Game designer Tim Rodriguez, of Ghost Pirates and OmegaZone RPG, answers five questions about being a game designer and the game design process.

Name
Tim Rodriguez
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Number of years designing
12 years
Best known for
Ghost Pirates, OmegaZone RPG

 

What was the moment you knew you were a game designer?

There was a point when I decided to try designing games. That’s really the point at which you become a game designer.

Where have your best ideas come from?

Ideas are a synthesis of the information you take in, and the experiences you have. Ideas become more wonderful and complex when you take in a wide variety of information and seek out experiences. Beyond games, I’m an avid reader and movie-goer and I love discussing these things afterwards, and I think all of the best ideas I hear are from people who both seek out lots of information and content and try to process those through their own personal filters.

Describe your design/development process?

For the most part, I start with a theme that sounds interesting to me. I’ve got a handful of components that I like designing with that I’ll use as a default to get started with, before I figure out how I want to abstract and model the different pieces of that theme.

I’ll probably go for two or three serious rounds of prototyping and then make a decision to continue or to shelve that idea. If it’s not working to represent the theme, or doesn’t seem like its interesting, or just plain confounding, I’ll set it aside and come back to it later.

With some games, giving it that space lets my subconscious work on the game and when I come back I have a whole new slew of things to try out. With others, they’ll just show a mess of flaws and often they’re only worth salvaging as new prototype parts. Develop the games that are interesting, and shelve or trash the ones that aren’t. It’s way too early in the process to be unexcited about your own game, so that’s an easy way to cut a project short.

What are your favorite tools for making game prototypes?

3×5 index cards, cut in half (2.5 x 3) and a ballpoint pen.

If you could go back to the beginning and teach yourself one thing about game design what would it be?

Tough question! Don’t stop playing published games. I didn’t ever actually *mean* to, but it happened. Make it a point to keep informed of what’s going on, what new tools other people have invented. Only playing prototypes will leave you in an information-rut and you risk forgetting how good (and bad) games can be.

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