Category Archives: Making

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

Boyfriend Material

I default to tabletop games when I make games. It’s the skillset I have and it doesn’t involve, typically, reaching into a new skill space to try and develop something. But it’s not the only system I’ve ever used, and there is a design that I’ve had kicking around in my head for an idea of a few different visual novels, or maybe even RPGmaker style games. One of them that I think has a perfect name to go with its concept is Boyfriend Material.

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January’s Game Project: Adventure Town!

Adventure Town is a roll-and-write game about running a town that adventurers pass through, a type of thing that I seem to find really fascinating.

Gunna level with you: I had a lot of writing to do this month. I work on it a little bit at a time, trying to find time to make pushes to finish it, especially since it seems to me to be a really easy project to just get finished, but tell you what: I haven’t had the time in January. This is life, and part of my life in January was a combination of helping someone move, a convention, and a lot of writing for the most important project of my life.

Adventure Town suffered. But it didn’t get nothing done. Particularly, what got done was a very important thing, in my mind: I stopped trying to make perfect mechanics, and managed to instead, get some good mechanics down.

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Shirt 23.01 – I’m Fine, And You?

First up, the design on a shirt.

Second, the design in a png so you can read it.

And third, the raw text of the shirt so you can read it even more clearly:

The text ‘I’m fine, and you’ interrupting a litany of text in the background struck through that reads:

In late November 2022, a misprinted label on a pair of bootlegged boots introduced the world to the name and credits for GONCHAROV, a ‘greatest Mafia movie ever made’ which then caught on for what was roughly one long weekend of Tumblr engaging in an extensive game of ‘yes and’ that involved improvising screencaps, scene summaries, movie posters, and a truly impressive amount of sapphic fanfiction that was derided then by non-tumblr users as ‘just tumblr’ even as the joke spread all the way to Martin Scorsese, its supposed director himself.

If you’d like this design you can check it out in black or white text!

CoX: Swivel

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.


In all technicality, the man known once as Vice Swithin doesn’t exist. He never attended public school, never was recruited into the military at a young age, and was never court-martialed. Officially, he didn’t spend over a year in prison being constantly the subject of assault attempts due to his lean frame and youthful looks, being constantly upgraded in security due to his self-defense capability leading to injured inmates.

Such high-risk prisons were certainly not combed for inmates experiencing minimal deviance from a genetic mean to find strong candidates capable of surviving a protracted full-body implant and neuroconnective surgery. Medical records don’t exist for a process that wired him from heart to head, that upped his reaction time, accelerated his thought process and kept the young man wired on a personal basis alongside the firewalls and flamewars of wireless internet.

One life, redacted.

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How To Represent Speed?

When working with videogames, there’s a a lot of different ways to represent speed, and a lot of the challenges they present start out as technical. Infamously on the PC, getting fast scrolling on a room to create the impression of single large spaces the player could move through was a big technical hurdle; outrun used a camera trick and moving single silhouettes, and the VR push of a few years ago (is it reasonable to suggest that VR is now over?) featured a whole host of ways to grapple with the question of duping a human brain that’s very very good at recognising when it’s standing still and convincing it that it’s not.

But that’s videogames, an entire form of games that I don’t really make. I could try, that may be interesting, but anyway for now.

How do we get to represent speed in tabletop game places, with human interlocutors? Have some ideas! Go go go!

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MTG: December 2022’s Custom Cards

Hey, it’s a new year, but there’s still some business from last year to tidy up. No-Effort November yielded a bunch of cards with no themes, obtained by grabbing everything out of my year’s total collected work that I cut from other lists or other ideas. Simply put, you got a grab bag of ‘huh, why not?’ designs.

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains primarily custom magic cards.

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Decemberween 2022: NixiiiE

It’s another Nixie Posting!

Nixie is of course an influence on my work, partly because she’s my adorable disrepectful internet family, but also because this year has featured some super dope Nixie Content.

I’m not linking to twitter, because

uh

Twitter, right now.

But that’s okay because what Nixie has done this year that excites me the most is seizing the pedagogic means of production. What she’s been doing has included amongst other things, learning languages and that includes things like moving, something which sucks at the best of times.

But twice this year, Nixie has come to me to ask my help making a game. And then when I told her methods and tools I’d use, she did that thing that I always love to see: She went ‘okay, I got it,’ then she went and made the game to her specifications.

These games were then cool enough that she showed them to her teachers and those teachers went and told the class about them.


Twice this year, I’ve watched live-streamed performances of Nixie at choir. One of them was because she wanted me to save a video for her, and one of them was because, well… it was her recital. It was a choir performance she did, and she invited me to come watch, so I woke up and sat back and changed my day’s plans to make sure I was there to talk to her about it.

Is it weird to say I was proud of her? I know I clapped at my computer. That seems weird. Oh well.


Now of course, you already knew I think Nixie is great and adorable and sweet and definitely cool. And I’m really laying it on thick here just so I can bully her with reminding her of how wonderful she is. But the point is the longer this article is, the more of it she’ll have to read as she gets more and more annoyed at me.

See, she’s also a good writer, but without the threads to link to, I’m not about to be able to prove it. So that’s why this year, around when Twitter Looked Volatile, I made a cheeky little move to contact her and ask her to give some input to an article I was writing about one of her favourite movies, Air America.

And then, to my amazement, she and I made one of the same jokes in our writing, without any input from one another, and it’s an obscure bloody joke.

T-Shirt: Inspiring Threat

Hey, you know those ‘live laugh love’ and ‘in this house we do hugs’ kind of inspirational posts? Those things have this weird threatening energy to them. I’m often struck by how the aesthetic of them deforms the message, where how they become unsettling just by the way they are composed and all it takes is the right mix of unimpressively hacky fonts to take a message with some meaning and make it demand scrutiny.

Anyway, a long time ago I heard at a draft table, you can’t make it go faster but you can make it go slower, you know, as a way to scold players who were trying to rush other players making decisions. Somewhat recently, I rewrote it, a permutation of it:

I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot in the context of, uh… well

You look at twitter over there?

It’s a phrase I like the more I turn it over, because it’s both an impetus to be kind (think about the ways your impetus to act may cause harm) and also direction to recognise that some things are damaged beyond salvaging (and maybe you should be spending your energy tearing down bad things).

Anyway, uhhh, you can probably get masks, shirts, and stickers before Christmas, if that’s a thing you want?

MTG: November 2022’s Custom Cards

Ah, No-Effort November is over. But the cards of the month were made the month earlier, which is why despite it being No Effort November, there was, in fact, effort for these cards! How dreadful! But the theme of the month – I’m sure you’ve already worked it out, right?

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains primarily custom magic cards.

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Prototype 22.12 — The 2022 Prototypeapalooza

Just wait someone’s going to tell me ‘palooza’ is racist or something.

This year each month I dedicated some time – varying in scope and effort – to prototyping a new game. Of these games, two of them got to what I consider ‘made prototype’ stage, where I have a physical game that I can hold in my hand and share with people for proper playtesting. And that’s cool!

But I decided what I wanted to do this month, this December, was to look at the games I got, in what stages they are at, and determine what can I do with them in this last month to place orders for the rest in the hopes they’ll be available and my decks will be clear for next year to continue this process.

Presented then is a list of the games, based on the order I want to talk about them.

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Prototype 22.11 – DIY Touhou

Doing something different this time.

I am first up going to tell you what I wound up making and show you some examples of it. I’m going to explain where it’s at, and that’s all going to come before the fold. The full diary, which is a repost of material written over on my Cohost, is going to follow after. And we’re going to talk about sites like Cohost at some point in the next month or so, wew lord.

What I made this month is a prototype game design for a simple card game with a homogenous play form, focusing on hand management built on a classic mathematical puzzle you might see in the games Spot It and Dobble. The game has room to expand mechanically if it needs it, with each card having room for a rule or game mechanic to add to each character.

The game is composed of a deck of functionally similar cards; each card has a unique front and back. Each front face shows an alchemical summoning circle that describes a reading of a calamitous time, and a description of that in a set of keywords. The back face shows a magical girl from a mystical other realm (with art from the Touhou AI art bot) who represen two of those alchemical symbols and two of those key words.

The first turn of the game, you deal a number of these cards so their summoning circle faces are visible to the table, then deal each player a hand of magical girls, back-face-up. The deck is passed around from player to player, who get to do things to manage their hands, while they try and build a hand of cards that lets them ‘claim’ one of the quests as done.

That’s the game play experience, and cycle. I like that this needs no special components, and if it’s put in to a tuck box, it won’t need tons of setup. I also like that this prototype has room to develop: Each card could have a unique mechanical rule, a flavour or name joke, and the list of adjectives and alchemical symbols gives a lot of room for non-meaningful differentation.

Good idea, I like it, I did not get the time to order a prototype, but thanks to practice on Straight Outta Tucson, I have a tool available to me that can make turning this from ‘list of filenames’ to the actual cards very conveniently.

Dev diary follows!

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T-Shirt: List Jokes

It’s November, we’re all tired, have some shirt designs I dreamt up while I was doing the shopping and picking through cauliflower

Here’s a joke about how Final Fantasy 14 kills off cool women characters for no good reason. Here’s a version with white text, and one with black text!

Here’s a joke about Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Here’s a version with white text, and one with black text!

Here’s a joke about how we must sound to people outside of the fandom! Here’s a version with white text, and one with black text!

Game Pile: Straight Outta Tucson

Desert Bus was last week! It’s a cool event that raises money for the Childs Play charity, by playing the game Desert Bus. The more you donate to the event, the longer the event runs, and that means they have to play the game longer and if you weren’t aware, Desert Bus is a shockingly boring game.

What this means is that the whole streaming event is someone playing a dreadfully boring game and doing anything they can to be less bored – with their friends in the room. It’s a festival of events of busking, comedy performances, dramatic readings, a few D&D games, quiz games and also kinda a long-reaching slow-rolling combination of a con and a podcast. And mixed in amongst that there’s other events, including a game jam!

And I submitted a game to it this year!

The game is called Straight Outta Tucson, and it’s a simple little affair; it’s completely free to download and play, and we may be seeing about putting it up on some print-on-demand services as a cost-and-shipping-only option if you want a professionally made copy.

And I wanted to talk a little bit about what was involved in making it.

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How To Be: The Very Best, Like No-one Ever Was (Dun Dun D-Dun) (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 authoritative 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.

You know, it might just be because I’ve been thinking about pets and subordinate characters, what if the inspiration for your character in a 4e campaign is being someone who has for some reason, a monster that works at their side? What kind of character can produce monsters out of nowhere – like they can just pull them out of their pocket?

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CoX: Hellfrost

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.


It’s natural that things evolve responses to predators. The Circle of Thorns have been preying on humans for generations. Most of the time the evolution preserving humans from it was things like a general population move away from magical influences and spaces, and surviving better without it. But in the 21st century, when mutations could take abrupt jumps, sometimes more severe things happened.

When Hayes Rosten was captured by the thorns and stabbed with a knife as a teen, his mutation kicked in, and his body swallowed the magic that was meant to corrupt him. Stealing from the thorns, it flowed through him – and let him take on the form of their own horse-shark-ice-things, the Hellfrosts.

What matters more, what it looks like or what it is?

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4e: Building Organisations

Organisations are one of those things that most editions of D&D have but they all seem to have weird ideas about how to relate to them. In 3rd edition, for example, a lot of organisations had you spending feats to learn specific mechanical options that marked you as a member of that organisation. This led to a lot of killer feats but also meant that if you didn’t have a feat slot to spare, there was no reason to care about these organisations.

I’ve been thinking about organisations, especially in my campaign setting, because I do keep using ‘people choosing to arrange things’ as an important part of the cultural landscape. For this reason I’ve been thinking about ways to represent organisations that people can join at any time without it consuming a limited number of player build slots. Themes and Paragon paths are fine – but what if you want to be a member of the church of Amaunator without being a Morninglord?

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Asset Brainstorm #11 — Big Stacks

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.


When I started on this project, there was something happening that I wasn’t paying that much attention to. I was aware AI art was a thing but it wasn’t something that showed up in my streams. And now we’re in this super weird position where now there’s this type of asset that’s available, cheap, affordable and in many cases being made by an interesting new type of artist, and where just engaging with them at all is going to open a giant can of worms and result in a category of people being mad at me.

This is especially fraught because I don’t think AI art is ethically free and clear but I also don’t think it’s the black spot, and that’s a conversation that has gotten people very snappy very quickly.

So, content warning: I’m going to examine an art asset pack made by an artist using an AI package and post-processed. I’m going to talk about it agnostically, addressing the art asset pack as what it is, without delving into the question of whether or not it should exist.

Cool?

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How To Be: A Meguca (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 authoritative 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.

In this, a Dreadful Month, maybe you need a radiant light. Maybe you need something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy and happy in this time of long nights. In which case, let’s look to the most successful Monsters Inc fanfiction anime there is, and look at the magical girls from Puella Magi Madoka Magica as we ask what it would take to Become Meguca.

Spoiler Policy: I don’t intend to spoil much of the actual story of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Instead, I intend to approach this exercise looking at the characters as they present, with minimal explanation of the actual narrative of their native series, though there will be some discussion in a broad sense of what characters’ powers are.

This is in part because these characters have very strong vibes to use as basis for a character but also because it’s much funnier.

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CoX: Tideward

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.


“You do not want me down there! You want me up here!”

Hamilton, aka TIDEWARD, the SCION OF THE SUNKEN CITY, is a Prince of a deep-ocean nation, of which he says little. A deep sea upbringing made him tough, and strong, and the royal regalia of his home grants him shapeshifting bio-tech armour. A stranger from a strange land, Hamilton has had to learn a lot about human society from things other than the stories his father told him of the surface world.

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T-Shirt: The Demon Core Says Believe In Yourself!

It’s October! Let’s go check out this month’s T-shirt design!

I made this little design both to learn more about how to use Inkscape Vectors, but also as a way to make something appropriate to Dread Month without playing into my weakness as a designer (ie, I am butts and bad at conventional horror aesthetics).

I’m really happy with this friendly li’l Demon Core! Check it out on my Redbubble!

Asset Brainstorm #10 — Back To Osum

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.


Okay, this time it’s a simple one: This month, my goal, as a game maker, is to get Camp Osum into prototyping.

If you’re not familiar with Camp Osum, it’s a competitive draft horror game I originally made for Asylum Jam 2017. In this game, each player takes on the role of a camp counsellor roaming around the grounds, looking for things that build their place in the story, rousing the ghosts of the camp and hopefully not getting killed. Eventually, there’s only one player left, as the other players, now some of the ghosts, try to force that player into joining them, while they try and escape.

A big part of Camp Osum‘s life has been committing to boundaries on it; it was made for a jam, and the original draft up on Itch.Io is up there as it was at the end of the jam. I know that in my situation it’s very easy to work on things in private and keep things like prototypes and concepts hidden until they’re nice and polished in ways you, the audience can praise me for. That’s why, even though I think it looks terrible, and it was made in Word, like a lot of fast prototypes, you can go look at it.

Last year I spent a month working on the card face (while doing other stuff, because October is the end of the semester work-wise). This month, it’s time to pick the project up again and get it to the next stage, of being an operational prototype.

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Prototype 22.09 — Lane Chase

Every month of 2022, I am trying, as part of both my PhD project and my all-purpose general game development, develop if not a whole game for game development, a project start, such that I can make playtest prototypes. This is a sort of report of the process throughout the month.



What I started with this month was this:

This little Y unit that creates, in a player space, and in the process created lanes.

I didn’t get much time to work on this prototype this month. Honestly, I didn’t really get any time — this project hit a wall early on because this month had other demands. I’m embarrassed by it but I’m also just admitting it. This month has to marking crushes and a pressure point on the non-fun bits of the PhD (you know, all the paperwork that is meant to build off this design).

But still, this idea yielded some thoughts.

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