25 October 2015 | 46 Comments
I’ve said and typed those five words more than any other over the last month: “No, it’s just a prototype.”
I’m referring, of course, to the Scythe prototype, particularly the one that was on display at Essen Spiel a few weeks ago. Here’s a photo of it:
Here’s a small sampling of questions I received on Twitter, Facebook, BGG, Kickstarter, email, text, and carrier pigeon about this prototype. Let’s see if you can guess the answer to all of these questions:
- Are the coins in the final game going to be cheap plastic pirate doubloons?
- Will the final miniatures be 3D printed?
- Will there be resource cubes in the final game instead of custom tokens?
- Will the box be as small as it is here?
- Is this the size of the final board?
The answer to all of these questions is (let’s say it together): “No, it’s just a prototype.” The final game will be bigger and better and custom and pretty.
Now, these are perfectly reasonable questions. Sure, there’s a bit of judgment to them, but they stem from genuine interest and curiosity. That’s fine.
But I realized that what was super obvious to me–that it was a prototype, which is not at all indicative of the final look or quality of the game–was not super obvious to other people. Even people in the game industry.
I’ve concluded that this is because the Scythe prototype was really nice–so nice that people mistook it for a final game (even though it hadn’t even launched on Kickstarter yet). If it had looked a lot more like a prototype–less art in particular–people may not have been confused.
Though, honestly, I’ve had people ask those types of questions at every stage of the prototype process. So I’ve determined the following: From now on, when I’m ready to feature a prototype in public, I will do everything in my power and budget to make it look exactly like the final game.
For example, when I was having Print & Play make the final Scythe prototypes, Andrew asked me how big I wanted the box to be. I told him, “Big enough to hold all the stuff.”
What I should have said is, “Exactly the size of the final Scythe box.”
It will cost more to do this, but I believe it’s worth the expense to save people the confusion and judgment. There’s just something in us that sees a prototype and can’t help but wonder if it’s really the decision the creator made for the final version. Are they really using a generic plastic dinosaur instead of a custom miniature? Are they really using M&Ms as tokens instead of wooden cylinders?
So from now on, instead of insisting that “No, it’s just a prototype,” I’ll be able to say, “It’s just a prototype, but it’s comparable to the final version.” Or, for most questions, simply “Yes.”
Have other designers run into this? I’m curious to hear your thoughts in the comments.