Showing posts with label Design. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Design. Show all posts

Monday, April 29, 2019

Excessive game box size

I've been really enjoying Splendor, which I was given for Christmas. I've played a couple times in the past week after playing it for the first time a few years back.

I've been thinking about box size. I've commissioned some cool art for my card game Horde, and I'd like to get that printed up for distribution. It uses cards plus some scoring tokens, so I need a box big enough for about 90 cards plus 11 tokens and a set of rules. I've been using TheGameCrafter's token chips, which are a satisfying size and weight. All of that could probably fit handily in a small box.
Interestingly enough, that's also about the same component set as Splendor, although it has more like 40 chips instead of 11. Still, it shouldn't need a big box. But they gave it one! Here is a comparative look at the game:

The top picture shows how it's packaged. It looks nice. Below that is the space all the components actually take up.

Clearly, it doesn't need this big a box. It's bad for the environment and bad for storage. It's 80% empty space, and it needs a huge blow-mold plastic frame to hold it all. I wonder, though, if people are willing to pay more for it (and think more of it) if it looks like a bigger game than it is. At $25 retail, or $40 MSRP, I bet a big chunk of that price is actually the empty space in the box. I wonder if I can pitch a smaller box for Horde and convince people that it's as much of a value small as it would be with wasteful packaging. Sometimes when we shop we're just dumb sacks of meat, and I think this might be one of those times.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Video preview of Wrath

I made a video for my new boardgame design, Wrath. This is a game I've been working on for about a year. I'm entering it in a design contest which requires a video, so here's the video. The game is set on an island being destroyed by three angry gods. Players compete to survive the curses and save their villages by sucking up to the only remaining friendly god. The game involves buildings, worker placement, economic management, and being capriciously screwed by angry deities. I still have some changes and additions I want to make, but this describes the idea pretty well.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Yoggity

Working on Dr. Esker's Notebook has given me some energy to go back and get some of my earlier projects going again. I spent a good chunk of the weekend working on Yoggity. The earlier version was for playtesting and contests only, so I updated it to have a nicer folding gameboard and a printed box at TheGameCrafter.com. It was hard to keep the cost down, because the nicer board was $8 and the box was $10 all by themselves. To compensate, I changed some of the plastic parts to cheaper cardboard laser-cut chits. I got it in at just a little over $38, which is probably too much for this, but I can't do better at TGC. I've ordered a copy of the update, so I'll see how it looks when I get it. Still really liking the art that was done for me by Jason Greeno of Greeno Design.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Cubist podcast appearance

I had the great pleasure to be on The Cubist podcast with host Bill Corey, talking about puzzle game design and lots of other topics. Give it a listen!


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.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My first new boardgame design in a while is in production at TheGameCrafter.com. Very cool feeling!  It's a worker placement game set at the end of the world. Tentatitve title: Wrath.

We'll see how fun it is (and how completely unbalanced, like nearly all prototypes) in about a week's time.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Scoring Tracks

Here's an interesting post by a fellow game designer (and one-time fellow improv comedian) Nick Bentley on scoring tracks in games.  I think he makes some great points about the pros and cons of scoring tracks.  As a designer, I've used them a lot in my more complex games. I think they can be useful and fun, especially if scoring is constant and in small intervals, or episodic (e.g. scoring rounds) and needs to be shown to let players know where they stand.

I have to say, though, when I open a game that has a scoring track, it always gives me a little twinge of dismay.  This comes from several places.  One is, a game with a scoring track is often a game that gets bumped into the "too complicated" category, where I'll have trouble convincing people (at least the people around me) to play it.  There are exceptions, of course, one of which is Ticket To Ride, which my non-gamer friends and family enjoy (as do I).

Another source of dismay is that the track always takes up a lot of the gameboard, often with fiddly little stuff that doesn't deserve that much table space and is easily knocked out of place.

A final source of dismay is that it's much cooler to have the game objectives be more obvious, more visceral, than mere points scored.  Think of a Risk board covered with your little armies, or a mass of cards on display in Seven Wonders - cool, obvious indications of success.  Of course, Seven Wonders uses points at the end - the only small clumsiness in a very elegant game, but a necessary one.  In Diggity, I have cards (gold nuggets) that represent their score, so there's no need to mark it separately, and in Horde, I have a limited number of scoring tokens that people collect as the game progresses, both of which methods I like better than a scoring track.


That said, I played Tikal with my son and my dad last week, and had a great time (even as I lost in pathetic fashion).  It's a complicated game, and it has scoring rounds, so the good parts of the scoring track are there - you can see who's ahead, and by how much.  There are only two ways to score, though, so I think it avoids Nick's critique of the track, which is really more of a warning to designers than anything players should worry about.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Great post on publishing process

I found this post by James Mathe from someone in the boardgame design community on Google+.  It's a really great summary of steps to publication (and a cautionary tale for prospective publishing enthusiasts).  It includes a lot of costs and steps you probably haven't thought of before.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bad game design

From The Whitest Kids U'Know.  I think a few of my early designs might have shared this flaw.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

BGDF Contest for August - Grow Up!

I'm waiting for the results of this month's BGDF Game Design Showdown, with the theme of Grow Up!  I haven't entered much in recent months; the restrictions and themes haven't really fit my interests for a while, and I've been working on my novel and other projects.  But this month, the restriction was to include a theme of growth over time and to include game pieces which grew in function as the game progressed, which was interesting to me.

These restrictions were actually pretty tough for me, and although I think I met the requirements in a technical sense, I didn't do so in a particularly inspired way. Reading through the entries, I see that other folks had some trouble with this too.  I'll be curious to see how it comes out.

I made a prototype of my game and tried it out with friends and family; seems to work pretty well, and I was able to tweak and balance it some after testing.  I was inspired enough by this to go ask on DeviantArt for somebody to make some art up for the game.  After re-theming the game towards space/sci fi, I offered up $100 for images for the various buildings and cards I need.  I've got some leads; I hope they pan out.  I hope to work it up on TheGameCrafter.com in not too long, and if more testing is promising, maybe I'll enter it in Hippodice this fall.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Good post on principles of game design

Here's a post from IrregularWebComic.net with some great principles of game design.  The beginning of the article goes into a historically-sourced explanation/defense of modern games, which is interesting, but not the most salient point for me.

What did ring true was later on, when the author (I couldn't find a name) laid out seven principles of good game design, which I quote here:

  1. Don't knock players out. 
  2. Don't make it easy for the leader to increase their lead. 
  3. Make catching up to the leader relatively easy. 
  4. Avoid kingmaking. 
  5. Give players important decisions to make. 
  6. Give players difficult decisions to make. 
  7. Give players something to think about constantly.
A game that does all of these things at once would be a good game indeed.  The article points out at some length, correctly, that while decisions should be important and difficult, this does not mean they should be complex, and they should especially not be iterative, such that there's a branching tree of possibilities that you need to track down.  The author suggests that randomness is a good solution for this; I think that's generally true, but you need still to obey rule #5.  If there's too much randomness, then the decisions become unimportant, and luck reigns.

Anyway, good things to keep in mind.  Maybe we designers should make a motivational poster with something like this on it to hang over our workbenches.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Diggity video review

The folks over at The Gamer's Table have been doing video reviews of games for some time, and this year they invited submissions of independent game designs for review in their "Indy" series.  The Game Crafter offered to pay for the shipping if any of their authors/designers wanted to pay for a game to send, so I took them up on it. The result is here:


The review of Diggity starts at 4:50, and the final wrap-up (where they rate it) is at 13:35.  An interesting experience; they seemed to like the game and "get" it, particularly the two guys on the sides (Chris and Craig).  The middle guy (Ken) gave it a significantly lower rating than the others, which was interesting - he didn't really say why, and I couldn't pick it up from the rest of the show, but it must not have clicked as well for him.

A lesson for other designers - they really pilloried the other game in the review because of one omission in the rules (play one card per turn).  It's important to have other people read your stuff, and to specify everything, even the stuff that seems obvious.

My thanks to the TGT guys for their review, and to The Game Crafter for facilitating it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Two cool things

Two things coming up in the next 6 hours -
  1. The judging for the 23rd Ludum Dare competition will close. Mine (Teeming) was one of 1402 entries (1,111 in the solo 48-hour competition) with the theme of Tiny World (I went with microorganisms in a petri dish). I've never done this before, so I don't know exactly what to expect, but I did judge 102 other entries over the past 3 weeks, so I've probably seen a representative sample. I hope I make the top 50%, but we'll see. There are some really good ones out there. There were a couple that I saw that were obviously way better than mine, but they were in the Jam segment (72 hours, multiple people designing, relaxed rules on preexisting content)
  2. My entry for the BGDF monthly Game Design Showdown should go live. This month had a couple of cool restrictions - one was that you had to use asking permission (from Mother May I - Mother's Day plus May), and the other was that you had to use springs in some way. We'll see how many entries there are and how I do - I feel pretty good about my entry this month, but that has historically not been any kind of indicator as to how I do (maybe even negatively correlated).
Game on...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Unpub.net

Cartrunk.net is a game design website run by John Moller. I heard of it through coverage of a convention of sorts they run for unpublished game designers called Unpub, which just had its second iteration in January (unfortunately, I only heard of it in February, or I might have tried to go).  The two main Unpub events have been in Dover, Delaware, but they're starting to spawn Mini-Unpubs at various locations around the country; there's a schedule of events (and a slick way to add them to your Google Calendar) on the site.

John has just announced a new site for unpublished games called Unpub.Net, which is a place to list unpublished games.  It seems to be sort of a hybrid between a designer community site and a consolidator for unpublished designs, where you can list your games, and then publishers could come browse designs and see if any are to their liking.

It's a neat idea; I'm not sure that publishers (who I understand get hundreds of submissions and pitches directly already) will go here to search through the site, but it could still a good way to get some exposure, and the community aspect could be really useful - a way to get commentary, reviews, and playtesters, and to hear about the in-person Unpub events, which I think would be a great way to test out a design.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rules writing tips

Some good advice here from a reviewer - somebody who likely reads a good many more rules documents than your typical game designer.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Game Design Notebook - Horde - Step 2: Revision and Prototype

In my last post, I mentioned my newest game project, tentatively called Horde.  The original submission was for a contest entry at BGDF and was constrained by the contest restrictions and the 200-word limit on entries.  Once the contest was over, free from those restrictions, I liked the idea enough to create a prototype and try it out.  The original idea had used small figures of different colors; I shifted that to cards, and created a deck of cards with six "suits" - typical fantasy stuff: fire, water, sun, moon, forest, royal - and five monster types - troll, ooze, golem, dragon, skeleton.  I doubled each of these, for sixty total cards, which would be more than enough for people to pick a couple of them on each of 11 turns (5 monsters + 6 suits = 11) and have enough.
Art for cards

But, as I was making these up and doing some rudimentary art, I thought of some ways to make the game more interesting, by having special additional monsters that allowed for special plays or special scoring.  That added a bunch more cards, and because those cards are generally more powerful than the regular ones, I needed new rules to balance out these cards.  The mechanism I tried initially was this: whenever somebody chooses a special card, everybody else gets another one.  More on that in my next post in this series.

I wanted to make the prototype at least look nice, so I collected some art for it, shown at right.  The art that I used came from four sources:

  1. stuff I made myself - generally crude or bad, although some of them were OK
  2. stuff I already had access to - I commissioned some art for a previous game, Zombie Ball, so I had art for skeletons and vampires already in place.
  3. online clip-art - I didn't want to use clip-art that was licensed or of unclear origin, so I went with royalty-free open-use stuff.  There's a pretty extensive clip art library at clker.com which purports to be all  royalty free.  There's another one at openclipart.org which is even more clearly royalty free.  Clker includes nearly everything at openclipart.org, so you can get more options at clker.
  4. art from expired-copyright books - for this, I used Google Books and searched for books from prior to 1923 - anything in those is in the public domain.
I include examples of each of these below.  The result is not publication-worthy, but it looks good enough.
    I got the background textures for the cards from a variety of sources, but a great one that I use a lot is Mayang's Free Texture Library (http://www.mayang.com/textures/) - this has high-res texture images of all kinds of things.

    Once I had art, it was easy to go ahead and order a prototype from TheGameCrafter.com - and because I was curious, I even went ahead and got one of their medium boxes, which is cool - I'll discuss that later too.  



    I did the ooze using PowerPoint
    and some GIMP effects
    The final prototype
    A knight from a fairy tale book,
    once colorized, became my Elvenking
    Clip art borrowed from clker.com

    Game Design Notebook - Horde - Step 1: Contest entry

    So, I entered a game in the newly-shrunken monthly BGDF design showdown in January.  I got second in the voting. I'll put up a few posts about it here, the first being my entry there.

    The restrictions for the contest were (1) that players had to make permanent rules as they go (inspired by New Year's Resolutions) and (2) that things have to come in pairs.  These aren't that important, but they did lead me to a game design I like a lot.  The new word limit for entries was 200 words.  In case you were wondering, it's very difficult to make a robust game whose rules fit in 200 words; none of the other entries described a full game.  Here's my entry:

    Horde 
    2-6 players
    Object: 
    Build the highest-scoring horde of monsters
    Components: 
    10 Rule cards – 5 colors, 5 monsters (red, yellow, blue, black, white; ogre, dragon, knight, goblin, ooze) 
    50 monster tokens - pairs of monsters (2 each of five colors and five types)
    Scoring board – 10 score spaces (0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10) 
    Setup: 
    Shuffle the rule cards and place them and all other components between players (rules face down).
    Play: 
    Each turn, a player first draws a rule card and places it on the board on any open scoring space. This establishes (resolves?) the scoring for the monster or color shown. Next, the player chooses one, two, or three monsters from the common pool. None of the monsters can match (same color or same monster). The other players then each take the same number of monsters from the pool. These monsters also may not match each other. Players unable to take the full number legally must take fewer.
    Scoring: 
    Game ends after ten turns (all rules played). For each rule card, the player with the most of that color or monster type gets the point value shown for that rule on the board.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Guiding design principles

    This is a good article, with lots of advice I should take to heart but don't always.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Big cards from TGC

    New jumbo card template
    (from TGC site)
    TheGameCrafter.com announces a new big card size (they call them Jumbo cards).  At 3.5" by 5.5", they're about the size of a photograph. My mind jumped to Dixit - the only game that I came up with quickly that uses super-big cards. In Dixit's case, I think it's for two reasons; one, because the cards are the focus for all players simultaneously, so everybody needs to be able to see them, and two, to show off the beautiful artwork by Marie Cardouat.

    Neat-o Dixit art
    (from a review by
    Tiffany Smith
    on BGG)
    I'm always happy to see new options there, but I can't immediately figure out how I'd use this. Still, it could be fun, and now that it's there, I'm sure I can make my way toward it in future designs.  What I'd really like to see is mini-cards, but of course those are much harder to make in a print-on-demand format. The cutting doesn't get any more precise when you shrink the cards, so you have more and more of the card edge needed for a safety buffer.


    Saturday, December 31, 2011

    Game in progress - Wordy

    Wordy in mid-game - bonus points for
    anyone who can tell me the last word...
    I spent a chunk of December working on a JavaScript-based game.  My wife and I had enjoyed playing Zynga's WordTwist very much, but Zynga canceled that game earlier this year.  So, I decided to recreate it, or something like it. This is not a very original concept - Word Whomp is basically the same thing, and there are numerous others - but still a fun way to exercise one's mental muscles, and I learned some cool stuff about JavaScript and browser-based games.

    I'm still working on it, but give it a try if you want.  I haven't done much interface work - e.g., no instructions!  But it works.  We've played a bunch of games of it already.  To play, type any words you can make out of the letters provided, and try to get them all in the time limit.

    I built it using a little PHP and a lot of JavaScript with a bunch of help from the CraftyJS game library, which I'd recommend to anybody.  The dictionary I used was a subset of  Kevin Atkinson's SCOWL project which was super-useful - I didn't want to use the whole Scrabble dictionary with all the really obscure words, but I wanted it to be mostly complete, and SCOWL let me decide what level of obscurity I was comfortable with.  I'm still editing my list as I discover words it doesn't have (or words that it does have that it shouldn't!).

    Anyway, give it a try, and let me know what you think!  The game is here:
    http://planktongames.com/wordy