Hostage Negotiator – A Unique Game by an Indie Designer Friend

Hostage NegotiatorMy friend, A.J. Porfirio, runs a publishing company called Van Ryder Games (named after his oldest kids), and really likes what he calls “thematic games.” I’m hoping to have him on a Q&A blog post sometime in the next few weeks to get a more detailed definition from him on that term. (I think it’s sort of like using the word “weather,” in that everyone *knows* what it means, but it’s really hard to pin down a worded definition because it can encompass so much.)

As an example of what he brings to the market in this area, I want to point out his Kickstarter project that just launched for Hostage Negotiator. It’s a single-player game about using conversation and taking actions to get a hostage-taker to release their hostages. Very deep, thematic (obviously), and tense. Check it out and let me (and A.J.) know your thoughts.

I will be on TV! (or, at least YouTube)

Something From NothingThis coming Sunday night, July 13th at 7 p.m. central time, I will be on a web show called Something From Nothing (see previous episodes here), hosted by a handful of game designer acquaintances — TC Petty III, Chevee Dodd, Jason Slingerland and Rob Couch — with conversation around a wide range of game-design related topics. Levi Mote, designer of the game Ruse, will also be a guest on the show.

To get the link to the live broadcast on YouTube, watch my Twitter feed for a link just before 7 p.m. central on Sunday night. To ask questions, post comments or otherwise interact with the show in real time, Tweet using the hashtag #btgsfn (it stands for “Building the Game, Something From Nothing”)

Muse vs. Focus

Whisper, whisperIf you’re familiar with the classic Greek concept of the Muses, you’ll know what I mean when I refer to my muse giving me an idea for a game … or when I say that I’m waiting on my muse to help me figure out the answer to something I’m working on.

I don’t actually believe that I have an invisible woman following me around, whispering in my ear with new, creative ideas. But, I’ve always found … Continue reading

Reblog from Hyperbole Games: The Love of the Craft

Hyperbole Games LogoI believe I’ve mentioned it a number of times on this blog already, but if you’re into playing or designing tabletop games, you should really be reading Grant Rodiek’s blog over at the Hyperbole Games website.

The latest example I would like to share is an eloquent way of letting folks know what designers get out of the craft side of game design. It’s not always about sales or “likes” or BGG ratings. Sometimes, it’s just about enjoying the process itself.

Check it out here: The Love of the Craft from the Hyperbole Games blog.

Solitaire Games are on My Mind

Space Mission's 3D Space Ship ModelI’ve been thinking a lot lately about designing solo-play games, and about adding a solo-play option into games that are normally played with multiple players. It’s a different sort of task — and I think a harder task — than normal game design since you can’t rely on player interaction to add an extra layer of challenge for a player … you need to have the game system itself handle that part in addition to the main challenge of the game.

Blaster Waves Setup to PlayI’ve only finished one game like this so far — Blaster Waves. This game came about as part of the 2012 Solitaire Print-and-Play Contest at BoardGameGeek.com. There are print-and-play files available for those that like to print their own for free, and also a TGC-produced version that can be ordered.

I want to get better at designing for this type of play, and I think I’ve worked out a plan for that … Continue reading

How I Used StoryForge Cards to Make Abbottsville Characters Deeper

Story Forge CardsI don’t recall how I first was introduced to Story Forge Cards, but I know that it didn’t take me very long until I ordered a set for myself. These cards are a deck of tarot-sized cards of different colors and suit icons that represent larger concepts that you’ll find in most stories, such as “destiny” and “wealth” and “identity.” More importantly (at least for how I want to use them), they each have 2 concepts on them — usually polar opposites of each other — each oriented to a different end of the card.

Story Forge Card ExampleFor example, one card has “Memory” on one end and “Amnesia” on the other, with brief definitions of each of the terms and hints at how you might use them in a story. The deck is accompanied by a booklet that gives all sorts of card layouts for different types of work — creating main characters, background characters, various types of genres and plots, etc. (Click on the link to the site above and choose “See Cards in Action” to see what I mean.)

Since I got them, I’ve dabbled with them just a little bit, such as forming deeper, more detailed background information around characters for stories I want to write someday. I even used them to do a character-build for a short lecture session at a confirmation retreat with 7th & 8th graders last year. But what does this have to do with Abbottsville? Continue reading

What I Use for Background Textures

Screenshot of Genetica ViewerWhen I get a design past the initial “Is this even going to work?” stages, and my first set of sharpie-and-index-card prototypes have become illegible from all of my edits, I like to make a nicer-looking prototype. So, I open up Photoshop and let the right side of my brain play around for a bit.

For me, having a nicer-looking prototype on a design that is progressing does a few things:

  1. It helps me get a better grip on exactly what information needs to be presented and how it can be laid out in a way to best inform the player.
  2. It may help players plug-in to the theme in a stronger way.  (Example: if I’m exploring an island for pirates’ treasure, it helps me enjoy the experience more if I see actual sand and grass and jungle instead of a hand-drawn outline on white paper with letter codes or icons to represent the different terrain.)
  3. It does something good for my creative process to see a nicer, cleaner, new prototype at each major step along the way.

The first nicer prototypes get the inkjet-printout treatment at home. But once I have it to where I plan on doing formal playtesting locally or at a Protospiel or other gaming con, then I usually order a nicely produced set from TGC. In any of these cases, while I still am developing the design, I have no qualms breaking the sharpie back out and marking things up as needed.

My first step is usually picking out background textures for any cards and/or boards needed in the game. These backgrounds give you a place to project an overriding feel for the theme, and a way to let the information a player needs standout. I find myself using 3 main sources for my background textures, listed here (saving my favorite for last) … Continue reading

I’ve Signed with Happy Mitten Games

Happy Mitten GamesAfter handing my “For Goods and Honor” prototype to Jeff Large with Happy Mitten Games during GenCon back in August, the past couple months have been a fun an interesting series of e-mails and Skype sessions.

The result has been a contract with HMG to publish the game, although it’ll likely have a new title and theme — we’re still working all of that out.

As part of the announcement, Jeff, Lee & Kyle interviewed me on their latest podcast. You can listen to us here: Happy Mitten Podcast, Ep. 16

On My Radar: Other People Working on Cool Things

Radar AntennaI keep telling myself that I will soon write a post about the feast-or-famine cycle that my creative process rides along. But I continue to delay — it’s likely too personal.

In the meantime, I’ve found that I gain energy by paying particular attention to other folks who are doing things right, working on cool things, or otherwise providing up-lifting stories in the here-and-now.

So here is a very random sampling of the things I’m currently paying attention to, and hoping to vicariously catch a charge for my own creative battery: Continue reading

Pruning

PruningThe time has come for me to do a bit of clean-up and cutting back on my back projects.

Somewhere in the middle of the run-up to GenCon, attending the fun in Indy, and mulling/digesting things afterwards, I felt a need to put more focused effort into just a few things.  Which means changing away from my normal style of having a dozen things all in-flux at the same time.

It’ll be a “personal growth” thing for me. I’ve generally just gone where the muse has lead and not worried too much about planning ahead of time. So, I’m in the middle of a “sit down” discussion with her in my head. Time to setup the guidelines of our relationship moving forward and see what fun she’ll be able to conjure up within those boundaries. I know that creative restrictions can produce a wealth of ideas for a particular project. We’ll see if it does the same thing on a more general scale.

Here are the changes I’ll be working toward over the next few weeks … Continue reading