system we use today. James came up with the very first idea, but after that our roles were very similar, bouncing off each other’s ideas and designing or developing as required till the mechanic served the purpose of the design goal we wanted.

Final thoughts

So that’s just a few ways in which my role as a developer has bolstered Magnate and, indeed, just an outline of the many things a developer can add to a designer’s creation process. There’s plenty more to be said than can possibly fit into one article. However, if you’re left with more burning questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Just let me know in the comments!

Categories
Miscellaneous

Why I’m giving up regular blogging

 

Thou shalt blog each week is the mantra of the SEO age. Does it make sense?

Infinite Content

I stare at the queue of articles I have saved to Pocket. As push my thumb up the page I begin to realise there are more than a thousand articles sitting there, waiting for me to read. I resist the next thought: There are a thousand articles sitting here I will *never* read.

I’m not the first person to notice we’re drowning in content. The over abundance of information is perhaps one of the great cliches of our age. I’m not even the first person to notice that read-it-later tools like Pocket or Instapaper have just moved the problem of losing track of interesting articles along one link in the chain: to the more unavoidable reality we never had time to read the things we were losing in the first place. But I am somewhat shamefully, given this foreknowledge, one of many people who have done nothing about the problem. Instead, I am part of it: relentlessly churning out content without fail every week. Not solely because I love it (the one and only good non-commercial reason) but because I feel I ought to.

But writing is fun…right?

The truth is that I do really enjoy writing – sometimes. Sometimes it gives me incredible moments of elation. There are subjects I am passionate about that I want to share with the world. There are ideas, thoughts and feelings I deeply want to communicate. There is a nuance and power in the written word that no medium can match. But the pleasure of the craft of writing is for me has always been a more muted joy.

For me writing has always been a pastime in the truest, original sense of the word. Most of the time it’s a more fun way to spend a few hours than slumped in-front of the TV. Like a good swim it can come with a wonderful endorphin rush at the end. But I don’t live for swimming; I would never describe myself as a swimmer. I was never a newspaper editor because I loved journalism. I was a newspaper editor because I love the town I live it and believe in what a newspaper could do to make it better. I never started this blog because I wanted to be a boardgame critic, but because I had specific ideas, analysis, reflections on experience I wanted to share. The actual content of the content is what I live for, not its craft.

So when the well of content I am actually passionate to share runs dry – when it has to be forced – it turns from a pastime into a slog. Very soon, writing for me becomes a battle to constantly think-up new ideas are easy to execute; rather than full me with joy. As time has gone by I find myself asking more and more: Is that battle to fulfil a blogging schedule because “that’s what you’re supposed to do” worth it?

Some might think this is just typical writers block. The constant fight to apply to seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. Perhaps this is just the whinging of someone in a very privileged situation; the educated man’s first world problem par excellence. All of this is about me, it ignores what I am giving to readers entirely.

Maybe all of that is fair enough. Every writer goes through some of this after all. The difference is that I am not sure there is a good reason why I am putting myself through it; however more or less comfortable a problem it is in the grand scheme of things.

The hard facts

I am not a professional writer. I don’t need to earn a living from it and I don’t love the craft itself. If there were another medium I felt I could communicate in just as effectively, I would change to it in a heart beat. In general, as far as intellectual buzz goes, I get my greatest bang-for-buck when I talk about these topics in person; not in in their written form, essay or discussion.

What I write here takes a lot of time to create. I am something of a perfectionist and I can’t help myself when it comes to diving deep into topics. This has it’s positives. I have been complimented on my forensic and detailed approach. I think it’s genuinely different and seems to be useful. It’s also the only form of writing I do that really rewards me personally.

But it cannot be rushed. While I have improved my speed since I launched this site last year, it still takes a total of approx. 5-7 hours to create an average analysis piece; outside of specific research like playing some of these titles a few times. That’s closing on an equivalent of a working day per blog post and some pieces taken even longer. I’ve tried just going faster, but that only really works when the format itself leads to quick execution – like a newsletter. For articles that don’t fit that mould, going faster usually means dropping the quality. I just can’t bring myself to do that.

Looking to more mercenary subjects, regular blogging is not likely to be a huge commercial driver of success for Naylor Games either; at least for now.  Diverting time to it becomes something harder to justify each day.

Blogging is widely touted as a panacea for building businesses online. Ever since the SEO goldrush of the 00s, creating endless amounts of content to build-up their web presence is something nearly everyone is doing in the hopes it will translate directly into sales. It became a mantra that you needed to constantly put out new content. Without it you would become lost and irrelevant. But what was probably an innovative and effective strategy back in the day, is now seriously attenuated by the fact that everyone is doing it. Very simply: it doesn’t differentiate you at all to have content if everyone has content. For e-commerce sites battling to the death for the top three spaces on Google organic search, the additional technical values of higher value links-in may be a small but critical edge. For companies where business is not directly generated from search results, such technical value is small beer.

That’s not to say it hasn’t led to some solid traffic. I – a total industry newbie with no published game yet and no real credentials, who writes ludicrously specific posts that are typically three thousand words in length – am averaging well in excess of a thousand visitors a month well before the site’s first anniversary. It’s not a huge number, but I am still immensely flattered by it: the mere thought people want to read what I have to say about these topics is genuinely heartwarming. A lot of the previewers who come to pitch to me for trade are in similar brackets. But ultimately, Naylor Games doesn’t have anything to sell direct and won’t for a while. Analysed on solely commercial grounds as a sales channel, that traffic would still need to be greater: to make its impact outweigh the opportunity cost of putting my time into something else.

Infinite_Content

But for me the ultimate problem is this: Even if the practical obstacles with creating such content on a regular schedule were vanished away with the flick of a wand, I am not convinced it would be desirable to keep creating it – even in that scenario.

When I write pieces that I am not inspired by I can see the difference between them. Even more importantly, the site’s greatest hits are nearly always the ones *I* was most inspired to create: My article on Dominion’s VPs or the distillation of much of my experience designed thinking in this piece from December. That’s not to say the others weren’t also good. I refuse to let anything be published on this site that isn’t up to a high minimum bar. But I just can’t fake that spark. The articles without it are just not as good.

The thing is though, things that are exceptionally good is what the world actually needs. There is too much content. We almost certainly don’t have time to read all the things that are very good indeed. We absolutely do not have time to read anything less good than that. The wider malaise about “too many games” being released in the board-game community is just a subset of a wider problem. There is simply too much stuff to consume in general. Yet, everyday we create more, taking shot after random shot in the hope we will beat the market or beat the algorithm and get ourselves noticed.

I don’t want to add to that gigantic heap of stuff born out of what amounts to a kind of arms race. The merely quite good merely risks obscuring the really good stuff: the things I don’t want to miss out on.

I want to read critics like Charlie Theel, Matt Thrower or Dan Thurot because they are doing a fantastic job of capturing the experience of games. I want to read Jamey Stegmaier because he’s done the whole business of publishing a game from scratch himself without the help of someone like Jamey Stegmaier to see him through. I want to read MeepleLikeUs because they are actually making gaming more accessible for everyone. I want to read all of these people because they are at the top of their respective journalistic fields. I don’t honestly think I have much time for everything else.

That’s my philosophy in general. Take Magnate: endlessly refining it has been a joy; I love development, down to the tiniest detail of game experience. But it’s also been a commitment to values. In a world full of games and so little time to play them in, I’d rather have just one that was really, really good and never make a game again than a ton that are pretty good. I’d rather have one title with enduring appeal that could be enjoyed by a wide audience outside of a gaming hardcore for years to come. I firmly believe Magnate can be that kind of success and it’s my job to do everything I can to make it that.

Of course, it’s nowhere remotely close to a certain bet it will be: I understand the logic of why designers and publishers cautiously diversify for fear that the majority of their games will not sell. No one can make a hit on demand. But, from what I have seen, it definitely won’t be if I follow the approach of throwing many games at the wall and hoping for one. And after all, if every publisher only produced a couple of exceptional titles a year, the great glut of games we complain of so much would instead be a steady stream of gold.

Why shouldn’t my aims for this blog be any different?

Where now?

I don’t think I will ever stop writing. This isn’t me swearing off the keyboard forever and I see no reason not to publish regular news at it happens. But I don’t think the regularity of the weekly blogging schedule is for me. Instead, I would much rather share a fraction of articles with you and every single one be right from the heart, head and soul.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Aeon’s End: A Functional Review

This week, Jaya writes a functional review co-operative ‘boss fight’ deckbuilder Aeon’s end, exploring the subtle ways it plays with deckbuilding conventions to deliver on its thematic premise.

Categories
Game design Miscellaneous

Why Boggle is better than Scrabble

In today’s article Jaya Baldwin compares two different classic word games and, when looked through the lens of modern design, finds one more dated than the other

Categories
Miscellaneous

A happy ending for the integration of narrative into tabletop games

Can narrative and strategy ever blend well? Jaya Baldwin explores different ways games have tried to integrate narrative and traditional gameplay elements. 

Categories
Miscellaneous

Battle of the Deckbuilders: Star Realms vs Dominion

In his first article for the site, Jaya Baldwin – new member of the Naylor Games team, makes a forceful case for both titles

Categories
Miscellaneous

Flashpoint: Fire Rescue: A functional review: Smelting theme, the power of roleplay and Alphas defeated?

Last week I started my first look at Flashpoint; considering how it builds game arc and the nature of the puzzles it presents. This week I look at the critical role of theme in the game.