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Wow, I’m truly embarrassed to have not posted about this yet, but better late than never.

I participated in Global Game Jam 2014 at the NYU Games Center this year, and had a blast! It was a tricky weekend, as my friend Danton Spina had been in California getting his Master’s degree for a couple years, and this was the first weekend he was going to be able to see us in NYC. We could have forgone this weekend-long charette (the goal is to produce a working video game between Friday night and Sunday night), but I had just started to get comfortable developing for the Oculus Rift and was eager to put it to use for game development (though we didn’t use it). On top of that, my frequent-co-board-game-designer Daniel King was eager to participate in the Global Game Jam, so in the end we thought it would be ideal to get Danton involved in some capacity.

Dan and Morgan Shaw (always the color corrector/graphic designer!) got to the Metrotech Center early Friday night and managed to lasso a few other team members, one of whom was a 17-year old coding genius, one of whom was a young and eager Unity-veteran about to start his semester in the NYU Games Center, and the other was a guy who almost didn’t talk the entire weekend. Two other guys started in our group, but then splintered off and made a super-artsy interactive thing in Processing that won a bunch of awards.

Anyway, the prompt for the weekend was “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” and that got us talking about a game that changed its environment based on how the player played. Are you aggressive? Make the level ‘thicker’ and give you more punching power. Are you likely to jump over things? Make stuff ‘taller’ and give you more jumping power. A simple idea that we weren’t quite able to realize over the course of the weekend, but still had a ton of fun with (and I’d like to think we all learned something too!) Danton focused on designing backgrounds, Morgan gave us a color palette, I coded various elements, Dan worked on Kangaroo animation (kangaroos jump and kick!), and our other guys handled everything else. By the end of the weekend, here’s what we more or less had. It didn’t manage to, y’know, do what we wanted, but hey! There was kicking and jumping and procedurally-generated terrain in front of a parallax-scrolling background.

And frankly, it was fun. Now, I don’t have any delusions that continuing to work on this was going to yield any kind of recognition or rewards– there’s a million games like this that are far prettier and better-marketed than I could ever dream of doing. Heck, one was even made during the Game Jam; a fantastic sidescroller where you play as a horse and your power-ups are the people that ride you. My goal right now is to learn enough coding/Unity to be able to do basic tasks with relative ease, and this is a great template for that. It’s an already-working game that wanted some extra functionality, none of which I imagined would be too particularly challenging.

And really, it wasn’t. Unity has great tutorials online, and coding in C# isn’t that different from JavaScript. While I hesitate to call this ‘done’, I’ve accomplished many of the things I set out to:

  • add a score
  • add a game over screen
  • make jumping/kicking power change based on how often you perform those actions
  • make the environment change based on how often you perform those actions
  • get the game working on the web
  • have the game on the web save a high score and player name
  • fix the graphic problems

If I keep working on this, it’ll be frosting stuff– fine tune the mathematics behind things, dress up the graphics, add some animations/music in more places. For all intents and purposes, this is my Unity sandbox. And what a fun sandbox it is– each new thing I learn tends to propel me to learn something else.

This is literally the first video game I’ve worked on since Dildo Raptor Wars, which was in Adobe Flash, so it’s great to be working in Unity now both for work purposes and play. I’m learning so much!

Without further adieu, I’m proud to present version 0.2 of Walkabout.

Jump over cacti or destroy them. Only the cacti with flowers can be destroyed.

Play the game by clicking on the image below! The last thing I added was a loading-percentage indicator– surprisingly simple and a great indicator to players that nothing’s broken! Thanks to Dan for the lovely poem.

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Can you beat my high score? Please do!

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iBrews Gives You:  A-

I’d like to start doing more of these! After all, my main driver for creating games is feeling inspired after playing someone else’s well-designed game, so yes, let’s talk about Uwe Rosenburg’s Glass Road. It came out a couple of months ago in November 2013, the same month as his behemoth sequel to Agricola, Caverna: The Cave Farmers.

I think it’s wonderful that these two games were released so close together. I’m a huge fan of Agricola, but I have not played Caverna. However, my understanding of the game is that it’s like if everything you did in Agricola was your day job, and then there’s other stuff your family members get to do that’s like going on weekend adventures. That all sounds dandy, but my initial reaction to that was oh-my-god-Agricola-has-enough-going-on-why-would-you-add-more? But hey, I haven’t played it, so who am I to judge?

I bring this comparison up only because Glass Road’s biggest surprise is its simplicity. How cool is it that Uwe could develop an incredibly complex game and an incredibly straightforward game in tandem? Glass Road takes 10 minutes to set up, has a couple elegant mechanics in place, you bend your brain around them for about an hour over four identical building rounds, and then the game is over. I’ve played the game three times now (with 2 players each time), and I’m still kind of in shock at how straightforward it all is. I mean, it’s an Uwe Rosenberg game! You’re supposed to feel overwhelmed by the insane juggling act of 30 different game elements, and then end in the middle of that adrenaline rush hoping that you accomplished something.Instead, Glass Road had me constantly wondering ‘is that it?’ but you know, in the best way possible. There’s a ton of strategy to be had here. Allow me to explain the game:

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To start, each player has an identical deck of 15 ‘specialist’ cards at their disposal that do things like give you goods or build buildings. The game is played over 4 building rounds, and at the beginning of each round, each player picks 5 specialist cards, plays 3 of them, then hopes that another player picked the remaining two, as that will give them a free action and reduce the actions of the opposing player. Goods are tracked on two production wheels: one is for making brick and one is for making glass. In addition to those ‘refined’ goods, you have a bunch of basic goods. Refined goods are made automatically whenever you have one of every basic good on that wheel (and you lose one of each of those goods in the process). What do you want to do with those goods? You buy buildings to fill up your little Agricola-esque piece of land. Those buildings fall into one of three categories: conversion buildings which let you turn one type of basic good into another at will, immediate buildings that give you a one-off benefit, or victory point buildings that simply help you win (like the buildings in Puerto Rico).

1040570_330759987057640_354383940_oThat’s it. You pick specialist cards, get goods, build buildings, rinse and repeat 4x, then hope that you’ve managed to string together enough complementary elements to achieve more victory points than your opponent(s). Deceptively simple.

I’ve played three games. The first game, Morgan and I tied with 12 points each. In the second game, Morgan beat me 21 to 17.5. In my third game against Liz, she beat me 19 to 13. I should have managed many more points in that game with Liz, but made the mistake of buying an expensive building that would give me a lot of points for my leftover glass, but then I didn’t have any glass leftover. I’ll admit the first couple rounds of this game you’ll feel a little lost– ‘do I want to build more ponds?’ ‘How important is charcoal?’ ‘Wait, why is this building so expensive?’ But by the second time you play the game, like John Nash you’ll start to see invisible lines being drawn between certain buildings and specialists. “Ah…” you’ll say. “If I get that building which allows me to convert wood to clay then get that other building that gives me a bunch of victory points for my clay, then use my clay engine to get more brick, I’ll be solid.”

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One final word on the production wheel; it’s a super cool mechanic but it definitely stretches your brain; you’ll have more than one instance where you forget to factor in the loss of your basic good when producing a refined good to make a purchase. Here’s the easiest way to think of it, even though it’s a little different from what the visual of the production wheel suggests: one of every basic good gets you one refined good, but the trick is that you have HAVE to create a refined good at that point, even if you don’t want to. Sometimes you’ll even make multiple refined goods at once!

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Hoo-rah!

  • Quick to learn, setup, play, but you’ll never feel like you’ve ‘solved it’
  • Gameplay can be easily lengthened or shortened by adding or subtracting building rounds
  • Love the production wheel mechanic, even though it takes some time to wrap your head around
  • Love the mechanic that rewards you for picking 3 specialist cards that your opponent won’t pick and holding onto 2 that they will pick.
  • Game play (likely) changes a lot based on number of players.
  • Great balance between interactivity and focused personal strategy

Blech…

  • The buildings and specialists are straightforward to a fault. Obviously you want conversion buildings and specialists that say things like ’1 of this becomes 2 of that’, but why not a few more eccentric choices? The Fuel Collector gives you charcoal based on how many cards you have left in your hand. Cool! Why not a building that gives you a victory point for every time another player plays a card you had in your hand, or a Specialist that can only be played when another player’s glass wheel turns? Or even just a specialist that is likely to stay in your hand, but becomes a super cool ‘trump’ in just the right circumstances? Some variety, please! Maybe in an expansion?
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RumRun_BoxTopWrap_03Yeah yeah, I know. I said it was done in December. And then maybe again back in May. But now it’s REALLY done. Like there’s nothing in the world Morgan and I can imagine doing to it to improve it. We’re ready to sit back for a while and just let it be.

I mean, we deserve that, right? We’ve now finalized a Paper/Mini Edition, a Basic Edition with an Expansion Pack, and an ultimate, complete, couldn’t-be-better Deluxe Edition. Heck, we’ve even made a chart to help you decide which Rum Run is right for you! RumRun_Promotion Page

And did I mention we’re selling all of these nearly at cost? That is, we make, like, nothing. Because the best reward we could get is knowing you’re enjoying our game. Awwww…

So now it’s finally time to stop coddling our baby and let it waddle out into the world, soft-shelled-skull and all. Time for the professionals to take over, as they say.

For our first major review, we’ve selected the one, the only, Father Geek. Father Geek has a sterling reputation for giving indie game reviews the attention one could only hope for with a published game. One particularly cool quality to them is that they test games with three different groups: kids, casual gamers, and hardcore gamers. Check out this wonderfully thorough review of The Game Crafter’s Contest Winner, Jupiter Deep, designed by Mark Major.

That’s all for now! Hopefully they get some good pictures of it– we still don’t really know what the current edition looks like printed, though we’re pretty certain it’s freakin’ awesome.

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PSFYI: Terra Neo is coming along swimmingly– Ethan Blank is an incredibly talented artist and its been a great honor working with him. We hope to have the Deluxe Edition of Terra Neo ready to go in the next couple months. To hold you over, here’s one of his many awesome pieces of artwork, this one for the god power ‘Dreams’…
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