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Soren Johnson's Game Design Journal

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Designer Notes #59: Andy Schatz – Part 1

In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Andy Schatz, who founded Pocketwatch Games and is best known for his work on Monaco and Tooth and Tail. This episode was recorded March 23, 2018. They discuss how he tried to live out Ultima’s virtues, why no one was ever able to rip-off The Sims, and why we both hate click-the-stick. ...

Old World Designer Notes #8: Opinion

One of the defining features of 4X games with an Eternal China Syndrome is that the conflict primarily comes from external sources, from barbarians and rival nations. With certain random maps or diplomatic situations, players can often be in a position where they are largely unchallenged, and without any other pressure, the game slowly slides into auto-pilot....

Old World Designer Notes #7: Characters

The following is an excerpt from the Designer Notes for Old World. The game, a historical 4X set in classical antiquity, released on July 1, 2021, and   is available for purchase here. Veterans of Civ communities will recognize the acronym ICS (Infinite City Sleaze) as it has haunted the series since the beginning. However, there is another acronym...

Old World Designer Notes #6: Citizens and Specialists

The following is an excerpt from the Designer Notes for Old World. The game, a historical 4X set in classical antiquity, released on July 1, 2021, and  is available for purchase here. The first Civilization game was like a game design thunderbolt, sent from the heavens and marking everything it touched. Although the game does have antecedents, it...

Old World Designer Notes #5: Yields

The following is an excerpt from the Designer Notes for Old World. The game, a historical 4X set in classical antiquity, released on July 1, 2021, and is available for purchase here. Old World has a lot of different currencies (referred to in-game as “yields”), which represent things very concrete (Iron), somewhat vague (Orders), and VERY abstract...

Old World Designer Notes #4: The Technology Deck

The following is an excerpt from the Designer Notes for Old World. The game, a historical 4X set in classical antiquity, released on July 1, 2021, and is available for purchase here. The technology tree was one of the great innovations of the original Civilization, without echoes in Empire or other proto-4X games. (Interestingly, the closest parallel...

Old World Designer Notes #3: One Unit per Tile

The following is an excerpt from the Designer Notes for Old World. The game, a historical 4X set in classical antiquity, released on July 1, 2021, and is available for purchase here. The big change that always gets mentioned when going from Civ 4 to Civ 5 is one-unit-per-tile (1UPT), which is interesting as 1UPT is purely a mechanical – as opposed...

Old World Designer Notes #2: City Sites

The following is an excerpt from the Designer Notes for Old World. The game, a historical 4X set in classical antiquity, released on July 1, 2021, and is available for purchase here. One challenge that has haunted all Civilization games since the beginning is Infinite City Sleaze (ICS). In the original version, one player discovered that the optimum...

Old World Designer Notes #1: Orders

The following is an excerpt from the Designer Notes for Old World. The game, a historical 4X set in classical antiquity, released on July 1, 2021, and is available for purchase here. I’m not sure where the idea that every game piece should be able to move exactly once per turn first originated. I suspect it came from hex-based tabletop wargames before...

Designer Notes #58: Rob Daviau – Part 2

In this episode, Soren interviews board game designer Rob Daviau, best known for his work on Risk: Legacy and Pandemic: Legacy. They discuss the criteria for a good Legacy game, how to put just a little PvP in a game without overdoing it, and why he removed his phone number from his website. Games discussed: Risk: Legacy, Pandemic: Legacy, XCOM 2,...

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