Term: Cooperative Games

A cooperative game is a game where multiple players are all working together to achieve the common end of the game. This isn’t the same thing as a game where players can cooperate (like many trading games or war games), but games where the entire point of the game is for two or more players to work together to win it.


Cooperative game designs are great for making games for players who aren’t interested in direct conflict.

They’re also good for making somewhat basic problems much more complicated and engaging. It’s one thing to just lift a box, but if one player has to lift the box, and another player push it forwards, you’re going to make something that wasn’t quite a challenge into a problem of communication.

Honestly, though, cooperative games are excellent for people who just don’t want their games to be about butting heads and would rather work together.


One of the big problems that cooperative games tend to get is commonly called quarterbacking. The idea is that as long as all players are collaborating on the project of the game means that it’s possible that one player can take control of the play – that there is, in any situation an optimal play, and then it falls to one player to make that play as best they can.

This can mean that in any given play situation, one player might not be making many choices, and one player might be making more. There are ways around this, but quarterbacking is the biggest problem with pure cooperative games.


Pandemic, and most of its connected works. Mysterium. Hanabi. Spirit Island.

The Fifty Two Flags Wrapup, Part 4

These are the final two rounds of voting, the top eight of flags. Now, thanks to the vagaries of the voting tournament, there are some flags here that do not belong in a top eight of US state flags. But them’s the breaks in a randomly seeded tournament.

I preserved the order of loss in my original thread, but let’s make no mistake: The original thread had some absolute turkeys last way too long. Texas, for example, probably belongs in the final eight, certainly. Really, a more refined version of this poll would be one where all the unforgivably bad flags are just dumped, but then there might be as few as sixteen options.

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Story Pile: Pacific Rim

Just as Game Pile has developed away from its roots of being a pure videogame review section of the website and instead developed into a house for me to talk about stuff in videogames, using videogames as ways to talk about anything else that interests me as well, I realised that one thing that paralysed me was a movie that I enjoyed but didn’t have anything super-meaningful to say about.

I mean, what am I gunna say about Pacific Rim? Just eight paragraphs of enthusiastic wibbling about big robots and big monsters with three pictures interspersed? Is it enough for me to just talk about disjointed stuff I liked in a movie without some greater, central thesis?

Let’s find out!

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MTG: Pet Cards XV, Theros Block

Oh man, I remember this set! I got to draft this set for the first time in years. We sat down and did an in-home draft with a friend’s box, and it was super interesting. There was a wide variety of skill levels, and I lost – hard – to a runaway lifelinker with my mono-black aggro devotion deck. It was a lot of fun to play, though, and I remembered feeling that it was time to reboot my online account and get back to playing.

I have quite a few staples from Theros block. As with Charms, and Cluestones and Gates in Return To Ravnica, there are plenty of perfectly good cards in this set to build around or to always have on hand, and the Gods of Theros represent some of the better bulk mythics you’ll fine.

Except Keranos, weirdly.

You’ll never be wild about using Temples in your mana base, but you’ll also never be that unhappy with them compared to most of the lesser alternatives. You’ll not always be able to make the best use of cards like Heliod and Pharika, but having them around as potentially useful cheap threats in midrange and control decks works out well.

Oh, and Content Warning: I will show a card with a spider on it. Sorry!

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The Fifty Two Flags Wrapup, Part 1

A month or two ago, in the lead-up to the United States Flag Day I made a twitter thread – and what a thread it was. Here’s a link. But Twitter threads break, and they sometimes lose information, and so, in the interest of preservation, here’s that chunk o’content, reproduced on my blog.

This thread got really big and it had some sass and comments, so I’m going to represent the rounds of voting, then the loser’s brackets. Continue reading

Notes! Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research, Part 2

In case you missed it, this is the tail end of my notes about this book, Autoethnography: Understanding floblblobo bnl it’s in the blog topic. This kind of book does a lot of the work of getting people who don’t ‘get’ Autoethnography as an academic practice up to speed, but it also does the job of making sure if you want to do it, you don’t just run in blindly.

I covered a bit of my notes a few days ago, so here’s the rest.

There’s a discussion in the book about the application of qualitative research versus quantitative researches (p54). The basic gist of it is that quantitative research has to try and gather as much data as it can, and data needs, as best it can be, to be separated from as many unrelated data points as possible. This can be great for measuring how many people walk through a doorway, but very difficult to cleanly divine why they did that. Quantitative research methods generalise data, while Qualitative research particularises it.

One criticism of the book is its form! It breaks regularly into other writing forms to explain them, but it also uses individualised voices throughout, while changing narrators. This means you’re treated to awkward moments of writing like “my writing (Carolyn’s) about-” when a different form feels it’d serve the same purpose. Perhaps a script structure. This would play into the writing advice later in the book, about using the form that suits your writing best (p91).

When discussing autoethnographic subjects, the question of a subject’s identity comes into play. This can present a challenge when you’re trying to preserve the subject’s anonymity out of respect and for ethical reasons. What this can lead to is the consideration of changing their identity to the text, but doing so without obscuring the meaning of the information gleaned from them (p73). This can play into the creation of narrative, with characters as templated from research subjects (p91), rather than directly expressing a person’s history. The challenge is to both keep someone’s privacy while also not creating fiction of their narrative.

Autoethnography is a form of self-care (p75). To self-examine, to be vulnerable, and to witness your own story is a process of healing and care that can take a great deal of emotional sincerity to reach. It’s also just plain work, which ties into our next point:

Doing autoethnography is not just writing. Experiencing is part of it. When you are listening and learning and talking and processing and thinking, you are doing autoethnography. The self-examind life of the autoethnographer is part of the process of doing autoethnography, because you cannot be prepared for when the witness, the experience, occurs to you or has changed you. It is more than just the writing (p80).

There’s more – some writing and technique advice – between pages 90-110 – but they are more referential to good process than necessarily specific to this task. I admit, I’m being brief, because this is getting very unmanageably long. It has to because we’re covering things that are bedrock to not just the methodology, but also the practice.

How Will It Be Used?

I intend to use the writing techniques (particularly the resistance to jargon, the eschewing adverbs, and the personal voice), most proactively. I now understand better the reasoning behind the use of a narrative rather than necessarily an account.

For my research, because I will be demonstrating myself as a game developer, I now recognise that some parts of my own personal worldview are going to have to come into play. I may have to talk about some of my own odd personal history and the ways it intersected with my ability to empathise with other people.

Story Pile: Aquaman, But Moreso

Alright, so if I’m not happy with the way Aquaman is being treated based on a trailer and the quite safe assumption that the DC Expanded universe is being made by a neverending stream of teapots that suffer from such fundamental failings as objectivism or being Joss Whedon, what would I do differently? Yes, it’s me jumping on a bandwagon of popular analysis form where because I’ve gotten your attention thanks to talking about media that exists, I think I can talk you into listening to my ideas about media that should exist.

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Notes! Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research, Part 1

So one of the things you do for a PhD is read.

You read a lot.

And I mean alot.

Back in July, one of the books I’ve read is the book Autoethnography: Understanding Qualitative Research, by Adams, Jones and Ellis, which is basically a big how-to guide on what Autoethnography is (a research method), what it’s for (lots of things) and how to do it (lots of ways). I have to compile notes on this subject and well, since I spent today (the far past to this post time) writing up my notes on the thing from my sprawled out hand-scribbly notebook, and turning them into something readable, I figure it’s worth putting them in my blog as an example of the kind of writing I do for academia, split in to two parts so as to not be too weighty.

With that in mind, this is an an overview book about Doing Autoethnography, and its purpose. The book uses the experiences of doing Autoethnography by the three authors, incorporates their specific identities and experiences, and shows the areas of overlap in their process.

What Does It Cover?

The book is jam packed with Autoethnographc technique, though I’m not certain if it’s all methodology. The core of the book is an explanation of what Autoethnography does, and what Autoethnography is for, and that involves a large portion of time spent breaking away at the boundaries of what Autoethnography is and can be assumed to be. Particularly, it covers the rudimentary process of experience, examination, re-examination, and it magnifies the importance of the recognition of the self in the experience of Autoethnographic Academic writing.

Interesting Elements/Ideas/Issues?

Boy howdy!

Okay, so this book covers lots of things.

First, there’s a discussion of the conception of the importance of vulnerability (p51). The nature of Autoethnography is one where the very foundational expression has to come from a place of sincerity, because otherwise you could be making up any old bollocks. This means that we have to be willing to express and expose elements of ourselves and the lens we’re using that may make us uncomfortable, such as an adoptive mother expressing in less-than-perfected language the anguish of the process, or a person of colour grappling with ideas of internalised racism. This is not to say all autoethnography must be fundamentally raw and painful but that there must be a willingness to do so, that if it becomes part of the task, it needs to be included. Quantitative research does what it can to route around these points of human vulnerability, because they are fundamentally difficult to trust as data points, so this is a way the two differ.

This vulnerability is particularly of interest as it relates to the idea of the Politics Of Love (The Complicity Contract, Simplican). This positions vulnerability as an importance for a vision of other people – to perceive people not as agents of strength, of actors and doers, but rather as entities of needs. This has a side effect of working against perceiving your subjects as means to ends (Kant, I Guess), and pushes back against more exploitative positions that are anti-social justice.

Which gets us to another point that Autoethnography is fundamentally positioned to enable a more socially just cause in academia. Autoethnography has lower barriers to entry, recognises the importance of the identity of the individual, and rejects the supreme importance of a colonial view of correctness (p55) which makes it suitable for bringing forward stories that have been discarded throughout academic writing so far. This also favours using a familiar voice and avoiding the use of jargon.

This vision of justice also means that it has to avoid trying to be one-sided, which is part of this ideal of vulnerability. This means that subjects and autoethnographers often have to work through mutual causes of harm, have to recognise reciprocity. There is an idea described of Listening Out Loud. In Listening Out Loud (which I might have to abbreviate to lol, lol) you basically have to keep a steady flow of communication – both listening and talking – to your sources. This can be clarifying, and reaffirming, and also a regular flow of checking for consent – is this okay? Is this okay? How about now? – as you gather information. This also helps to build that mentioned reciprocity.

The limits of Listening Out Loud are that you’re dealing with a person’s memory, you’re listening to them communicate with language, and that language will sometimes involve imperfect metaphor. The virtues on the other hand are that they enable a degree of sincere emotionality and the person bringing their own proactive focus to the work. Listening out Loud nonetheless becomes part of collaborative witnessing – both the building of consensus between witnesses, but also seeing the autoethnographer as an entity with a skill to explore and refine the voices of those witnessing.

Now, with that break in my notes, we’ll talk more about what’s in the second half of the book the day after tomorrow.

MTG: Vintage Turning Room

I talk about materiality of games, and I’ve talked about how Magic: The Gathering has this invisible materiality that impacts how the games get designed. Now in some cases, this materiality is things like deck size and tournament duration and things that keep players shuffling and interacting with the material object. I’ve said that Commander, the format is transformed in terms of speed if you simply ban every single card that says search’ and ‘library,’ or roughly 600 cards. No land-out-of-library based ramp, no more tutors, no more repetitive gamestates.

There is, however, another type of materiality that Magic: The Gathering tries to make invisible, and that’s cost.

Magic isn’t, despite what you may hear, an actually expensive hobby. It can be – you can spend a lot, but to play the game itself has a lot of really cheap venues. Digital versions of the game can be played at the highest level of access for literally nothing, for example, and then there’s MTGO, where cards’ values are largely deflated, so if you want to play (for example) a deck with Bayous, there’s a marked price difference: Continue reading

Shirt Highlight: Voregoisie

Inspired by a tumblr post, I made these designs.

What it says, in fancy font so fancy it’s hard to read, is Voregoisie: The Rich Are Made Of Meat.

Note, I do not recommend the literal eating of the literal rich. Consuming human beings is a good way to get yourself sick and run the risk of getting prions, which are all kinds of bad news.

Anyway, here’s the Voregoisie design in white and black.

Project: The Pipesman Conspiracy

Hey, this is kinda a cool one.

I’m working on this little game. It is, as far as I understand, never going to be for sale anywhere. It’s going to be available only as a charity option in Desert Bus. As I write this, I’m finishing up the first round of beta card faces.

The game is a secret goal, area control game about the city of Nsburg, the setting of Loading Ready Run’s QWRPline, and I’m making it so you can bid on it, and win it, for charity!

This is a really weird feeling? Like I wish I’d gotten into that space of making fan games, when people would think it was reasonable that I was making not-for-profit free games which built in spaces people liked already, like Star Wars amateur card games or the like, before I vaulted into making proper games, games with concerns like copyright and stuff, because I was selling them for money.

I mean I don’t regret it, but still. It’s nice to work with someone else’s concepts, someone else’s art. I really liked the way that the game came into being as I tried to express this idea of a slightly crap, but very funny conspiracy.

Anyway, with that in mind, here are some examples of card faces in production!

This game is almost a wallet game – the town of Nsburg can be made with as few as 16 cards, and the goals can be a few more cards on top of that, to make sure they’ve got some variety to them. You don’t want the game to be about the same end-goals every time, right?

The two goals are meant to represent two different options – one that’s kind of easy to do, if nobody is messing with you, and one that’s a lot harder to do, but much more specific. The idea is that you’re meant to be able to arrange the city of Nsburg based on your particular interpretation of the incredibly vague plan of the Pipesman.

Now, the game that remains might get stripped down a little bit and rethemed maybe a little bit to be a different game, but there is going to be at least one feature that definitely only exists in the special Nsburg version of the game.

Now, when this goes up, odds are good the game is on its way to Canada. We’ll see how this goes!


The reason that perpetual motion machines don’t work is friction. No matter how little energy you think is being expended in the process, there’s always a part of it that’s losing a little bit of that energy, a little bit of that effort, in the process of just working. If a wheel turns, some of the energy it’s using turning is gone thanks to being spent on the process of turning. No matter how clever or cute your system may look, if it’s not getting energy from somewhere to overcome that energy that’s going somewhere, you are running down.

This happens in games, too. I’ve been playing some old dos games, and the interfaces are often the things that I really struggle with, because just the mental effort of getting used to using those buttons to do those things and get used to how it wants to work is a flipping chore. War Wind is a real prize of an old RTS – heck, almost all RTSes are like this – where the lack of things like shortcut keys or even a map that responds cleanly to ideas like dragging and dropping is a huge pain in the ass. Memorising all the shortcuts is the best option but then that’s the same kind of labour. It’s friction.

In tabletop games this exists too. The math you have to do to resolve a combat is friction, and I think that 4th Edition D&D does have a bit too much fiddly friction in its feat system. Specific clausal conditions generate that friction, they lose player energy and effort.

Shuffling is friction. I love Sector 86, but no lies, every few minutes every player sits around waiting for the deck to have a good ole shuffle. Fetchlands in Magic: The Gathering are awesome, but they also add seven minutes or so of time to an otherwise unremarkable match of the game.

In games, you are asking your players to put in effort, and some of that effort is spent in places. If I am losing effort on the things that don’t feel rewarding, I am spending energy managing existing.

This is, incidentally, part of why depression is so rough on people’s lives, in case you needed another useful metaphor to help you not treat people with depression badly.


Story Pile: Aquaman Trailer

I at some point in my life shifted from the kind of person who made fun of Aquaman, because he was a character you kind of knew about but it was easy to imagine making fun of him, to someone who spends his time arguing about how much interesting potential Aquaman has as a storytelling agent, frustrated at the previous group of people.

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Ways To Fail And Be Failed

Trying to be concise with a concept. This time, the concept is from Jesper Juul’s The Art of Failure: An Essay On The Pain Of Playing Video Games.

In this, he describes three different types of failure that you can encounter:

Failures of Execution. You messed up.

Failures of Motivation. You weren’t encouraged to do the right thing.

Failures of Function. You did the right thing, but it didn’t work.

As a player, what does it matter how you fail? You may have no idea why you’re failing, or what the type of failure is. Watching Lucy Morris play The Witcher 2, I watched all three happen in quick succession, without any indication that they were at all happening.

The section of the game is a stealth section in the mission The Search For Triss Merigold. First of all, the game has a failure of function – you can be stuck in a place where you can’t earn any money, and your only alternative to the stealth section is to spend a lot of money. This means you’re presented with a choice that can’t be a choice; you didn’t have any reason to turn up with your pockets bulging and you can’t go do anything else to earn money.

Then there was a failure of motivation. The correct course of action in the game was to sneak into a camp, avoid several guards, sneak to a location, dose a chef, then sneak out through a path that opens up. This particular sequence of events was so obscure, so utterly without, that Lucy didn’t even know she wasn’t doing the right thing. When she messed up in this stealth section, at all, she was killed without any recourse – which meant anything she tried that didn’t work was immediately discarded. She wasn’t getting a clear feedback on why she was failing, and that meant she had no idea what the right thing was to do.

Eventually, Lucy opted for a walkthrough, because what other alternative was there?

And then, then there were failures of execution. Lucy knew what she had to do, but still died a few times trying to get there. This was extremely frustrating, but the knowledge that she was working towards the correct plan was better than nothing.

Alright, fine, The Witcher 2′s stealth section sucks, but what does this mean for me and my life, you wonder?

Well, As a designer, what does it matter how a player fails?

First, failures of function are on you – the player can’t make the game behave right, you’re the one that does that.

A failure of motivation lies more on you than on them, too – because you want to induce them to do things in your game. A player might not care enough to pay attention, sure, and that’s not entirely on you, but you can do more to guide players than you think, and plenty of games have messed up letting players know what they should be doing.

And failures of execution, if they happen regularly, may be a sign that you’re expecting too much of a player. They’re also the kind of failure that players find the most satisfying to overcome. Succeeding despite a game failing is less satisfying than succeeding despite your own previous failures.

Western Canon

What with people, aka racists, talking about the importance of defending western values they’ll often tout the artistic importance of the west and how it’s resulted in transcendental things like Van Gogh and Leonardo Da Vinci and some other artist they primarily remember because of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The thing about this thought that always rattles around is that the imperial world did indeed produce an enormous amount of art we can recognise as important, but that it was always as a byproduct of cultural states that had disproportionate wealth enough that thanks to sheer randomness and the precarious position of the people randomly bequeathed with ridiculous wealth, money got scattered down onto the people who make art. Look at the history of these artists, the people of this western canon, they’re all either paid for by some rich dickhead who was already getting more than his fair share of pies, and there were a lot of artists who failed to find an agreeable rich patron who supported them and the tended to live lives that were poor, short, and miserable, even if the ever did make something cool. It should really be seen as a stinging indictment of capitalism and western colonialism that it had to acquire something like half the wealth in the world at the time before it was able to produce twenty or thirty artists, when any kind of efficient system might be doing something like making sure everyone was well-fed enough that if they wanted to bung out some art they weren’t going to be hosed for trying it.

Still, what do I know, I’m not an expert in media creation oh wait hang on I might be by now, holy heck.

Anyway, the real lesson here is that when a racist wants to talk to you about the importance of colonialism to world art, the correct response is to tell them to go fuck themselves and to not bother arguing with them about the logical or rational reasons for rejecting their racism. They’re always lying.

Game Pile: Fallout 2

Sometimes when you talk about a game, it’s easy to fall into the same model of examining the thing based on what it’s trying to do (like with Deus Ex) or its place in history (like with Ziggurat). You can sometimes examine a game based on its themes or its story, and those are all valid ways to examine a game.

Yet I have made the case that games are too large to have single defining characteristics. That I found Deus Ex: Mankind Divided hollow and dull isn’t the same thing as saying that the game was bad, not really, not in any kind of definitive way, it just tells you that I found it kinda dim and if you care about things I care about in games, you will probably find it unsatisfying. Anyone could find something in the work and take that perception in its own direction and so on and that’s the glory of media criticism and games journalism.

When examining Fallout 2, not only is that game now far too large to have a single defining trait, it’s also part of a piece of gaming history, a legacy that also destroys the ability of the critic to meaningfully give a truly broad perspective of it in a meaningful context. To write about Fallout 2 comprehensively would be a book, not an article.

Instead, what if we focus on something in a game?

What if we dug down into just one thing about a game?

Let’s talk about The Highwayman. Continue reading

Notes: Giving Gifts

One of those things that happens when you develop some expertise (ha ha ha) in a field, you’re going to see your own expertise as an element in the works around you. You’ll see someone doing something and think oh, if only you knew what I did, and then the next thought, oh you should listen to me inform you of what you’re missing. That is, to say, learning can make you into a meddlesome tit.

But despite that warning, this whole thing about Christmas Presents is an interesting discussion of perceptions of values, of what we can value, but my immediate reaction upon hearing the premise, should you give Christmas Presents, and a question that viewed as a way of making people happy is that it’s a game.

Giving people Christmas presents – or any present really – is a game. It’s a game where I am trying to show you you. Now there are constraints – I can’t spend too much, or too little, and I can’t ask you (I mean, I can, but it deflates the game a little). There could be all sorts of mindsets for this game. I could view it as cooperative, where we both win if I get you something that satisfies you and vice versa. It can be competitive – you might be wanting more than you give, you might be wanting to use this to demonstrate power or competence over me, and you might even view it as a game with minimal participation. You want to get out of the game as fast as possible. That leaves all sorts of different attitudes towards the play of the game, but the time spent within this game is play. It’s creative. You test ideas out, you consider options, and then, crucially, with the thing that makes this game really interesting, you make your choice, make it obscured, and reveal that choice at the end of the game.

This is why giving money is gauche. It says I don’t know you. It also doesn’t have any interesting tension associated with it. We disguise gifts in funny boxes or with suspicious wrapping. We even tease one another with the decision.

Now I am studying play and the making of games, so obviously I’m going to see this. I could be fulla nonsense.

Still, good channel.

Kobold Testing Your Dungeon

This is going to feature some meanspirited conversation that implies kobolds are dorky, nebbish little critters invented to be dungeon fodder and their lives are disposable.

Anyway, have you considered using piles of kobolds to failure-test your dungeon designs? The principle is pretty simple, based on these assumptions:

  • Kobolds will never get something right the first time
  • Kobolds die really easily

For a kobold test, you have an arbitarily large number of kobolds. A number of them comparable to an adventuring party – four or five – proceed into your dungeon, with a line behind them of other kobolds.

When the line of kobolds reach the first point of making a decision, have them make the worst decision, or at least, ensure they don’t commit to the right decision. Kobolds are remarkably inefficient wiith buffs as well, so if there are things in the dungeon that protect or insulate kobolds, the lead kobold will take it, but the kobold can then die going onwards.

Kobolds fall into every trap, and they will kill a kobold.

Kobolds will eat every thing you put in the dungeon, they will mess up on every puzzle, and they will die every time they fail.

Kobolds trade their lives – dearly – for the lives of an enemy. Every five kobolds can defeat an enemy of roughly equal skill to a player, dying in the process. If an enemy can defeat five kobolds at once, with area effects or the like, then the kobolds will pour infinitely to them andyour dungeon is not kobold safe.

Kobolds can learn from one another though: Once something kills a kobold, no other kobold will fall for the same problem. So a trap that kills one kobold and doesn’t change or do something different as a follow-up, will not kill any more kobolds.

What’s the purpose?

Well, you can treat this count of dead kobolds as a measure for how frustrating your dungeon can be. It’s a way to estimate the ‘worst case’ scenario for your dungeon. It’s able to find ways that your dungeon can become a frustrating arrest. And it’s a way of disposing of an arbitarily large number of kobolds.

August Wrapup!

August! Start of a semester, a new class, lots of process work and not a lot of work on game development. It’s the first month I’ve felt really uncomfortable with the amount of gamedev time I had going on, and I’m not happy making you wait. In blog posts, I liked my review of Luke Cage Season 2 that examined characters in terms of what isn’t normally admitted in media, an article summarising the ways infrastructure fails ‘Asia’ in board games, and how we can start pushing against that, this treatment of Glory In The Thunder as an example of textual frame of reference, and I was really happy with this graph-full examination of choices I’m making for Boat Game.

Not one, but two videos this month. One of them was an academic experiment I liked a bit and want to do more of, and one was a format choice.

First up, I played Space Quest I and Fox and I talked about it. This is like the Let’s Drown Out format I really liked before Yahtzee just became incredibly intolerable. This is half made up of explaining a game to someone who’s never played it (with appropriate complaints), and half made of conversation about related design decisions. Plus I like hanging out with Fox.

This other one is a bit more of a heavy lift but I really liked doing it once I had the play of it clocked. I might do this for other old DOS-era games, with games like Traffic Department and Blake Stone in my mind.

Neither of these videos got the traction that Meaningless heterotopia did, but they do different things and are a bit easier to make.

This month’s game release was or is or –

At the time of this blog post, it’s not launched. Sorry. Postal holdups keep me from being able to pull the trigger on it. The game is called Clout and it should be available as a print-and-play in a few hours for my Patrons unless something grabs me from another source.

And this month’s shirt? Egg in black and white. I don’t honestly know why I did this design beyond I just found it kinda funny.

I’m working again, which means that I have another thing chunking into my time, which is largely not game-related. That’s a bummer, but on the other hand, it means more money to do things like hire artists? So that’s cool.


Game Pile: Commander Keen 2

Okay, I’ve burrowed down on some specific points in games. Like how I used Hyrule Warriors to discuss hyperintertextuality, which sucks, or how I’m going to use Skyrim to talk about Rick Astley (that’s a teaser). And I’ve done a bit of a historical thing on Commander Keen 1, based on the video about stimulated recall, and if you get into it, Commander Keen 2 isn’t really a tangibly different game.

If I wanted to explain to you how Commander Keen 2 worked, or what it was doing or its values, I’d have to really pull out the shovels and get into it, to dig deep, to really go out of my way to pick at some seriously tiny nit, and you’d have to be pretty weird, and pretty obssessive about the details in old videogames to care about that kind of thing. I mean, you’d have to be a real dork and isn’t this just overthinking, isn’t this the kind of obssessive detail-oriented comma-fricking that we disdain when people do it of high-faluting fancy academic books and frame-by-frame movie analysese.

Anyway, so I’m going to do that.

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Arcing Ruck

During July 2017 I went on what I can only really think of a bit of a bender working on games. Specifically I was working on games pretty much constantly for a few weeks there, and as a byproduct, made five titles in about three weeks.

You’ve heard hype about some of them. Sector 86, the little push-your-luck blackjack-a-like that I played a bunch of times. Good Cop, Bear Cop. Pushpins. There were quite a few titles that I tried out and shared on Twitter. Some of them became proper, full blown game releases, games I happily play now with my family and advocate for you to buy, with money.

One of these games was Ruck. Continue reading

Project: Urban Magecraft

The Pitch: Urban wizards fighting terrible conspiracies while petitioning strange entities for their magic, except you’re not just playing one of the mages, you’re also playing one of the other player’s power sources.


It’s a Blades in the Dark hack where you’re playing urban mages in a modern urban fantasy setting. Rather than that Vancian, science-y view of magic, though, everyone has a unique magic type and source, which works by interacting with some otherworldly entity. Some mages petition fae sources, some channel an animal totem (?), some make deals with demons and some learn secrets from the Stars.

The thing is, every one of those entities is played by another player in the group. You get two sheets at the start of the game, where one represnts a power source for another player, and one represents your own mage. You get to concept how your mage relates to their power, but when you want to use magic, you petition the player who plays the entity your magic flows from.

Obviously the incentive system would need to be set up so that while the otherworldly entities don’t want to just give up power. The entity might be like a fun faerie party buddy who wants to collect secrets, or an ineffable entity that can’t communicate meaningfully and has to make exchanges with beads or something, or it might be your own werewolf nature, and accessing that power has to be more of a tussle or a struggle. But the point is, that a player is using a character sheet to make choices rather than a DM. The entities want to bequeath power, but they want to do it in exchange for the right things.


Oh jesus christ, a ton of stuff.

See the thing for me is that I’ve never made an RPG before. I’ve made RPG content, but never an RPG from the ground up. Even one as a hack.

I’d want a template for Blades in the Dark to fill in, which I understand some people have out there already.

I’d want some art, and some playtesters.

Do you think you have the skills for this? Are you interested in the idea? Feel free to contact me, either via the Twitter DMs or by emailing me!