Saturday, September 29, 2007


Back! I made some progress on the 2-player monster game while I was gone, leaning towards a series of modes for the monster, which will support certain strategies, and require certain responses from the city player. Once a mode has been entered and subsequently left, it cannot be returned to, so the choice of when to change modes, and which to change to, could be nicely dicey.

Also, I've long pondered how to modify the board game Tales of the Arabian Nights. I really like some elements of it, but it also has some pretty serious problems. I've been reading this book about travel and transformation in the original 1001 nights stories, and its giving me some interesting ideas about the game. Specifically:
- It talks about travel being for religion, trade, knowledge or love. These are some interesting motivations for encouraging player travel, something the game currently lacks.
- It talks about the nature of political boundaries in the stories, and how there are not solid, real, guarded borders, but rather that you need to visit a ruler in the capital in order to have truly arrived in a given location. It got me thinking about breaking the board into regions, establishing capitals and creating a concept of each player's influence in a region.

This ties into some previous ideas I had about changing the basic scoring and victory systems, so this might seem a little vague. If I finish the variants, I'll of course post them on boardgamegeek, and link to them here. Its a game with a cult following, that deserves a better outer game to go along with its stunning book of paragraphs.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I'll be out of town until Friday night - y'all pick up the slack and make sure blogger gets its full dose of ideas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Drawing game prototype

I had an interesting experience with this prototype. In the back of my mind, I sensed that the game was a little bit too complicated, but I made the conscious decision to stick with it. But when it came time to make a prototype, I wanted to do a little proof of concept, something simpler that would be easier to teach, just to test the basic mechanics of drawing, moving, escaping monsters. The resulting, as-streamlined-as-possible design might actually be a better design.

This might be a good principle: try to create the simplest possible version of your game, and ask yourself if its really any worse than your original design.

Here's a pic with a sampling of the prototype materials. These cards and their illustrations don't really capture the tone I wanted for the final game, though the Madness injury, Grand Parade event, and Sphinxling monster are getting close in their crude way. In particular, I see the injuries as more mental/emotional, but for now I went with physical injuries, which I think will more easily win over my audience for this early prototype. I'll try to get a game in soon.

Three Hundred

Another quick link: this guy is working to outline 300 video game concepts. He's only up to 55 so far, but there's something appealing about the endeavor, and browsing the concepts is fun. I like the way he really digs down into some of these ideas, and illustrates them effectively - I really need more pictures on this blog.

I like to try a lot of flash/casual games, just to absorb their concepts, the interesting ideas behind their design. By just posting the ideas, this guy gives me half the enjoyment I'd get from a completed game, at a tiny fraction of the effort. That's my kind of equation I can get behind; it reminds me of The Shiteasters, that most groundbreaking of modern bands.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

NYC Gamer

Just a quick link to another game blog I stumbled upon:

It appears to be defunct, and its mostly session reports, but there are some interesting theoretical discussions in there. In particular, I like his last post, pointing out the dilema of the most-powerful move, and the risk of waiting too long to pull the trigger on it. I wish he had gone into a little more detail about the implications of that mechanic, but then his is a game blog, not a game design blog. It got me thinking just the same - a simple idea with delicious tension.

Also, his photomontage of his collection over time is a feast for the eyes.

Finally, between my last post about dexterity games and Mr. NYC Gamer's post about some custom Crokinole boards, I am closer than ever to pulling the trigger on a board for myself. 150ish bucks seems like a god damned lot, but I continue to hear nothing but good things about this game, and it seems in line with what I'm looking for these days. I doubt I'll bring myself to do it any time soon, though Tumblin-Dice remains a cheaper, similarly intriguing dexterity-oriented proposition.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dexterity Games

Oh, nothing nips at the back of my mind like dexterity games. All too often, when I'm playing a real board game, I find myself thinking about how it might be a dexterity game instead (I just had an idea on how to do Masons, while I was typing this). Why is that?

I think the main thing is, in a board game setting, you divide your attention between 3 things: decision-making, enacting, and storytelling. Decision-making is the actual game playing, the actual choosing from among choices, and is usually the fun part when it doesn't become overwhelming. Storytelling is also the fun part, where you associate the events in the game with a larger, thematic, metaphorical plotline that you can derive enjoyment from. Enacting stands in between, its the actual movement of pieces, looking up results in tables, shuffling cards - its not the fun part.

Different games make each of these easier or harder. Some games give you horrifyingly complex decision trees that are no fun to decide. Some games have rules so at odds with reality that its hard to keep your mental story connected to them. And some games make you spend forever screwing around with enacting the decisions that you're making that you're trying to tell a story with, to the point of ruining your fun.

This gets to the heart of what I like about dexterity games - their enactment is handled for you. You make a decision, apply force skillfully (which might be a new step), and stuff just happens. Sure you might have to do some setup and teardown, but during the game, you can work between decision and outcome, and therefore overall story, fairly seamlessly. Look at Pitchcar - rather than having to roll a dice, check your gear, and look up items in a chart in order to see if you make a turn, you flick a disc, and it either does or doesn't.

Its instant gratification, and when it comes to games and play and staying in a flow state of sorts, thats a good thing.

Two developments I'd like to see in dexerity games:

1) More story. Too many dexterity games are just about flicking discs or stacking blocks, without any thematic conceit on them. I like the idea that when a tower falls, that represents a tower of some kind, in some larger world, rather than just "my blocks fell!". Pitchcar remains a notable exception.

2) More real-time dexterity. There's an image in my mind of a game, Crokinole-like, with players sitting around a central area, flicking objects into the middle. They are on two asymetrical teams, and each has a reason to go quickly, generally to outpace the other team in establishing positioning, or achieving some other goal. Thematic punch is attached, and players have to balance rushing with lining up their shots well. This is vague, but its been kicking around in my mind for years - I'll try to dedicate a post to it some time.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Cooperative Drawing Adventure Game

I'm nearly finished with a preliminary verion of my cooperative drawing adventure game. I've got a basic framework in place that I think I like, that captures much of the coolness I had in mind when I first hatched the idea. The basic steps in front of me now are:

- Nail down a board design and final version of the rules
- Playtest the basic drawing mechanic, which can be done independently of an actual prototype by just using pictionary cards.
- Produce an actual prototype and playetest it

I'm not quite ready to publish the details yet, but assuming the game's not as good in practice as I'm envisioning (they rarely are), I'll likely lay out the problems as a retrospective look at the design process. My process has grown a lot since the designs described in my previous Mistake articles, but I still sense that I'm stumbling down a flawed path. I'll see if that's true soon.

In the meantime, I still like the setting, which is an embodiment of mental states to be explored and escaped, in the form of gloopy forests, shadowy forms, sniggering imps and flashes of clarity. That's a vague description, but I've started to see the world as being several things at once, resisting the urge to lock it into a wholly consistent metaphor. Such an approach won't hinder the game, and is perfectly in line with the feel that the game is likely to evoke.

I've been mulling names while I write this, just as a way to refer to the project. I may well just call it Vague.