I spent several weeks playing with different shapes for the arrows. I showed them around, and got different opinions from various friends and designers. In the end, I decided that the only way to solve this problem with any degree of confidence was with real-world playtesting. I'd also been needing several more sturdy copies of the draft puzzle so that I could handle larger playtest groups. So, I revised the layout on all the pieces, created two different designs for this next go-round, and ordered one copy of each from puzzle maker Up In Pieces. There were two basic goals for this go-round:
  1. Better differentiate in-arrows from out-arrows.
  2. Create a better sense of flow from piece to piece, so that the idea of connecting ins and outs would feel more intuitive to young kids and newcomers.
  z_arrowstory_v3aThe first new design, Beta 3a, uses improved graphical symbology to do this. The image for the in-arrows has an angled cut-out in the tail of the arrow, and that cut-out exactly matches the angled point of the out-tarrows. You can't actually place the point of an out-arrow into the notch of an in-arrow, as the arrows are set back from the edge of the tiles. However, you can imagine that if you were to scoot an out-arrow about 1/4 inch in the direction of the arrow, that it would snap right into the back of an in-arrow.   z_arrowstory_v3bThe second design does something that I'd been trying hard to avoid, and uses both tile graphics and tile shape to indicate flow. Here, the point of the out arrow actually sticks out past the edge of the hexagon, creating a pointed bit on sides where flows go out of the tile. At the same time, the cut in the base of the in-arrows now goes through the image and into the tile itself, so that there are now dinks in sides where flows go in. I've long been resistant to having non-straight tile edges for two reasons. First, I have dreams of producing 'Creativity Kits' with blank tiles where kids can create custom tile types by drawing whatever they like. As tiles become more complex, and there are more different shapes, it becomes harder to manufacture a 'Creativity Kit' that is useful. If every game tile has straight edges, and a Kit has 20 blank tiles, then any tile in the kit can be used for any purpose. If there are four different types of hex tiles (corresponding to the four different patterns of points and dinks in Beta 3b), then a 20 tile Kit would have 5 of each kind of tile, and a modder could more easily run short of a given type of tile. Secondly, non-flat tile edges require greater precision in manufacturing. You have to be more careful about aligning the image with the cuts. Most print-on-demand folks only promise 1/8" accuracy in that alignment, and that level of accuracy is at the low end of what you need for tiles with non-straight edges. On the other hand, having non-straight edges is a powerful indicator of intended tile usage. At any rate, Up In Pieces appear to be good folks. I've sent both designs off to them, and I'll have the finished products in about a week. When that happens, I'll try them out, and we'll see what's what.