Here’s how we get from a spark of an idea to an award-winning game.
We partner with over two dozen game designers around the world—industry veterans such as Dr. Reiner Knizia, Corné van Moorsel, Michael Schacht, Martin Nedergaard Andersen, Alan Moon, Sabine and Ivo Opstelten, and Aaron Weissblum to name a few.
Choosing from a range of prototypes shared by our partners, we evaluate and select which games to produce based on a range of criteria. Is it fun, does it fill a need in a particular age range, skill, or target?
From there, we work on developing the game to fit our content goals and high standards.
We play each game over and over to identify what is fun about it while looking for ways to enhance the play experience. Sometimes this means adding features and other times it means removing complexities.
We also playtest with families and targeted age groups to confirm our ideas, direction, and the clarity of our rules. This can often take multiple rounds until we get it right. Playtesting is a very important part of our process and helps give us a player’s perspective for the audience we are designing for.
PLAY ADVISORY COUNCIL
For additional guidance, we have a play advisory council. Dr. Toni Linder and Matt Brown bring years of play experience and educational knowledge to our products. Working with them and other specialists helps us make sure that the skills and mechanics of the game are in line with the age we are targeting.
We like to mix it up by using a variety of art styles and techniques across our games. The artists appreciate the ability to work in a range of styles and enjoy learning new techniques allowing them to grow as artists.
The target age of the game players is a major factor in choosing the art style and design we consider for the game. As an example, for early learning, we want to make sure the characters are relatable and the font choices for both letters and numbers are recognizable for early readers.
Our team of talented artists regularly explore a range of designs and ideas before we choose the final direction we want to pursue.
In addition to developing and designing the art of our games we also name each of our games. There is a lot to be considered in the naming process, especially those that we present for formal trademark approval. We want each name to be fun, relevant, and unique.
The goal through this process is to bring the game to life, ensure it has great repeat play appeal, exciting artwork and a memorable name that fits our intended audience. Those games then become SimplyFun Success Stories!
We believe that play is for everyone, and we work hard to make all our games inclusive and playable. This is no small task—part of this process includes looking at our font choices for readability, and our color choices to make sure those with color deficiencies are able to identify the game pieces. Read more about accessibility.
Our games not only help teach and reinforce basic educational curriculum but also help with developmental skills like fine motor skills, cooperation, and decision-making. We provide additional suggestions on how to adapt the rules of our games to work with special challenges.
WHAT GOES IN THE BOX
We are conscientious about the materials we select for our games. We use sustainable and recycled materials (paper and cardboard) when we can. If we can use wood components instead of plastics, we will.
There are other things we consider too—the size of the box and how it relates to shipping, the number of the components and how it will affect the overall cost of the game. We also consider the shapes and sizes of the pieces, especially in games for younger kids, avoiding pointy edges and choking hazards. We do this all while keeping in mind what components work best for gameplay—things like using dice vs. a spinner or score tokens vs. score pads.
We also offer a free replacement piece policy to prolong the life of these games, keep them playable for longer, and out of landfill.
Safety is always our top priority when developing and manufacturing games. Every product we make meets or exceeds United States ASTM standards (American Society for Testing and Materials) for toys and games, including phthalates regulations. ASTM is recognized by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and other regulatory bodies around the world. You can read more about safety testing here.
Here’s an example of the design process for one of our games, from start to finish.
SavannaScapes came to us from our partner Corné van Moorsel of Cwali Games.
This is a fun tile-based game that focuses on animals and the habitats they need to thrive. Players collect tiles and earn points when their animal tiles are placed next to the habitats they need. We kept the focus on the ecosystem of the Serengeti-Mara in Africa and chose our animals and flowers from that area. We also consulted with Dr. Meredith Palmer, Ecologist and Conservation Biologist, to make sure we had all our information and facts correct.
In addition to creating an award-winning game, we created a “Fun Facts” booklet to include in the box that shares additional information about the ecosystem and all the animals represented in the game.
Every game we develop is unique. What may work for one game does not work for every game.
When we are exploring the art styles for our games we think about several factors, like what art styles resonate with the age group we are targeting. We also look at how much art will be needed for the game and how much time will that art take to create. For SavannaScapes we knew that there were going to be 80 tiles. These tiles were going to be small but even with the smaller size, that is still a lot of work. We were also looking for an art style that would read well at the small size.
The animals were first sketched out keeping in mind the small area they would occupy on the tiles. Once we were happy with the sketched poses, the artist would apply color. Again, knowing the size of the final art, keeping the colors and detail clear and simple was key.
We also spent quite a while exploring the options for the tile design. How and where we placed the different information, we wanted displayed, the color to represent and identify the needed habitats and the name of each animal. The easier it is for a player to identify the information the smoother the game play is.
We work hard to create the cover art for our games. Before creating detailed artwork, we often block out the covers to get an idea of how things might look. We are looking to create visual balance and a flow for the eyes to follow. We also like to include some visual clues to gameplay and what the game is about. We want to have a fun and engaging image to create some excitement even before you start to play.