Have you ever wondered how a spark of an idea becomes an award-winning game? It takes time, tons of creativity, play testing, and a lot of behind-the-scenes work! Every educational board game published by SimplyFun is unique in its own way, and the steps to bring it to market are equally outstanding!
Let's take a peek behind the curtain of SimplyFun's newest Math & STEM game, Team Digger.
Selecting Team Digger
SimplyFun partners with renowned game designers around the world and evaluates and selects which games to produce based on a range of criteria.
Team Digger was brought to SimplyFun by Phil Chase, the game designer of best-selling title Digger's Garden Match. "There was a lot to this prototype that we liked immediately," says SimplyFun's Director of Product Development, Stacy Longstreet. "It had so much potential and included some skills that we did not yet have in any of our other games." From there, the team got to work.
Determining the targeted age of players was one of the first steps in the process and from there, the direction of the game started to develop. Requests for 'early coding' games had come through, and the product development team knew that this game had the fundamentals for teaching this skill. Team Digger was ultimately designed for kids ages 6 and up to teach early coding, sequencing, and spatial reasoning skills.
Most of the original theme of Team Digger remained in place, but the playability was simplified to make it a bit more enjoyable for a six-year-old. For example, in the prototype, a player's turn ended if they were unable to complete a sequence to uncover a tile. That's not much fun for a young child, so the team added the ability to 'chase your tail' in the rules which lets the player take a peek at a hidden tile on their turn instead of doing nothing. Getting the balance of the game correct was also something that took a lot of repeated play to determine and get right. The game needed to be challenging enough but not too easy, either. That said, allowing players to win more often than lose was important to the design of the game. Team Digger is a cooperative game, so everyone works together as a team to try and win. By adding the ability to trade cards, players engage and interact with one another even when it's not their turn. It's a subtle lesson but shows how projects in life are often achieved when people work together instead of alone!
All SimplyFun educational board games are designed by talented in-house artists. When designing Team Digger, the first item on the list was the Digger dog pawn, as the lead time to produce these types of pieces are the longest. Using 3D software, Digger started coming to life. The pose was important for ease of manufacturing as well as allowing it to balance and not fall over during gameplay. During some of the many play testing sessions, the team learned having a visual aid for 'left' and 'right' would be helpful, which was not included in the original design. Each Digger pawn includes a left and right arrow on the base to help players determine these directions more clearly.
Overall, the target age range of the game is one of the major factors when determining the art style and design of the game. The goal is to bring the game to life with great, relatable artwork and to ensure the skills and mechanics of the game are in line with the target age.
Playing with Themes
During the creation of the Digger pawn the team had the idea to use a sculpted clay design for the game. They explored what the board might look like using this idea, and after determining they'd need to simplify the look of the board, ended up carrying this theme throughout the entire game, including the playing cards. This process is time consuming, as the artists always sketch images by hand before bringing them into a 3D program to begin creating the sculpted versions. Once sculpted, the design goes into another program where color is added, and final polishing is done.
The Final Product
Team Digger launched on March 1, 2023, after nearly seven months of development. It is SimplyFun's newest Math & STEM game and joins other award-winning titles in this category including Grill Party, Planet Voyagers, Sumology, and many more.
So, ditch the screens and plan your next family board game night with Team Digger!