Gutenberg: Designer Diary #2

Katarzyna Cioch and Wojciech Wisniewski, Gutenberg’s authors, discuss their way to create one the the most exciting euro games that lauched at Essen Spiel 2021. Welcome to second part of Designer Diary.


A year before the publication date, we were sure that we were already putting the finishing touches on Gutenberg, because the game worked very well mechanically, and we only needed to prepare the characters. Late one evening, however, I received a text message from Christopher, our lead editor at Granna: “Are you asleep?” I replied that I was not, and soon we were chatting on Discord about Christopher’s dreamlike vision of turning the game upside down. His idea to introduce gears as an improvement in printing press machinery was so fascinating that even then I was already sure this would be in the final version of the game, although this would mean many more hours of work and dismantling the currently functional mechanisms.

A week later, Kasia was in Poznań, and we were drafting a solution. It was a difficult weekend: We felt like we were ruining our game (which, unfortunately, the playtesters showed us very clearly). On the other hand, we really wanted to make this work. In an act of desperation, we came up with a method that I have used very often since then when working on games – if I can’t find a solution to a persistent problem that arises in the game, then I pretend that I have the solution and look to see whether it really helped. If not, then the problem I’m trying to solve is clearly not the real cause of the bad situation. If so, then I ignore the lack of a solution until I come up with a solution. Oddly enough – that works.

The final result came painfully, but we think it was worth all the time and trouble. Gutenberg would be a different game if it weren’t for Christopher’s late-night phone call.


The game Gutenberg was made in response to Granna’s requirements, so we contacted the publisher quickly – we first presented the game in June 2020, three months after we started work on it. The game wasn’t working very well back then, so as the authors, we knew a lot about the game’s problems and what needed to be improved. At that time, a key requirement for publication was fewer components! Well, okay, that was a requirement at every stage of the game’s development. Granna’s decision to publish the game was made in October 2020.

For us as authors, it was very important that the editorial team formulated their requirements and goals without imposing specific solutions or mechanisms to introduce into the game. The entire time, we had control over every detail of the game. It is worth noting the close cooperation and accessibility on both sides, as well as the continual flow of information. Besides gaining experience in game development, we learned a lot about production, graphics, editing and marketing.

Gutenberg is a fairly complex game, so during the eighteen months we worked on it, our hobby became like a second job. (Our regular day jobs are something completely different.) The moments of feeling a bit overwhelmed by a lack of hoped-for spectacular results, the need to constantly be creative, and the usual overwork were all greatly relieved by the enthusiasm of Christopher (the editor). He continually showed us designs for graphics, types, and gears – motivating us with a vision of Gutenberg’s beauty and atmosphere.


When can I buy a type? Whenever you want. How many types can I buy? As many as you want. What types can I buy? Whichever ones you want. And two copies of the same type? Yes. You can do anything in this game! A typical conversation with playtesters. We once created a game that only started working when we answered “YES” to every question from testers that began with the words “Can I?” We now use this method successfully as an effective game development tool. The players themselves often tell us what they want to do, and why, at a given moment of a game.

The type is a key component in Gutenberg, in the sense that it creates the player’s main experience of printing. That is why all mechanical solutions that give players the freedom to obtain types worked much better in the game. If players want to print in a game about printing, then they should be able to. Interestingly, for a long time we also had a printing press in the game. Originally, that was supposed to create the experience of printing and to be some kind of eye-catching 3D gadget. But in the end, our print shops filled up with types and gears. Their interesting design creates Gutenberg’s truly fantastic atmosphere.

More episodes coming soon!


We are bookworms. Movie maniacs. Story addicts. We grew up reading Tolkien, Howard, Herbert, Dick, Lem… We were watching Willow, Blade Runner, Never Ending Story, Robin Hood…

And yet, we don’t write books… we don’t make movies. We don’t make those things, because we make games. We make games that tell stories.