Showing posts from April, 2014

Game Design Tip: Don't alliterate game terms.

We had a tornado warning over our city early this morning. I'm still a little woozy, so forgive the blitheness of this blog post. See, blearily waking up to a blaring weather radio, tornado sirens, and power flashes is not the best time to distinguish the finer details between a tornado watch and a tornado warning . One means "oh, I can sleep a little bit longer" and the other means "get to shelter now." Kinda important, so you'd think they would be more distinct from each other. Nope. Thankfully our city was spared, but this incident brings up an important tip for any game designer: Do not alliterate your game terms! For example, if you are designing an RPG and you have stats representing how much your hero Kronk can lift, go ahead and call that Strength . But if you need a stat representing how much of a beating Kronk can sustain, do NOT call that Stamina. It's too close to "strength" and has the same mouth-feel. Try Bulk , Healt

Game Design Outside the Euro-American Binary

Here's a cool article from about a year ago about "weird" human behavior researcher Joe Heinrich discovered when he played perception and fairness games with indigenous and non-Western cultures. ( Here's a link straight to his paper. ) What's Fair? In the Ultimatum Game, anonymous separate participants play for cash. One player gets all the cash and must offer an amount to the other player, but if the recipient declines the offer, then both players don't get any money. What we would expect is the giver to offer a 50-50 split because it's fair. Anyone greedy enough to offer less than that risks losing the whole pot. Here is what happened when he played with the Machiguenga, the indigenous Peruvians of Machu Pichu: Photo Source "When he began to run the game it became immediately clear that Machiguengan behavior was dramatically different from that of the average North American. To begin with, the offers from the first player were much

Monsoon Market art, inspired by Jamini Roy

Here's a quick preview of the art I'm putting together for the cards in Monsoon Market . I was really inspired by the style of Jamini Roy, so I tried my hand at emulating his geometric and quasi-cubist rendering in vector. Specifically, I wanted to try my hand at the radial symmetry of traditional playing card art. My aim at the moment is to have four different goods as a primary suit depicted by the top icon and unique piece of art; varying quantities of coins based on rarity, which may also tie into color schemes or a background pattern; and maaaybe a tiebreaker letter if it becomes necessary in playtests. I've hired another designer to do the icons for me so those are just placeholders in her hand at the moment. Rest assured, mashed potatoes aren't a suit in the game. :)

Inspiration: The Art of Jamini Roy (1887-1972)

In searching for artistic inspiration for my card game Monsoon Market, I came across the work of early Modernist Indian painter Jamini Roy . His distinctive style of large eyes, simple geometric shapes, and flat perspective still feels fresh. He also sometimes depicted Western subjects in an Indian context, which makes him sort of a post modernist, too. Maybe I like his work because it would make pretty cool playing cards, too.

Geeking Out about Card Distribution: Multi-Triangle Card Deck

I like playing around with unusual deck distributions and seeing what potentially thematic confluences emerge. You've seen me do this with my wabi-sabi method and my crystal mandala method. Here's a card deck inspired by James Earnest's triangular deck, in which each card has one number, which represents how common that card is in the deck. So one 1, two 2s, three 3s, and so on. I tried making a card deck in which each suit was its own triangle, ranging from 1-4. One suit would be a traditional triangle, while each other suit would have 2, 3, or 4, as the most common number, shifting all subsequent numbers in the sequence up one position in rarity. To further distinguish cards within a suit, I gave each a unique letter rank A-J. Also, regardless of what the actual number was, I labeled each category of rarity by a precious metal, from copper to platinum. Some interesting things happened as a result, which are easier to see when the spreadsheet is reorganized.

New Tabletop Game Icons for April

Heyo! Here's a new batch of tabletop game icons thanks to the support of my very generous Patreon backers. Thanks, everyone!

Game Design Conversation with Kory Heath, TC Petty, Daniel Solis

Since our last conversation was abruptly cut short, Kory Heath and I scheduled another hangout and invited TC Petty to join us. This time we go deeper into our respective game design processes, how those vary due to our long-term ambitions, and when we decide to stop working on a game. It's a really fun and lively discussion that opens with TC pitching a silly dexterity challenge game that makes me stick cards in my afro. Yup.

Cargo-Themed Trick-Taking for Monsoon Market

The last several tests have shown me that my darling drafting/trading mechanism in Monsoon Market just isn't working out the way I hoped. It might work another time, for another theme... but for this game, it's just gotta be put aside. The main issue was that the mechanism just played itself. Choices were too simple and rote. Any way I could think to make the drafting more interesting just tread well-worn ground already covered by Sushi Go , Among the Stars , or 7 Wonders . The Good Stuff However, the Boom/Bust cycle actually works out really well. It makes some nice ebb and flow in commodity values. So I need to find a more interesting method of card acquisition, one that remains simple enough for a light strategy experience, but deep enough that even a two-player game is satisfying. So I'm thinking about a shift in perspective. Instead of each player representing their own port along the Indian Ocean trade route, they might all be playing in the same port, with

Conversation with Kory Heath: Game Design Process and Standards [Video]

Last week, I got into a little discussion with Kory Heath (designer of Zendo and co-designer of Criminals ) about his preference to spend more time on a single game to make sure it meets his very high standards, rather than releasing more frequent games that may be of a lower standard. My internet connection at the time was really dodgy, so we get cut off at around the 30min mark. Still, the short conversation covered lots of tantalizing topics, including the different goals of game design when it is a hobby vs. when it is a business. Eventually we got to talking about our "perfect games." For Kory, it's Take It Easy. For me, it's No Thanks. We got to wondering if the designer of No Thanks would himself consider his game to be of a very high standard. Well, industrious friend T.C. Petty actually contacted Thorsten Gimmler on German facebook to ask the man himself! Check out Thorsten's response on T.C.'s blog : "Hi Thomas, Do I have a perfect

Bird Bucks

Sometimes I have a silly idea and I just have to see it through to the end. Last night I was thinking about all the cool dollar redesigns I used to see in college. Then I remembered a while back that I had planned on making a deck of generic currency/point cards since I so often need them in my own games. (Chips are fine, of course, but I wanted something fancy. Here is my initial stab at this. I'm not sure if there's a game here per se, but at least they can be handy as generic point counters. I'll refine these a bit and put them up on DriveThruCards soon. And maybe I can come up with a game that uses these, too? Hm!

Mentoring Jaren Maddock's Card Game Graphic Design (Google Helpouts)

Graphic design student Jaren Maddock is designing a card game for his class and asked me to mentor him on icon design, card design, and art direction. It just so happens I've got a Google Helpouts service for just such a subject! Jaren was kind enough to let me record our meetings so I could use them as examples of my Google Helpout consultation. Hope you dig! If you need a quick graphic design consultation for your tabletop game, schedule a Google Helpout with me !

"Are you STILL not afraid of someone stealing your idea?"

In a huff, I wrote about how I'm not worried about my ideas being stolen . I claimed ideas are overvalued by the mystique of the auteur, which also undervalues the plain ol' hard work and time it takes to turn ideas into actual buyable things . The post got so much attention that Open Source Way asked if I'd write up a slightly modified version for their site, which I did , and which became one of their most-read articles of 2013 . Not a bad run for a rambling little rant. Well, now it's up for a People's Choice Award! Go vote for it, please ! Voting is open until April 14! Okay, one caveat I'd also like to add a caveat to that post, in case it wasn't clear originally. I can only speak to my own experience as one fish (independent designer) in a tiny pond (POD card games) that is itself part of a relatively small biome (tabletop games) in an immense ecosystem (the games and entertainment industry as a whole.) We're too tiny and bony to eat.

More Game Icons on Patreon!

I'm still making new game icons on Patreon ! I uploaded a new batch a couple weeks ago based on patrons' suggestions. If you have any recommendations, feel free to join the project ! Oh! I also added a premium tier that gives you access to my grab bag of Photoshop Actions, textures, layered files, and more stuff I use on a daily basis. There's some really good stuff here! To clarify the intent of this project, I'm really focusing on icons for in-game actions, reflecting actual real-world verbs. If your game has swords, space cannons, hit points, and that sort of thing, I'd recommend hitting up the Noun Project or Game-Icons . They both have plenty of thematic icons that cover those bases. But if you need icons stuff that happens at the table – flipping a coin, stepping a die up or down, or drawing a card from an opponent's hand – then this project is for you! 100% vector icons for real world game actions.

"Boom and Bust" Set Collection Mechanism

In Nine Lives, one of the central scoring mechanisms is "scratches." You're trying to rescue stray cats without getting scratched too much. Whoever is scratched the least scores 1 point per scratch they've collected. So there is a really strong incentive to undercut other players in that set collection mechanism. The Basic Idea I'd like to explore this even further by tying it to player-controlled valuations and rarity. Here's the idea... Let's assume we have a game about rare metals and gems. Call them Gold, Silver, Diamonds, and Rubies. Each 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 of each resource will be converted to 1 point depending on how rare that resource is in a player's collection. So for example... Player with least Gold scores 1 point per Gold Player with second-least Gold scores 1 point per two Gold. Player with third-least Gold scores 1 point per three Gold. And so on, with the same structure for all other resources. So Bob might really value Gold

TEN PEN the Card-Sliding Game is now on DriveThruCards!

Look out below! My brand new card-sliding game TEN PEN is now available on DriveThruCards ! I'm so pleased with the response this game is getting already. I managed to get quite a few playtests of this at game stores and out-and-about since it's such a portable idea. All you need is the cards and a long table, suddenly you've got a shuffleboard anywhere. It's so easy, I made a Vine of how it works! Slide your penguin at the melting iceberg. Whoever is closest gets first choice of the tasty treats that emerge! It's a really simple game great for kids or closing out a long game night. Hope you dig it!

March 2014 Sales Report

When I decided to do monthly sales reports on the first day of each month, I didn't think about April Fool's Day. Ah well, just rest assured this post is good ol' boring number crunching. As you may recall, December had a huge spike in holiday sales, followed by a precipitous drop in January that rolled into the short sales period of February . I was wondering when (or whether) my plan for monthly releases would create enough overlapping long tails to save a rough first quarter. Let's see. 3-2014 12x Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game +4 from Feb 7x Koi Pond: Four Walls (Promo Card 2) +4 from Feb 7x Koi Pond: Four Winds (Promo Card 1) +4 from Feb 11x Koi Pond: Moon Temple +2 from Feb 3x Suspense: the Card Game -4 from Feb 9x Nine Lives Card Game +7 from Feb 15x Penny Farthing Catapult -1 from Feb 15x Regime (New!) $740.05 Retail $270.67 Royalties Grand Totals for 2014 (to date) 180 Products Sold $1648.84 Retail $619.05 Royalties In las