The Prototyping of Fun

by New Idiom


At the Institute of Design prototyping and iteration are pounded into you. It turns out, iteration may really be the secret to success, no matter what you’re designing. Take the board game “Settlers of Catan.” It’s a game where players compete for resources to expand their kingdom of cities and roads. The first player to build enough cities and roads wins.  The game is incredibly dynamic: every game is different depending on the placement of resource tiles, player turn order, dice rolls, and even the personality of your fellow-players. The game is also incredibly balanced between luck and skill, which, combined with the dynamic game-play, makes Settlers of Catan so fun to play. Settlers has won multiple awards and has been wildly successful in the gaming community. Wired Magazine featured the game in an article and toted it as the “Monopoly Killer”. So how did the German Klaus Teuber design the perfect game in 1995? From the article…

“Every once in a while, he would bring the new game upstairs to test it out on his family. They would play along, but Teuber could tell that the game wasn’t working. Sometimes, in the middle of a match, he would notice his youngest son, Benny, reading a comic under the table. Other times his wife would suddenly remember a load of laundry that needed immediate attention. After each of these sessions, Teuber would haul the game back downstairs for further refinement. He repeated this process over the course of four years.”