A new site is launching with the purpose of providing a platform specifically for funding games. Think of it as Kickstarter with a narrow niche. It's called GameLaunched. You can visit the site now, but there's not much to see. Supposedly they will start offering projects and taking pledges on January 1, 2013. Something to watch.
Some games, like After the Fall, develop over a long time. Other games, like Bid, Bet, Buy, come in a flash of inspiration. This time, a game has come to me through the serendipitous meeting of someone.
As I've probably mentioned, I spend a lot of time on the chat room at The Game Crafter. I've gotten tons of great resources and started to meet good contacts there. One such contact came into the room the other night looking for partners.
I was intrigued, so we talked about his game, and I really like the idea. First of all, it's simple and has potential mass market appeal. Secondly, it's already been developed and playtested. And perhaps best of all from my perspective, it has an educational component and more possible.
The game play is easy enough for elementary age children to learn. Each player gets two secret goal cards, a continent and an animal family (mammal, bird, fish) and a hand of animal cards. For each of ten turns the players put down an animal and pass the rest of their cards. Points are scored for each card played with bonus points for matching the continent and/or family.
From these basic rules there are some additions, and we've already thought of some alternate ways to play. The key though, is that kids have enjoyed the game in playtesting.
Now my job is to find public domain or Creative Commons art for all the animals and create the Photoshop template and database for generating cards. Now to balance working on this with all the other games I've already started.
A shiny new project. Squirrel!!
I've been teaching myself Photoshop, which means looking at a lot of tutorials. I happened upon one titled "Board Game Text Tutorial", so of course I had to investigate.
The image shows the end result of their work. As you can see, it is backgammon themed. I like the wood texture, and it might also be useful in the future to know how to make the checkerboard pattern. The tutorial also has more examples of layer effects like Bevel & Emboss and Outer Glow; things that I've been experimenting with.
So if any of these things sound interesting to you, check it out.
The more I've seen others' work in game design, the more inadequate I have felt. The cards for Archon Arena as they currently stand are functional but far from beautiful.
My goal is to have an original, professional looking design that clearly communicates the cards' information. I have thought about hiring a template artist and may still do so, but first I thought I would give it a crack myself.
The image above is the initial result of that effort. Overall, I like it. There are things that I'm not 100% satisfied with, and I still have to do the other six types of cards, but I think it's a good start. If I have to go and hire a graphic artist in the future I'll have a good base for them to work from.
I've started eliciting opinions. It'd be great to hear your general reactions or specific comments.
We conducted the first play test of Bid, Bet, Buy last night. A few kinks became clear. The main issue with the game was balance between the odds for different bets. This might take some time to tweak.
There was also some confusion regarding how the Bid and Bet interact. The conclusion was that if there is a winner bidder, the Bets for that number are void. When the bets do go through, the payout is only one per token per die. So if there are three people on the number 5 Bet, for example, and two 5s are rolled, the first two players get a coin, but the third does not.
The "buy" mechanic has also been rethought. Rather than a progressively increasing scale for Dice and End Game, the game will have spots for players to increase or decrease the number. For example, the number of dice starts at six. One player could pay for +2, but another person might put on -3, so the net result would be five dice.
Overall, the game was about what I expected. There is some strategy and gamesmanship with the placement of tokens, but in the end a lot of it is pure luck. The rolling of a big handful of dice is exciting though, and I think that makes it fun.
Vowels Are Free has arrived in its fancy prototype version. The game was originally playtested with scavenged Scrabble parts. This iteration was created via The Game Crafter. It includes 4 letter racks, 5 felt draw-string bags, 4 players' letters, vowels, and a timer.
It seems that wooden letter tiles are very hard to find and expensive when you do find them. They are popular among scrapbookers and others doing crafts. As a compromise I've used TGC's shards; 0.75" square cards. The advantage is I'm able to print on both sides, so each player has a distinct back for sorting tiles. The disadvantage is that they are only the thickness of a playing card, so they may be difficult to pick up and move.
Other than that, I have found one issue. I ordered a 150-second timer. In hindsight, that seemed too long of a time limit. When I tested the timer, it actually runs closer to 2:45, so that seems way too long. I've updated to a 2 minute timer for future editions.
I'm sure there will be other kinks to work out. Now that I have this spiffy new version of the game, hopefully I can find people to play it.
Sometimes an idea will pop into my head fully formed. Sometimes these ideas are games. Tonight, I woke from a dream and had a vision of a dice rolling game, complete with name: Bid, Bet, Buy.
At some point recently I had been thinking that it seems many, if not most, of the games on The Game Crafter involve a lot of dice rolling. There don't seem to be many Euro games. Perhaps that was the genesis of this dice-heavy game of my own.
Back to the game. In a way BBB is similar to traditional gambling like craps or roulette. Players will bet on which numbers will be rolled on six-sided dice. The distinction is that players use chits to not only bet but also influence the game.
Bet. On one side of the board is the betting area. For each chit on a given number that is rolled, that player wins coins. There is an exception though. If there is a winning bidder in the Bid section for that number, the bets are void. Numbers 1-4 earn 2 coins, while 5-6 earn only one because they cannot be Bid on.
Bid. The bidding side has the numbers 1-4. Here players bid to control all the returns of a given number. If they are the winning bidder by having the most chits, they get one coin for each die of that number. However, if there is a tie, nobody wins, and the chits are wasted.
Buy. There are two things chits can outright buy: dice rolls and game progress. The number of dice rolled is determined each round by how many chits the players allocate toward dice. And finally, players can place chits toward ending the game. This allows a player to hasten the end if they think they are in the lead.
So, in a nutshell that's the game from my vision. Only testing will decide if it was inspiration or a dream best forgotten.
I've noticed something since getting the prototype for I Thought There'd Be Zombies!, and I wonder if others have experienced the same thing. I feel like the quality of the production has stymied rapid development of the game.
With After the Fall I spent a fair amount of time making the early prototypes decent looking and playable, but they were not very expensive or high quality. I used printable business cards for the cards and printed paper for the mats. The counters were Smarties!
The game progressed very rapidly, changing with each play test, sometimes drastically. I did spend time on the graphic design as the game changed, but the components themselves were disposable and felt that way--easy to replace. Usually each play would have several (if not all) new components.
To some extent Archon Arena went through a similar lifecycle. Early prototypes were business cards. Often I'd simply write changes on them rather than reprint the cards. After ordering real cards, the gameplay has changed much more slowly. The second set of cards basically just reflected a redesign of the layout, and very little has changed since then.
Maybe it's just the natural progression of game design. As the game gets more concrete, the prototypes get better, therefore, there are fewer and fewer changes. The key then is to time the quality of prototyping properly to coincide with the level of completion of the game.
With I Thought There'd Be Zombies! I feel like perhaps the good prototype came too early. The game is fun as is and certainly playable, but I continue to second guess basic elements of it. It'd be a lot easier, mentally, to make drastic changes if it didn't involve throwing out a $10 game board and/or $20 worth of cards.
It'd be great to hear from anyone else who's had experience with this phenomenon. Is it just me, or can high quality early prototypes virtually kill a game?
Dusty (CrassPip) has been playing geek games for 30 years(!) and making his own for nearly as long. Recently, he's actually gotten games beyond the imagination stage.