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The primary advantage of the iterative design process we recommend, besides saving time and money, is that it puts the player at the center of the game design process. This seems logical, but all too often the player comes last, and the production process winds up dictating changes in the game.
Changes and ideas can be tested easily and quickly when you're working with a pen and paper prototype. You simply take out a fresh sheet of paper and rewrite the rules, then test the game again, each time gaining more feedback from the players. The opposite tends to occur when you have a large production team in place. Even if you manage to bring in outside players and get valid feedback, there is no time to change gear on the software and media production based on that feedback. The result is that the game designer is overridden or good ideas are deemed too costly to implement. On the other hand, if you playtest early, using physical prototypes and rough software prototypes, you can get your feedback and make your changes, often without costing the production a dime.
An iterative approach can also foster new ideas because it gives you time to research wild new ideas and craft them to make sure they will be accepted by players. Real breakthroughs seldom come from the first spark of an idea-they tend to come from long-term development and experimentation. By interacting with players throughout the design process, experimental ideas have time to develop and mature.
What will your experiments produce? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps you'll discover 100 ideas that are not fun at all. But you'll never know until you try. And the method we propose can open up your process to experimentation without costing time and money in production.
A golden moment in the design process is the time before production when you are free to experiment with the forms and structures of gameplay to your heart's content, and this is when you just might discover an entirely new form of gameplay.
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