Thursday, October 4, 2018

Spider-Man for PS4

Here's my nickel review of Spider-Man for PS4. My Spider-Man is seen here overlooking Washington Square Park, near where my son Nick goes to school.
I generally don't like superhero stories much, unless they're played for laughs and acknowledge how ridiculous the situations are (c.f. Deadpool, Guardians, Avengers I, Thor: Ragnarok). I haven't found their stories compelling, their settings or cultures realistic, or their heroes human and interesting, and I have come to hate that they nearly all end with one side with arbitrary superpowers battling another side with arbitrary superpowers, leading to an arbitrary-squared resolution that I really don't care much about.
I love video games, but I don't see them usually as a great way to tell stories. There are some exceptions (e.g. Mass Effect I, Gone Home), but most of the stories, even the engaging ones, are pretty bland.
So, my expectations for a superhero videogame were pretty low, so much so that I wasn't even going to buy it. But the reviews were good, and I'm on sabbatical, so it seemed like I had time to try it. In a word, wow.
The gameplay is enjoyable. It's really fun swinging around, and the fighting and the powers and gadgets are fun, if a little repetitive. I'm not terribly familiar with the Spiderverse, although I know the main players well enough to recognize most of them in broad strokes (e.g. I'd never heard of most of the supervillains). New York City is presented at a condensed but real-seeming scale, and with many places I've been to represented with great geometric precision.
What elevates the game way above this is the story and the voice acting. It's far beyond the cardboardy quest-chain stuff of most games. Peter is human, funny, sincere, and a good soul. His human counterparts are deeply constructed and well-portrayed. You get to play as some of them, as a brave but normal person, for many parts of the game, which is great as a change of perspective and character. The plot is tainted by the usual super-silliness, but the non-silly parts are really, really well done, and even the silly parts are good.
Definitely worth a look. Even if you think superheroes are dumb and played out, which I totally still do. I really liked this one.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Doctor Esker's Notebook is on the way to being real

I just took a huge step on what's been a slow, twisty, often stalled journey toward publishing a game. I sent art for my puzzle card game, Doctor Esker's Notebook, to a printer.

I'll talk more as I get up and running with sales about the finances that went into this and the process of starting up this venture, but for now, it's just exciting.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Esker card game quotes and pricing

Getting some quotes back from manufacturers. A big variety in price points and discounts. The game is at a minimum 72 cards in a tuckbox, although I have considered extras like a two-piece box and an instructions sheet. I already have an instructions card, but it might be cool to have that be more obvious.

Here's what I have so far for quotes.  Tuck = tuckbox, 2P = two-piece box, I = small instructions sheet.
Some notes:
  • Ace (aka PlayingCardsIndia) is coming in at the most economical. They only bid for one print run, so they may have even steeper discounts at higher orders - I just extended their line so that I could see them relative to others. 
  • A two-piece box is way more (+$1-2) for some companies and not much more (+$0.50) for others. 
  • At a potential retail price point of $12 or $13, assuming I use my own art and don't get it redone, I'd probably be able to cover other costs (advertising, equipment, my time) at the Ace bid, but not necessarily too far above that. I don't want to order too many to start, because it's an unproven product in an industry that I know well as a customer but in which I have very limited experience as a seller. 
  • I've checked into selling at Amazon, and for something like this, they'd take about a $3.40 commission per order for just providing a purchase link and collecting orders for me to fulfill, and $7.00 if I have them do the whole fulfillment thing (they warehouse and ship the game, including via Amazon Prime). I'd like a presence on Amazon, but I don't know which option to go with. If I'm paying $5 per game to print, there's almost no margin for the Amazon fulfillment, but if I'm at $2 per game, then I could still make a few bucks that way. If I do the packing and shipping, then the margin is considerably larger, but I lose the Amazon Prime advantage and have to do the work myself, which may include equipment and will include my time (though not likely too much).

Sunday, August 12, 2018

New Puzzle Game - Dr. Esker's Notebook



I've been working on a new puzzle card game over the summer. It's modeled after an escape room experience, but based in a deck of cards. The cards have a series of puzzles to solve, each with differing mechanics. It's been a fun time, and I've tested it with a lot of folks, including family and friends. I also sent some copies to volunteers my college class, which I figured would have some puzzle enthusiasts.

Anyway, it's been a fun project. So fun that I've made up another two puzzle decks. The thing is called Doctor Esker's Notebook, and the conceit is that a mysterious professor has left behind a puzzle-filled notebook. The game cards are scans of pages from this notebook (which I actually made in real life with, like, glue and stuff).

Website is here: http://planktongames.com/esker

I'm wondering if this is something I could print and sell - got bitten by that bug again. Might go through with it this time.

Ludum Dare #41: Mortal Keybat

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I didn't post about this back when I wrote it, but I did an entry for Ludum Dare #41. The theme was "Combine Two Incompatible Genres," so I did a Karate Champ style fighting game with a typing tutor. I did pretty well in some categories of the judging, and it was a fun time.

The game page is here, with a link to the playable game.
https://ldjam.com/events/ludum-dare/41/mortal-keybat