Firaxis designer David McDonough joins the show to talk strategy game design with Dirk and David. Topics in their discussion include: player stories vs game stories, the spectrum between full sandbox games and historical simulations, and how immersion in player stories can be encouraged. Along the way many games are covered, including both the Civilization series and the XCOM series.
Board game designer Omari Akil joins Dirk and David to talk about Rap Godz, Hoop Godz, and the process of making games that connect both mechanically and emotionally with a specific theme. They discuss the hip hop theme of Rap Godz as well as the street basketball theme of the upcoming Hoop Godz. Additional topics include managing scope and IP issues with a hip hop game, staying true to theme even if it upsets other game design norms, and designing as a sibling team.
Kathryn joins Dirk and David to discuss the recent Rob Daviau episode as well as answer listener questions. In response to Daviau?s design axiom, the trio discusses the role of memory in the games they design and play. Then the hosts proceed to answer listeners? questions. Those questions include: how to help characters avoid picking a playstyle they?ll hate later, whether the hosts plan to work in the VR space, what the exact process is for incorporating an established IP, and how IP affects the character rosters of MOBA games.
Ryan ?Morello? Scott joins Dirk and David on the show to discuss his design axiom: balance isn?t important, but balanceable is critical. Ryan discusses why planning ahead for a balanceable piece of content is critical to avoid making balance feel chaotic for players and designers alike. With his experience working on League of Legends and Riot?s new FPS, Valorant, he shares specific examples of where balance went wrong and steps designers can take to make things right.
Kathryn once again rejoins Dirk and David to discuss the last few episodes of the podcast. The trio talks about the differences in edge cases between TTRPGs, board games, and video games. Then they move on to discuss the merits of the axiom: if the player doesn?t see it, it might not exist. The group rounds out the discussion chatting about their familiarity with the 4x genre as well as MOBAs and why Kathryn, Dirk, and David all enjoy watching esports.
Soren rejoins Dirk and David to discuss what?s new with his 4X game Old World?including a new name! The trio talks about publisher changes, how playtesting has incrementally improved the game, and some of the unique mechanics that Old World brings to the 4X table.
Tanya X. Short talks with Dirk and David about her design axiom: if the player doesn?t see it, it might not exist. They discuss both some of the games Tanya has worked on, as well as other games that contradict or reinforce this rule. One key point of the discussion is how complex (and costly) systems created by the designers might go completely unnoticed by players if the user interface or the game?s objectives don?t align well with the system.
Dirk and David team up with show producer Skye to dive into the MOBA genre, a first in a series meant to explore the design of this popular genre. They discuss the genre?s roots in real-time strategy game mods and give an overview of the most popular MOBAs on the market. Additionally, the trio talks about tabletop and mobile MOBAs, and why they haven?t taken off (at least in North America, that is).
Sen-Foong Lim rejoins the show to chat with Dirk and David about his design axiom: design edge cases out of the game. The definition of an edge case is explored at length, and the importance of context when discussing edge cases is emphasized. Sen talks about what types of games can afford to include edge cases, and why he usually opts to either remove them or turn them into features of the game.
Kathryn returns to the show to chat with Dirk and David about the last three episodes of the Designing Thematic Games series. The group chats about hybrid games, designing additional content for games, and handling criticism. They also answer some listener questions about remote work and art contracts. Overall, a great deal of this episode focuses on the customer level and the difficulties (and joys) of designing with customers in mind.
Chris Bourassa joins Dirk and David to discuss his work on the indie hit Darkest Dungeon. They talk about the inspiration for some of Darkest Dungeon?s characters, enemies, and mechanical systems. They also cover the game?s difficulty and learning from some of the public outcry during the game?s early access stage.
Tim Fowers, a guest on the show in 2016, returns to talk with Dirk and David about designing heist games. He discusses the thematic and mechanical design decisions made in both the original game as well as his upcoming sequel. Other topics include hybrid games, sequels versus expansions or new editions, and the burgeoning Tabletop Network Conference.
Former host Rob Daviau returns to the show to catch up with Dirk and David and talk about Restoration Games and their next big project: Return to Dark Tower. He discusses the decisions made when updating the 1981 game to capture the same eye-catching experience in 2020.
Kathryn rejoins Dirk and David to talk discuss the past few episodes in the Designing Thematic Games series. The trio talks art budgets, terminology, and thematic mismatches. They also answer listener questions about designing around themes. Much of the discussion explores the distinction between an essence of a theme and the broader theme itself.
Dirk and David discuss the card game Legends of Runeterra with designer Shawn Main. This upcoming game will be Riot?s follow up to the wildly popular League of Legends. They chat about capturing some of League of Legends? thematic and gameplay beats despite the completely different game genre, and Shawn finishes up with a brief discussion of his time working on Magic the Gathering.
Dirk and David chat with Meguey Baker about her tabletop RPG Apocalypse World and writing in general. The discussion covers Apocalypse World?s approach to the post-apocalyptic theme and how the writing and mechanical design helps players feel like they are the movers and shakers with a vision to change their post-apocalyptic world.
Dirk speaks with David Dunham, the designer of Six Ages and its predecessor, King of Dragon Pass. These narrative strategy games, built from the Glorantha universe of Greg Stafford, use specific mechanics to invoke the theme of clans and struggling to survive and form a foothold in a mythical world.
Dirk and David speak with former cohost and friend of the show Kathryn Hymes. Together, the three of them discuss important questions and lessons learned from the first four episodes in the Designing Thematic Games series.
Dirk and David discuss escape room design with Scott Nicholson, a game designer and professor who has studied escape rooms extensively. Scott talks about the predecessors to escape rooms, the thematic threat of ludonarrative dissonance, and the importance of asking ?why?? with every component of a game?s design.
Dirk, David, and designer/artist Kynan Pearson discuss what goes into designing games for Nintendo?s popular themes. Kynan talks about his role on both the Metroid Prime series as well as Donkey Kong Country Returns, and he also touches on his work with the non-Nintendo property Halo and its differences from fellow sci-fi shooter Metroid Prime.
Dirk, David, and designer Elizabeth Hargrave discuss the hit game Wingspan: how she decided on the unique theme, why that theme might have been so successful, and when she had to choose fun or function over thematic fit.
Dirk, David, and designer Nikki Valens kick off the Designing Thematic Games series with a discussion about the highly thematic games Nikki worked on at Fantasy Flight Games: Eldritch Horror, Arkham Horror, and Mansions of Madness.
Dirk and David catch up with each other and what?s new in their game design careers. They talk about the new direction for the show and announce a new series for the podcast: ?Designing Thematic Games.?