/ #Let's Play 

Let's Play: Reimagined

After going in circles awhile, I think I’ve figured out what I want to do with these Let’s Play posts!

The idea I had at the start was that I would do a standard description of play type post, followed up by a post that looked more into the game design of the game played. While did a reasonable job of phase 1 with Master of Orion 2, it was such an enormous job that I never came back and did the game mechanics stuff I planned to.

One of my ideas for learning Turn-Based-Strategy design as part of my 2019 Goals, was to do a Let’s Play series on Heroes of Might and Magic 1. I started on this with the idea of switching to a video-based format to make it less work but ran into issues with my microphone. I wanted to spend 100€ on a nice microphone setup, but after thinking a bit more carefully about whether I should invest that money, I realised that even a video “Let’s Play” remains a considerable amount of effort.

So this got me thinking - there’s a lot of people out there already doing Let’s Plays and doing something of comparable quality will be a lot of work. What if I change my approach a bit to leverage what they’re good at and instead focusing my work on what I’m good at?

So here are my thoughts on re-purposing my Let’s Plays going forward, to have a better focus on game design theory.

I’m not a very entertaining player to watch, so:

  • I will not record myself playing the game in question (in writing or video).
  • Instead I will try to find a decent LP and link it so that people who don’t know the game can get some background.

I believe that gaining a deep understanding of a game’s mechanics requires playing at least enough of the game to see all or most of the mechanics in it. While I am tempted to finish each game I write about, this might not be practical in all cases, for example, look at these average completion times for all games in the Heroes of Might and Magic series:

That’s a whopping 297 hours for the first five games in the series! It doesn’t include expansions, of which there are several for III and onwards. Nor does it include VI and VII. If I spend an hour a day working through the primary campaigns of these games that would be about a year to catch up to Heroes of Might and Magic V! This is one game series in the Turn-Based Strategy genre. Master of Orion, Civilisation, Age of Wonders, Master of Magic, Fire Emblem, Advance Wars - the list is endless!

I watched a talk by Richard Carillo on Interviewing for Game Design last week - he made an interesting comment - he tells the designers working for him: “If it’s 90 plus you’ve played it if it’s 80 plus and in your genre you’ve played it, everything else is your hobby.”. So if I disregard his first rule and only look at 80 plus in the genre of Turn-Based Strategy, that’s 27 games above 90 and more than a 100 above 80! That doesn’t even look at board-games, which is another massive list of games that fit into the genre.

Let’s say I can manage that hour a day and I spend 21 days of the month playing, and the remainder writing about it. Then I can work through about 12 games in a year and spend enough time in each to have seen about 20-30% of the content in the game (based on the Heroes of Might and Magic examples above). So my next principles:

  • I endeavour to spend at least 20 hours playing a game before I write about it.
  • Unless it’s something I’ve already put many hours into for fun…

The final set of principles aim to ensure that I get through a large enough amount of content for this to start turning into a useful library of Turn-Based Strategy mechanics. Towards that end, I need to ensure that I don’t spend too much time trying to write the perfect article about each game, so:

  • Perfect is the enemy of good! Even if it’s not perfect by the end of the month - hit publish.
  • DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself): focus on what’s unique in each game. Perhaps build up a library of mechanics as separate articles.

And with that, I’m off! I have to start writing about Heroes of Might and Magic I, which I am half-way through finishing…


Matt Van Der Westhuizen

Back-end service developer at Ubisoft Blue Byte by day - wannabe game designer & developer by night.