Games take time to develop. From the first spark of an idea to a complete game hitting store shelves, there is a whole journey of false starts, scrapped ideas, and countless hours of play testing. Anyone who has ever tried to create a game has had to rely on family and friends to try it over and over again, finding its flaws and pointing out its strengths. But there comes a time in any game’s development, when the designer has to branch out from their normal testers and introduce it to a new set of eyes. That is why an event like ProtoTO is so important to Toronto and GTA designers.
ProtoTO brings together designers with willing play testers to put their games through the gauntlet and get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. This past weekend hundreds of gamers packed a downtown Toronto hotel to test out games.
Pam Walls is the founder of ProtoTO, and she’s a designer herself. In her opening remarks on Friday, she noted, “Hopefully your game will be much better at the end of this weekend, and if it isn’t…well, at least now you know.”
One of the best parts of events like ProtoTO is the variety of different themes you see in games. There is a ton of creativity in the things people will attempt, especially when they’re first starting out in the business. In a way it’s like watching college sports as opposed to professional athletes. Everyone is excited and passionate about their games and that sentiment rubs off on the players. There was a wide variety of themes that I saw in games this year at ProtoTO, from ballet, to unicorns, to coffee, and so many others. Events like this bring together different ideas that you might never have considered possible in a tabletop game.
The first game I saw when I arrived at ProtoTO was Godspeed from Pandasaurus, which is currently on Kickstarter. Jon Gilmour was there showing it off, and while the game is on the tail end of the development process, it was still great to be able to check out an early copy. I have to say, I was super impressed with Godspeed. It is a unique title in a crowded field of worker placement games, where your workers are used in three different ways each with their own distinct value to them. I’m super excited to try it again. Plus bonus points for any game that allows me to play Canada.
I also got to try out an early version of a super secret Jon Gilmour game, and while I can’t say anything about it at this time, I can see its potential. I think people are really going to respond to it, once it is announced.
I got to try out Torchlit Tremors, a cooperative title where players work together to move from platform to platform in an ancient temple that is rapidly collapsing behind them. It is in its early stages and although a bit rough, you can see its potential.
I’m a huge fan of hidden movement games, and so I was really pumped to try MIND MGNT by Sen-Foong Lim and Jay Cormier. Based on the comic series of the same name, it’s a one-against-many game where players work to track down an agent from an evil corporation. It was a lot of fun, and I loved the artwork. Look for that one to hit Kickstarter in March 2020.
ProtoTO is an important event in the gaming community of Toronto. There is a thriving scene of designers that get regular opportunities to test out their games at Snakes & Lattes designer nights, but there they may get one play through a month, as opposed to three or four plays over the course of a weekend. It allows designers to take feedback, immediately make changes, and try the new version of the game right away. This is an invaluable resource when creating games.
It’s not just a great resource for designers. Publishers attended ProtoTO on the lookout for what may be the next great game. Many different games have been signed from this event and others like it. It creates a symbiotic system that benefits both parties and leads to lots of original ideas getting published.
It’s been great to see ProtoTO grow at the same rate as the gaming community in Toronto. We can’t wait to see what new innovative ideas show up at the next show.