You and your friends are suddenly all speaking different languages and have to build a tower and avoid disaster as you do this. How do you communicate without using the same language where do you find the common ground? Blabel by Tomás Tarragón sets out to answer this question. This lightweight highly themed game of language explores communication in a unique way of giving players different made up words for each part needed to construct a tower.
What brought you into game design?
Tomás: Honestly, I've been designing games since I was 10 or so. The earliest memory is that I had one of these marble solitaires which I found rather uninteresting, so I turned into a 1v1 game, with completely different rules. I played chess back then, so I guess that was the spark.
What is your favorite game to play?
Tomás: That's a hard one! It depends a lot on the situation and the play group. If the group is having fun, I'm having fun. If I have to mention some names, I'd say The Crew, Root, and Space Alert, but there are so many others. But if I'm completely honest, the game I always want to play is whatever game I'm developing at the moment, hehe. It's very interesting and fun to see people play my games.
The idea for a game about language barrier came to me while I was in Moscow
Blabel is a very interesting concept to base a game on what drew you into using language as the base mechanism for your game?
Tomás: The idea for a game about language barrier came to me while I was in Moscow, and heard some tourists trying to communicate with Russian people, and people speaking different languages. I thought that there is something inherently funny about talking using new and weird words, and that it's interesting how if people want to communicate and cooperate, they usually can. It took me a bit to realize that the perfect setting for this kind of game would be something like the biblical story of the tower of Babel. Seems so obvious now! But I didn't want to make it a religious thing, so I changed the name and used the opportunity for a pun. That's how it became Blabel.
What was your favorite part of bringing this game to life?
Tomás: Definitely watching people play it. I would sometimes sit nearby, and by the end of the game. I was amazed how players were understanding each other, while I couldn't get anything they said. It's also great to see people nearby hearing the players, and getting close to ask "what the hell is going on? Seems fun!".
Also, working with people from all around the world to help the languages feel authentic and distinct. This was a great experience, and I got to learn a lot.
There are a few more things that I loved about it. I could talk about it for hours!
Was there something you really liked that you had to drop for the final game?
Tomás: Not really! I'm very happy about that. Although sometimes I come up with a word or a linguistic phenomenon that I'd like to include, but it's too late, because everything is already designed.
What was the hardest lesson you learned from doing a Kickstarter?
Tomás: So many lessons... I'd say one of the big ones is that it's hard to actually reach many people and make a name for yourself. I wasn't great at generating buzz. It takes an incredible amount of energy and time.
Focus on the fun.
Do you have any advice for perspective designers?
Tomás: Sure, I feel like I could write a book about it, even if I'm far from an expert. My biggest and most concise would be: focus on the fun. I spend a lot of time thinking "what makes this game fun?". Find out why your game is fun, boost that aspect, and cut as much of the rest as you can.