A large part of game design is getting stuck and having to figure out how to get unstuck. Getting unstuck itself is an art form and just like everything else in game design, there are many ways to do it. You can completely get rid of a mechanism, you can add a new mechanism to mitigate the problem or perhaps trace your steps back to a point when the problem didn’t exist. But, sometimes it’s just better to focus on something else and allow your subconscious to work on it for you.
I split my projects into phases and when one project graduates to the next phase, I take another one to the phase it left. The rough phases I use are brainstorming, prototyping and polishing. When I get a game from brainstorming to prototyping, I begin brainstorming the next game and so on. That way you can always work on something you like. Sometimes you might prefer getting to the nitty-gritty bits of balancing an almost finished game in the polishing phase. At other times, you’ll prefer to use the wide-brush which is fitting for an early prototype.
Sometimes, what you need to do is change a mechanism. That will likely avalanche into making your game a lot worse or a lot better. Believe it or not, both extremes are good for the game. If you know what doesn’t work, you’re better off. If it magically works (like it sometimes does), take all the credit! Diablo developer David Brevik was planning Diablo to be a turn-based game but was asked to make it real-time, he explains this historical moment at the GDC in 2016.
Changing a mechanism is one thing, but when should you completely get rid of a mechanism? If you’ve already had multiple playtest and have encountered constant negative feedback about a mechanism, consider removing it. If your whole game is centered around that one mechanism. think about ways you can achieve similar results with a different one. One book which can give you ideas about different types of mechanisms is Building Blocks of Tabletop Design, ruffle through it and try out mechanisms which produce similar effects to what you are looking for.
I hope you were able to get some ideas about how to keep your projects moving forward. I’d be interested to hear what you’ve been working on in the comments.
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