Category: Making

Articles in this category are about tools and ideas about making things, and my belief that you can make things.

Gods of Cobrin’Seil: Faces Of War

I spoke earlier in the year about ways to view gods in Cobrin’Seil, and the story mechanisms I used to consider them. I said, at the time, that I wasn’t planning on talking more about the gods in my setting, unless there was interest. Then there was interest.

This involved digging up the text I had on these gods – the historical information for comparison. Obviously, looking back on your old writing is going to come with some problems. In this case, some of it just basic assumptions, some if it is awkward phrasing, some of it is indelicate language, and uh,

also,

I cut a title from this text for Adeblen. The original title was unremarkably edgy, and I would normally leave it in, but it uses a Content Warningy word, and there’s nothing really, like… related to it. I would normally leave the text as is and use it as a teaching moment? But like: Don’t give characters titles that include words you’re not comfortable saying at the gaming table any more. Seems pretty easy teaching.

Now, with that, here’s the old text presented for the gods Palescai and Adeblen. This text is presented as is and I’ll workshop it on the other end.

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The Man From Social Media Came Round

The man from social media came round to “check up,” he said, “on what we wanted”
I looked at my partner, thought awhile, and replied, “Just the usual I suppose
Pictures of dogs, some stuff to feel cultural, some videogame deals, stream or two,
but like, not of any shitlords”
He nodded

“Spiritually,” he asked, “do you have any spiritual needs, longings?”
I knew sort of what he was getting at, and I knew too I had to avoid being noticed
“Well I mean I don’t really think about it much,”
I said, as I tried not to start yelling about how the pope sucks arse
He nodded

“I could always use coronavirus updates,” I said, thinking maybe that’s what he wanted
“You know, just something to mix up the anxiety between rent cheques”
He ticked a box and looked up at me
“I see”
“Well,” I said, “I guess I’d like to know about how my friends’ jobs are doing” tick, “and their kids’ schoolwork,” tick, “um, parties, sort of,” he ticked, silent
“You know, all that stuff”

He turned to the next page “and… huge and deviant sexual longings?”
“That’s the AD, mate,” I said
But he went “Yeah, okay, I’ll be back with that form tomorrow
Politics?”
“Really fuckin’ interested, honestly, like, why can’t they ban the nazis-”
“Ah, well, we’ll put that as ‘yes.’ Music?”
“MP3 collection that’s still got weird filenames from napster”
“Poetry?”
“I mean, I read it, but I don’t own any books”
“How much stuff do you think you buy based on promoted tweets?”
“Uh.”
Tick.
“What do you think of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry?”
“Couldn’t give a fuck, mate”
“lol,” he said. “lmao, even.”
“Yeah, mate.”

He asked me to sign, and complete a capcha, telling me it was non-obligatory,
You know, for the purposes of verification only,
Next morning we got on the feed all we wanted, except for the Meghan Markle stuff


Original Text from TISM’sThe Man From Popular Culture Came Round.

How To Be: Edelgard von Hresvelg (In 4E D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Now this month, we’re going to return to How To Be’s roots, and once more we’re looking at a character from Fire Emblem: Some Number Of Houses. Yes, it’s the gal who’s Horny For Priest Murder (And For Other Reasons), the Look Up Other Reasons People Like Her, the One, the Only: Edelgard von Not Pronouncing That!

T-shirt: Did You Check The Subject Outline, Sci Fi Version

First up, the design:

I have a shirt like this already, which I wore to my first of one of two classes this year. When I did, students all reacted positively to it, and I am an absolute sucker for even the most modest elements of praise. And so, here’s another familiar design that builds on this same joke.

Here it is, check it out on models:

You can buy this design on Redbubble with Blue Text, Yellow Text,White Text, and Black Text.

The Games of Orcs

In Homo Ludens, Johan Huizinga argues that it is not that games are a byproduct of culture, but that games represent the defining aspects of the formation of culture. That is, ‘making games’ and ‘playing’ are things you do before you get to the stage of having ‘a culture.’ And that’s exactly as much as we should listen to Huizinga about what and who counts as having ‘a culture,’ because it gets a touch yikesy with all the colonialism.

Nonetheless, Huizinga does argue that games are part of the formation of culture, and he suggests the way that animals with proto-cultures play games is itself a step on that path towards creating a culture. Wolves and birds play with one another to learn, and that implies that there’s a connection between playing and learning, and learning, the assumption runs, turns into civilisation and waistcoats and brandy eventually.

I don’t think that Huizinga was a furry, but I’m saying he’d see top-hat wearing waistcoated werewolves and go ‘yes, that.’

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Writing Up Die Rich’s Rules

Die Rich is a card game I developed… I want to say early 2020, late 2019. The idea comes from a long time ago, and it’s built around a design I used for referencing a thing in a RP space, of the Carthaginian General Hannibal.

The thing is, something happeend in 2020 (like, all of 2020), and that meant I never developed the rulebook for it. I’d played the game, before I ever made any of the cards, and I’d tested it, I knew the game worked… but I never wrote down the rules.

Now I don’t know if I remember them, exactly.

But I do have a deck of the cards, so I can play the game, and see the problems, and reconstruct what I generally know. Then I’m going to construct what I need the rules to cover, and you can read that. This is how these rulebooks kinda got made.

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Making Gods in Cobrin`Seil

I have my own D&D setting; I’ve talked about it before, not because it necessarily is a thing you should want to play in, or I’m going to make you pay for, but because the process of building a world is itself full of interesting insights. Particularly, I find that the surest way to know what you like in world building is to look at other world building and see what about it makes you mad.

This time, I’d like to talk a little bit about Gods, in my setting. No, this isn’t going to be a specific list of those gods (though, you know, maybe). It’s about what gods are and what they mean.

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Making a Flag THREAD vs a Flag BOOK

Flags are a fun topic because to dumpster on, you only need a tiny bit of research to learn the principles of good flag design and then see how almost all the flags you’re going to see if you go looking (in English speaking spaces) are just the worst. Like this isn’t a complicated discipline, it isn’t a hard set of rules to bear in mind, but overwhelmingly, the flags that exist fail to follow these rules.

There is, simply put, no lacking of material for making fun of flags. It’s public art, it’s endorsed by community, and it’s largely all public domain (even if it sometimes claims? inexplicably? not to be?). Really, all it takes to engage in flag discourse is a combination of patience and rudeness, because there’s way more bad flags than good flags to ever spend your time on.

Why then, has nothing materialised of my project to make a readable, convenient release of an ebook where I dumpster on flags?

Part of it is framing. A tweet thread is fast and can be a bit sloppy or a bit loose. The absence of an edit button means that sometimes it’s literally not worth retracting or correcting something beyond just saying later in the thread ‘oops, made a mistake,’ which means there’s a certain lairiness to it all. It’s not comprehensive per se, it’s just thorough. Lots of jokes get fired out in a rapid succession, and if they’re not very funny, they’re not very funny, but that’s okay and we move on.

Now obviously when you’re writing as book, not every page needs to be full of bangers, but it is important that you don’t misrepresent things, and if you are deriving humour, you’re not deriving that humour from a mistruth. There’s an open social silliness to twitter, a feeling of looseness that means a joke can be a bit less thoughtful without it being unreasonable. But if you’re putting it down in a book, you owe it to the task you’re doing to be both more factually rigorous, and more thoughtful in the analysis.

There’s also just a question of real estate on a page? Assume a page layout with say, two flags on a page, vertically, with captions/analysis underneath each one – and some of these flags have some really specific reactions and need some background information as well, so it feels like the layout would get really boring and samey.

The other part is scale. Do you know how many flags I look at? For some flag threads, they’re really small: after all, Australia has six states, three internal territories, and therefore a total of nine capital cities. Stretching that at two flags a page, when a number of them are just ‘wow, look how bad this is and how much it breaks those rules I mentioned,’ is going to fill, what ten pages?

At best?

But then on the other side, America has fifty state flags; twenty five pages? That’s still basically a pamphlet

… But if we go to city flags, suddenly that balloons and we have seventeen hundred flags, and of those, fourteen hundred and twenty two are all just bad seals on a bedsheet!

A possible plan going forward, something I’ve been musing about for now, is what if I treat it like a tour of the worse flags in an American state, one at a time, just doing the ones that I think could be fun? Little ebooks? I mean at this point I’m basically monetising twitter threads.

February’s Custom Cards: Love is in the Air

Alright, another month, another month of custom cards!

This month’s theme, because of the month of smooches was to make a bunch of cards with Partner. Partner is one of those mechanics where it kinda got accidentally effed up in the first round, and that has had problems that CEDH has had to deal with to this very day. I don’t wanna do that, so I’m playing it safe this time.

  • Partner cards should cost 3 mana at minimum. We have a couple of them that were too powerful because they’re really flexible (hi, Tymna, hi Thrasios) and they enable too much stuff (hi, Vial Smasher, hi Thrasios).
  • Partner cards shouldn’t be single-card engines. They should do one thing reliably. Any given partner card should have interesting interactions, but also be a reasonably handleable card.
  • ‘Almost’ cards for Commander, cards that were good once, but aren’t good any more, can be good templates. Cards that you wouldn’t run, but you would if they were always in your opening hand.
  • I’m playing it safe here. Assume that for text space and power reasons, I’m being very careful about how much text they have and if I had my druthers, some of these cards would be a little bigger, a little more defensive and maybe have a keyword or two.
  • Also, flavour is hard. I know full well that a lot of fan-made custom card flavour text is weak. Broadly speaking, these are ‘first drafty’ flavour, and I do have ideas for how they work, but I don’t think what I’m doing and my ideas can necessarily be easily translated onto the cards. Rather than force it, I leave it off and will explain as best I can when asked.

What did Reddit have to say? Well, for most of them, not much, which makes sense. There was a hilarious bruhaha about Rinrin, because there were fears that she could, for example, cheat out a Consecrated Sphinx for only 2 mana, which means that you spent 6 mana to get a 1/1 consecrated sphinx. This also brought out the suggestion that nobody in commander uses size-based removal.

Also, some people were mad about Tatiana, because a 5 mana steal card without direct counterplay is… what? Unstoppably powerful? Over pushed for the commander environment?

Helpfully, it was pointed out to me by Enderlord that First’s wording needed some refining (and that’s addressed here, with the up to date wording).

Wide Orgo got compared to Prophet of Kruphix, which is hilarious. Untapping all your lands and giving all your permanents flash is kind of important parts of Prophet of Kruphix!

T-shirt: Candy Heart

First up, the design:

Candy hearts aren’t a thing here in Australia. But they are a thing that’s so American it’s a widespread meme, and I like the idea of them. I hope they taste nice. I bet they taste very plain and pastel, that kinda floral chalkiness, but not fizzy like a Fruit Tingle.

You can buy this design on Redbubble.

How To Be: Ukyou Kuonji (In 4E D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Well, we’ve done some odd stuff with this section, some big ideas about maximising specific character quirks and hitting particularly niche interests like a transforming robot dinosaur, but what if your wants are more hey, what can I do with this simple basis? And, it seems that this month is full of references to Ranma 1/2 and twitter voted on it, and so, here we go, a return to Ranma 1/2 as an option: Ukyou Kuonji.

‘Ship’ Building

There are a bunch of different board and card games that, in some way, relate to making things. Making things is cool, players like making things, and giving players opportunities to make things gives them something to engage with. This isn’t a unique observation: board and table games are awash with games about building things, both mechanically and thematically.

And there are some that let you, mechanically, in one way or another, make ships.

Merchant and market games often let you buy ships to transport goods. Some games let you make trade routes. Some games let you position an arrangement of ships so your opponents can attack them. And some games even let you build a ship out of specific little pieces, tiny tiles.

But what if we took some of these games about ships and made them about ships?

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Writing Polycules Is Tricky (And Interesting)

In a lot of media, a relationship is treated as a stable default middle to work from, and you can look to webcomics as a whole genre built around the idea where a relationship is either the stable end point you’re pursuing, or the stable middle ground from which all the shenanigans go. The Megatokyo Vs Ctrl-Alt-Delete spectrum, as it were. This pattern is true in most media too – with romantic comedies and family comedies being often two heads of the same horrible hydra, a creature that wants to show terrible people somehow redeemed by the credits when they get married, or lead off with a relationship that has clearly gone bad at some point as it pinwheels out of control. I didn’t need to make it a webcomic thing, but now you’re remembering that Megatokyo exists and it updated last week at least.

The banner still celebrates the webcomic being ten years old. Man, that whole fandom looks so strange from the outside. Still, good for them.

Anyway, I bring up Megatokyo because it is, first, funny to do so, but second because it feels like a wholly sincere artifact of this same concept space of storytelling in relationships that grew out of the 90s weebs who got into anime from a very specific place that probably featured Ranma 1/2 and Tenchi Muyo, the place where the harem anime was created and then immediately had its soul removed. In the very genesis of this is an entire generation of storytellers, often lonely and disaffected and creating in spaces without gatekeepers, made our own anime-inspired narratives that overwhelmingly still followed the idea that the story starts with no relationship and concludes when the relationship is obtained, and wow, we have some messed up views about women eh.

The thing is, one of the ideas that always got floated in these spaces was polyamory, second only to the horror of not straightness, which I kid you not, was cited as ‘cheap’ and ‘exploitative’ when introduced in serious discussions of fucking Ranma 1/2. Polyamory was seen as a cop-out answer, and was seen as untenable. After all, it either took the form of a bunch of girls who hated each other moving in together to live as Ranma’s wives, despite their animosity, or, suddenly and spontaneously falling in love with one another, which were both unrealistic outcomes.

This was literally all that was seen as the possibility of polyamory – and again, it was seen as the conclusion of the narrative. You couldn’t put those five characters under one roof! It would be a bad end to the story and they’d all fall apart! Terrible idea that!

I swear this month was not supposed to be so much about Ranma 1/2, but it’s a good grounding to work from. Because what I’m talking about here is in fact about how polycules, the cute term for polyamorous relationships, change assumptions about how you use relationships in media, based on the media you’re dealing with.

Specifically, writing polycules means that there’s just… stuff you kinda have to keep in mind. Characters in polyamorous relationships aren’t necessarily all going to pile into the same bed after the same 9-5 in the same house. Characters in polyamorous relationships don’t have this sort of media-sanctioned, pre-established trope-based ‘default space’ to work from. The binary monogamous pairing is so well worn that we can even signify the way characters interact with gestures and never need to explicate what their lives are like, but a poly relationship?

It’s inherently more complicated. Characters have always got an additional point of input and an additional observer. And that’s a good thing. It’s not that everyone should be in a polyamorous relationship in media work – that would be boring and silly and … let’s face it, would be used by a lot of media to just give the comedian boring man two hot girlfriends out of his league, ‘as a joke.’ But the thing is, fundamentally, polyamorous relationships, at least functioning ones rely on communication. You can’t just assume the two partners have nothing to do and will default to one another because there’s always at least one other person involved. They have to manage the way their lives intersect, who goes where and with what.

And that’s really interesting.

You get to see what people do with balancing commitments, and the thing is, you can do that. It’s not ‘well, I had to choose between A or B at some point, and B won, so A loses.’ That’s just such a… juvenile way to view relationships in any way, even in action narratives or jokey stories! Being in relationships is about communication and understanding, and relationships in media are handled well by giving characters reason to talk about things – why is this so hard to grasp as a bountiful field of exciting, interesting narrative?

 

Postcard Ideas

Kinda thinking about postcard games.

If you’re not aware of a postcard game, it’s a game where uh, you play it on a postcard. This may seem a little confusing to those of us in the big board game spaces, where you kind of expect to get a box, and some pieces, and even simple games that can be played with just a deck of cards have to make some compromises. As you shrink down in the parts available to you in your design, some things get harder and harder to do.

When you think of a postcard game in its purest form, though, you’re asking for what kind of game you can make that fits entirely on one side of one piece of paper, and not a particularly big one. It’s ont uncommon to end up with something that looks like a fast food restaurant placemat – something you might have if you ate out at a fast food restaurant recently, and if you did, what, why.

I’ve done some games like this before – I have the game Grey Goo, which is a chess-like game where the rules are all printed on one side, and the board on the other, but you do need to provide your own dice for that one.

This is on my mind this month though because of Love Letter.

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Game Pile: Making Youtube Videos

What’s this? A second video? Swindle footage? Don’t worry, it’s not more Swindle. Though I could do more Swindle.

Do you want me to do more Swindle? I mean I could do that…

Anyway, here’s a video about what I’ve learned with Youtube and what I’m doin’.

2020 Kickstarter Roundup

A few years ago, I learned that if you want to engage with kickstarter, you should check it out both as a backer and a creator. If you haven’t partaken with kickstarter, you don’t have any idea of what people expect out of it, and you can have unrealistic assumptions about what people expect of you. Yes, this is an elaborate set of excuses for engaging with Kickstarter and buying myself a bunch of board game stuff, but it’s also research, mom.

I approach this with modest trepidation, though, because this is ultimately me looking at a bunch of games, a thing I’d normally want to focus on in a Game Pile Post. But at the same time, Game Pile posts are posts for talking about the games as media, rather than explaining them as commercial products.

Since I seem to use January as a holding for ‘everything wrapped up from 2020,’ then, let’s have a look at the Kickstarter stuff I engaged with in 2020, how that worked out for me, how satisfied I am with the products and whether or not they have arrived, or will arrive, or whatever.

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T-Shirt: The Mad, The

First up, the design:

I am genuinely surprised by the number of nerds that seem to take the blue shell from Mario Kart personally. It’s a catch-up mechanic in a game designed to be playable by four year olds. Like, you can genuinely find people having angry arguments about it as ‘the socialist blue shell’ and even some enterprising gamer types trying to categorise leftist politics as ‘blue shell politics.’

Anyway, they’re idiots and they don’t like losing to the blue shell, so they can The Mad, The. Don’t worry about it, it’s German.

You can get the shirt here at Redbubble.

EDIT: There’s a chance, by the time this goes up, you can’t? Because this shirt was flagged for review, because I said ‘people get mad at mario kart’ in the description. Capitalism is dumb.

Speed Week: Goblin Bakery Game

Well, now, it’s been a week since Speed Week.

How did GAMES MADE QUICK go for me?

First of all, my intention was to do a lot of the documenting of the process on twitter. That was a good idea, and normally, that would work out fine for me. Live editing on Twitter is a pretty easy thing to do when I’m doing stuff like playing around with card face designs. It’s been a nice feature of how twitter can handle me pasting visual information from a graphic tool, or I can screencap lists of text or diagrams.

Thing is, this time, I brought this idea up with Fox. Fox is a person, and she lives in the same house as me, and not on twitter. Which meant that when I did set this time to do work on this game idea, it was a conversation between two people, in a room, back and forth and not in text on twitter. What resulted, then, was not the same thing as a normal twitter thread. Big deal, bit of a bummer.

Instead, we talked about the game as we walked the dog, or when there was downtime during Games Done Quick itself. We did still set limits – We’d have one conversation a day, and that was all there was to it, I wasn’t going to try and stretch it out. I also didn’t do a lot of work on the last two days. Those days were busy for me. That’s okay! With that in mind, how far along did the game get?

First of all, here’s the twitter thread I did.

What we did come up with was a game about goblins raiding a bakery. The game’s tone is light, and sweet, but also chaotic and slightly incompetent. Goblins are meant to be kind of clueless and dumb but in a very sweet and greedy way.

The player goal is to steal a number of cakes from the bakery. You do this by picking up a cake and passing it to the goblin behind you. The cakes are represented by cards, which have a ‘need’ on them to represent how many dice are stacked on them. Complex, tall, teetering cakes need a stack of dice on them to represent concentration and effort from the goblin moving them around.

Players will be rolling dice in real time. Players can control any given goblin as they roll their dice – trying to roll dice that they can stack up, with a specific rule on each card, to make the dice lock in place. Each goblin has a number they also need to roll – in sum – with the cake they’re holding, to pass it along.

The game has a really physical manner, and part of how it’s physical, is that the timer is going to be a piece of music. I spoke to some friends about how to do that, and the piece of music known as Powerhouse served as my general thinking. You have a bucket chain of idiot goblins in a bakery, trying to take cakes off the counter, then pass them along.

The deck of cakes has a number on the back of each card, and that card is the ‘lock’ number. Any dice that’s showing the lock number can’t be picked up and rolled – at least until another Goblin uses a hand to shake their goblin friend.

This gives a basic run-down of how the mechanics work. This is the information I’d use to make a prototype set of rules – some cards in a word document table, a page or two of rules, then share it on Itch to see if anyone wants to playtest it.

This is how small games can get made. It only takes a few conversations, a few exchanges, to get an idea into a prototypeable space. Write down the ideas you have, when you can, and you’ll find you do more work than you think.

Fuzzy Games

In his review of Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy Review, Quinton Smith of Shut Up & Sit Down used the term fuzziness to refer to the way that this enormous, complicated game overwhelmed your ability to predict outcomes from all the possible interactions. When talking about it, he was explaining the way that this game, which is deliberately daunting, creates an ambiguity between what you can commit to doing and what the game will do in response.

Now what makes it somewhat remarkable in the case of this game is that it seems to do this with mostly open information – players have their own tableaus and their own clearly marked scores and crystals and ship designs, with the only real ambiguity being the results that are going to come out of dice when they’re rolled.

This is not a particularly new idea in game design at all, but it is a fun launching point to talk about because one of the things that Big Box: Expensive Miniature Cardboard Pachinko Machine has going for it is lots of open information, which isn’t typical. What Quinns describes as fuzziness is something I look at in my (in progress) PhD thesis, under the descriptive title of Entanglement.

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Practicing Practice

You know that old phrase ‘practice makes perfect?’ It’s one of those little aphorisms that’s so common that we tend not to examine it. Typically it’s trite, and at worst, actively inhibits the conversation, something that makes it seem like the person who says it isn’t really paying attention.

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Speed Week: Game Development Sprints

During any given week, I have a Ke$ha moment, where I wake up in the morning to work on the ph-diddy. Every day I need to work on a large project, that I will still be working on at the end of the year, and every day I make sure I do something on it, even if it’s not amazing. This means I divide my day, every day, into chunks of time with goals to meet between various bits. I try to make sure I have lunch every day, for example.

This week, in AGDQ, I want to dedicate one block of time, each day, to live tweeting developing a game.I had a whole plan, because there’s normally a game jam, called GAMES MADE QUICK. This year, though, the point is to not make a game. It wants to be a take it easy game jam, with the idea that you make something. A level, an asset, a rulebook, a revision, something like that.

I was planning on doing this anyway, but with that in mind I’m going to do some dedicated, focused experiments in using an hour at a time on game development. One hour at a time – a goal that I have to do the play with the project, but put it down when I’m not.

Here are some rules, up front:

  • I pick a start time and tweet that start with
  • If I then fritter away the time in that hour doing nothing, or get interrupted, that’s it, RIP that time.
  • I can work on existing game ideas or projects and that’s okay
  • I can use that hour to do breakdowns of mechanics or things in another game I want to do something with
  • One hour later I summarise what I did or looked at or experimented with.

Now, you might have seen some of this already (hi, future!). I don’t know how well I’m doing. It’s possible life has gotten in the way or these projects, but if we have, that’s a problem that we can accept and move on. This is a game jam that wants to be taken easily. What have we gotten up to? I don’t know, the Jam hasn’t started yet, I’m not doing anything until tomorrow, which is yesterday, because time is fake.

There are currently three game projects I am thinking I want to look at for these sprints, though, which I am writing down now so I can come back to this draft later:

  • I have the cards and decks for the card game Die Rich done. What I don’t have is that game’s rulebook written. Worst, despite knowing that game pretty well when I started developing it, I’ve kind of forgotten bits, meaning I have to go back in time and try to reverse-engineer the way my own game design works.
  • I want to make an upgrade to the game Burning Daylight, a game I love heaps but which I feel I rushed through because I was done with developing it. That’s super frustrating to deal with when the game has this powerful character to it I’m excited by.
  • I have a few ideas for microgames, particularly a dice builder game (a competitive one and a cooperative one) and a worker placement game. I kind of like the idea of making a real-time dice roller that forces a sense of speed on players, here in speed week.

If you want to track my progress, and check out my daily sessions, this link will show me talking about it on twitter.

Let’s Talk 2021!

Hey, uh, some of the 2020 plans got a bit weird didn’t they? Phew! Good thing that all of those things are exactly over and now it’s 2021, all the problems that 2020 had are over because we tore the tab off a new calendar.

First up, there are theme months; months when I’ll try to use the theme to focus topics. This means that you’re less likely to get a lot of stuff on this topic all the time. This is going to break down as follows:

  • February is SMOOCH MONTH
  • April is TALEN MONTH
  • June is PRIDE MONTH
  • August is TRICKS MONTH
  • October is DREAD MONTH
  • December is DECEMBERWEEN

I also plan on producing content in the following forms, each week:

  • Every Friday is a Game Pile
  • Every Monday is a Story Pile

You may think: Hang on, these don’t show up on those dates. Yeah, because you live in America. These are Friday and Monday, my time. So nyeh.

Let’s talk about types of topics though. Each of these articles types are going to be ‘lightly capped’ at one post a month. This is to enforce a degree of variety and make sure each of these things have room to breathe.

  • One Magic The Gathering article a month. With the rate of releases of MTG content, I prefer to make sure that my posts on this matter aren’t trying to keep up with the ‘proper’ pace, but instead be pieces that take my ways of playing Magic seriously.
  • One 4th Edition D&D Themed Article. There’s still lots in 4e D&D that deserves some attention. I know I have a thing about forced movement and smart targeting coming up on this one.
  • One 3.5th Edition D&D Themed Article. The awkward ugly cousin of 4th edition, I still have a lot of fondness for dumb things it could do and ways we can do  better than what it asks of us.
  • One How To Be post. These are fun breakdowns of how to approach a character and I try to build them in blocks so the middle section of ‘how do I get at the mechanical core of this idea with the tools I’ve got’ is readable for anyone.
  • One T-Shirt design post.

Now, on to game design and posts about that.

Originally the plan for game making for me was a new thing each month. This meant that each month needed to fit in playtesting and graphic design and printing and prototyping and that worked out okay when I was primarily a student doing Honours, and had some blocks of free time and reason to hang around at the university doing random pickup games with strangers. Since then I’ve had an experience I don’t want to repeat, where someone comes to my table at a convention and asks me about the games I’ve made, and I have to introduce them, in a tiny window, to thirty games.

The notion that face-to-face sales and personal play is important made me feel that more time on fewer games was a way to go. Having a new thing at a convention means you have a conversation, but you don’t have a big backlog to go over. I had low-key the idea that I would try and make at most, two games per convention in 2020; that a single new game to launch at an event was a better idea than having to explain twelve different games to someone who hadn’t seen me in a year.

This meant in game development terms I had four major events in mind: CanCon, Comic-Gong, MOAB, and SMASH! We know there won’t be a CanCon this year, so that’s out, which is a bummer, and the odds are good even if the pandemic dies down and conventions come back, it’s exceedingly unlikely we’ll have those same cons springing up, out of nowhere, this year, at the same size as they would have been. This has put game development on hold, which

Uh

Yeah, that’s been a bit of a thing.

I do seek to present some more pieces on examining game ideas and structural ideas I’ve been working on on this blog. I find this kind of stuff really exciting and interesting, and being able to go back over the games I’ve explained later results in moments of ‘ohhhh wait, that’s how I should do it!’ I do want to keep doing posts like that. This year, I don’t know how those gaming events are going to happen, and so, I’m going to operate on the assumption that they’re not, but that I do want the tools to be available. I’m going to spend this time I’m working on building apparatus to make a game making process, documented and clearly explained in about three months.

There! That’s the plan!

How To Be: The Covers Of 2020

It has now been a full year of How To Be. These articles are fun to make, they’re interesting to play around with, and I have more of them ready to go, so I fully expect to keep doing them. What I do think, though, from all of those articles I’ve made this year, I was frustrated to find that Twitter and Jetpack, two of the ways I promote this blog, don’t present my hilarious book covers in the thumbnails consistently. That means it’s possible that you might not see these book covers and may not have gone looking for them.

Also, since it’s December, and I am tired and you are tired and everyone is tired, how about I show off this year’s How To Be covers, and let you check them out now, as some long-form throwback reading of the rest of the blog.

Yeah?

Yeah.

Yeah.

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Decemberween: Jetpens

I watch a channel of ads.

I

I cannot wrap my head around this.

I cannot, in any sincerity, imagine even in the most preposterous of dystopian cyberpunk-ass future, envision this scenario that came into my life. I know my dad watches long, meaningless streams of seemingly interchangeable interactions between overpaid white blobs, and occasionally talks to the television about what a good or bad job they’re doing. That’s cultural. That’s a game. That’s sport, I know that shit.

In Demolition Man there’s a gag about the idea of characters listening to old retro jingles for the fast food chains that are all that remain of 20th century culture, the only pop songs on the radio being the ads. That feels like it has some stunning boomer energy, really, when you consider it’s basically ‘oh, the ads are becoming so much more of the radio these days!’ which, sure, whatever, I don’t even listen to the radio itself.

But right now, on Youtube, there is a channel that is literally just ads, and I am subscribed to it, and I put it on when I need something restful that isn’t headphone-required. Because it’s a channel about stationery supplies.

JetPens is a store. It is a business, in California, that sells pens and pencils and pencil cases and sharpeners and card dies and obscure book stuff and backpacks and so many things and the store doesn’t serve Australia.

I mean I can order from it if I want but I don’t need to. There are local stores in Australia that can probably handle the products, if I want them, but what’s more, I don’t really want to buy them. I have my needs met, here. But instead, I watch this channel of gentle, interesting, upbeat and completely friction free ads, and sometimes, thanks to them, think about the kinds of problems I see in the material objects I work with, and the ways I might work on them going forward.

Oh, and it’s great for gift ideas for Fox.

Decemberween: Bob Ross Stuff!

Bob Ross was an American thing. I don’t ever remember seeing him on TV here, in Australia. He was also a sort of proto-ASMR media format where the man’s gentle voice and soothing style was prone to giving people a sort of relaxation space even if they never joined in and painted. Then you throw in that there were VHS artefacts and analogue TV distortion creating more of the stuff we associate with lo-fi ASMR, and you get a dude who you find out about if you get into ASMR, no matter what.

The thing is, this guy’s work isn’t just about being relaxing, it’s also depicting a hobby, an artistic practice, and it’s a practice that was, formerly, in the day of Bob Ross’ lifetime, involved a bit of work ahead of time; he popularised a form known as wet on wet, where you start with a canvas that’s already slick with a base colour, meaning that colour you introduce has a medium to melt through.

You know what medium can handle that kind of deformationreally easily? Almost all drawing tools on your phone and tablet, and a number on your computer. Put down a blob of colour, then use the smudge tools to get that same wet-on-wet effect.

It’s December. You might like me have free time around friends and family. You might want something you can try out while the family are interested in using tech like tablets and videogames, and still want to work on something together.

So…? Check out Bob Ross’ channel on Youtube. Give it a shot. Make some happy little accidents.

December Shirts: The 2020 Worst Thing Participation Awards

Hey, I know I normally do the T-Shirt designs at the end of the month. This time, there’s a reason that maybe you want some product of mine for the end of the month? I don’t know why, but maybe you do, and because of that, I’m doing this month’s t-shirt designs up front, early.

This is a year that’s been, all told, pretty bad. At first I was working on a design that showed a range of the many ridiculous things that happened this year, informed by resources like is2020over.com. The problem is when you look at the things of 2020, most of those things are total bummers.

With that in mind, and figuring I don’t want to give you depression on a shirt, I thought, let’s cover some of the weird stories this year that didn’t have a chance to be even one of the worst things.

There are three designs, about Murder Hornets, boring UFOs, and The Monolith found in Utah, and you can check their collection here.

How To Be: Wolf Queen Nailah (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

And this month, before we talk about our subject, though I mean she’s in the subject of the blog post that you just clicked on so I mean what are we going to cover, suddenly a swerve and it’s going to be about trotting out pairs of characters that can be Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. But see, this marks our twelfth How To Be, and it also marks the first year of this feature. It’s fun! I’ve enjoyed doing that!

And because variety is important to me, we’re going back to Fire Emblem. And maybe, being you’re one of my friends, you might be thinking that yes! I’m going to bring up ya girl Edelgard, who is… very, very similar to Hilda.

No, we’re talking about Nailah, from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. And we’re talking about her because she’s cool, and she can do interesting things, and most importantly, because Fox likes her. I started with one of Fox’s favourite franchises, and then with a character she kinda didn’t like one way or the other? Terrible form on my part.

Let’s look at a Wolf Queen.

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Create From Empathy

I’ve said in the past that the two motivations for creating anything are spite and horny. You either are mad that something doesn’t exist, or that something that does exists wasn’t what you wanted, or you had a deep and personal want for something so you made it because of that. Sometimes the thing you want is just the experience of ‘hey, can I even make something in the first place,’ sometimes you’re horny for praise, sometimes you’re horny for being seen as productive, whatever. It’s a want or it’s spite.

Once you’re making, though, I’d like to encourage you to try and build what you’re building out of a sense of empathy.

When I teach students about how to make things, whether it’s a board game (as a structured object) or something like an instagram account (as an ongoing practice) it’s very easy to get caught up on thinking of an audience as literally the people on the internet who find the thing. This is something I have to try and uproot like a tree stump, every time.

Your audience are not ‘the people who see your work.’ It’s not your followers, god help me it’s not your impressions on a tweet. Your audience are the people who, if they see your work, are likely to like it. They’re the people who will respond to your work if they ever get to see it. When you stop thinking of them as people who are responding to your work, but rather as the people who would respond to it, you can stop worrying about ‘why am I bothering’ but instead ‘how do I make sure this work is as good as possible for the people who haven’t found it yet?’

First of all, there’s a lot of stuff people create without thinking about how an audience might experience it, or participate in it. If you’ve made fifty pages of worldbuilding, that’s fine and good to have, but how many of those pages are going to be useful to the person you’re hoping will read it?  Should you present them fifty pages, unorganised, or is it worth your time, is it respectful of their time and feelings, to go over what you wrote, and see if you can introduce ideas better?

Second, there’s a member of your audience you should have some empathy with, which is you. When you find yourself disinterested in making more of the thing, that’s someone you should listen to. When you find yourself tired, or sore, or bummed, and the urge to create isn’t overwhelming that, if you’re not playing with ideas, if you’re not finding yourself engaged with it… have some empathy with yourself.

You might just not be in the mood for it right now.

And if you’re never in the mood, maybe you don’t want to do it. Take what you learned, and move on.

We often think of our past projects and ideas and ostensible commencements of things as some kind of failing, some kind of moral weakness. This is pretty silly, and it’s a lot like trying to make people feel bad for unfinished games in their Steam library.

We’re all just here, playing with pieces.

So be kind to yourself. And to the people you want to share with.

Wallet Game Worker Placement

Earlier this year, Perennial Clever Cloggs Button Shy put out a competition to make an 18-card Wallet game that wanted to be a worker placement game. That is, a game where placing a ‘worker’ gives you an effect, and it deprives other players of that effect. So if I put my worker on the 3 Pineapples square, and you wanted 3 Pineapples, you have to find some other place for your Pineapple needs.

Don’t know why Pineapples. Maybe it’s just a funny word. Or maybe lots of worker placement games are colonialist.

Anyway, so I thought about how I might do this without a large, standardised board, and how to do that with a tiny number of cards.  Here’s what I came up with.

The game is divided into four basic parts: your worker card, which can be set to represent four different types of worker, depending on its orientation. Each worker card is split into two halves, and each side is different. So depending on orientation, the card could be A, B, C or D. There’s your four worker choices.

The resources can be shuffled up and arranged however based on each game. Maybe it’s turf or territory, or network nodes, or even a yearbook photo page, meant to represent social connections in, like, I don’t know, Mermaid Prom. Resources can be flipped up or flipped down, to create ways to deplete resources, or transform them. There’s room for them to vary.

Each player gets to place their worker card at one of the two sides of the board, 90 degrees from one another. They get everything in the line they choose, except, the card they have in common.

This gives you resources or opportunities to do special things, which I’m not sure how to track. You can make it so a resource card may have something as potent as ‘win the game’ on it – so you’re trying to jockey things into position where you can force your opponent to pick things you’re not.

What you do with the resources could be like Mana from MTG, where the resources go away at the end of turn, so each turn you’re trying to make a particular combination, to buy a card in the market, or enable something. You add cards from the deck to the marketplace as they go away.

This is the idea. You’re probably aiming to acquire some cards from the Marketplace, and you’re doing it by manipulating the resources with a small number of worker options.

Game idea intrigues me. I may give it a shot if I get a theme I like.