Design Diary 6/2/2017: How To Throw Knives – The Solo Designer’s Job

Last week on a routine trip to the local game store, I had the serendipitous opportunity to meet with fellow local Game Designer Steven Lykowski, creator of Nova Cry and Era.

Dan and I will talk about it more in next week’s Fusionhaa Cast, but it was great to chat with Steven about games, because he’s just a regular cool dude who wants to make cool games — but thinking about all of the stuff that happens between finishing a game design and putting it in people’s hands just reminded me of a hobby I tried to take up.

Throwing Knives


Throwing is an exciting and rewarding hobby because it is sweet.  It’s also extremely easy to get into, because in theory to become a thrower, you just need to get a thing and throw it right?

I started by deciding what I wanted to throw (Knives!), then spending a lot of time learning about the various flora and fauna of 1 specific type of knife before ordering my first set of coldsteel perfect balance 13″ throwers (the black ones in the above pic).  It was several days of watching instructional videos and reading manuals before my knives arrived.

I was completely ecstatic! Picking them up and tossing them in my hands, I couldn’t wait to throw them.  Immediately, I realized that I had made a critical error in planning.

Throwing Targets

This is where they get you.  It is strongly implied, but not explicitly stated that when you throw a thing, you also need a place to throw it to.  Trees are the obvious first target right?

Things Chill knows about Trees:

  1. Trees are alive
  2. Trees are Not flat

Both of these properties make trees uniquely bad targets for throwing knives. The surface is bad for your edge and makes for dangerous ricochets; puncturing living trees opens them up to becoming infested by borers which inevitably kills the tree.

I needed a throwing target.  A few 2x4s and some quality hours with Dad in his woodshop later and I was the proud owner of an awesome wooden target… that promptly fell to pieces under the duress of 13 inch metal projectiles being flung at it for 20 straight minutes.

One Month Later

I find myself illegally harvesting fell wood in a federal park preserve with an axe.

My search for the ideal throwing target had come to a dead end.  Calling every tree-trimming and lumber business in a 100 mile radius, I found that they simply don’t stock or cut their logs into round slabs.  Thin wood rounds are available online for use in all kinds of crafts, but getting materials at the specifications would be costly.

Things That Are Cheaper Than Buying Wood Online:

  1. Getting super-into Warhammer 40k
  2. Hiring a Hitman
  3. Pre-ordering Food Chain Magnate
  4. Hiring a Hitman to Play Food Chain Magnate With You


Now I started out as an amateur knife thrower, and I somehow ended up as a lumberjack.  Not quite what I was aiming for.


How this all relates to Game Design

You start out with wanting to make fun games that people can enjoy – but getting off of the kitchen table demands something more.

Planning through the production phase, calculating the costs and working to minimize all of the overhead, Composing attractive marketing materials, and managing communities on social media.  These are the kinds of tasks that are actually expected from modern game designers.

Jamey Stegmaier is a popular game designer, largely in part due to all of the hours he spends NOT designing games.  If he took all of the hours spent blogging and spent them designing games instead – we would have an incredible library of awesome Stegmaier games that no one knows about.

It’s often what is necessary though.

What is the use in having an incredible game if no one knows about it? Marketing products to the Millennial generation is one of the greatest mysteries marketing professionals have dealt with in history.  Research groups on the cutting edge of marketing have not even completely solved the issue.


Just Something To Think About

Crowd-sourced game designers must wear many hats.  I discovered that if you want to be a lumberjack, you can start by throwing knives.  Where do you begin if you want to make fun games for your friends to play? It almost seems unfair in a lot of ways that so much time has to be spent side questing.

Those of you who have been through the other side, maybe you can elaborate further, but I believe that it must be worth it.  Punching the unfamiliar cardboard circles that lived for so long in your mind as random wooden cubes.  Finally bringing your creation to a table, and handing it off for someone to enjoy.

Maybe you found that the skills you learned along the way were just part of the journey and not truly a distraction.





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