One of the best parts about designing a game is the act of creating a world where the game lives. Deciding how your game inhabits the world and how your mechanics align with the characters, setting, and events of the world you’ve created.
As I’ve worked to develop the world of Fjerogard, the fictional location of Gamestormers, I learned a few strategies that have helped me in fleshing out the game narrative.
1. Write from Your Own Experiences … Even with Fiction
Although board and card games often rely on fantasy, sci fi, or supernatural narratives, designers can still work their own experiences and interests into those very otherworldly topics. For instance, Gamestormers has elements of a futuristic, Roman-inspired world with steampunk details sprinkled in. My main inspiration for the Roman inspiration came from a 2019 trip to Italy with my wife, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. After seeing the awe-inspiring remnants of the Roman city, I was inspired to name actions in my game after the Roman forum, arena, theater, market, and more. As a creator, ask yourself what experiences, passions, and stories you have that could inform your creations.
2. Visualize the World with Mood Boards and Artwork
Often board and card games tell you about the premise of the game with a paragraph or blurb in the beginning of a rulebook, with some of the game art filling in the blanks. Why not let visuals help you build the world as you write about the game lore and develop the art? I was fortunate enough to work with Vika Fajardo and OwlGhost Studios from the early stages of Gamestormers, and Vika encouraged me to create moodboards that represented what the world of the game looked like to me. The exercise not only helped Vika Fajardo and OwlGhost Studios create the art for the game – it also helped me continue to refine and build the game world and narrative too.
3. Write More Than You Need – Fanfiction, Comics & More
Any great writer will tell you that the best strategy is to write everything down … and then cut out all of the unnecessary bits. The same is true for game lore! Create stories, fanfiction, comics, and more as you build your world. For Gamestormers, I’ve been working on creating a short graphic novel to help establish the main storyline of the world, and it has helped inspire more ideas for the game. In addition, creating a graphic novel has opened up new opportunities to share the game world and lore with the public, as we might publish the comic as an add-on with the game itself. All of this is possible because of a willingness to write more than necessary.
I hope some of these tips help you develop your game worlds. Share in the comments any strategies you have for world development as well – I would love to hear them!