I’m quotable.

EndersGame on BGG wrote a review for the Flash Point expansions, and was kind enough to let me know that he quoted my own comments on the game. In fact he quoted me 3 times! I suspect those are the only 3 quotes of value you’ll ever get out of me, so thanks for collecting them for everyone in place. 😉

If you are unfamiliar with my BGG ID it’s heya, so just look for those 3 quotes in his own well written review of the game.

You can find it here.

First look at Prophecies: In the Shadow of the Titan game art.

I’m very pleased to announce that art is starting to come in for Prophecies: In the Shadow of the Titan.

This is an initial sketch done by our artist, and it’s just incredible. While searching for an artist to do the character portraits I was being very selective. I got a lot of great submissions from a lot of artists, but when I saw Bramasta’s work I knew that he was capable of capturing both the spirit, and tone of the game in a way that could not be matched. We were truly fortunate to find him.

Here is what the Resplendent Rogue will look like:

Resplendent Rogue

How a ploy to sell toys became my primary design philosophy

Have you ever been in a conversion, or overheard a conversation where somebody says “[That really big successful idea], I thought of that before they did.” The most amusing/frustrating moments I’ve ever had in a comic shop was while standing in line behind a guy who was talking the ear off of the shop keep. (People say shop keep right?) and he bounced from one idea he had to the next:

“Why doesn’t McFarlane Toys make the figures more posable? I have an idea for toys that are like those, but you can play with them.”

To which my mind said “Because they are toys for adults, so they are just statues, and the increased cost to do that would be silly because you would be adding a feature adults don’t care about.” Of course that was my mind, and I’m not telepathic (yet), so he continued “You know the Aliens Vs. Predator comics. I came up with that idea like 5 years ago.”

My mind “Are you complaining that someone ‘took’ your idea? You know your idea about two franchise you don’t own, and aren’t affiliated with? I mean did you even try to do anything with your idea?”

He interrupted my thought “I should show them my notes, so they can see I had the idea first. I’d make so much money.”

Mind “Wait, is he serious.”

Him “I’ve done the math, and they owe me [insert insane amount].”

Mind “Holy crisp he is serious!”

That’s not the first or the last time this has happened to me. Well the only time at a comic shop, but stuff like this has happened to us all I’m sure, and why not. I’ve been tempted to think similar thoughts, and why wouldn’t I? I mean I’m full of good ideas. I can say that objectively because all humans are full of good ideas, and I’m human (seriously), and good ideas is kind of what we do.

So if all 6+ billion of us are full of good ideas, why don’t we see more good ideas? That’s not the question I’m here to answer, but I’ll indirectly answer it in the course of this, so bonus.

The real question is, how do you make a good idea live up to its potential? See that’s the trick, the problem, isn’t coming up with an idea of value it’s piecing out all of the details that allow the idea to exist with the desired value. If you mess up, or forget, one key detail the best ideas can function as the worst idea. (In the case of the comic store guy his missing detail was the ability/drive/talent to begin working on the idea.)

How did I learn this? I had a great idea for a game, over a decade ago, and I made it, and it sucked. It’s a boring story really, so instead I’ll focus on a variation of this lesson.

In May of 1984 Marvel comics released the first superhero cross over series. It featured Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, the guy who can stretch, Galactus, the X-men, and Doctor Doom. (Also, a lot more guys.) The premise was simple, an all powerful alien grabs each of these heroes, and villains, and throws them on a strange alien world, and says “heroes fight the villains, so I can understand you better.” The plot on paper is actually worse than I’ve just described. Why? Because as the compilation trade book admits, it was an idea some toy manufacturers came up with to justify selling a new line of Marvel toys. It was an idea as bad as the Spider-Mobile, and it came into being for the same reason.

However, there was a twist. This terrible idea actually told a great story. Like Secret Wars is actually pretty awesome. The authors, somehow took a terrible idea, and made it live up to it’s terrible potential, and then said “f it.”, used witchcraft, and out came one of the most influential comics to date [citation not needed.]. Now granted, there are definitely, better, and more well crafted stories out there, but at best those gems are living up to their full potential, Secret Wars goes beyond it.

That’s why when I make a game I try to come up with the best concept possible. I want to set a really high bar, so once I’ve hit the point where I reach that bar I know how good of a game I have.

Prophecies: In the Shadow of the Titan – Character Artist Found

I am pleased to announce that I have found the character artist for Prophecies: In the Shadow of the Titan. I have just commissioned this artist to do an initial picture of the “Resplendent Rogue.” Which is one of the epic heroes in the game. Once the picture is ready I will be posting it to the site, and I will be doing a feature on the artist behind the work.

It is my intention to hire this artist to do other characters in the game, and possibly the cover, and Titan art. It’s still early in the process, and I’m still in the talks with other artists.

Although, he has agreed to have me post links to his web portfolios which can be found here:

Unreal Smoker’s Deviant Art Page

The picture that inspired me to contact him:

comm:Akiva

And the picture he referenced as the format I can expect:

Death Knight

More details on this incredible artist, and Prophecies: In the Shadow of the Titan to come.

Additionally, I’ve updated the projects page for Addictive Alchemy.

Don’t do it! It never works!

I was told recently that most people who design a game never make a second one. That baffles me. If you feel the pull to create a game, a rush when the mechanics work, the relief of pulling an idea out of your head, and putting it into physical space, then how, How!, do you give that up?

I think this is especially true, since I don’t think anyone on their first try gets everything right. I mean that’s part of what play testing is all about. I’ve only made one game that hit the table, and basically didn’t change. That’s because there are lessons every game designer should learn. Yeah, some of it is stuff we’ll naturally know, but those things are different from designer to designer. Most of the time, most of the lessons to learn come from the practice of design.

Also, some of those lessons are wrong, well, actually they are right, but sometimes, they are wrong. And that, is what I’m here to talk about.

Tonight, I had to unlearn a “universal rule” in game design, and it taught me that sometimes, just sometimes, it’s OK to break those rule. You see I have a game that is in play testing where people love the theme, and they enjoy the way it plays, but not everything was clicking the way it needed to. I made some changes for the play test last Thursday, and some great stuff came out of it, but oddly the minor change I figured wouldn’t stay was universally loved, and the major change I thought would turn the game around, well, didn’t, at all. I reverted the major change, kept the minor change, and decided for today’s play test, on a whim, to break one of my golden rules of game design “Don’t ever let someone lose a turn. Don’t ever eliminate a player from the game.” Let’s face it, it’s never fun to miss a turn, and it’s never fun to sit for 20 minutes watching your friends play a game that you got kicked out of.

Why did I break that rule? Because it’s about giant monsters fighting. Someone is going to get beat up, and someone is going to get hurt. These monsters aren’t immortal, and I put too many rules in the game trying to avoid elimination, and it frankly wasn’t working. Instead I came up with a way to eliminate a guy, and not have him wait more than a few minutes for the game to end, and I removed all of the rules around keeping the monsters immortal, and the game worked exactly like I wanted. In fact everyone at the table said, without prompting, I love this! Heck, for the next two hours anytime one of them walked by they said “I really loved that game.”

I broke a golden rule, and gave it a quick elegant patch, and that was all I needed. On the drive home I realized that earlier in the play test for the same game I did basically the same thing, that is break a golden rule of game design, this one being “never use d4s”, see I had originally used d8s in the game, and on a whim switched it to 2d4. The math was better. I hate d4s, but the math worked, and adding the possibility of doubles gave me a new (good) side effect. I tried it, and again the same thing happened everyone loved the change. Twice, in the same game I broke one of my golden rules that I worked so hard to get around, and the game was so much the better for it.

Now my new golden rule of game design will be “Don’t work so hard to avoid what usually doesn’t work.” Why should I have been OK with this in the beginning? It’s simple, because usually I have these rules against things that don’t work, because they don’t work in other games. My games, by one of my primary objectives, are always different. If I am using a mechanic that has been done before I’m trying to find a way to do it in a way that hasn’t been done, and in most cases I’m trying to find as many new mechanics as I can put in my games. This means I’m always covering new ground, and what hasn’t worked in the past, might, just might, work. I’m not saying it always will, but I can’t afford to assume it won’t without at least considering it.

I can’t afford to say anymore “Don’t do it! It never works!”

Getting started

As I’ve either said, or hinted at, on the site so far this is a place for me to talk about the game design process, work with play testers, and other people who may have an interest in game design, my games, or related subjects. It’s a broad social touchstone you could say.

That said, I didn’t just start working on game design in the past week, month, or even year. Some stuff has happened, and I don’t plan to recap it all, at least not right away. Instead I’ll give a quick summary of key points, and fill in the blanks later.

As of today I have 4 projects that I’m serious about. Two are on hold, and two are in active play testing. The oldest of these four projects is Aggressive Alchemy. As the name implies, it’s an alchemy themed board game that just isn’t what I want it to be. I’m OK with that. When the time is right I’ll come back to it, and make it what I want it to be. I don’t mind because I love the design process, it’s my favorite part of game design. Sure play testing is fun, getting feedback, and talking with other people about the game is also really great, but nothing beats the rush tackling a problem you setup for yourself with multiple objectives that don’t always want to play well together. My point is I don’t mind tabling Alchemy because once I pick it up again I’ll have a blast redesigning it, refactoring it, turning it into the game I want it to be.

The second tabled project is a game that has done well enough in the play tests, and I can’t complain about the design, but I think I can take the core mechanics in the game, and do something cooler. That game is called Leylines. Leylines was my second game that I designed using my “fast prototype system.” (The first being an abandoned super hero card game.) It went from idea to on the table with pieces in about 2 hours. That’s a silly fast design time, but it’s a great way to see if an idea has legs.

The two projects that are currently going someplace are titled “Prophecies: In the shadow of the Titan.” Because why not have a long name? It’s a game for RPG gamers who are in the mood for a quick 45 minutes to 1 hour high fantasy battle where you work together for your own personal glory. The mechanics involved are dice rolling, and auction mechanics to simulate fantasy combat. Also randomly generated monsters, not “random encounter”, but randomly built monsters.

The second active project is Monsters Made to Order, and thematically you play as a mad scientist, or a patron of a mad scientist, who builds a giant monster from pieces to battle it out for control of a city. It’s a dice rolling, resource management, hints of worker placement, game that ends up being fairly light weight and fast for a game that tosses around a lot of euro mechanics.

Now you’re caught up. Things to expect from me soon:

* Play testing updates.
* Pics.
* Area on the site for play testers. (forums etc.)
* Thoughts on game design, and other related topics.

Have fun!

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