Which didn’t give us much time. Robert and I had entered the Deathmatch -- not on a whim, but without real expectations of making it to the final round. We’d also entered Penny Press in the Boston Festival of Indie Games, a fantastic local game development expo that we figured we had a better shot at. In the end, we got into both, and those experiences really helped propel Penny Press toward its finished form.
With Gen Con a few months away, and Boston FIG soon after that, we suddenly had a deadline to to whip our game into shape. That proved to be critical, as the time pressure forced us to make some decisions about the game that we’d been dithering on, to write down a full set of rules, and to put the game in front of a bunch of strangers.
That last one was perhaps the most important. We’d playtested Penny Press with local folks, but most of them had been friends who were inclined to support our design efforts rather than point out the game’s shortcomings. And we were always there to play the game with them, which allowed us to smooth over some of the rule ambiguities or mechanical problems.
For the Deathmatch, we were pitching the game to a panel of industry heavyweights who could see through weak mechanics and papered-over problems like they were glass. Penny Press would be judged as it is, and not how we’d wish it to be.
For Boston FIG, we sent the game off to be ‘blind’ playtested -- testers would have to read our rules and learn the game on their own, without any guidance from us. The game would stand or stumble on its own.
Fortunately, Penny Press -- and its designers -- came through both experiences all the better for them. The judges and the testers brought up some issues, but they also found a lot of strengths. That gave us the confidence to push on with fine-tuning Penny Press and diving further into art design.
It’s a scary thing to push your creation out into the world for strangers to poke, prod and critique. But at some point you have to discover if your ideas have legs outside of your circle of friends. The answer might not always be one you want to hear, but it’ll usually be the answer that moves your design in a productive direction.