Bankuei over on his blog posted something very interesting. He calls it “The Fun Now Manifesto.” Have a read:
1. Not everyone likes the same thing
2. Play with people you like
3. Play with rules you like
4. Everyone is a player
5. Talking is good
6. Trust, not fear or power
7. It's a game, not a marriage
8. Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes
9. Fix problems, don't endure them
Now, it refers mostly to play. It gives good guidelines for selecting your fellow players, what you’ll play together, and how you’ll play. So what does it have to do with design? Well, there’s some important stuff designers can take from this.
#1: “Not everyone likes the same thing” this tells us that no matter how hard we try, we won’t please everyone. So don’t try. Target an audience with your game. You’re an indie game, not a mega-corp like WotC or Wizkidz. Realize that there will be people who don’t like your game, and that’s okay. Design it for the people who will like your game.
#3: “Play with rules you like” I could just as easily say, “Design with rules you like.” Don’t add in junk just because you think other people will not buy your game if you don’t have it. Design a game you’d like to play with rules you’d like to play with. Chances are very good that others have tatstes very similar to yours. Those are the people you’re after. Adding equipment lists, falling damage tables, setting ficiton, or whatever else to your game to make it “more marketable” will end up making it less so.
#4: “Everyone is a player” this includes a GM. For designers, it means if you’re going to have a GM, make the game fun for him too. Give him explicit instructions and then the tools to help him carry out those instructions. Very few games incorperate explicit GM rewards. Why is that? Come up with ways for the GM to earn extra currency/influence/whatever in your game. Don’t leave him out of your design.
#6: “Trust, not fear or power” Don’t fear spreading power out among all the participants. And don’t fear letting all the players have a say in each other’s characters. Also, don’t include horrific punishments in your game for charactes and/or players who “don’t play the way you want them to.” If they’re looking for a good time, they’ll stay pretty close to the rules you’ve written. If they’re looking to ruin everyone’s fun, there’s not a thing you, as the designer, can do about it anyway. Trust the playes to play your game.
#8: “Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes” Every ten minutes, especially if a group is very sociable, may be a high goal, but never-the-less, your game should provide avenues for action, engagement, and resolution often and in a powerful way. Rules for travel time, equations for fuel tank capacity, or encumberance tables often bog down play. If during playtesting they get in the way of getting to what the game is really about, then drop them. No one’s gonna miss them.
#9: “Fix problems, don't endure them” playtest, playtest, playtest! And then revise. Don’t leave unsolved issues in your game just because you saw them in another game. Don’t ignore a problem that you think players won’t run into very often. And lastly, don’t give up. Your game is good. It has potential. Don’t settle for a half-assed project. A designer can’t be afraid to change things that need changing no matter how long they’ve been in the design or how dear that broken little mechanic is to their heart. If it causes problems, it should probably go.
PS: I really want to thank you, Chris, for coming up with this, and I hope you don't mind me expaning on it here.