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October 25, 2016
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Lewis Pulsipher's Blog   Expert Blogs


Dr. Lew Pulsipher started playing boardgames more than 50 years ago. He designed his own games, then discovered strategic "realistic" gaming with early Avalon Hill wargames, and ultimately earned a Ph.D. in military and diplomatic history. His book "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish” was published in July 2012 by McFarland. He contributed to ETC Press' Analog: Tabltop Game Design.  Formerly contributing editor to several role-playing game magazines and author of over a hundred game magazine articles, he is designer of Britannia (UK, US, and Germany in separate editions), Dragon Rage, Valley of the Four Winds, Swords and Wizardry, and Diplomacy Games & Variants. Britannia (2nd edition) appeared in 2006, with foreign editions (German, French, Spanish, Hungarian) in 2008. It was described in an Armchair General review of a 2006 edition as "ready to continue on as one of the great titles in the world of games".

Latest published game, Sea Kings (2015).

Latest published book, Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish, 2012.

Online audiovisual courses at :

  • Learning Game Design (parts 1 and 2)
  • Brief Introduction to Game Design
  • How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games
  • Get a Job in the Video Game Industry
  • How to Write Clear Rules (and game design documents)
  • The Joys of Game Design (hobbiest game design)
  • Brief Introduction to RPG design
  • Playteseting: the Heart of Game Design
  • Conceiving a New Game: Tips for Aspiring Designers (free)
  • Prospering at Game Conventions and Conferences (free with coupon)

Discounts and current projects are at PulsipherGames.Com.

YouTube "Game Design" channel:

Game design blog:




Expert Blogs

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 09 May 2016 08:06:00 EDT in Design
Computer RPGs (especially MMOs) appear to be a "grind" aimed at rising in level.  People don't enjoy the journey, they only enjoy the destination ("I'm 80th level!").  That's why there's a big market for sale of items and gold and even entire accounts.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 03:16:00 EDT in Design, Console/PC
Party games, and to a lesser extent family games, have always been reward-based (you're rewarded for participation) rather than consequence-based (winning and losing is important, plus more), but hobby games were usually the latter. Not any more.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Tue, 29 Mar 2016 08:39:00 EDT in Design
What is the "natural" format of a game? You can program a boardgame on a computer, or vice versa, but the physical format difference is more cosmetic than real. A man dressed as a woman is still a man, a boardgame on a computer is still a boardgame.

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 21 Dec 2015 01:42:00 EST in Design
Creativity in game design may amount to about 10% of the whole. The rest is more or less engineering/project management. Some people rely on trial & error (guess & check), throwing things against a wall to see what sticks. Find a more efficient method!

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 17 Aug 2015 01:53:00 EDT in Design
Author Robert Heinlein says this about the nature of jokes: "Funny once, funny twice, or always funny." Games follow this pattern. E.g. I know people who have played my Britannia 500+ times. Which kind of game do you want to make?

Posted by Lewis Pulsipher on Mon, 29 Jun 2015 01:49:00 EDT in Design
I don’t use the word “theme” any more, because there are so many different meanings. These meanings are not even close to the same things. If you cannot know how your reader/listener understands a word, you can’t use it (if you want to be clear).

Lewis Pulsipher's Comments

Comment In: [Blog - 05/13/2016 - 01:45]

Every battle should feel like ...

Every battle should feel like a boss fight. But then every boss fight feels just like fighting any other monster. r n r nGood pacing requires highs and lows, or the highs lose much of their feeling. r n r nNow if you mean something like, a battle should feel ...

Comment In: [Blog - 04/29/2016 - 03:16]

Bart, your comments are as ...

Bart, your comments are as succinct and illuminating as ever. r n r nWhat we call games is a vastly greater spectrum than in the distant past, when board games such as chess, go, nine-men 's morris, checkers, were very much consequence-based, where your every move had to be predicated ...

Comment In: [Blog - 04/21/2016 - 02:02]

If you 're looking for ...

If you 're looking for realistic-looking terrain maps, there 's an infinite startup supply in existing maps of the earth. Scale something up or down . For example, if you take a bit out of the Falkland Islands, or Tierra del Fuego, who 's going to know where it came ...

Comment In: [Blog - 03/22/2016 - 06:36]

I must agree, given the ...

I must agree, given the large number of creative people who don 't make a living at their creation - and often don 't even try to - work might belong on the top of this pyramid.

Comment In: [News - 02/18/2016 - 08:10]

Not surprising that game writers ...

Not surprising that game writers have had an uphill battle. Considering that the programming teams often disrespect the role of game designers , you 'd expect game writers to come off even worse. And then some of the writers start to think of themselves as game designers, which is a ...

Comment In: [Blog - 03/19/2014 - 04:50]

Has anyone examined whether allowing ...

Has anyone examined whether allowing under-18s access to alcohol as in France where many drink wine makes it less likely, or more, that they become alcoholic The same question applies for gambling. r n r nOn the other hand, I knew someone who was a beer drinker most of her ...