Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Hex Tiles

Zounds!  It works!  A hex overlay that will sit on top of other art.  Nice.  Now, if I were just a good enough artist to draw a top view of a cemetery arena...

Hex grid in illustrator

A neat step-by-step tutorial for making a hex grid pattern in Illustrator.  I'm working on better art for my Zombie Ball game (and maybe a better title, too), so I need this kind of thing.  I'm going to give it a try, and I'll post the results.

I picked up Illustrator last year both for games and because I often have students who need to use it or something similar, and I figured it would be useful to learn it.  I find it much more difficult than Photoshop, which I picked up mostly right away.  The menus and controls seem much more cryptic (although Photoshop sure has some weird stuff).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wrong takeaway

From Kickstarter Funding by Days of the Week,
Richard Bliss, Purple Pawn, 10/28/2011
Richard Bliss over at the Purple Pawn posted some graphs of Kickstarter game project funding campaign success.  He implies, I think, that starting your campaign on Sunday might make it more likely to be successful. I think that's a misreading of the data. I think the graph actually reflects merely the frequency of campaign starts per day, not the probability of success per day.  If I'm right, that means most people begin campaigns on Sunday, which makes sense; you work all week and then use the weekend to put your finishing touches on the project, then post it on Sunday. To make the point the article suggests, what you'd actually need is a percent of campaigns that were successful plotted by the day they started.  My guess is that this would be nearly flat.

I think the day-of-week thing is probably nearly irrelevant to project success, since most of the campaigns run several weeks to two months.  If anything, you might actually want to AVOID a Sunday start so as not to be hidden by the deluge of new projects coming out on the weekend.  Wednesday is your friend. Unless of course people only browse projects over the weekend too...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Design Contests

The contest I entered Warped! in is over, with results here.

Short analysis - I didn't place in the top five, which is all the results they gave.  I was sad, because the game is a lot of fun, is complex, and seems well-balanced, and some of the other entries that placed don't seem like they would be.

Long analysis - I found myself wondering, as I often do upon hearing contest results, why my game didn't do better. I've entered a number of game design competitions, and of these, Hippodice and the Rio Grande competition last fall were the only ones I've gotten feedback from.  Occasionally I get some feedback from the monthly BGDF design showdowns (though not from people who've actually played the game, since the entry is just an 800-word description/rules document with a couple small pictures).

The feedback from Hippodice was very brief, although I was very grateful that they took the time to send it (I'll need to post that here sometime to show what they do).  The feedback from the Rio Grande competition made it clear that the judges had left out a key component (trading) to the game they were playing (Yoggity), a component that changes the game from mostly luck-based to very strategic.

So, what did I learn from this competition?  Hard to say, with no feedback other than not making it.  If I've followed the progress of judging correctly, the final five were the only ones actually created and played by the judges.  The rest (including mine) I assume were judged based on rules, artwork, and presentation.  The standards and system they used for judging the final version wasn't in the original announcement of the contest, so there'd have been no way to tweak the game toward the judging.

I guess what I'm getting at is some advice to myself: don't enter the contests to get feedback about your games.  The only feedback you're likely to get is very simple - you won, or you lost, or maybe, if you're lucky, some placement information.  Who wins and loses depends on how good your game is, certainly, but it also depends on what standards they're using (which you don't always know), how the judges interpret those standards (which you can't know), and a host of other idiosyncratic factors, like whether the judges' taste matches your theme or your art or your complexity level, whether they've just played a bunch of games like yours - all stuff you can't know and can't control.

So, if you're not entering to get feedback (a lesson I need to learn), then why enter?  The only valid reasons I can see are:
  1. A reason to design a game, and a deadline to design it by
  2. The thrill of the competition
  3. A chance to gain free exposure for your game (very unlikely unless you win a prestigious contest)
  4. A prize (seldom offered, but cool when it is)
#1 - a reason to design - is a good benefit for me - I like working on games, and having the restrictions and deadlines for competitions helps me focus.  

I get a lot of #2, the excitement, also, although when the judging is seemingly more random (or maybe just more hidden) that tends to dampen the thrill.  In many of these contests, too, it's very difficult to know what your competitor's games are like, which makes it difficult to evaluate the results - you don't know whether to feel righteously thrashed by superior design or bitter and unappreciated.  That's one of the great things about the BGDF showdowns - you get to see everybody's whole entry, and they're short enough that you can read and understand them all.

#3 (exposure) and #4 (a prize) I haven't won enough to see.  The BGDF showdowns, of which I've won a few, offer no prize and nearly no exposure.  The bigger ones would certainly do more, sometimes even the holy grail of publication, but I've only entered a few of those.

So, I think I have to content myself with practice designing and the excitement of competition, and let the rest of it go.  Obviously, as I've seen, even in a competition, people aren't going to have a chance to get to know your game well, and may not even play it, so it's not really much of a measure of how "good" it is.  But good rules and good graphical presentation are key, because that's something that even the most rushed judges are going to take a look at.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kickstarter > $1 million

Really interesting article over at the Purple Pawn about success people have had using to fund boardgame startups.  I've covered this here before and interviewed a few successful designers (see other posts with the Kickstarter label), but the total amount of money raised is pretty staggering.  This is becoming a really good way for some people to fund the production of some games.  The question is, are my games (and whoever I'd recruit to Kickstarter) good enough to get some funding there?

Warped in published form...

Got my copy of Warped from, and it looks great, my crummy laptop camera notwithstanding.  Still waiting on the results of their Vehicle Game Design Contest - they've announced results for the artwork and creativity categories there, neither of which I expected my game to win, but we're still waiting on the final winner.

The game plays well; I've played five games now, tweaking various rules, and it's a lot of fun.  It bogs down a teeny bit with four (you have to wait more for your turn), and there's a lot of stuff to remember as you plot out your moves, but I don't think it's too complex. Definitely a game in the more advanced European style.

Zombie Ball takes 2nd

My entry for the October GDS at took second.  The entries are here - mine's #5.  I'm happy about that - the first place game was very creative, and I voted for it.

I've played my game a few times now, and it's super fun.  I'll post revised rules and some other stuff on here soon.  I'm trying to make better art for my gameboards, but I need to work up my Illustrator skills some.  And develop some sense of visual art.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bones and more bones

Ten  entries in the BGDF challenge this month.  The theme and restriction has made several of them seemingly similar within a couple broad categories - including "sort out body parts" and "undead things beat each other up."  It'll be interesting to see how it's judged - the outcomes in this competition always seem a little bit random to me, although the winner is usually a good game.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

BGDF contest for October

Got my entry in, after sitting one out.  This one's requirements are the dead and a Mancala-style choosing mechanism.  We'll see how I do; I haven't made a game like this entry before.  I'm hoping to get to playtest it some more with some friends this week.  I'll report how it goes, and how it does in the contest.

Still trying to figure out what I'll send off to Hippodice this year.  I might try this game, and I might try Warped, my entry in TGC's vehicle contest.  Or, I might resubmit Yoggity with some rules changes I came up with over the summer.  Hmm...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

TGC Vehicle design contest submissions

Vehicle Types
They got 28 submissions over at for their vehicle design contest.  I looked through all of them quickly just to see where I stood.  The most common vehicles used are cars, making up nearly half.  The most common game themes involve racing (not unlikely, given the many cars-based games), trading, and war, with some simulations built in.  It was somewhat difficult to distinguish some of these categories for some games.

Game Types
Most interesting for me was that of the space games, which were 1/4 of the total, most were space trading games of one sort or another, where you are visiting places and gathering goods.  That makes my submission, Warped, seem not nearly so unique, and may make that whole genre tiresome to the judges as they wade through many sets of similar rules.

By my (admittedly idiosyncratic) standards, I'd say roughly half of the entries I categorized as flawed in some significant way and not a threat to win.  This was not usually based on looking at the rules, although I did read through some of them.  The problems included very crude art, very crude or simplistic design, poorly-written or incomplete descriptions, or other reasons.

My easy dismissal of these might be wrong - there could be a gem of gameplay in there, hidden behind bad art, in the same way that visually beautiful games can often suck in terms of gameplay.  About 1/4 of the games had good to great art.  My art isn't the greatest, but it's OK, and the game behind it is fun.  I'm not certain the rules will make it clear how fun it is, and there are some complexities that I'm not sure I got across.  The fact that I'm competing with six other space-trading games is troubling, too.

Well, we'll see how it goes.  As usual, I'm sure I'm over-thinking this.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Boxes and real game boards, printed on demand.

Wow.  SuperiorPOD is now doing full gameboards and printed set-up boxes, they announced on BGDF.  There's a bit of an arms race going on between SuperiorPOD and TheGameCrafter at the moment, but this is a big step forward for SuperiorPOD.  TGC has promised chipboard boards for a while (although I don't know if they're going to be wrapped like SuperiorPOD), but not a fully printed box (TGC currently has a nice black box with the option for a printed sticker on top).
Pictures from here:

This looks like the real deal.  About $4-5 per box, $4-5 per board if they're part of a whole game printed there.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

New space game nearly ready for release

My entry in TheGameCrafter's vehicle design contest is in, and just under the wire.  I haven't gotten a copy yet (although it's ordered), so I haven't published it in the shop, but here's what the page will look like when I do.  I like the game - I've played it a number of times now with friends (thanks, Derek and Bob!), refining it each time, and it's pretty darn fun.  It centers on trading goods between worlds, but it quickly evolves into a race to complete missions and build technologies.

Plus, there's pirates.  What's not to like?