Game Crunch Crafter FIG

And I'm back... It's been a while and although I haven't been posting about it here, I have still been working on games and meeting with various testing groups. Actually, I've been working on games quite a lot and have much to show for it. Last time I posted I had just got back from Boston FIG (Festival of Indie Games). I was kicking myself a little for not submitting games for it. I vowed that next year I would have my games in submission shape and be ready to FIG. Well apparently that time is fast approaching since last year's submissions needed to be for June. Currently there is no official date, but I'm assuming it will be around the same time so I'll be game crunching the next few months to tighten up everything I have.

What games do I have these days you ask? Currently I'm Looking at 3 or 4 games with most of the design done, a half dozen prototypes of each and mostly complete instructions. I should be sending stuff of to The Game Crafter sometime this week for a few different games to start testing "final" prototypes.

Current prototype games include:

Space Chase (Mercury) M.E.G.A. 8 (Earth) Wicked Apples Lords of Battlemore

I still reserve the right to change any of these names, but I think it's good that I have something specific to refer to them by. I'll try to post some images and gameplay synopsis of each one this week.

- B

100% complete! ...with 80% of the game

I'm really good at starting projects. I think a of of people are. It's finishing a project that's the killer. Since my last post I've started 2 new games, but I'm not sure it's a bad thing this time. In my last post I was on my way to test out Earth and see if it was any good. Although play testing was limited, people really seemed to enjoy the basic set of cards (about 90 total) that I was testing with. The testers put forth a few ideas and I headed home, anxious to complete the rest of the game. As I began to introduce these new ideas, they lead to questions. And those questions lead to roadblocks that I couldn't get past. They were simple questions, but important enough that they needed a lot more testing before I could continue pushing forward with new cards and content.

After a week of tweaking mechanics and self play testing I was a little burnt out. I decided to take a break and design a new game. A simple game. A game that wouldn't keep me up at night crunching numbers. First I came up with a name, Wicked Apples. Then I imagined what playing a game with that name would be like. I know it sounds completely backwards, but it actually worked out quite well. It's the first game that has a name I like instead of a random planet. I'm not sure, but I think this may be my new creative process.

Since creating Wicked Apples I've gone through 3 rounds of play testing and 4 prototypes. People are really enjoying it and with only 23 cards it's been evolving very quickly. I'm really excited about the latest version and can't wait to get in some more play testing as soon as the new cards are complete.

Here's a sneak preview to keep you curious:

6-Curious

I also went to Boston FIG (Festival of Indie Games) last Saturday which showcases both video games and board games. It also gives you a chance to talk directly to the game creators which is always interesting. I met some nice people, played some cool games and can't wait to go again next year. If you've never gone I'd highly recommend it.

I'm going to try to make weekly posts a thing from now on. There are always new ideas, artwork and complaints to share. Now I just need to make the time.

- B

Welcome to Earth

It's been a few months since my last update, but the time has not been wasted. I took a few weeks away from game design to enjoy some real life events. But my brain is never happy unless it's sorting out strange problems late at night when I know I should be sleeping. In the past month Mars was discovered. Although it doesn't have a prototype yet it does have some detailed rules and game play designs. I've sketched some designs of how it will look and hope to start putting those to paper later this month. It's also my first game design that uses an actual board! Which is a strange thing to say when designing board games.

I'm also gearing up to test Earth for the first time this week. So far most of it's evolution has been driven by my one man play testing/scowling. I think it's finally time to present it to the masses (probably just to other guys, but still) and see if this is, in fact, a game.

- B

Hearing the words through the music

Whenever I listen to music I can easily hear the rhythm, the melody, even the vocals, but I always hear the words last. They are the last piece of the puzzle for my brain and can make a song that much better or sour it for me. I think I'm finally starting to hear the words of some of my games; the bare bones base of what the game wants to be.

Game #3 (Earth) has had a core concept for a while, but I think some of the mechanics/strategy have really firmed up over the past few months. I've finally heard what it's been trying to say. Thus - great word thus - I've been tweaking rules more than adding and removing. Earth has also proved to be a more involved game to create than I had planned. It required lots information to be condensed into single cards which has led to the creation of it's own game shorthand. It also has a large amount of random variety. Trying to balance all the variations has proved tough to say the least. But with each new version I see a few new truths about how the rules fit together and that creates a larger foundation for me to build on.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be taking Earth to a prototype test session later this month. It's time to see how it sounds to other people.

- B

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

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

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