Wow! Once again, way too long without an update. Rather than create a separate post each thing going on lately, let’s just talk about it all at once. Here’s what’s happening:

 

Rum Run

Has been reviewed by Dave for To the Table and Father Geek! Both of them were remarkably thorough and had a ton of awesome things to say, which is incredibly encouraging. Dave made an lovely video which actually does as good a job explaining how to play the game as I ever could, so check it out if you’d like to learn (and hear his thoughts):

Despite some stellar comments, Father Geek couldn’t give the game the ‘official’ seal of approval because of parents’ mixed reactions to the subject matter (interestingly, Rum Run recieved the Child Seal of Approval but not the Parents. What is this, Spongebob Squarepants?). Understandable, but yeah, just make it about rootbeer! Or teach your kids about a very real very problematic period of American History. Anyway, there’s still a review incoming from Gamers Remorse, but I’m so thrilled by what’s been said so far that whatever they say can only be frosting on the cake. Woot! Planning on smoothing out a few event/objective cards I don’t like then finally buying myself a copy :P

 

Walkabout

Not doing too much with this right now. Where I left off, I was trying to get the online high-score table to work, which I think I was very close to doing but just ran out of time. I still think it’s a fun game! Loved getting the sky to fall. If nothing else, it serves as a great 2D tutorial and sandbox for me to keep coming back to.

 

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Terra Neo

Here’s my guilty spot. This summer I managed to get Alice Blank into my production of Dystopiapiapia. She’s a phenomenal actor and it was a huge honor. Our last interaction though, was when I asked her if she might make some of the artwork for Terra Neo (this is like a year and a half ago now), and this all came with the promise of me getting her a free copy of the game ASAP to use as a porfolio item. Then I got hung up on the rules or something came up or excuses excuses excuses and I haven’t touched it for months. Here’s the dumb thing– really all that needs to be done is some fine tuning with the color palette and new rules. That’s it. So why the heck don’t I ignore the rules, get myself and Alice a copy, enjoy the freaking’ game, then make the rules later? Doy. Hopefully I can do that soon.

 

Masterplan

While nothing has been done, I will say that Dan and I are gearing up to take another pass at it and imagine what a Game Crafter version would look like.

 

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Amazingly, there’s a couple people in my office talking about getting a bunch of my boardgames for Christmas, so I really should be making everything as great as possible. Shima has been looked at by Dan and I a couple times in the past, but he wants to do a genuine overhaul of the entire game. I just want to fine tune a couple things and maybe make the rules more clear. We’ll see.

 

Oculus Rift DK2

While I haven’t actually made an Oculus Rift game yet, it’s only a matter of time, so I may as well talk about what I am doing with it here. Basics: my office got the DK1 in December of last year and I immediately jumped into learning Unity and Javascript and made some interactive versions of our theaters for XIQU, the Rose Theater, Utah Performing Arts Center, and the Park Avenue Armory’s production of Macbeth. It was great– depth perception and rotational head tracking really helped you feel like you were there. Problem– if you move your head, nothing happens. Well, in a theater, whether you’re trying to look between the heads of the people in front of you,or lean over a balcony rail, there’s plenty of subtle movement affecting sightlines that the DK1 was unable to capture. Enter the DK2– just got it working yesterday with one of our projects, and that took getting a new graphics card (NVIDIA GTX 970), a power adapter (Dell prebuilt computers… yikes to work with). But hey! Higher definition display, and MOTION TRACKING. My boss loves it. There’s a few little judder things I gotta work out, but after that, I’ll start to feel comfortable imagining some much more ‘game-like’ elements to work on, be it for my office or for some crazy new project.

 

What I’m Playing

My wife and I have been playing a lot of Race for the Galaxy (which Liz usually wins). We also love a new (old) game by Sid Sackson called Acquire. Besides that, we’ve had single games of Dominant Species, Root Word, and Scrabble.

 

The Future:

I want to make a board game about the meat industry. Here’s two words no one likes to hear together: educational and fun!

 

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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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