Showing posts from November, 2010

Mori McLamb art for Belle of the Ball

Back in October, I sent out a call for artists for Belle of the Ball 's prototype tiles. Many talented illustrators answered the call. The selection process was tough, but I finally chose two artists. One is Liz Hooper (now Liz Radtke , thanks to one lucky gent), who did most of the illustrations for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple . You'll see her Belle work soon in a future post. I also chose artist Mori McLamb, who has proven to be a skilled, directable and professional young illustrator. From the very first sketches, I knew she'd be a great fit. I loved her clean lines and expressive character designs. Her assignment was to do six of the guests, getting as much variety in ages and demeanor as possible. Boy, did she deliver. The farm boy in the ill-fitting suit on the far left will be a member of the Goatsbury family. The older gentleman in the center has the look of a Boarbottom. The rogue on the far right is likely a Dundifax. The older woman with kooky ey

Case Study: Freemarket Icons and Logos

Case Study At a Glance » Project: Create icon set for a new sci-fi RPG. » Researched euro-futurist, modernist and post-modernist media. » Collaborated long-distance, on-budget with regular updates. » Produced a suite of vector icons. » Freemarket sold out of all stock in its debut at GenCon. History Jared Sorensen and I first worked together on the layout for the new version of his game Lacuna. A few years ago, he and his partner-in-crime Luke Crane were teasing "Project Donut." A secret new game in development, with little public branding besides enigmatic blog posts and images. Jared and Luke are no johnny-come-latelies to the game business, publishing over a dozen successful indie games between the two of them. Jared and Luke provided these icons as examples of what they had in mind. Project Jared and Luke asked me to create a suite of icons for the project. I was eager to get started just to learn more about the game itself. The game was Freemarket, set i

Thank You.

It's the season of giving thanks here in the states. I have far too many people to thank in one post, so the best I can do is hit the broad strokes. Thanks to gamers everywhere. Your tastes vary, your homes far flung, but you all come together with friends to play. You keep our hobby alive, but more importantly, you have fun. Special thanks to the friends and supporters who helped my growth as a game designer for all these years. Your wisdom is invaluable. One super-special thanks to my loving wife, who puts up with all my goofiness, distractions and passions. Cheers.

[In the Lab] 5x5

This is a post from the old blog, but I want to preserve it in the current lab. I still talk about it with Fred occasionally, so you never know when I'll pick it up again. --- UPDATE: Fred just posted his continued thoughts of from his original inspiration post here . --- A while back, Fred Hicks wrote up this cool idea where superpowers came from a mysterious radio signal. Certain people are "Receivers" for this signal and are regulated by the FCC. We talked about incorporating a bit of HAM radio jargon. Specifically the phrase " 5 by 5 ," meaning that a radio signal has perfect signal strength ("5") and perfect signal clarity("5"). The natural systemic representation for this would be a 2d6 system, wherein one die represents signal strength and the other signal clarity. "6" results would be special cases, representing some kind of critical-something-or-other. I woke up with further thoughts on how to express this as

Game Design and Real Life on Dice+Food+Lodging

Here's Part 2 of my conversation with Tim Rodriguez on Dice+Food+Lodging, talking about applying lessons of game design to real life. Also some discussion of mechaphors, games Buddha won't play and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. » Dice+Food+Lodging : Episode 020 – Conversation with Daniel Solis, part 2

Recoloring Illustrations for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple [Video]

Liz Hooper is the head illustrator for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple . Well, technically, she's Liz Radtke now, but she's always going to be Hooper to me. Anyhoo, she drew a bunch of awesome large-format illustrations for Do last year and it's been a while since I looked at my coloring job on them. I decided to go back and mellow out the contrasts and make the color scheme more consistent. The saffrons and reds are based on Tibetan Buddhist robes. The video above is a full-screen recording of my process. I usually crop my screencasts to a small area of the monitor, but I figured it couldn't hurt to go full size this time. Here are the re-colored illustrations so far. » More from Liz Hooper » Music made especially for Do by Matt S. Wilson

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple – Production Schedule

Draft 2 is complete. The word count for this draft roughly 35,000 words, mostly comprised of examples of play, advice, inspiration tools to improve your game. Now it's in Ryan Macklin's capable editing hands. Here's the current schedule: Draft 0: The 80,000 word behemoth I wrote a year ago. Goal: Get all the possible content for the game in one document. Status: Done, December 2009 Draft 1: A from-scratch new draft written with several months' hindsight. Goal: Review and revise the main text to only the bare procedures. Trim fat. Post those procedures online and play as much as possible . Status: Done, September 2010 Draft 2: A re-organized draft based on Ryan's first high-level edits. Goal: Add examples of play and advice to make the text truly complete. Status: Done, November 2010 Draft 3: A final draft deeply edited by Ryan. Goal: Ryan's edits scrub every pore, pulling out blemishes in the text. Schedule: December 2010 or Jan

Happy Birthday, Robot! at the Ennies!

Wow, it seems like quite a week for HBR news, doesn't it? Fred Hicks tweeted this not long ago... Ennies submission for Happy Birthday, Robot taken care of. They already had the DFRPG. Hopeful for Evil Hat's chances this coming year. less than a minute ago via web Fred Hicks fredhicks And sure enough, Happy Birthday, Robot! is now on the submissions page! I hope it does well. It's such an odd duck in terms of gameplay, but the mission behind it seems to have a lot of supporters. Whatever your personal preferences for crunch, story, and all that other game nerdery, you love the hobby and want to see it flourish. Happy Birthday, Robot! is one just one game in a vanguard, introducing the hobby to a new generation. » Ennie Awards Homepage

Josh Rensch reviews Happy Birthday, Robot!

Josh Rensch just posted a kind review of Happy Birthday, Robot! on his blog. Here are some highlights: "A wonderfully simple story building game that is fun for everyone. [...] Played it several times with both kids and just adults. It was fun either way but when it's adult only, it really gets interesting. [...] I get distracted by looking at this beautiful little book, so if I stop typing for a bit, that’s what happened. [...] If you have kids that are somewhat interested in our little niche hobby, you owe it to yourself to pick it up." Josh's review just got picked up by, too! Woot! » Review: Happy Birthday, Robot! » Discussion thread: » See more at Josh's Blog: GM with ADD

Short Experiences with Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

The most recent episode of the Podge Cast talks a little bit about little games. One-shots, specifically, and how Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple can be used to create modular one-shots for conventions. I'm glad that the group picked up on that just from the basic rules on the blog, because that's one of the fundamental design goals I had from the beginning: A setting that is divided up into little, independent chunks that the group can focus on for one session and reincorporate later, if they wish. That way, you avoid the problem of a huge setting chapter with only a fraction of information relevant for actual play. Check out the episode towards the end, around the 30 minute mark, when the Podge Cast guys discuss Do before they get a chance to play it. "World's crappiest Santa" is a good synopsis. (You may want to skip the opening story if you're eating lunch.) » The Podge Cast: TPC 114: Short Experiences » Art by Liz Hooper

Sustainable Games: Arimaa, New Forest and Elephant Poo

Following up some of my thoughts from yesterday... If you're like me, you love the look and feel of playing with real wooden or stone pieces. Nothing beats the moving a carved stone bishop across a board. A piece with substantial heft. Unfortunately, there is only so much good stone to go around and current lumber practices aren't doing much to keep deforestation in check. So, New Forest teamed up with a woodworking cooperative called "Agua y Monte" to create these gorgeous hand-crafted wooden Arimaa sets. Arimaa is a chess-like game designed to be easily played by humans and hard to play for computers. I love such an anthropocentric game being made by real human artisans out of natural materials. (Considering the game is patented, I wonder what involvement Omar Syed has in this arrangement.) New Forest will auction off sets and a portion of the proceeds go towards New Forest's reforestation efforts. Here's what New Forest says about their mission:

1,000 Year Game Design

I dream of designing games that could be played out in the African Savannah. Games that you can play with little more than the earth and rocks around you. Rules simple enough to remember without printed text, but with enough depth to draw fans for a thousand years. The ancient games that survive today – Chess, Tag, Soccer, Mancala, Hide and Seek, Go, Senet, and countless folk games – all evolved under environmental pressures totally different than the current commercial model. A design had to be simple enough to teach and remember by word of mouth. If a rule wasn't remembered, but people still played the game, then the rule didn't need to be there. Generation by generation, the rules evolved to local tastes, stripped of anything that else. The experience had to be rewarding enough to even bother teaching or remembering. When you're a wandering nomad with little down time between tending your herd, fighting off predators and keeping your family healthy, you have a l

Updated Blog Design

Just revised the blog layout because it felt narcissistic to have my name and portrait so big at the top. Now both, along with the main nav, are tucked alongside the games in the sidebar. Also widened the space between main content and sidebar. All of this is to keep the freshest, most up-to-date content at the top left of the homepage when you first arrive. The secondary purpose is so that when a post is seen on its own, it looks more like a proper individual page. See for yourself, click on any of the games on the menu. Instead of my big afro, the game's title and title graphic takes center stage as it rightly should. I look forward to releasing more interesting games in the future and I'm confident this new layout will suit those plans well.

Happy Birthday, Robot! "Happy Wedding, Neil & Stephanie!"

On the most recent Jennisode, Tim mentioned playing Happy Birthday, Robot! after his friend Neil's wedding. Their first sentence was "Happy Wedding, Neil and Stephanie!" I really want to see how that story turned out. Apparently it was good enough for Tim to frame and present to the happy couple as a wedding gift! » Jennisodes : Episode 12

The Podge Cast plays Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

Just got done listening to a heeee-larious episode of the Podge Cast where the hosts play a raucous game of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple . Pilgrims Tasty Sandwich, Moist Raptor, Turbulent River and Slippery Ladder cause all sorts of mayhem when they're called to deal with robots, family problems and a secret weapon called "The Mangler." It's got explicit language and imagery, but it is a heee-larious session. What's really intriguing to me is how they approach the game as being about "the worst angels ever," which is actually really accurate. I mean, when half the problems feature a machine called "The Mangler," you know why the pilgrims have a reputation as a solution of last resort. The highlight has gotta be at the end of the game when they realize that after all the chaos they caused, they still got a Parades ending. The whole thing is very funny, though. Megan and I were laughing the whole way through. Listen with caution if yo

Embargo Nerds

One of the things I love about designing abstract strategy games is that you can usually find suitable game bits all around you. In this case, I wanted to demo Embargo for a co-worker while I was in the Raleigh-Durham office. Normally the game calls for a chess board and some pawns, but none were to be found at this office. (We'd be all set if we were in the OKC office, as you well know .) So we improvised this setup using a supply of leftover Halloween candy and used the grid on the cutting board as our game space. Worked out pretty well. And yes, I see the irony of playing a board game with nerds candy. :P

Quantum of Solis 2010: You kinda had to be there.

I was in Durham, NC on business but stayed an extra night so I could meet up with some friends in the area. Seems like the nexus of southern US nerdery is right in the middle of NC, or that's my perception from Oklahoma City. My NC office is in the American Tobacco district, which you can see here is a lovely area. Very similar to OKC's own Bricktown district. So much so that I felt at home even when wandering around before dawn. Rainy mornings, crisp afternoons and so much delicious local food. Mushroom empanada and guava shake? Yes, please. But the highlight of the trip was definitely spending time with Mur, Remi, Matt, Julie, Ruth and Scott at Tyler's Taproom. We spent many hours discussing all topics geekly. "The Swedes have it all figured out." Whether it's worthwhile to get through sub-par episodes of a TV series if it ends well. The Swedish social construct that lies somewhere between "girlfriend/boyfriend" and spouse. We called it

Name Tag

Name Tag is a high energy, no-impact version of tag. It's great with large groups in a playground or park. It also helps players practice learning large groups of people's names in a completely different context than a party or formal social gathering. Stuff You Need At least three players, but the more the better. A referee who is an impartial arbiter outside the game. Adhesive name tags, one for each player. A marker for the referee. A timer for the referee, but this is optional. Prep The referee writes a random word on each name tag. The players all stand in a circle facing each other. The referee walks around the circle, sticking a name tag on each player's back. As she does so, she whispers to the player what their "name" is. At the beginning of the game, no player knows each other's name, only their own. Play The referee begins the game. Players try to read as many other player's name tags as possible. Players will run around tr

On Creativity and Gaming, on Dice+Food+Lodging

Had a long conversation with Tim of the Dice+Food+Lodging podcast discussing all kinds of gaming-related goodness. The first part of that discussion is now online . I imagine Tim will be able to pull at least two more episodes out of that conversation, it was so long. See? This is what happens when people don't tell me to shaddup. :P » Dice+Food+Lodging : Episode 019 – Conversation with Daniel Solis part 1

Happy Birthday, Robot! is at

You can now link directly to Happy Birthday, Robot! via 'Bout time, right? :)

Presenting Emergent Play

There's a discussion on Story Games about how to go beyond minimum instruction in game texts. The primary problem, at least in my view, is the increased word count necessary when entering the realm of advice and strategy guide. Player A wants just the reference text, not to be bothered with advice on this and that. Player B wants to know why he's doing what he's being asked to do, even if it reveals otherwise emergent elements of play. Heck, Players A and B may in fact be the same player at different times in their learning of the game. Here's one way I'm trying to reconcile the tastes of both players: There is a section explicitly called out as non-procedural "advice" text. It is set apart from "instruction" text by a variety of layout conventions (smaller font size, leading, number of columns, etc.). Example: You're in a part of the book where there are are a number of branching options, some of which will call on you to describe a s

Reminder: Quantum of Solis 2010

On Friday, November 5, let's all get a big table at Tyler's Taproom at around 7pm. We'll have some food, drinks, laughs and maybe some gaming if we're not too beat. Looks like we have at least five or six people who have RSVPed. If you're coming, leave a comment on the original post .

[Split Decision] Alpha Testing with Mark Sherry

I sometimes hear about game designers who are just naturally mathematically gifted. Not being one of those designers, I am fortunate to have Mark Sherry as a contact. Here's our process. I'll tweet a random game idea or mention it on the blog, without really considering the long-term mathematical implications. That's where Mark's giant brain steps in, working out every idiosyncratic permutation of every variable. At times, he'll even create simple AI players, each with different strategies, just to see how those players stack up against each other. He shares his observations and I'll be confused for many hours until he dumbs it down enough for me. Eventually I sorta "get" it and I'll get back to work tweaking rules if necessary. Here's an example of Mark in action, analyzing Split Decision . We know from these charts that if a player chooses the highest pair at all times, he's probably going to get a 10. Working from that base, you