Monday, April 27, 2009

A New, as yet, Un-named Game

It's been a while since I've introduced a new game, but the wait is finally over!!!

Anyway, the guild was having a sort of in-house competition and Phil gave out some restrictions that needed to be adhered to if anyone wanted to design a game for the competition. Well, this is my attempt.

The players take on the role of a group of "-ites" or a tribe. For example, when I play I am the Mike-ites (super cheese there). The object is to develop your tribe to be the most righteous (represented by a 10-sided die) and to have the strongest army (represented by a 6-sided die). At the end of the game, your weakest of the two will be the points you score. So you have to be sure to develop both of them throughout the game.

To increase righteousness and army strength cards (each player has his/her own deck) are used. This is done by getting sets of 3 or runs of 3 (4 different suits make up the cards: Preaching, Army, Title of Liberty, and Gadianton Robber). Here is where I've tried to add something a little different. At the beginning of the game each player shuffles their deck of cards and then draws the top 4 cards. These now constitute the player's hand. The rest of the deck can be looked at by the player and reordered according to their desire and pleasure. This now constitutes the draw pile. Then, once all players have done this, the top 3 cards from the draw pile are drawn and placed face up next to the draw pile for all to see. On a player's turn one option they have it to draw a card. They may draw from the top of their own draw pile or may select any face up card. So, each player knows the order of cards in their draw pile, but not exactly when each card will come up. A little different, but it makes things interesting.

The Sword of Laban and the Brass Plates (both represented by 4-sided dice) are also on the board and having control of them also increases your army strength (with the Sword of Laban) and righteousness (with the Brass Plates).

The board is made up of hexes. The hexes contain pathways of two colors. Your righteousness and army dice move along one of the colored paths. Once you control the Sword of Laban or the Brass Plates, you can move them along the other colored path.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Paid to Play: A Review

I wouldn't call myself a critic or anything like that, but I am enjoying reading about game design and how to attempt to make money with it. And I thought I'd share what I thought about Paid to Play by Keith A. Myers.

He offers a lot of helpful information. Some of it is just logical, but you don't really explicitly think about it. For example, he has a section about where a game comes from or The 3 Core Concepts. These include:
1) A Name or Phrase
2) A Theme or Story-Line
3) Game Play/Thought Process
For me anyway, I think I've had games come from each of these, but I never really thought, "Hey, I could turn that name into a game." Thoughts and ideas just kind of spring up and I attempt to grab them. I have consciously thought about, as LDS/Mormon themes are my focus, "That (theme or part of the Book of Mormon) would make a great setting for a game." But I don't think I've said to myself, "I've got to think of a new theme or story line from the Book of Mormon to start a new game." Again, I think it's just something that we do but don't explicitly know that we do it. Nonetheless, it's good to get it explicitly spelled out for us (for me anyway; I know it will help me in future game designs).

Overall, I can say that I took several things away from the book that I think will affect what I do in designing my games in the future. For example, the section about writing rules had a lot of good guidance, steps to take in the process of writing it all up and important things to keep in mind as you do it (like date each document file and don't delete previous versions). One thing he said he doesn't suggest is trying to write the rules document at an early stage of game development. I can see where he is coming from; there will probably be a lot of tweaks to the gameplay and rules as you continue to develop and playtest. I do think it a good idea to write up all your ideas and how the game plays from the beginning. This will really help flesh out ideas and it makes it easier to see if something will work, even before actually attempting it in a playtest. Many times I've had some, what I thought were really good ideas as to how the game would work, only to find, as we (my wife and I; I'm so glad and thankful she puts up with stuff like this) sat down to try it all out, that some of it didn't work. So, the initial step of writing it down and kind of working through it all helps with that. I guess you shouldn't attempt to write the whole rules document, but just how the game will work and what will happen.

He had quite a bit about connecting with publisher and getting your game in stores. This was probably the least beneficial part for me (but I'm an extreme case). I don't foresee myself publishing games as he suggests, but there were still valuable insights that he had to offer in that section of the book. I do think a lot of it will be valuable as I attempt to self-publish most of my stuff. For example, I think more about how the box will look that I eventually will use to package my game. The three Ps: Placement, Packaging, and Pricing will be important to keep in mind when I get to that point.

He also gave good information on how to get your game copyrighted to protect what is yours.

Lastly, here are a few one-liners I thought were good:
  • "No matter how your game is created, take time to come up with the best name possible."
  • "By drawing up a long-term, well-thought out financial plan and budge accordingly, you have a head start on moving forward with the best possible vision."
  • "As a closing note about self-publishing, I want to add, that while it may be an all-consuming job, it is in my opinion, the best industry there is. Every day, hopefully, you will go to work at a job that you truly love."
  • "I have had the most success with games that are innovative, combined with something familiar."
I enjoyed the book and know that I learned quite a bit from reading it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We've Got a Plan

So we've had quite a bit of activity on the Google Group lately. It was pretty much started when Chester (boardgamegeek profile) found us and joined in. He is very fired up and excited about getting something like this (i.e., Mormon themed games) out for publishers and distributors to see and pick up. We talked on the phone last night for a little over an hour about the idea. It goes something like this:

A Co-op will be created (we'll call it something like Zion Game Designers International (ZGDI)). We will hook up with the LDS Booksellers Association (become a member) and start attending their annual convention (happens in August; we'll be shooting for the convention in 2010). At the conventions we will have a booth where members of ZGDI will display their games. Members will bring games that are 'Ready for the Box.' If it isn't ready to be sold, then that is just what it is - not ready to be sold. Those at the LDSBA are there to make plans for the entire next year - decisions will be made on what goes into what store and what publisher will buy what game. Prototypes don't need to be professional in appearance, but they need to be functional and the game needs to have all the bugs worked out and read to be sold. That's another part of where we come in as a group, we'll be vetting games and helping get them ready for the LDSBA.
This will give us access to the publishers and distributors in the LDS world of books, and we hope to get them to adopt new game designs as well.

He explained it to be sort of like an Essen-type setup: a convention where designers come with hopes of hooking up with a publisher. We'll be there for publishers and distributors to see us and our games. The Co-op will give us a chance to save on costs (all costs split by those of us who are members of the Co-op) and also provide us a way of letting the publishers and distributors know that we will always have quality products for them to consider. In essence, as a Co-op we would put our "stamp of approval" on the games that the members bring to the LDSBA conventions.

We also hope to be able to showcase our games at the Gathering of Strangers (that will hopefully happen this summer here in Utah). We hope to be able to go there with some games ready for others to play. Then we can get LDS people's feedback on the games and have that for 'market research' to back up our pitches to the LDSBA.

Anyway, it's a lot to take in. It makes me very excited though. I hope we can get this all set up and ready to go. I'm especially excited that someone other than me is excited to give quality Mormon themed games to the world!

Thanks to Chester for this brilliant idea!!
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