During the past two weeks specifically I've had to start working towards design projects which I felt I had more limited knowledge in than others. Board-games is one such project and the other being 4X Games. Somehow I needed to gather new knowledge on these - outside of simply having played them. I'm going to be listing a few of the approaches I've used to try to gather knowledge that would serve me during design and production!
Try Games of the Type
One of the more obvious steps is to actually try out games of the type or similar to what you want to create. This could give you some basic insights on what's been done, what seems to work, what you like and don't like. However this only provides very limited information. Keep in mind you are approaching the game with your own tastes, background and knowledge - other players will most likely be experiencing it differently.
Looking at Videos and Game-plays of other Players
By looking at other players experience the game - you might be able to get a glimpse as to what is liked and not liked about the game. You might also be able to get an idea of certain conventions and elements of the genre that may be critical to your development. Included with this - you can also look at developer videos on the game and genre. With 4X games - I decided to look up not only GDC talks but also talks with Sid Meier. A good approach is to take statements said during interviews, videos and so on - and then looking at what gets mentioned a lot and how it gets mentioned.
E.g. you might hear 'the player's create their own story...' - ' the world is unique to the player...' these might say a lot about what your trying to create - especially if the idea of narrative and 'uniqueness' is repeated by multiple of note individuals.
Look at Other Sources
Needless to say , you can find a vast amount of information online. Outside of GDC talks, you can find a number of analysis articles on different games and genres which may be of interest. Sometimes - don't be scared to think outside the box in terms of your research. If your looking into making an exploration based game - look at why people get curious or what makes people curious to explore. See how you might encourage people to explore with small clues or systems in the game itself. These needn't be specific to a genre or type of game.
Don't be scared to experiment and try out new ideas. Whilst it can be intimidating to try designing a different type of game than you are used to - it can give you a lot of knowledge and insight you would have likely missed out on!
Until next time,