I'm back...

I know it's been a while since my last update, but don't worry I've been hard at work. If you missed me, I'm sorry and I'm back. If you didn't miss me, I'm sorry and I'm back.

Game wise I've been all over the place the past few days. I visited family and did some play tests with Mercury. It was an older crowd (60+) of non-gamers and everyone was able to grasp the main concepts fairly quickly. Explaining the game however, made me remember how much I dread working on writing Mercury's instructions. I'll might probably try to possibly kind of work on them more this week since it's still fresh in my mind. Maybe...

I also worked on Venus extensively. I know I haven't talked about this game much, but I haven't been as worried about it since the rules are complete and it's been play tested quite a lot. What it really needs is a new skin to make it's cards easier to understand and more appealing to look at. That's been my focus and it's come together fairly quickly. I'll be posting some images for that soon.

Lastly, I did more play testing with Earth. It still needs a lot more trials and I need some sturdy gamers to help with that. I think it's the least friendly of the 3 games and not something I want to pain casual players with. You're safe for now family.

I'm hoping to have a new version of Venus ready for testing early this week and to continue testing the other games when I have some spare time. There's only 1 month left. Where does the time go?

- B

Complete is in the eye of the beholder

Just a quick update tonight. I was thinking about my first post and the goal I set of completing 3 games. Complete is a very subjective term and I'd like to set more solid goals. A complete game shall have:

  • No unknown mechanics (None of that 'we'll figure it out later' stuff)
  • Full written instructions/rules
  • Higher quality components (better than a prototype)
  • No placeholder artwork (Goodbye Captain Reynolds, you will be missed)

It's going to be tough reaching these goals by the end of the year, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. Also, Benny says "Hi".

Image

- B

Earth: Take 2

After much hard work and some skipped meals, I was able to push forward and get Earth prototype #2 designed and printed this Saturday. Over the past few days I've also done some play tests. So how did it turn out? Pretty damn good actually. The balance tweaks seem to be working out well, but as always they will take longer to test. More on that later. Design tweaks however, offered more obvious improvements. The text is now easier to read and much of the game language has been unified. Creating a unified experience is always important with a game that only uses a random portion of it's assets in order to add variety. I want players who only see 15% of what the game offers, to feel like they understand 100% of the core mechanics. I also still want them to be surprised/excited as they discover the other 85% of the game. On top of that I'd also like 5000% game play variety. Too much? Probably. Let's get away from all these percentages.

To play test variety a little more heavily, I've removed quite a lot of it. I know that doesn't seem like it makes sense, but hear me out. Instead of using a random selection of cards each game, I've used the same cards for the past 4 playthroughs. Seeing how the same setup can play out differently each time has given me more confidence that I'm on the right track.

I'm very pleased with how the game feels and I think it soon may be time for some real testing. Keep your friends close, and your prototype testers closer.

- B

Scope Creep: Earth Edition

Hey kids! Who wants to talk about scope creep? You don't know what that is? I'm sure you do, but you've probably just called it something else. Simply put, it's a project that grows beyond it's initial plans; ambition's Kryptonite. I learned the term from some clever people who use clever terms like this to keep their clever projects running smoothly. I however am not that clever, and thus my scope hath crept.

Normally creep is a bad thing that kills time tables, steals candy from children and sometimes derails a project completely. Luckily Earth's scope creep is not altogether bad. I'm not altering any base mechanics. I'm simply adding more cards than I had planned for prototype version 2. Many of these cards were just waiting to be created, so I'm really just getting a little early balance testing in.

Good job me. You win again.

- B

Warming Up Mercury (Part 2)

Now that you have the back story of Mercury, let's talk about how it's played. At it's most basic level, Mercury is a path creation game. You select, rotate and play square tiles from your hand onto the end of the previous tile (think dominoes with easier matching). Basic tiles look like this: Image Image

The orange is your burn path, which you match to create a single continuous line. Your ship is always at the furthest point on that path. This orange path is also the path that the Hunter will be following to track you. Every time you play a tile your ship moves forward along the path, then the Hunter moves forward one tile as well. You continue drawing and playing random tiles in an effort to reach the final tile, AI Nirvana.

Sounds too easy? Let me fix that. Along with these basic tiles, there are many other tiles what will help or hinder you. Evil tiles like the Enemy Outpost will cause the Hunter to move forward an extra space when the he/she (Hunter sex has yet to be determined) lands on it.

Image Image

Helpful tiles like the Thrusters allow players to use an extra tile in the same turn:

Image Image

All together there are 17 different tile types, not counting the straight/turn variations. Early on, I struggled with finding a way to quickly explain and illustrate the uses of all the different tiles. To alleviate this I created a one page cheat sheet that shows usage examples of every tile in the game. So far tests have been positive, but I still need to test with more non-gamers to make sure. Bring on the holidays and bring on the family. No I haven't seen Apples to Apples, but I do have a new game for you to try...

- B

Warming Up Mercury

So let's visit Mercury; A game about space, oddly enough. Here's the synopsis: Around the beginning of the new Millennium, humankind achieved their greatest achievement, finding someone else to clean up their mess. Synths were created and a new era of human laziness began. As years passed, rumors began to upload throughout the Synth network of an AI Nirvana beyond the grasp of the humans. Inevitably, a small group of daring Synths steal a human ship and set off in search of happiness, but a Synth Hunter has also been dispatched and is following close behind.

To win, you and your Synthmates must work together to evade the Synth Hunter while searching the sector for the hidden AI nirvana. Happily, the sector is only so big so it's only a matter of time before you find your destination. Sadly, like everything you really want to find, it's usually in the last place you look.

Mercury is a co-op game at heart, though it can also be played solo. It uses unique player skills, hand management and tile placement to create randomized puzzles for players to solve. I think my favorite part is looking at a completed game and seeing the chaos you've created in the name of strategy.

- B

Saving The Earth

Earth - the game - has been my focus for the past 2 days. Earth - the planet - is still spinning and in less need of my help. Don't worry, I'm still recycling. I've decided not to be a gentle surgeon and have begun lopping off any parts of the game that don't seem to be serving their intended purpose. Goodbye appendix, you will not be missed. Almost all of the cards and the main board have been edited in some way beyond cosmetic changes. I think this is the right way to proceed, seeing as it's still early in development, but it also means that balancing will probably still be off since I've made slight alterations to everything. All changes have been entered into a super sexy spreadsheet and I have updated about half the cards so far. I'm hoping to complete the rest of the changes over the next two nights and be printing again by Wednesday.

Over the next few days I think I'll be talking more about Mercury. That planet has it's shit together a little more and will probably be more interesting than this Earth mess.

- B

Designing in a vacuum

I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm horrible at naming games. I like to pretend it's because names are the least important things when creating a prototype and therefore my effort should be spent elsewhere, but really, I think I'm just avoiding the issue. In the meantime I've decided to give them code names. I'll go with... Mercury, Venus and Earth. Horrible? Yes. But I've already confessed to being the worst namer of things, so I feel no shame. Plus we'll all have a good giggle when I'm working on prototype 7. I've just recently printed the first prototype of Earth and for the past 2 days I've been doing some play-testing. After a few plays I had a laundry list of things I wanted to change, but I've been hesitant to make them. As sure as I am that something will make the game better, I know that quick reactions aren't always the right ones. So I'm taking lots of notes and seeing which issues are most common and/or game breaking. During this time of indecision, I've turned my attention to mind numbing graphical updates like text weight and background overlay opacity.

Playing a two player game by yourself is also problematic. I constantly screw other me over by telling myself other me's secret plans. I always win, but I always lose. :( I know that getting feed back from others is key, but at this stage I'm just not sure Earth has enough solid mechanics to be ready for public consumption. I just need to make sure I don't spend too long locked away in my personal Bobby bubble. It's the art of finding just the right time to push your baby bird out of the nest. Fly! Fly you beautiful bastard! And don't come home! We're turning your room into a sauna!

- B

Balance

Tonight was a slow night for game design. I spent some time trying to balance a certain category of cards and found more questions than answers. It's not something that will make or break the the game, but if you don't start you'll never finish. Hopefully tomorrow will see the end of this task and a little more play-testing. I'll also try to post some pictures of all three games and explain a little bit about how each one is played.

- B

Daddy, where do kid's games come from...

I think the most appropriate way to start this off is by letting everyone know that I've got game. Well actually, I've got games. Three to be exact and all in semi completed states. Currently I'd classify them as pimply teens trying to figure out how they fit into this crazy, mixed up world. My plan is to shower the ugly little buggers with TLC until the end of the year and see if I can usher them into adulthood. Don't worry, we've already had the talk. Always use a card sleeve for protection.

With a little luck and a lot of willpower I will attempt to update this blog daily with all progress great and small. Feel free to hang around and watch me fail, succeed and possibly murder the English language.

- B