I used to hate writing rough drafts. I still kind of do – there’s this element of perfectionist in my personality that assures me, when I finish writing up an initial draft, that I did a good job and no further revisions are needed. As I learned more about game design, however, I understood the power of iteration – continuing to improve upon one’s work until it is no longer merely good but rather excellent.
The more you playtest, the better your game will be. This is an unavoidable fact of experience design – we are all good at imagining, but to get it right, you need concrete data. (Much like what separates science from science ficiton.) I understood this intuitively when I started venturing into game design, because when you are creating a game for a known audience – yourself or others, doesn’t really matter – a large part of the game design is getting and responding to feedback. Not just stated feedback, also the feedback of emotion and reaction that sometimes give insight into revealed preferences on the part of the players.
I used to get really defensive about the expression “nobody gets it right the first time,” implying that my first-draft masterpieces were just everyone else’s first-drafts (yes, also I have an element of arrogance to my personality about aptitude). I prefer to think of it as follows: all game designs start with the kernel of greatness, and by constantly playing and testing and changing, the designer peels away more and more unnecessary bits, and adds pieces that accentuate the greatness that’s there. As you refine, the greatness grows.