Tracking the Game Designer in the Wild

If you’re looking to meet and talk with your favorite game designer, there’s no better place than Gen Con, probably the best hunting ground in the world short of Essen. If you’re looking to meet and talk with me in particular, I’m going to make it even easier by telling you where you can make sure our paths cross.

Thursday, 1:00 PM: Intelligent Design: Evolution of Rules
As a game goes through more than one edition, or even more than one printing, the rules evolve away from the originals. Our panel of industry pros talk about how to keep the rules changing for the better.

If you want to hear me talk about the evolution of the HeroClix rules, come on by. Also on the panel are Tim Kask (the first employee of TSR!) and Lew Pulsipher, the designer of the classic board game “Brittania”, so I’ll be the young turk(!) on the panel.

Friday, 10:00 AM: Playing with Other People’s Toys: Licensed Games
Making a game based on your favorite movie or comic book can be a process with both pleasures and pitfalls. Designers of games based on TV, novels, toys and even other games tell their tales.

Odds are that I, Matt Forbeck, and Mitch Gittleman have worked with your favorite at some point, and this panel should be a mix of the fun of working with them and something akin to the scene in Jaws where Quint and Hooper are comparing scars.

Friday, 1:00 PM: Game Development from Prototype to Publication
Taking your game from a design to a prototype that you can show to a manufacturer or publish yourself. Join our Industry guests as they discuss the ins and outs!

A full lineup at this panel, where I’ll be joined by Eric Lang, Paul Peterson, Devin Low and Jeff Quick. I have plenty to share, but I also can’t wait to hear what the other designers on the panel have to say.

Saturday, 3:00 PM: Time Management for Creatives
How to get the most bang for your buck out of your 168 hours a week, as well as sleep and pay the bills.

I’ll have tips, Stan! will have tricks, and the uber-productive father-of-five Matt Forbeck will give us all his secrets or the panel and audience will eat his brain to steal his power. You don’t want to miss that.

Outside of those panels I’ll be showing my wife around her first Gen Con and we’ll probably slip away to play a few games, but you also have a good chance of catching up with me at any of the following places, which I tend to visit regularly:

You can also keep up with me and my doings, as per usual, via my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Feel free to send me a direct message on either if you’re having trouble tracking me down.

See you in Indy!

Major Fun Declares Double Double Dominoes “Major Fun”

Major Fun Award!It’s very cool to see that Double Double Dominoes has been given the “Major Fun Award” by Major Fun!

It’s even better to see them enjoy the dual layers we designed into the game–one for kids, and one for adults, trying to make sure that both could have fun at the same time:

Your beyond school-age folk will find it a sweet filler-type game – nothing to get too serious about, but interesting enough to keep your attention all the way to the end. Your kid-like people will have just as much fun. Racing around a track will keep them focused, raking in bonus points will keep them smug, while you can concentrate your superior powers on the hunt for the highest possible score in a single play.

“Excellent Excellent”: Wired and Geek Dad on Double Double Dominoes

Another great review of Double Double Dominoes, this time over on WIRED’s Geek Dad blog, giving it not just a rating of “excellent”, but “excellent excellent”! (Joyful typo or uncontrollable ebullience, I like it either way.)

It’s really great to see the game getting out on game tables, and seeing people key into the simplicity of the game and the twists that double dominoes and the scoring track provide to give it some extra fun!

Father Geek reviews Double Double Dominoes

Father Geek has posted a great review of my board game Double Double Dominoes, giving the game four out of five stars. The review is a great breakdown of the skills a board game can teach kids while they have fun…along with a great demonstration of the way kids will add their own fun to pretty much any game, like the awesome and not-to-be-missed domino goggles!

Snowmen and Snowmonsters: A First Sketch

Over on Facebook, some joking posts back and forth with Jason Mical about today’s forecasted Seattle Snowpocalypse has prompted me to play with the design for a snowman-themed RPG. In the spirit of designing and failing in public, here’s what I’ve got so far after thirty minutes or so of noodling:

ROLLING UP A SNOWMAN

Snowmen have three stats, one for each of the three rolled snowballs that make up their body:

( ) SMARTS
( ) STRENGTH
( ) SPEED

Each stat is rated between 1 and 5. You create a character by dividing 6 points among your stats, putting at least 1 into each stat.

1
2 Average
3
4
5

The larger the stat, the larger the snowball.

EXAMPLE: Three example characters.

Albert, A smart but weak snowman of average speed:

(---3---)
(-1-)
(--2--)

Burt, A burly snowman who isn’t very bright or very fast:

(-1-)
(----4----)
(-1-)

Charlie, A snowman who’s a little weaker than normal, but also a little faster than normal

(--2--)
(-1-)
(---3---)

STAT CHECKS

To make a stat check, you roll 3d6. Each die that matches or is below your stat is a success.

1 success is a Normal success, 2 successes is a Great success, and 3 successes is an Amazing success!

EXAMPLE: Melissa is playing Albert the Snowman, and needs to make a Speed check to outrace a Yeti.

Albert’s Speed is 2. Melissa rolls 3d6 and gets a 1, a 2, and a 4. The numbers on two of her three dice are equal to or below Albert’s Speed of 2. That’s 2 successes–a Great success!

I like the three snowballs as the three stats, but I’m still not sure of the central dice mechanic. More to the point, I’m not sure about the dice generating successes that are treated with number and quality like that. I feel like the game could be pointed toward a younger audience, so maybe the dice could generate chips players could spend later for some purpose?

I’ll be thinking about this later as I work on assignments with deadlines. If we do indeed get as much snow as is forecasted, I’ll probably be inspired to work on this some more tomorrow.

Gears of War HeroClix Preview

A Mauler from Gears of War HeroClix

Over on Figures.com, they’re running a preview of the Gears of War HeroClix figures I designed for WizKids, including previews of the brand-new grenade mechanic and two new team abilities for the C.O.G. and the Locust Horde!

A Letter to the Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

I’m a backer of Daniel Solis’ kid-friendly RPG Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple over on Kickstarter, and this morning I noticed an invitation for backers to contribute some story seeds to the project. It’s hard for me to pass up a chance to do some quick, fun world-building and storytelling, so here’s what I put together over lunch:

Dear Pilgrims of the Flying Temple,

My name is Sister Yo, and I write to you from the Scrollshome Valley monastery, where we have quite a problem!

For one hundred years the monks of Scrollshome Valley have explored the ancient ruins in the valley, recorded the knowledge they discovered, and stored the facts of history in our village’s labyrinthine library. (Seriously, it’s a maze–if you have to go in search of a really old scroll, bring snacks!) I’m only twelve, but already I’ve been given an important job, recording the birthdays of each and every child in the entire valley, adding their names to all the other events of the past quietly awaiting the eyes of the future inside our walls. It was a peaceful and ordered life.

Then the Dancing Moon Company of actors and musicians arrived in Scrollshome Valley, led by famed actor Polobious Gant. Their plays might have merely provided an amusing diversion for the people of our village, but the actors travelled in the company of their patron, the great and powerful Spirit Juwheya. When the company stages one of their plays, Spirit Juwheya enjoys and believes what he is seeing so much that his magic causes it to become real! Feathers sprout on paper costumes and actors take to the air, while the wooden swords of actresses are suddenly enchanted steel wielded by mighty warrior women. These fancies were things of wonder–until the night the actors’ cart-oxen was transformed into a bull-headed dragon that set fire to our market! The magic fades with the first light of sunrise–but the damage to our village remains, as does the gemstone Spirit Juwheya leaves for Polobious Gant each night as a reward.

Elder Oleon and our guiding council have asked the Dancing Moon Company to stop presenting plays and move on to another village. But the Dancing Moon will not–cannot, Polobious Gant says–continue on until Spirit Juwheya chooses to… and who can say what will move a thirty-foot tall spirit made of dust, wind, and lightning? Spirit Juwheya rarely speaks, only wandering silently about Scrollshome Valley each day to explore its ruins before returning to the village for that night’s performance. Elder Oleon even made sure that none of the people of the village came to the plays of the Dancing Moon for a week, but they care little as long as Spirit Juwheya attends and is amused.

Polobious Gant often pens new plays for the Dancing Moon to help keep Spirit Juwheya entertained, and now he has begun work on a new play. Perhaps Elder Oleon has pushed Gant too far or too often, but I’m told Gant’s new tale tells of the early days of our village, when a young boy must decide between chasing his mind’s desire to record the history of the valley, or follow his heart to distant lands and become an actor. This is the story of Elder Oleon as a boy when he explored the ancient ruins of the valley before founding the monastery and our village, though young Oleon never desired to become an actor.

But what if Spirit Juwheya’s magic makes Gant’s play turn real? What if the play rewrites history? If Oleon becomes an actor, there will be no Scrollshome monastery, no village, and everything we know will change!

I write to you Pilgrims, whose exploits border on fiction yet I’m told are true. Can you come and make peace between history-writers who record the truth and tale-tellers who live lies? Can you make contact with a spirit who cares little for what goes on around him unless it happens on a stage–and then unleashes magical chaos? Can you give our village, our monastery, and our people a future instead of a past that never happened?

I hope that you will come visit soon.

Sister Yo

If playing out that story sounds like fun to you, you might join me as a backer of the game over on Kickstarter. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait and play it with me once the game comes out!

Where’s Seth?

If you’re reading the Funlab you probably know most or all of this already, but HeroClix World asked me to write up a short article on what I’ve been up to since leaving WizKids.

It’s only when I stop to write up a summary like that that I realize how busy I’ve been. I really do deserve a nap. But first, there’s that deadline to attend to…

Game Dev Story Story

I had planned on spending a plane flight yesterday reading Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants and Dan Abnett’s Triumff. Instead, shortly after takeoff, I decided to give Game Dev Story a try. In the end, there’s not a ton of game to it, but it’s a blast to play through an alternate history of recent game development and create genres that never were (such as my experiments in the “Romance Puzzler” genre.)

One of the things I love most in the game is naming the finished projects from my studio. There’s a limit of 14 characters, but I still try to have some fun. Here are the first 30 games I made:

Fallout: New Vegas, Fable III, and Rock Band 3 are all in my near future….but I bet I’ll spend a few minutes every day helping my studio keep going.

15 Games in 15 Minutes

A post instigated by Jeff Grubb, who said:

This meme has been bouncing around the net, and I thought I would give it a shot. Originally it was for computer games, but it’s jumping the species membrane and gone viral.

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen games you’ve played that will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

Okay, here goes:

1) Deus Ex
2) AD&D
3) DC Heroes RPG
4) Talisman
5) Grand Theft Auto 3
6) Burnout: Paradise
7) Star Wars RPG
8) Cyborg
9) Axis & Allies
10) Guitar Hero
11) SSX Tricky
12) HeroClix
13) Civilization
14) City of Heroes
15) Carcassonne

Runners-up for the list: Unreal Tournament, the MAD Magazine board game, Wizardry, Creature Venture, Illuminati, Castle Falkenstein, 221B Baker Street, and A Mind Forever Voyaging.

I’d love to hear your lists.

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