Friday, May 6, 2022

Temporary Plankton Games site outage - shifting hosting

 Hi, all - 

I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but the Plankton Games site will go down sometime this week for a few days while I switch hosting. My old hosting service (GoDaddy) hit me with a bunch of extra fees and hassle, so I need to dump them and move.

I'm hoping the transition will go smoothly, and I expect the site to be back up by May 13, 2022 at the latest.

New Ludum Dare game: Kharon's Twilight

 Hi, folks - I took part in Ludum Dare 50 a little bit ago, and I was able to complete a whole game in 48 hours. The theme was "Delaying the Inevitable," so I made a game where you're eventually overrun by a bunch of mammoths.

The game plays like a deckbuilding boardgame, although it's single-player. There are a bunch of special "power moves" that you can purchase, and you get to use a few of those (randomly selected) each turn, along with some basic moves.

The game did OK in the competition. It was hampered a little bit by speed issues (it's a browser game and I may have gotten too ambitious as to what the browser and my graphics library could handle).

To see the competition page (with more description of the game) see here: Ludum Dare Site

To play the game, check out

My Plankton Games site may go down for a bit over the next few days because I'm changing hosting, but it should be back up within a week or so.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Fun with Commie Mutant Horses

 I took part in the 49th Ludum Dare Compo this past weekend and made a computer game from scratch in 48 hours. Really, in about 46 hours, because I had D&D just before it was due. I'm pretty proud of the game this time. The theme was "Unstable," and I went with freeing horses from their bans (unstabling them) using radioactive canisters that exploded (also unstable) set against a Cold War backdrop (also unstable).

See the game here.

See my contest entry (and future ratings) here.

I always enjoy these competitions. Gets the juices flowing in a big way.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

New shipment of Doctor Esker's Notebook arrived

A new shipment of Doctor Esker's Notebook arrived from India today. 4,320 games in the third printing. 12 boxes, about 40 lbs each. They went to Charlotte instead of Greensboro, and my customs broker closed down, so I had to figure out some new stuff. My new customs broker was absolutely wonderful, though - shout out to Charlotte Customshouse Brokers (

Now I have to get them down to the basement sans hernia.

Update to finances of Doctor Esker's Notebook project

I haven't done a business update for Doctor Esker's Notebook recently, so here goes. Last month, I ordered a 3rd printing for the game. Despite being a larger print run, it was a bit more expensive per game because the shipping got a lot more expensive and because I asked them to do it more quickly than previous jobs. My printer in India sends via air freight, and with fewer flights, the printer indicated they had to charge more for this service. 

Where the chart is red, I've put more into the company than I've gotten out in revenues. Where it's green, I'm in positive territory (not including compensation for any of the hours I've put in). So, I am still at positive (but small) net revenue after this most recent print run, which is a first. 

Once I get the shipment, which will probably set me back another $1,000 in customs and transport, I'll have about $40,000 in potential revenue from copies of the original game and maybe $11,000 from the sequel. No guarantees I'll sell through all of those, but so far, sales have been pretty stable. If that keeps up, it's great - it just might take a while to sell out.

So, I'm not getting rich, but the upside potential is pretty good, and it's what I'd consider a successful product. I'm still selling about 2-4 per day average, probably >90% on Amazon, but with a lot of my sales in November and December as the graph shows. Not sure how this holiday season will pan out, but I'm hopeful. 

Fan Tan!

My family has often played a very simple, silly game at family gatherings. We call it 'fan tan,' although it's clear that has a history as a very different kind of game. Our game is a card game where players take turns plaing sequential cards in suit, starting with 7's and moving up and down. The goal is to get rid of all your cards. There's very little strategy, although there's a little bit in terms of when you play what cards, and how to try to force others to play the cards you need. My family can't be together this year, so I went ahead and programmed a version of this game on my website. It's pretty clunky, but it works, and it recreates the experience of the game pretty well. We all played it via Zoom yesterday. It's written entirely in PHP and Javascript, and it makes use of AJAX http calls to make and record moves. Not a thing of beauty, but still pretty cool.
It's not well-documented, but it's here: Anybody who goes to the website can start a game (hit "Reset All" if one is in process and you want to start a new one), and anybody else who's visiting the site can take part simultaneously. Note: The response to moves is a little slow - it takes about a second for moves to register.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Flames Over Frosthelm is Free!

For the next five days, August 12 to 16, the ebook version of Flames Over Frosthelm is free on Amazon. Click here to grab a copy, or share the link with somebody you think would like the story.

Marten Mingenstern and Boog Eggstrom are provisional inspectors, fresh out of Inquisitor’s Guild training. Assigned a mundane task tracking down stolen jewels, they instead uncover a mysterious cult set on destroying the city. They earn the enmity of a vicious noble, the Chief Inquisitor gets bought off and goes rogue, barbarians seize them, and they are sentenced to death. Twice. In a race against prophecy, they face terrible forces long buried.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Outcast Crown

I just released my second novel, The Outcast Crown. It's set in the same world as my earlier books, and it follows the events of my first novel, Flames Over Frosthelm. It's a stand-alone story, so you can start with either, but Flames is the first chronologically. There's also Traitors Unseen, a novella-length story that's independent from the other two.

If you'd like to give the series a try, you can get a free copy of Traitors Unseen by signing up for my author newsletter here.

Monday, April 6, 2020

New puzzle game - Doctor Esker's Triad

As I've been stuck at home over the last few weeks, I dived into a puzzle game project. It's called Doctor Esker's Triad (co-branded with my puzzle card games). It's 48 puzzles in 16 unique puzzle types, all coded in JavaScript/HTML5. It's 100% free, made for people who might like to spend an afternoon or two with some puzzles during our current social distancing efforts.

It's available here: Doctor Esker's Triad

Feel free to try it out, and please share if you enjoy it or know somebody who would.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

97 Klotho

I finished up a recent game design with some testing over the holidays. I got it worked up for The Game Crafter's Roll-And-Write contest. Not sure I'll do well there - I think people were looking for simpler games - but I really enjoy it. My son said it was his favorite of the ones I've made.

97 Klotho website

Interview at People Behind the Meeples

I got interviewed!

Pretty neat. Thanks to George for providing the neat series of interviews with designers.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Doctor Esker's Notebook Project - by the numbers

I did a workup of the finances and sales I've had for the Doctor Esker's Notebook project. I figure this might be of interest to other indie game designers and publishers. The project started in May 2018, with the first printing (1080 copies) ordered in August 2018, arriving misprinted in October, and then fixed and ready to sell by February 2019. The sequel and the second printing of the original game (2160 copies each) were ordered in July 2019 and arrived in late September 2019.

Let me know if you have questions in the comments.

Bigger version of the image is here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Esker in Hungary!

I noticed I had a review of Doctor Esker's Notebook in a Hungarian blog - very cool! Sounds like they liked it, if Google Translate can be trusted. It's neat that it ended up halfway around the world.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Some people suck

Guy buys original puzzle game, returns it three weeks later, presumably after playing and enjoying. Then he buys the sequel, returns it three weeks later.

Total cost to me, $6, plus potentially unsellable stock and bad reputation on Amazon.

Total cost to him: $0.

Don't think I'm not watching, or that you're not a terrible person.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Finances update

I haven't done a financial update in a while. Here's how it looks. Graph #1 is my total revenues stacked on top of my total expenses.
 Graph #2 is my net profitability, now about $4,900 in the red but rising fairly steadily.
Both graphs show my initial costs for 1080 games, the gradual rise to net profitability, and then the larger costs of my second print run (2160 each of original and sequel for 4320 total games), and my sales since then.

In terms of inventory, I've still got about 4575 games, which at the net revenue I typically make per game is about $39,000 in total potential revenue if I'm able to sell them all. Set against that revenue will be any future advertising, promotions, taxes, free copies, spoilage, and other such expenses.

So, I have a good shot at net profitability, but probably not until next year, and only then if my sales stay steady or increase.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Son of Doctor Esker's Notebook is now officially available

Son of Doctor Esker's Notebook is now officially available for purchase on my site! Yay. Here's the purchase page. I added a special discount (10%) if you're new to Esker and want to buy both games at once.

Son of Esker is here!

Son of Doctor Esker's Notebook, plus the second printing of the original Doctor Esker's Notebook, are here stateside! It will take me a little time to get them processed, to get some shipped to Amazon, and to get my website updated, but they're here! Yay!

If you see this and want one, and you're in the U.S. you can send $14.99 via Paypal to, and just mention that you'd like Son of Esker rather than the original. If you're not in the U.S., contact me about shipping. I can only cover free shipping to US addresses.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Son of Doctor Esker's Notebook is nearly on the way to the U.S.!

I've received word that the sequel to Doctor Esker's Notebook is about to ship. It should get here in about a week plus some time to clear customs. I'm really excited to take this next step. I also ordered a second printing of the original, so I'll have plenty for the upcoming holiday season.

SAHMReviews takes on Dr. Esker's Notebook

Here's a new review (mostly spoiler free) for Doctor Esker's Notebook by Scott at

They're running a giveaway also, linked from the review page, so sign up for a chance to win a free copy of the game!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Doctor Esker goes to school!

The Hungry Gamer posted a picture of Doctor Esker's Notebook being used in a school setting. That's so cool! So happy to see this.

Here's a link to his original post on Facebook.
Here's a link to his YouTube channel - he's got some really cool reviews there.
Here's a link to his reviews on

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Off a cliff (not really)

Well, my profitability graph went off a cliff. Why? Because I paid for two new things last week. Thing One was a second printing of Doctor Esker's Notebook, which is exciting. I've now sold half of my first print run, and I'm on schedule to run out sometime in October at current sales rates, so I needed some more. I ordered another 2160 games, or double the number from my current print run.

Thing Two was the sequel to Doctor Esker's Notebook, called Son of Doctor Esker's Notebook, which is a whole new deck of puzzles to play. The game mechanism is similar to the first game, but the deck and the puzzles are completely different. You don't need to have played the first to play the second - you can do them in either order. I ordered 2160 of these as well.

So, my graph above, which was flirting with profitability for this year, is now way back in the red. But that's a good thing! I stand to make another $4000 or so from my remaining games from the first print run. I spent about $7500 on the second print run and the sequel print run. That will give me the potential for another $40,000 in revenue from those two printings, or a total profit off all print runs of about $34,000 after I deduct expenses for development, marketing, and supplies. That's nice. Obviously, I'll have taxes to deduct from that also, and I'll have to pay both ends of the social security and Medicare taxes like you do as a sole proprietor. I don't really want to estimate what the hourly rate of compensation for me is, because I've put so much time into this, but I think it'll beat working at McDonalds.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

New Review of Doctor Esker's Notebook by Board Game Gumbo

The folks at Board Game Gumbo reviewed Doctor Esker's Notebook, and they had fun with it. See here for their review:

Board Game Gumbo Dr. Esker review

(Review image from

RoomEscapeArtist review of Doctor Esker's Notebook

Here's a really thorough review of Doctor Esker's Notebook. They say it's "a brilliant puzzle game with a clever answer mechanism." Pretty neat!

RoomEscapeArtist review of Doctor Esker's Notebook

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Four Tribes Review

I've been enjoying a game I bought recently. It's from fellow indie designer Jason Glover at Grey Gnome Games over the last couple of days. It's called Four Tribes, and it's available from The Game Crafter here.

The game is a light two-player card game with some additional components. It's got a fun mechanic, plays quickly, and involves some nice strategy, along with some luck. The art is really great, as it is for all of Glover's games - he's a great artist in addition to doing the designing. I'm still figuring out the best strategy, and I'm not always seeing why some options are possible (e.g. why I would put any cards on the opponent's side of the river other than the special cards I have to place there). I like the winter village set because I think the higher number of buildings makes the strategy more interesting. Some games have been decided pretty much by luck, but most of them have involved some cool strategic decisions and management of cards. The design is elegant and uses its pieces well, and there's more than enough randomness and variety that the game feels different each time. It fits nicely in the new medium boxes from TGC, although I wish there were a slightly larger bag for fishing around in - it seems not quite big enough to randomize or to fit my giant meaty fist into. I've ended up using an alternative hidden building choosing technique that's working better. My daughter (pictured above) would prefer that the chiefs you're recruiting didn't use the same colors as the buildings, since they're not related to each other, but that's a minor quibble. I also find the special cards, which have interesting abilities, are often just used as wild cards for their numbers, but sometimes the special powers matter and are fun to use.

Cool, unique game, and well worth the purchase for me.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Diggity from Sugar Dice

I have no idea what they're saying, but it's really neat to see people in another country enjoying (I hope) my game.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

It's nice to write to creators

I got two emails today that made me feel good about this project. One was from a person asking if she could get the completion stickers I made for Doctor Esker's Notebook for people to use on their Escape Room Passports (see here for details: That was neat, to see that she cared enough to memorialize the event, and that somebody actually wanted one of the stickers I made.

The other email was from a guy my age who just wanted to say that he enjoyed playing the game with his kids. Very kind thing to do - he didn't need to, but he just wanted to let me know that he liked it. This is important to remember - there's always somebody on the other side, at the creative end of whatever you're using for entertainment, and if you can let them know you got something out of it, that's always worth doing. They'll be happy all day.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sequel is at the printer

I've got the art submitted to the printer, both for a reprint of Doctor Esker's Notebook, and for the sequel. Very exciting! Waiting on proofs.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Great review from G33K-HQ!

I got a terrific review from G33K-HQ for Doctor Esker's Notebook. Here's a link to the review:

G33K-HQ Review

Sounds like they had a great time with it. WARNING: There's a little bit of a spoiler for the first puzzle in their pictures.