Primitive game design. Step-by-step development of a card game

Motivated by reading thematic literature and several articles on the hub about game design in general and how to finally get up on all fours and try to take the first steps, I decided that all that was required of me was to sit down and start working.
Let it not be an AAA project, backed by millions of investments, but something more trivial and simple.
Card game. Addictive, interesting, not too complicated. And then we'll see.

Under the cut - the introductory, the beginning of the process and a lot of thought on the topic.

Before the beginning

While still a schoolboy, I perceived video games and desktops as a wonderful opportunity to escape from reality for a short while and get distracted, while receiving a lot of unforgettable emotions and impressions. Not a few years have passed, and perception has not changed. And sometimes, gathering with friends or simply setting aside a couple of hours in the evening, the same unforgettable desire arises for a short time to leave our real life and forget about all its problems.

I got the idea to make games a very long time ago, but did not know at all which side to approach the process. Now the vast majority of all companies associated with game development primarily require work experience. But where do you start taking it if you don’t take it anywhere without it? A logical decision comes to mind - do it yourself. And all would be fine, but in order to do something more or less playable and beautiful, you need a team. No matter how you are a child prodigy, it is impossible to master the artistic, technical and conceptual parts at the same time (and I have mentioned far from all of them). At least for all the time I’ve been talking with different people, I haven’t met a single person who has such a focus.

No, of course I tried to gather people “with fire in my eyes” who were ready to work for the idea. But in order to maintain this fire, it was required, as I already understood later, something more than the phrase "Guys, let's try and do it!". Everyone ran away, everyone had their own problems and excuses, and numerous multi-page concepts remained in the archives, waiting for the best days of triumph. I still believe that one day luck will smile at me and I will return to them with renewed vigor.

In the meantime, I have some kind of gaming experience, an understanding of the basics, interesting, it seems to me, thoughts that I want to share. Let this be the first step.

What will happen next? It is a logical question.
A lot of balancing, improvements, drawings. This is for a start.
In the distant future: a toy for android and ios. But for now, let's not look so far.


I will lead the development in the style of gradations from simple to complex. This will facilitate understanding of the concept as such and significantly simplify its modification in the future.

So. General Provisions What do I want from the game?
  • Participation of 2-4 players.
  • The average batch length is ~ 10-12 minutes.
  • The need to ponder your actions in the process.
  • A small playing field that can be laid out quite easily and quickly. Unique to every party.
  • The highest possible replay value.
  • The ability to expand and complement as desired.

As a basis, I want to take a field formed from a mixed deck of cards (in the amount of 38 pieces. That is, a “regular” deck + 2 jokers. About them a little later). Players will start in the “lower” part of it and will take turns moving one “cell” forward in three possible directions, opening a map after a map. The winner is the one who passes the “maze” the fastest. By passing I mean overcoming the last row of cards. In the process of movement there will be an opportunity to run into traps, put a pig in a friend and generally complicate the life of your neighbor and simplify it for yourself. All this will be based on the interaction with the colors of the cards (red and black) and on the correct use of the found buns.

To begin with, I think. The first tests will show if this is enough for the integrity of the gameplay. Already have ideas on how to supplement the game, but at this stage of development we absolutely do not need this. Now it is necessary to work out the “skeleton", from which it will already be possible to go somewhere to the side in the future.

Playing field

Reflecting on the location and shape of the playing field, I went over several options. We have 38 cards. That is 36 + 2. From 36 cards “face down” we form a playing field of a certain shape, and leave two cards “above” and “below”. These are our "entrance" and "exit" from the maze. The first thought when I see the number “36” is the square of the number 6. That is, the field is 6 * 6 in size. Fortunately, in every house there is a good old block of cards of various scuffs, which you can open and test our choice on the spot. So I did. I will not take pictures of this action, but I will demonstrate and analyze what has happened schematically with great pleasure.

Shuffling and layout of cards took something in the region of a minute. At the same time, I did not need to change my position in order to reach the last row of cards. This should suit even the most lazy player (of which your submissive is for the most part. - author's comment).

When calculating that the player has quite a lot of luck, the game is played in 7 moves. Without considering the not yet invented "active" cards and other important details. There is nothing to compare with yet, but I feel that this is an acceptable figure.

In general, a game designer is not worth relying on his instinctive sensations. Jesse Schell, in his book, The Art of Game Design, noted that in the process of introspection, it is precisely what the individual user sees that is very dangerous. His feelings may not coincide with those of the majority. One person plays and thinks incredibly fast, while his opponent likes to think longer and consider the situation from different angles. Roughly speaking, under no circumstances should I make the game "for people like me." We will come back to this later. In the meantime, due to the impossibility of comparisons, we move on.

The second thought is 9 rows of 4. The first doubt. Given the standard size of playing cards (56x86mm) and the small gap between them in an upright position, the field begins to occupy a fairly large area, which not every coffee table can afford. The layout is much longer, it is especially difficult to give the last three rows (highlighted in color), which, when I am tall (186 cm) from a sitting position, is already rather unpleasant to reach. After all, I have not yet taken into account the “entrance” and “exit”.
The passage of the maze in this situation will take 10 moves.

Perhaps many will ask something like “Why such precision? Why not neglect such unimportant details? ” The answer may seem rather strange, but nonetheless: it is precisely from these “trifles” that a positive impression is formed of the game process after the end of the game. The player should not be confused and disturbed. The less opportunities a game designer creates for negative feelings, the better.

I still remember with hatred how I was furious at Cosmopolitan (a kind of space-based version of a monopoly, with its own flotilla and planets) when, due to the crooked design of the field, I had to always squeeze the hated cardboard corners and stretch across the whole map, knocking down ships and buildings to to hell. But let's not talk about sad things.

It may be in the future, when a unique design for each card is ready, such a field will have the right to life, but now it is clearly not optimal. With the same success, I dismiss the 4 * 9 field, in which, for the speedy passage of the maze, you can simply ignore most of the laid out cards. Option 12 * 3 \ 3 * 12 is also sent to the hell. All for the same reasons.

With the base finished. Take the player’s chip and move on to the most delicious.

Active cards

Having at its disposal as many as 38 cards, at first glance it’s quite difficult to figure out how each one works when a player “steps on” it. But actually it is not. The first thing we will do is “deactivate” all cards “without pictures”, that is, six, seven, eight, nine and tens. Thus we get 38-20 = 18 active cards, i.e. ~ 47% of the total. This percentage allows us to assume that the activated events will occur approximately every two turns. It’s a good chance. The rest of the cards will be something like an "empty room" in which nothing happens and you can relax.

So. что у нас есть?

To begin with, I have the idea to divide the actives into two types: light and dark (tambourines \ worms and peaks \ crosses). Light ones will give a bonus to the player, and dark ones will greatly spoil the opponent. A fairly simple and good concept based on associative thinking, which connects red cards with a positive hue, black cards with a negative one, respectively. It is easy to remember and does not require additional lines in the rules.

Generally speaking, when drawing up the rules of any game or when adding regular mechanics, it’s worth considering how a potential player will perceive the innovation when reading it. You know the rules, because you know every bump and every pitfall. The player, on the contrary, may not understand the abundance of piles that the game designer built in the process or, even worse, interpret everything in his own way, which will lead to conflicts in the game process. We don’t need conflicts at all.

Now let's move on to the cards themselves. And we will start from the bottom. Positive, bright active abilities of cards will be marked with a plus sign (+) , negative, dark - (-) .


The smallest of the cards with a "picture". A personal servant who, in some games, generally has less than a dozen in value. He should not have something really powerful, but at the same time his “bun” should be pleasant and quite capable of “winning a victory” in another game.

The first and most commonplace thing that comes to mind is the distribution of additional moves.

(+) - Gives the player the opportunity to take another step.

(-) - Forbids the opponent the next move to take a step forward. (only on the sides)

It is innocent enough, but under certain circumstances and in combination with what will be discussed further on, it can produce unexpected results.


Everything is a bit more complicated here. The map does not have to be very strong, because there are three more gradations of the powers of skills ahead, but at the same time it should be quite useful. I conceived Dama as a card that allows you to manipulate closed cards on already completed rows, but in this case it will be much more difficult to think of a “negative” effect, because it must be connected with opponents.

In this case, I see only one way out of the situation. And he seems to me very unbalanced in the long run. But oh well. We will carry out work on the errors after the tests. Also, Queen is the first card in which I introduced the “trigger” mode. When the active card rotates - the mode is activated. The rest will tell the description. The triggers will be different.

(+) - The player can open one of the closed cards on already completed rows. If an active card is open - turn it and play in your next turn, as if it was open during it. Expand the card back after it. If a dummy is open, your move is over.

(-) - An opponent can open one of the cards on the already completed rows. If an active card is open - turn the lady and this card. The opponent cannot play this type of card in his next turn. Turn the cards back after it. If a dummy is open, your move is over.

The standard analogue of the spell "Silence", if we draw an analogy with magical themes.


The king has destructive power that allows him to manipulate the playing field itself. It can help the player establish a foothold for victory in a turn, or prevent the enemy from reaching the point he needs so quickly.
I have been thinking about the King the longest.

On the one hand, I really wanted to introduce an asset into the game, which would allow the player to think through his tactics more than one move ahead. On the other hand, it was necessary to connect opposing skills with each other. My connection is the interaction with two cards. But I feel that the skill of kings will be the first thing that goes into processing. Although this is just my feeling.

(+) - Select any two cards from those already open on the field, flip them face down and swap them with two cards in a row in front of you. Shuffle this row. (updated cards in the selected row remain closed for you)

(-) - Select any two cards from the cards that are closed on the field and remove them from the game.


The only non-character card. This fact immediately led me to think about how to use it. There were even no questions.

(+) - Turn the ace. Strengthen your next red skill or weaken your next black skill. Turn the card back after use.

(-) - Turn the ace. Strengthen your next black skill or weaken your next red skill. Turn the card back after use.

Your chip, which is on the rotated map, can always remind you what needs to be done in your turn or the opponent’s turn. Everything is quite simple here. And finally, the final part.


Our jester is on the field in the amount of only two pieces. I think that you yourself can figure out with what chance the player can activate this card. Therefore, thinking about the so-called “final” trick, which can complete the game with the help of a magic combo, I was guided by the tactical ability to use any spell, but with limitations.
The thought found itself, roughly speaking.

(+) - Turn the joker. On your next turn, play any open red card. Turn the cards back after that move.
(-) - Turn the joker. Play any open black next turn a map. Turn the cards back after that move.

Exceptions and reservations

My teacher at the university always said that while working on a project always “focus on the fool when testing. The most ridiculous request can always drop the program. " The game design is actually the same. And it is for this reason that I will now describe the general additional reservations that will help the game “not hang” at the most interesting moment.

  1. Ace Reinforced The Black King draws 4 cards from the game. In this case, no more than three can be deduced from one row.
  2. Ace-reinforced Red Queen with a successful showdown allows you to play two active cards in a row for the next move.
  3. Turned cards are played immediately on the next turn before moving, unless otherwise specified.
  4. Ace Jack reinforced by Ace can “freeze” on the line either one opponent twice (in two moves), or two different opponents.
  5. An Ace-reinforced Black Queen may prohibit the use of two types of active cards for one opponent, or one type for different cards upon successful opening of cards.

This list, of course, will be replenished with further testing.
I think for the first part of all of the above is enough. 6 hours passed quickly.


Game design is probably the best manifestation of human creativity, which combines several different aspects, one way or another connected with human perception, that only motivates one to learn, because some of the knowledge gained through studying literature on game design will be completely useful and in ordinary life.

If you, dear Khabrovites, suddenly have free time, then try my creation in action. I will be glad to hear feedback, comments, tips and generally anything on the topic, which may seem interesting.

I am taking my leave for the sim.
The next part, as soon as I get there, will be about updates, the potential design of cards and additional ideas that will help make the gameplay even more interesting!
Well, there are already close to software implementations.

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