Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: Bontago

Every once in awhile, the guys at work and I play a LAN game at the office.  Since most network ports are (understandably) blocked by the office network, we can't play anything that requires an internet connection.  This makes finding new games harder and harder since a lot of multiplayer games have permanent servers or require internet verification.  One game I found while looking for LAN friendly games was Bontago.

This game was a student project from DigiPen in which players try to increase their influence to cover one or more white flags.  They increase their influence by building blocks either at the edges of their current influence (indicated by a colored area) or building a tower inside their influence.  Building up gains far more influence then building out, but is easier to have it topple, which will cost all your influence.  If one player's influence grows around someone else's blocks, those blocks will disappear allowing players to destroy each other's influence.  Random destructive weapons appear around the board that can be picked up by players by surrounding it with their influence and then tossing the weapon at another player.

Unfortunately, the physics is a little finicky in the game, which is crucial to making this game great.  If you drop the blocks from any height other than directly on top of another block or the ground, the dropped block will bounce around like it's made out of jello.  You can rotate blocks, but you can't snap them to any certain rotation, which is the only way rotating the blocks would be useful.  Also, the random weapons tend to destroy your towers way more frequently than other people's (or maybe I just build worse towers...).

So while the concept is sound and could be very fun, the control you have over your blocks isn't as tight as it should be, so the game becomes less about strategy and more about just rapidly dropping blocks and hoping for the best.  This is made even worse by the fact that there is a timer that will automatically drop your block if you're taking too long.  It seems like if you wanted to stall the game to perfectly place your block, you're only hurting yourself, so this timer only serves to ruin the ability to strategize and not add any benefit to the game.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day/Night Cycles

As technology improves and game design gets better, more and more systems will be added to model real life in certain ways.  One of these systems is a day/night cycle.  Sometimes this cycle is event driven, which makes day and night merely a visual change.  Environments change entirely (both what events trigger, what people/creatures appear, etc.) in other games with day and night.  Some are even more specific and have hours in the day where the sun is up from 6-6, but stores are open from 8-7.

The closer to reality a game can be made, the easier it is for people to relate to it.  Day and night happens in real life, so if games can have day and night, it'll feel more realistic and developed.  Unfortunately, this realism comes at a very annoying (for me anyway) price.  Imagine this scene: in the morning you enter the big city.  You go to the tavern to see if there are any interesting rumors.  A shady character says to meet him at night for details on some possible adventure.  You go finish all your other errands in town and it's only noon. you have to wait until night to start your quest?  What do you do in the meantime?  Hopefully the game has some way to automatically make it night time, but then what did having day and night actually add to the game?  It added another step you have to do to get where you need to go.  It  is more realistic that shady people would need to be met at night, but couldn't he just have easily met you in a dark alley?  Or in a dark corner of the tavern?

Not to mention that the method to make time pass generally doesn't make sense anyway.  In Skyrim, you can "wait" for hours.  So to the NPCs there's just this guy standing in the middle of town like a statue for hours on end?  Or a group of adventurers are sleeping through the middle of the day?  I guess adventurers keep odd hours, but it seems like it would be difficult to sleep in a tavern bustling with activity, so realistically, you shouldn't get as rested as if you slept overnight, but that'd be even more annoying.  Sometimes games will have events switch between day and night on their own, but this again makes me wonder what's the point of day and night other than just a change in visuals and settings?

Collectibles that only appear at night (Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom), shops that are unusable during the night (Skyrim), having a schedule you have to keep making free exploration difficult for the OCD (Bully), having monsters appear in town at night making it a big pain to explore then (Skyward Sword), and always needing some way to switch between day and night or to the hour you want or just standing around stupidly until the appropriate time.  Are there enough (or any) benefits to having day and night pass in your game to outweigh all this?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Amazing Race Game Design

In watching any competition, the most exciting thing is if it's a close match.  In television, more excitement gets more ratings.  So there are two ways to ensure a close match.  You can either script the competition and fake it (just make sure your audience never figures this out or that you're entertaining enough that it doesn't matter) or you design your competition with plenty of methods for players to make a comeback (making sure not to have any rubberbanding).  Over the years of watching The Amazing Race (my personal favorite reality TV show), I've noticed some very subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways that The Amazing Race keeps it a close race.

In case you're not familiar with the show, each episode is one leg of a race around the world.  On each leg, teams follow a series of clues to the pit stop at the end of each leg, sometimes having to compete in challenges along the way.  Usually, the last team to reach the pit stop will be eliminated from the race.  Once there are three teams left, they race to the finish line somewhere back in the United States.

Rather than making the obvious of choice of having every team start each leg at the same time, teams start the next leg of a race 12 hours after they completed the last leg.  So if one team is far ahead or far behind, they keep that same time buffer from the other teams (for better or worse).  Fortunately, the limited number of ways to fly from one country to the next help to shrink this buffer.  There are just enough options for sneaky teams to try their luck on a different route from the rest of the pack, but generally on the legs where they switch countries (which is usually every other leg), most, if not all, of the teams will be forced to take the same flight, thus evening out the playing field some.  For the legs where they don't fly to different countries, they frequently will be starting the leg in the middle of the night, so the first destination will be somewhere that doesn't open until morning.

The takeaway for this is to use natural limitations to your advantage when designing your game.  In Settlers of America, players can't drop off their supplies unless other players have built settlements, so no one can win unless everyone is doing well.  In Settlers of Catan, players only have a limited number of city tokens, so they can't get too far ahead of other players solely through cities.  In video games, this is much harder because the only real natural limitations are a player's hardware specs and you really don't want to base your games limitations on that or your game will truly be a pay to win game.  So you can make virtual limitations that seem natural.  In most RTS games, you have a population limit so you can only build so many units and the more powerful units take up more population, thus limiting the total number of powerful units you can have.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dialogue Choices

The earliest dialogue choice that affected the game that I can remember was in Dragon Warrior at the very end of the game.  You fight and struggle to get to the end boss and after going through his monologue about how he will destroy the world, he asks if you want to join him.  In a lot of games back then a Yes/No choice would pop up and choosing No would just repeat the choice until you selected Yes (which never made sense to me and makes even less sense that some modern games still do that).  So, figuring it was one of these type of "choices" you select No to see what he says and it turns out you join him and usher the world into an age of darkness.  Well done, you just destroyed the world.  Game Over.  I absolutely love that choice until I realize I have to work my way back to the boss again to kill him.

Dialogue choices since then have evolved into (basically) three forms based on how much information you get about what you're going to say.  There are older RPGs like the Infinity Engine games and Bioware games up until Mass Effect that would display the full text of what your character would say.  There are games like Mass Effect and Rise of the Argonauts who have a short line trying to describe what the character is going to say.  Then there are games like Bard's Tale or Alpha Protocol that just show an emotion that your character will convey with what they say.  Each method has its pros and cons and requires a lot of work on a designers part.

Displaying the full text is the easiest of the three choices because no matter which method chosen, you will have to write the full dialogue and displaying it fully to the player means there will be absolutely no confusion about what the player's character will say.  I can't think of any games that use this dialogue choice method that give the main character a voiceover, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.  It probably would be annoying to read an entire line and then have to hear the exact same words be spoken out loud after selecting one.  It would be interesting to have the voiceover start when you highlighted a particular choice so you could hear the tone before selecting it and then it wouldn't have to play the voiceover afterwards.

The one liner method of dialogue choice is an interesting middle ground because it can give the player an understanding of what will be said while the character still gets to have their own voice.  The problem with it is that there are always instances of a player reading the one line of text and expecting the character to speak one way and they say something completely different.  This is especially likely if all the choices are variations of the same thing, then it's a matter of deciphering the tone from some text and as we all know from Facebook and texts, that's impossible to do and all sarcasm is lost.  A way to mitigate this problem is to be consistent about where the emotions go in the choice order (e.g. nice is always on top, snarky in the middle, and jerky is the bottom), but if you do that you might as well use the third style of dialogue choice.

Simply having a button matched to a specific emotion (press A to be sarcastic!) abstracts away what the character is going to say until merely an emotion.  This can backfire the easiest because the player has absolutely no idea what the character is going to say, just the tone they are going to take while saying it.  So, when writing the dialogue you have to make sure the setup before the choice is absolutely clear.  This method also means that you're pretty much required to have the same number of choices every time there is a choice for the player to make, whether that's good or bad is up to you.

One thing I haven't seen done too often is only sometimes giving players dialogue choices.  It's usually an all or nothing thing.  This is especially pointless and ridiculous when A) the choice makes absolutely no difference and B) all the choices are essentially the same thing (e.g. 1: "Hey!" 2: "Hello." 3: "What's up?").  If there isn't a real choice to make, why not just let the character speak for themselves and only require player input when there is an actual choice to make?  This would cue the players in that every time they make a choice, it will actually effect something thus making them feel more powerful and important and making the choices feel like they actually matter.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hidden Rewards/Choices

One things I've noticed while playing through the Infinity Engine games is that when your choices matter and what gets rewards is much more hidden than in current RPG games.  In Rise of the Argonauts, the dialogue you hovered over would display which god you would earn favor with for selecting it.  In Mass Effect, prompts appear for when you can make a Paragon or Renegade impulse choice.  At one point in Alpha Protocol, you were told to either go left to save a group of strangers or go right to save someone you care about.  These games all make it very obvious that you have a choice to make and what the outcome will be (more or less).  On the flip side, in Baldur's Gate 2, there are at least some choices you can make without realizing it.  For example, while saving one party member's home from a troll invasion, you come upon the keep's captain of the guard.  Your party member tells you he must be under a spell.  He automatically starts attacking you, but if you can charm or mind control him, then you will actually save his life by having him switch sides.  There is only the slightest hint this is possible and it's probably not something most people automatically thought to do (or maybe it was just me...).

Normally, I don't support hidden things like this in a game because I don't like to miss anything.  But that's because I like to min-max my characters so I can be my best.  I've realized the more I just engross myself in the characters and the story that I don't WANT to min-max, I just do naturally.  So actually hiding the information is making it impossible for me to do so without following a walkthrough as I play a game (which defeats the purpose of playing the game usually).  Showing me that a certain dialogue choice will give me good points takes away my choice completely if I'm trying to be a good person.  So hiding the rewards behind my choices and even hiding the fact that I'm making choices makes it easier to fully immerse yourself as a character and get into the story.  The danger of hiding these rewards and choices is that if you're not consistent, it can be very frustrating when someone doesn't understand the logic behind the rewards (e.g. romancing the Sith governess of a planet doesn't make you evil, but romancing the girl in your fake cult does?).  So the balance needs to be found between transparency and clarity.

Board games can also play with the concept of hidden or transparent rewards.  In a lot of adventuring board games, the rewards you get for either exploring or killing monsters is usually drawing the top face-down card from some deck.  This means you don't know what the result of your adventuring will get you, so it makes the reward (and subsequently your choices) more about luck than about strategy.  You can mitigate the luck aspect if you have one deck of high risk/high reward cards and one of low risk/low reward cards.  If the rewards were face-up then players could race for the ideal rewards or form a strategy around acquiring the rewards.  This is all another balancing act between where you want the luck and the strategy of your game to  be.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Survivor Game Design

I started watching Survivor years ago because my mom was a big fan and I wanted a show we could share and talk about.  The more I watched it, the more I realized how much game design there is in the show (which is probably why it's my favorite reality TV show followed by The Amazing Race).  Not only are there 1 or 2 weekly challenge games that all have to be designed, built, and (hopefully) tested prior to the competitors playing it, but there is also the larger game as a whole that had to be designed and is constantly evolving as the show continues to air.  Most competition shows like this will keep the exact same game season to season and will just alter the difficulty of the challenges or find a new group of people to fill the show with drama (the one thing I don't like about all of these shows).  However, Survivor and The Amazing Race will alter or add rules at least every few seasons to keep the game interesting - the Hidden Immunity idol, Exile Island, Redemption Island, having three teams compete, boys vs. girls, young vs. old, etc.

All of these changes are interesting, but none of them fix the broken aspect of the first half of the game of Survivor.  When the game starts, two (or now three) tribes compete against each other in challenges after which the loser has to vote off one of their members, thus making the winners of the challenge even more of a threat for the next competition.  In subsequent challenges, since the losing team will have less players, either their members will have to participate multiple times in one challenge or the winning side will get to sit someone out giving them a chance to rest up for future challenges, or both.  In game design, this is called a positive feedback loop (I know that sounds weird for something bad to be called positive).  The player who does well has an easier time doing well in the game.  This is why the vast majority of the seasons, one team will continuously lose multiple challenges in a row.  Sometimes if both sides have a bad apple that poisons the bunch and the losing side votes theirs out or if one of the losing side competitors is exceptionally good at one of the challenges then the losing side can make a comeback.  This doesn't fix the feedback loop, but it at least makes it less of an issue that season.

For me, it's very depressing and boring to watch one side consistently lose at something (unless it's a feel-good Disney sports movie like Mighty Ducks where you know they're going to get better).  So I would love it if the game designers behind Survivor could come up with some way to break this positive feedback loop with a negative feedback loop.  For example, have the losing team pick which member of the winning team sits out in a challenge so that most likely their strongest team member would not be a factor.  Or alternate individual and team challenges somehow similar to what Master Chef does.  Simply fixing this feedback loop would have major repercussions on the game and would make it much more competitive and dramatic without having to trust the film editors to make a one sided game dramatic.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Suspension of Disbelief

The crux of any story in any non-modern, real world setting, is suspension of disbelief.  If there is anything at all that isn't exactly how it is in real life, then at some point the viewer/reader/gamer needs to accept that that is the way that works in your world and things will continue to operate within the bounds set unless given some explanation to cause an exception.  If these bounds are ever broken with no explanation, then the viewer/reader/gamer's suspension of disbelief will be broken, the illusion will be shattered, and your content will be seen as the ridiculous nonsense that it is (or maybe I'm just really harsh about my SoD being broken...).

One example of where my SoD has been broken recently is the new J.J. Abrams show, The Revolution.  The premise is that for some reason unknown to everyone, all power has gone out in the world and no one can generate more.  That's pretty fantastical and unrealistic, so it gives the show fairly large bounds within which they can set up the world 15 years later.  I'm fine with not knowing why there's no power, I accept that as a fact, so it would make sense that the ability to manufacture much of what we have today would be difficult or impossible.  My suspension of disbelief is broken when some of the militia has working civil war-era musket ball style guns.  They would have had to manufacture those guns somehow, which begs the question what happened to all the other guns in the world?  Did they stop working?  Are modern bullets really THAT hard to make without electricity?  You still have fire, metal, and I just not know how bullets are made?  Even if you accept that, I guarantee there will be some technological dissonance for every person.  Some technology that can still function or be adapted with modern knowledge.  It's not like humanity got stupider, just we have no access to electricity.  So in 15 years no one was able to adapt any of our current technology to a powerless world?

Another example is the movie Inception.  In the very beginning of the movie, Leonardo Decaprio explains the rules of the dream world to Ellen Page.  He has set in stone the bounds of the world, so I know what to expect.  Problem is that those rules are very quickly broken and tossed out.  So the world does not work at all how I was told it would, so my SoD is broken.  If they had said that they think the dream world works a certain way and it didn't, then I could have accepted that no one had dove that many layers down (which they established) so the rules changed from what was known.  However, they were very adamant that the world did work that way, so what am I supposed to think when it doesn't work the way it should?

One last example is the anime Samurai 7.  I touched on this in my review, but let me go into more detail.  Throughout the show, it was shown that the seven main Samurai could perform fairly ridiculous feats defying normal laws of physics (swords that could cut through buildings, being able to jump giant robots in a single bound, being able to catch arrows, slice bullets/missiles in half, etc.).  They were very consistent with these rules, so I gladly accepted them as how this world worked.   However, in the final two episodes, they were suddenly able to perform feats that made me wonder how the leader samurai had never won a war (as he claimed).  The engineer samurai converted one of the robot samurai's limbs into a flying ship (sure whatever, ridiculous, but I'll accept it).  The capital ship they are attacking shoots a giant laser beam at them through their own arm.  The enemy robots all blow up in this beam, but somehow this robot limb the samurai are flying can ride on top of the laser beam like a surfboard.  Ummm....what?  It's as if they project an aura of samurai-ness to whatever they touch.  Too ridiculous for me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Journey

I just finished reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (still going through classics thanks to the fact that they are all free on the Kindle) and it started me thinking about the journey characters take during epic quests.  I googled for tropes to see if I've once again inadvertently stumbled across one and the closest I can seem to find is The Hero's Journey - warning TVTropes link.  Whereas that trope is all about the events of the journey that the character goes through, my thought was more about the location.  In many stories - Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Kingdom Hearts to name a few - the characters start in an ideal world.  Actually, Wizard of Oz is slightly different because she starts in Kansas, which is described as incredibly grey and flat, so hardly ideal, but I'm thinking more about the Munchkin's land she really starts her journey on.

So they start in this super nice area they'd be crazy to leave, but they must for some reason (they're determined to get back to the land of the grey and flat, a tall man with a pointy beard and even pointier hat told them to, they fall into a black hole and end up in a different place, etc.).  The next step is always safe with the illusion of danger (like a Disneyland ride) - a forest with the feeling of danger, but either no real danger or some guardian to keep the character safe, a strange town full of strangers, but no one really threatening and usually there's a guide to help the character out.  As the journey continues, the locations get darker, scarier, and more dangerous directly proportional to the character's growth level.  The journey ends somewhere either completely gothic, demonic, or void.  Basically, there will be lots of spike and/or fire or there will be lots of nothing.

My favorite part is that once the quest is completed, the characters usually just appear back at the beginning.  Story-wise it makes sense, the climax has happened, another climax is not what a reader really wants, but if the characters were struggling to reach their destination (running low on food, sneaking past armies, etc.) then that should still be an issue on the way back, right?  And if they do get magically apparated or taken home by giant eagles, then why didn't those take them to their destination in the first place?  Definitely food for thought when coming up with the ending of the journey.

This transition from idyllic settings to terror can be something really interesting to play with when designing games, especially if you make the transition slow and subtle so the player doesn't even realize it's happening. I'd especially love to see this concept played with in a board game.  Somehow the board itself changes as the game continues on and gets darker and more twisted (mostly just the art, not so much the components).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Of Joe

One of my favorite sources of random interesting things is bookofjoe.  I'm quite amazed with how many posts he can generate each day with such regularity and with such quality.  Granted, a lot of the content is rehashing from whatever he is linking to, but the diversity of what he finds is quite amazing.  There are posts about random products he tries (usually with pictures of Gray Cat), silly Japanese inventions, awesome nerdy things, more awesome nerdy things, silly fun things, or terrifying fashion ideas.

Not only does he give me fodder to try to amuse my friends with on Facebook, but many times he gives me even more stuff I'm extremely tempted to spend my money on (I'm not sure why that would be a good thing come to think of it...).  Although it's not as easy to lose yourself on this site endlessly like TVTropes or anything, it still can be a dangerous time sink.  In the frequent words of joe himself, "Fair warning: There goes the rest of your day."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Indie Games

My friend sent me a link to a website listing every independently made game from the year 2012.  Looking through the list I was just trying to recognize some names when I saw Legend of Grimrock followed by Fez. My first comment to my friend upon seeing that was, "I didn't know Legend of Grimrock was an indie game" to which he replied, "Who funded it?"  What made me stop and think is that the funding source isn't what makes a game an indie game to me even though the definition of an indie game is a game made by a developer independent of any other company.

I started musing over what it is that makes a game an indie game in my mind.  I think to me, an indie game developer is like a hipster of the gaming community.  They use retro graphics and music not for any actually valid or game mechanic reason, but because it's cool and retro.  They make games where the message and/or being artsy is so much more important than actually making something fun - which is the difference to me between an interactive experience and a game.

Clearly, this is a ridiculous definition, but I think it's because to me those are the type of developers that embrace the label indie game developer whereas most independent game developers are just game developers.  They focus more on making enjoyable experiences for people or making money doing something they enjoy.  This is what being an indie game developer should be about.  I would love it if one day I never have to hear that term again and can just talk about various game developers.  Thanks to things like Kickstarter and Gambitious changing the way games are funded, this may be possible someday.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Health and Damage Balancing

I've been playing through Baldur's Gate lately and while most of the game holds up fairly well over time, one thing that has been really difficult to put up with is how normal combat plays out, which makes sense since the game is D&D.  You start at level 1 with incredibly low health (usually less than 10).  This means in order for you to not need to fully heal after every battle, early enemies need to miss a lot and when they hit, it should be for 1-3 points of damage.  When actually playing, though, it definitely does not feel epic or heroic in any way for your group of 6 adventurers to surround a kobold, with everyone swinging their weapons wildly and missing constantly.  It doesn't make any sense logically either.  If six people surrounded someone else and started swinging clubs and staves at the general direction of the 1, I guarantee at least one person would hit successfully even if they weren't aiming.  Adventurers should do even better I'd imagine.

To me, a miss should be just a rare an occurrence (if not rarer) than a critical hit.  The way to adapt the previous system with this concept is to just increase everyone's health and the damage dealt.  The easiest way to calculate this is to figure out how many battles (and how many enemies in each battle) you expect your player to get through before needing to go to an inn to recover.  Then figure that on average each enemy successfully hits for their average amount of damage and the player successfully hits for their average amount of damage.  Start multiplying and adding numbers left and right to see how much damage a player can take and base their health on that value.

You can also choose to go the Disgaea route and take this even further to make people feel epic.  Players start off with health in the thousands and deal damage in the hundreds from the get go.  This doesn't really work (or matter) if you show progress bars for health.  In that case, the key is just to play with the numbers so a good portion of the progress bar is taken away when the player hits and a small portion is taken away when the enemy hits.

The goal of balancing the numbers is to make the player feel like they are succeeding from the get go, while at the same time giving them a baseline for when an enemy is stronger than previous ones (they do more damage or take less damage).  Just promise me you'll never go the Final Fantasy route of giving bosses 4+ health bars that change colors as they go down.  That's just annoying.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Leveling Systems

When a game is said to have RPG elements, 9 times out of 10 that means the game has some form of a leveling system.  Using your weapon enough gives you rewards for using that weapon, killing a certain number of guys unlocks new abilities or skills, or your health increases the more punishment you take.  Leveling systems come in a wide variety of forms and are ultimately a reward system to help feed that "just one more" feeling that most games have.  You know something exciting should happen when that progress bar fills up fully.

Some games level you up at key points based on moving the story forward.  This is great for the game designer because they know exactly how much power a player has at any given point in the game, which makes balancing easier.  However, this is no fun for the player because it's incredibly predictable and does not reward the player for any skill they have or exploring they do, thus making the levels feel like part of the story rather than something the player earned.

Some games level up individual skills the more they are used.  Depending on how opportunities to use the skill are given determines how hard it is to balance systems.  If those opportunities are limited, then the game designer can calculate a player's minimum and maximum strength, but if opportunities are randomly generated and reoccur indefinitely, then a player can grind at one point and reach the highest levels early on in the game story-wise.  This system is good for the player since it makes changing play styles possible (with some grinding) and makes it very clear what a player needs to do to be rewarded.  However, players don't like to grind, so if it feels like they need to, which it usually does with this system, they will look for exploits to level up a skill super quickly.

Some games level up all the player's stats at once by rewarding a player for various things during the game (exploring sections of the map, unlocking a chest, killing enemies, etc.).  This can make balancing a game very difficult since you have to account for min-maxing players who do everything to get as much experience as possible and for casual players who just go through the story.  However, as long as it's consistent and clear what the rewards are for, this can be the most enjoyable for players.  Players don't have to worry about playing a certain way to level up the skills they want, but get rewarded for the choices they make and actions they take.

One thing all these systems have in common is they all have progress bars that fill up.  In my experience, all games except tactics games, the amount needed to level up goes up exponentially as the levels go up.  Tactics games generally give a player a level every time they get 100 experience points (XP).  The amount of XP you get for attacks/kills is based on the level of who you are attacking.  Personally, I have never understood the exponential system because gaining levels becomes increasingly rare making your character's growth more and more stagnant.  Instead with the tactics XP system, your character is constantly growing, you never get stagnant, and you can be rewarded for challenging yourself and completing tasks that are supposedly too hard for your current level.  You also never have to guess when the next level is occurring.

I'm a big sucker for leveling systems and the more there are in the game, the more addicted I will get, but done poorly they can turn something fun and rewarding into a chore that needs to be done, thus turning a game into work.  There should always be a balance between plentiful small rewards for a player and infrequent large rewards that players can work towards.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kickstarter Is Dangerous

Growing up I always saw commercials about getting out of credit card debt and TV show episodes where people got in trouble due to credit cards, so I always was smart with them and didn't understand how people could get into trouble with them.  Then I started backing Kickstarter projects and I started to see how it's possible.  No money is actually taken out until the end of the deadline and that's only if the project is fully funded.  Although, unlike credit cards, your reward is very much not immediate.  With the projects I back, it seems to take 3-6 months before I'll see any results from my money if they ever actually pan out (the first project I backed isn't going to have any product to ship until March of next year).  Once you're set up, it's also really easy to back any project because you just click a button and you're done.  Dangerous.

But in case anyone is interested, here is what I have backed so far:
  • Brawl In The Family: Volume One - A physical book version of the first 200+ comics from the webcomic series, Brawl In The Family.  I just love the webcomic and what this guy to succeed in everything he does.  5x their goal achieved and funding is closed.
  • Reaper Miniatures Bones - A new line of miniatures from Reaper Miniatures.  I love miniatures and games that come with them, but don't actually have any myself outside of the games they come with, so this was a cheap way of getting lots of miniatures (I think it ended up being like $1 per miniature or something) of all sorts of types.  This should be great for prototyping in the future or a D&D game or something.  114x their goal achieved and funding is closed.
  • Project Eternity - Isometric RPG in the vein of the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dales series.  I have always had a love of Black Isle Studios and Obsidian Entertainment is where most of those guys now work, so I support them in all they do.  Plus, my brother was a part of making Planescape: Torment and this is its spiritual successor, so I really want it to succeed (and I also want to get my brother involved somehow...).  Over 2x their goal achieved and rising.
  • Lost Valley - A board game about the Klondike rush in the North.  A lot of the mechanics in this game sound similar to another game I'm designing, so I'm curious to see how the game works.  Plus, it looks like a pretty fun game.  1.5x their goal achieved and rising.
  • The Perfect Heist - A card game about being the best thief out of your band of thieves.  I have always had a weakness for thief protagonists - Oceans Eleven, Thief (the PC game), etc.  This game looks like it really captures that feeling wonderfully and the gameplay mechanics sound similar to Munchkin, so it should be loads of fun!  Over 3x their goal achieved and rising.
  • Mr. Card Game - A deck building adventure card game based on the Kingdom of Loathing.  The game itself sounds fun (from the few details we've really gotten), but I was a big fan of Kingdom of Loathing years ago, so I'm a fan of something that comes from that universe.  Who doesn't want to be a Disco Bandit or a Pastamancer?  Over 6x their goal achieved and rising.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Suspicion Print To Play Update

It's been a month since PAX where I decided to make a print and play version of my game, Suspicion.  I haven't been idle in that time, but I haven't had as much free time as I have wanted.  I've gotten a very preliminary print and play version of my game and sent to a friend to give a once over and I've already gotten more work I need to do on that (add some pictures to the rule book for clarity and tweak the print pages so they are easy to print in either double-sided or normal printers) and then I will pots it here for the world to try.  In the meantime, I give you Murray because he's awesome: