Interview with Ingenious designer Reiner Knizia
Why has Ingenious been so well received? What makes it special?
A number of things that come together: One is the attractive look of the game; also how the game and these pieces come together and almost make a piece of art while you’re playing. Also, Ingenious is supported by very nice production values.
The other aspect is the gameplay as such, which is ingeniously simple, but which is also easy to learn and develops its depth and tactical aspects while you’re playing. Essentially the game captures you from many angles-visually and logically.I also think we have a lot of different games out there with themes. Having a game with an abstract approach makes it a clean, timeless game.
What was the inspiration for Ingenious?
It was the clear decision to try and develop an abstract game, which was the starting point. I wanted to create something that would appeal to many generations and many cultures, and give a lot of enjoyment. So I started with some nice game pieces, and then had to figure out “What can I do with them?”
I wanted to create a structure on a common board so that there’s interaction between the players. Then I had to look at the pieces again: Single-colored pieces have too much freedom, but having a two-part piece restricts what you can do, which is just enough to make the game exciting and challenging. Of course, the scoring method was also very important to think about because that’s what guides and drives you through the game. That you score in all six colors gives you a maximum of opportunities. But because your weakest color determines the score, that gives you the thrills and shivers during the game because you realize that there’s so much to do and think about.
How do you come up with ideas for most of your games? Is there a process or does it just happen?
It’s a very important question-as you know, I’m doing many games every year and I’ve published a lot of games. It’s really a very critical point how to come up with new ideas and how to develop innovative games. I’ve learned that I should not and do not have a methodology for how to do games. For me, game design is not science, it’s art. For me, as soon as you have a methodology, essentially that says, “you’re always starting at this corner and you always do these 25 steps.” And then you don’t have something innovative. It’s important to me personally to have new entry points every time so that if you start something new it is fresh and exciting.
Do you play your own games?
Very rarely, actually. I like to focus on creating something new. All my time and playing opportunities go into the new games, and we play every day. This is what I really want to do, is design games. Games take a lot of testing, which is a lot of playing time, which is what I enjoy.
Do you design games with specific audiences in mind or do you try to design games that everyone can play?
Yes, I do target certain age groups-family games, children’s games, action games, more strategic games for more insiders of the market. You have to have the target group in mind but during the development process it can change. Games start with a certain idea or audience but when it’s finished it may be completely different. Games are like kids-you can guide them but essentially they grow up themselves; it’s important to support them to help them realize their greatest potential.
How long did it take design Ingenious from start to finish? On average, how much time do you spend on a game?
For Ingenious, it was really a few intense months. Everything really fell into place. Other typical games take a few years to create and mature. And then of course there’s the time it takes to get to the market. Games that are coming out now, I probably started a couple of years ago.
When you’re designing games, do you consider how they will translate to the computer?
It depends on the type of game I’m designing. If I’m focused on board games, I make a board game. If you try to kill all birds with one stone, you end up with lots of half cooked things. It’s important to take the medium into the account and design for that medium. However, that doesn’t mean a board game won’t become a good game on the computer. Take Ingenious, for example. It’s ideal for the PC.
What is your favorite part of being a game designer?
There are so many favorite parts to it. Creating something out of nothing and seeing it and finally appear on the market. Seeing lots of people have fun with the product I create. I like seeing people get enjoyment out of the things I create; means a lot to me. I also enjoy that I get to meet lots of people from many countries and cultures through my games.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to the players of Ingenious?
I am so happy that people are enjoying the excitement of playing this game. I’m thrilled that so many people in so many nations love this game. What excites me as well is that it works as both a board game and a computer game.