Category: Meta

2019 Going Forward!

2018 I set down some achievable goals, and I met them mostly. There were some complications with some of it, but I largely feel I met the goals. Particularly the largest, hardest goals were met.

So here’s this year’s clear, distinct, achievable goals.

  • One t-shirt design a month.
  • Daily blog posts, with weekly entries for:
    • a Game Pile article, on (my) Monday mornings
    • a Story Pile article, on (my) Friday mornings
  • One video a month, released near the 20th.

There’s not going to be Magic articles this year, at least not on a regular schedule and I’ll go into why later in the week. I intend to make each month themed, maybe with a description of what the theme is at the start of the month, but we’ll see. You might notice there’s also not a monthly game release, too, and we’ll get into why on Patreon.

Now, off the blog there are going to be a few commitments throughout the year that I already expect. The biggest one is my PhD needs what’s called an RPR – Research Progress Report. RPR is basically a stand-up presentation where I stand in front of a room full of my peers, my PhD Supervisor, other academics in the field, my sub-supervisor, and try to justify the past two years of reading lots of books and talking about board games.

It is terrifying.

Just imagine standing up in front of a room full of people tacitly asking the question well who do you think you’re fooling. And everyone in that room is an expert and it’s going to be awful. That is the big thing this year, study wise. Maybe that’ll effect the schedule on the blog, we’ll have to see!

Last year had high-productivity points and low-productivity points. Right now as I write this the future log is only 15 articles long; throughout 2018 there were points where it was 60 posts, which I don’t mind – after all, I like being able to take some days off. Still, this year is going to feature a lot of reading and writing that doesn’t get to go on this blog, and we’ll see how that works out.

Announcing: Decemberween 2018!

I liked Decemberween last year. Just as how I try to spend October being spooky and April being self-indulgent, I wanted to spend December just celebrating things. December is a month of minimal-bummers, positive boosting and just straight-up gratitude and encouragement for the people around me. It’s a time to reconsider the things that have happened around me, boost other people’s projects and work in a non-urgent way, and reflect, hopefully, on the things that have happened this year that are good. I won’t be talking about my projects this month, downer topics or weirdo theories until the new year.

Game Pile, MTG, and Story Pile articles will continue – don’t worry about that!

Queued Down

Well this is weird.

See, one of the things that this blog has been doing now for over a year now in its Daily Blog Adventure, is pretty much posting constantly, thanks to coordination from a bullet journal system I’ve gotten very comfortable using. Story Pile posts are usually a month or two out in advance.

It may surprise you that these Story Pile posts are in some cases very thoroughly researched. I double check the things I want to talk about. Sometimes I cut them down, sometimes a whole point of an article is removed because I simply don’t want to be mean. I was pretty harsh, I feel, in my final assessment of The Punisher series, but that final assessment was mild compared to the positively blistering rage I had for the series. I was genuinely offended that The Punisher wanted to try and represent itself as a series that could have an opinion about the question of gun control. That had chunks of talk about American attitudes towards guns and about what it means when you esteem a symbol of violence more than the lives of children, and… I cut it. I cut all of it because it wasn’t really that important. I don’t think everyone who watched The Punisher is watching it to make something of it, I think most of them watched it because they liked the character in Daredevil or somewhere else and they were curious.

Earlier in the month, my queue ran out.

Not entirely. There were still a lot of queued posts. I just haven’t done much in October, in part because it was the final month of the semester, and its closing argument was marking every student’s work as quickly as possible. This is non ideal. It also means that over the course of four days, I have been reading roughly two books worth of text, then double checking that to existing media and texts I know, conferring with other tutors, then providing feedback in a way the student can grapple with.

Simply put, I’ve been pretty fried.

Then I look at the things I could Story Pile About. I was looking forward to the end of October and the Spooky Month because it meant I could Story Pile about anything again. I could write about whatever cool thing seized me. I had a list! I have a list! There’s Netflix shows and movies and albums and books and I have really, really enjoyed reconnecting with older stories as I share them with my nephews. But important to all this is that my Story Pile posts are actually pretty hard to just hammer out. Even when I’m talking about something I know well, I still need to spend time referencing it, still need to spend time checking it out.

That’s something I hope you appreciate. I don’t shoot from the hip with my Story Pile posts. They’re meant to be interesting and thoughtful. To some extent I want to be able to justify what I have to say about a piece of media even if I’m being a sassy jerk.

Minecraft, MMOs and Word Counts

I write every day.

Well, okay.

I wrote every day. I write every day, most every day. Sometimes things will interfere with that. These past two weeks, the thing that’s interfered has been being sick.

Oh don’t worry, it’s not now now. This is back in September. September I got a flu so serious it knocked me flat out and resulted in a giant pile of just forgotten paperwork. I got things done, but there were all these small things I was on top of that I’m not on top of right now, as I write this – in October.

During this time I did climb back into feeling okay, and started looking at my dwindling backlog of writing. It sit usually somewhere around 30 to 40 posts. As I write this, it’s dipped down to 27 – but I was really riding high when I got sick, nearly 45 posts, all on schedule. I’m very happy with my blog productivity, and I’m happy with how often I write.

While I was sick, I reinstalled Minecraft. And that resulted in something… interesting.

See, back in 2017, I thought that I had to stop playing MMO-like games because they were sapping my creativity. I’d spend a lot of time on grinding and building and learning lore and all those things to roleplay in these spaces, and that work was, in general, pulling me away from my blog. I kept anxiously shifting to writing tasks or creative work, because I was afraid of all the time I was losing to playing the MMOs, and I found myself in this awful loop of just refreshing two or three websites endlessly in a loop for hours at a time, to make sure I didn’t miss opportunities to RP that I might enjoy.

Right now, I have Minecraft open and I have basically been running around in a small loop for most of the afternoon. It’s 3AM now. That’s not sensible. That’s not healthy. And part of it is that I kept breaking my attention from the tasks I wanted to do to run around in Minecraft, move near a farm or set up a thing or check what I was doing, and that, that’s where I put a handle to the problem I was having with MMOs. The problem I was having with my blog.

October has a theme of spooky games. I, as I write this, still haven’t got my final spooky game lined up and writte up. This is really late for me – I’m usually a whole month ahead of time, so I’m a bit bummed out that I haven’t done a good job there. Even as I sit here writing this I feel the urge to tab across and double check things, to see if I missed things, to see if there’s something important I need to do.

I realise that the problem isn’t that MMOs are failing me or that Minecraft is too addictive.

I’m just anxious.

And I’m so anxious I’m losing whole days on the same simple mental loop.

This sucks.

October 2018 Wrapup!

October! The spookiest of months!

This month featured a strong theme through the Game Pile and Story Pile of spooky stuff. I mostly avoided horror videogames; I’m not really qualified to talk about the fundamental problems of games like Outlast and nobody is going to listen to me on things like Outlast 2. Instead, I looked at tabletop games and, then, because I’d tried to make a video about it, a tiny complaint about SOMA.

Note to self: Maybe do one on The Infernals sometime.

The articles I wrote this month that I was the most proud of were Your Worst Fan, which was about how even bad people who are stupid jerks will interpret media, Christopher Hitchens Was Just Good At Being A Dick, which is kinda self-explanatory, an article on Voice Acting I’ve had in the queue since July, and of course, my review of Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, a middling book of pish.

The video this month was on Comstockery, an an effort to talk about some of the horror in media studies that has nothing to do with murders as we understand them. Lots of other media studies folk wanna talk about horror and the greater tools of storytelling as applied to it, after all. It seems to me that the horror experts are best served talking about horror in a big way – but I know me some messed up puritanical deviants.

October’s game is on the way, coming over the ocean in the form of a game that is still not quite properly named. There’s a print-and-play game up on my Patreon I made this month, which might get expanded (I hope) depending on playtesting and feedback.

The October shirts are these Eat Trash, Live Free shirts. You can get them on Redbubble (Raccoon and Ibis) and on Teepublic (Raccoon and Ibis).

October’s theme proved challenging. I had to coordinate what I was doing, which I recognised curtailed some of my common behaviours – pull open a window, dump text in it and throw it in the queue. It shaped my consumption habits for a month, and my horror game consumption just dropped off because all my attempts to play horror games got boring. I felt like I just didn’t have enough interesting things to say about horror, too. Horror’s a thing I feel you sort of need to build a corpus of expertise around to avoid saying anything pedestrian. You don’t need me to introduce the concept of The Final Girl, for example.

Also there are some horror games I played this year that I didn’t think to save my writing about until October. That would have been much smarter than what I did.

Anyway, onward!

September 2018 Wrapup!

September. Another working month, which is nice, but also the month where my PhD Action Progress Report or APR was due. This is a big scary document that opens with HAVE YOU FAILED THIS YEAR? and kinda gets rougher from there. Also, I’ve been doing some lecture appearances at uni, which is pretty cool!

This month, only one video got made – and well, I made it in August. It was about the comedy special Nanette and the limits of media forms.

As I write this, in September, I haven’t done much video editing at all, which worries me a bit. I have a big thing planned, but thanks to a schedule thing for October, I don’t know if it’ll go up until November. If you liked Meaningless Heterotopia, this one is more in that vein – longer form.

I do kind of want to do more Lets Plays with commentary, so you might see one of them, with a solo commentary track rather than necessarily doing it with Fox again. Not that I don’t love Fox to pieces, it’s just easier to do things on my own, and I really liked my Commander Keen video.

What game got made in September?

Well, as of writing this, it’s The Pipesm’n Conspiracy, and it is flying its way to Canadia to become part of the grand festival of comedy and charity that is DESERT BUS 2018 OH MY GOD I DID THE THING. And the rest of the month has been nervously fretting for it to arrive.

The September shirt is Voregoisie, Because the Rich are Made of Meat. In black and white.

August 2018 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.


July 2018 Wrapup!

I blogged every day, so that’s that goal met. The most notable blog posts of July included the four Kamen Rider essays, which I really enjoyed writing. They were originally going to be a video, but I realised the scope of the editing was just beyond me without source material, and I’d have to go hunting on Youtube for video I could use. I also liked my post showing the day-long process of creating the engine for a boat card game, and the surprisingly positive hindsight view I have of Rise of the Eldrazi.

Next up, the video! This month’s video was Meaningless Heterotopia, a 20 minute long video essay about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, a game that has nothing to say despite being convinced it has absolutely got something to say. This video was quite a bit of work, but I did it almost a month before it got released. Notably, this video got made because I already had made video of the gameplay experience, which has taught me about when to record video footage, and how ‘play experience’ cuts together into an interesting video.

I think in hindsight, with a few mistakes notwithstanding (there’s a point where some animations are out of sync), I learned a lot making this. The biggest problem is that in my efforts to keep the video moving, to avoid still images, I shot through a lot of things way too fast. It’d have been better to space out my speech more, if I’d given the text on screen more room to breath.

That said, it hit almost 400 views in a few days and is at 600 views as I write this, which is a huge improvement over Ziggurat. Thank you so much!

This month’s game release was Domains of Meh, which went up on DriveThruCards. It’s a little trick-taking army game, and had to get made between a bunch of other stuff, so I’m pretty happy with how it worked out. The Nyarr is almost good to launch too, I’m just waiting on the last of the artists to get back to me. Working with other people has a time frame all of its own!

Here’s this month’s t-shirt: BAD BEETS.

I also had to get back on unemployment benefits in anticipation of work not coming through, which meant I got into that bureaucracy for just long enough to be reminded of how much it sucked.

Also, my grandmother died.

June 2018 Wrapup

What happened in June? Lots of things!

First up, June’s blog posts! I had a lot I was really proud of here. First of all, in the academic blogging, I wrote about how autoethnography is important to help erase base assumptions about the perfection of objectivity. I wrote about Hyrule Warriors and how it contributes to some of our worst feelings of awful nerd garbage. I also wrote two posts exploring Arrested Development, split between the old and new versions, and even two fun history posts about The Winged Hussars and the Saigo Rebellion.

We did hit an interesting milestone, though. As of tomorrow’s post (which is a Story Pile post, hence doing this today), I will have posted daily on this blog, non stop, for an entire year.There have been some hiccups, but they’re all scheduling problems – times when a blog post was in the queue and didn’t happen. Beyond that, here is a grid of dots all nicely lined up.This month’s shirt design was a little bit of an afterthought – I haven’t been playing around with shirt designs too much. Still, it was the ten year anniversary of the infamous loss meme, and I felt it would be a nice easy thing to commemorate. Also, it made Ettin laugh, which really is all the incentive I need to do something silly these days.

You can get this shirt on my Redbubble. I would be deeply surprised if anyone did.

What about the monthly game content? Well, here’s where fingers are crossed and breath is held. As I write this, I’m waiting on the last bits of art from artists for the Nyarr. Any collaborative work is slower and more complicated than anything else, but, here’s hoping in the next few days I can come back and change this to indicate we got this launched within June.

This month’s video project, on the other hand, was a video exploring Ziggurat, a wonderful game I got for free, and how it had a fundamentally different philosophy to Hexen, the game it’s most compared to.

The big lesson of this game was how ‘play overlaid with spoken essay and visual aids’ could come together reasonably nicely! With a little more forward planning I think I could really make something of this style.

It was the last few weeks of teaching and marking for the first semester, which means as of right now I’m not employed, which is a bummer. If you have any work for graphic or game design or the like, let me know!

I also did a bit more academic blogging, and got through some more books, or chunks thereof for my PhD. There’s been a sort of restructure for that, meaning that I’m doing more longer reads of the works to keep pace with my supervisor, so instead of trying to do a surface impression of a host of books I’m instead able to give in-depth reading on chapters at a time.

June is also a month of birthdays! Fox had one, as did one of her family members, and one of mine. During this, I had a few cooking experiments, which I’ll write about later when I’m more comfortable with the experience of what I did. There’s a certain silly incestuousness of recipes, really – I got the recipes off the internet, why should I retell you about them? Did I do anything major to change them? Probably not worth it. Still, if I find something I think is worth reading, I’ll get onto that.

Anyway, if you’re keeping track, July is going to feature a series of Story Pile entries focused on Kamen Rider W, so if you were hanging out for those essays, here we go. I did want to make them as video essays, but I don’t yet have the material, and I didn’t want to leave it longer.

I wonder if it’s a bad idea to turn articles into videos. I mean that’s what I do already – I write an article for reading, and then put a video to it. So I don’t like, avoid that. Anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

May 2018 Wrapup

And now here we are at the end of May!

Daily posts again! This month’s favourite articles include The Whole Sort Of General Mish Mosh Of Confrontation, Helping You Write When You Can’t Write, and my review of Far Cry 4. Also this month I started making blog posts more directly from my PhD readings.

This month’s t-shirt is a pair of shirts – both designed to evoke the old TMs of Pokemon games. You can get them both on Redbubble!

Game launched? May’s game was The Roads To Springdell here at Invincible Ink and DriveThruCards! This time, it’s a gentle, pastoral trick-taking builder game, where you can make your own little town build up out of nothing.

Springdell is another game made possible by Patreon, thanks to people helping to finance the stock art I purchased from Anabal Casis.

This month’s video is honestly a bit weak, but it’s weak for a reason. Most of my videos so far have been some variety of a slide show, and I haven’t gotten into the habit of recording video of every game I play yet. This meant that when I was done with a game, reinstalling it and getting footage of it was basically another week’s work, time I didn’t have. Instead, I assigned myself a goal, to produce a video in four hours.

It’s weak and it’s inconsistant but I learned a lot from the tools. So I’m happy with that.

As always, this work is being financed, in part by my Patreon! As before, this is a way you can get tailored content for you! We’ve got a possible thing happening over there for patrons about getting copies of games for free or expanded copies of games for the print-and-players.

This month I started recording how often I ate fast food, how often I had no-meat meals, and tried to arrange so that once a week, I had a non-meat day. It’s been interesting and honestly, kind of fun so far.

Thoughts on Ethical Jealousy

These past few months I’ve been stewing on the idea of ethical jealousy. There’s this notion that’s been haunting the world of criticism, pretty much since the dawn of the webcomic era, that the work of the critic is echoed with the notional frailty of jealousy. Anyone who examines a creative work, there’s always something of an assumption, is doing it out of a sadness at their own inability to create such a thing themselves.

Now I don’t think that jealousy is never a factor in criticism but I think it is very much not the factor people think it is. In my case, specifically, though, I do know there are times when I swallow jealousy at a work. I don’t really do long-form critiques of some things, knowing that I can’t trust myself to separate my envy of the work from the work.

I don’t think that everything we think of as a vice has to be seen that way. I don’t think I have to see the wish, the yearning to have done something, to be able to do something, as an evil. It’s, in a way, a valuing – I can see the value in that thing, and wish that I had had some hand in it. A healthier way, a more ideal way, would be to see the creation and its existence as worthy, in and of itself – but I see the admission of envy, the acceptance of jealousy, to be in part a step towards that more blessed autumnal state.

And so, when I see myself jealous, I admit it; I accept it; and I seek to not let that jealousy corrode my appreciation, but in its admission, be disempowered. Do not let that you want become a poison that depletes your ability to appreciate what a thing is.

April 2018 Wrapup

What happened in April?

Blog news, we had a daily blog post. My backlog dipped low but I brought it back up again. We had our regular segments – Weekly MTG, Game Pile and Story Pile. Of my April articles I’m most proud of my write-up of Planescape Torment, my hypothesis on Bright, and my guide on writing a Light Novel. The Light Novel jam has another month so if you want to get onto it, hey, you can do that!

We had another shirt design, or rather, we had four.

These four Harry Potter designs, Basic, Extra, Boring and Evil are inspired from a multimedia franchise that I’m pretty sure has no legitimate reason to actually sue me.

I launched a game, again, Downspout this time. Here at Invincible Ink, and here at DriveThruCards. It’s like PVP Pipe-Dream!

My video project got snarled up a bit, so I didn’t make the two videos I was hoping to make – a history of the Ur-Quan and an episode of Making Fun – but instead, I put together a final capstone video of me playing The Swindle. I’m thinking I’ll move on to playing Dishonored 2 again next, since I can’t get Fox readily to commentate on it.

On a life side of things, classes and work finally got sorted out to the point I had a stable work situation. I had a birthday, I got some nice new knives, and I got to grade some of my students’ cool ideas for making games. I read a bunch of books for my degree and I wrote a bunch about them too. I also wrote about my PhD thesis idea, here.


All Fools Day

I don’t really have a joke here.

Someone I know, Andi McClure, traditionally avoids online presences entirely on April 1. The idea is to treat the internet as something to occasionally avoid, to deactivate and best examine the world in light of separation from that common and nearly-essential service. The day, April 1, is a really good day to avoid using the internet, because it’s a day that most things that connect to the internet try to use to lie to you.

To this end, I have this expression of a promise: I’m not going to do anything silly on April 1st. I think I generally try and be funny most of the time, and treating April 1 as some sort of big deal time for Corporate Branded Whackiness just tends to lead to things that are more annoying than actually funny.

Of course, you’re probably reading this on March 31st, because America is in the past. Bear in mind any news you see tomorrow might be just nonsense.

March 2018 Wrapup

Hey, here’s the end of March – and now how’d that go?

As before, we had a daily blog post. In this month I’m particularly proud . This is while meeting the three regular segments, Game Pile, MTG, and Story Pile.

I’m really happy with the t-shirt design for this month too. It’s called ALL DOGS ARE COMMUNISTS, and you can get it on Redbubble and Teepublic. Redbubble stickers are pretty cheap if you like the design but don’t want to ship, like, a shirt.

I did this design in a day, and it’s my first really proud-of-it-proper piece of art done entirely with my tablet, rather than using vectors to define a clear outline. I hope you like this comrade doggo and they brighten your day.

Game launched? Burning Daylight, here at Invincible Ink and DriveThruCards! It’s a hand management game where you get to control your own little gang of grungy solarpunk heroes, against a fascist city that seeks to assert its way on a world that doesn’t want them any more!

Burning Daylight marks three milestones. One, it’s a game I consider substantial. Several of our games are designed to be lightweight and fun, like Foxtail or C-QNS or even Winston’s Archive. Burning Daylight is a game with some lore and a multi-turn system for playing and advanced rules. I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just releasing the easier types of games to make, but instead releasing a good mix. Basically, I want to make sure we release a few Fabricators and Sector 86 along with our simpler games.

Secondary to that, it’s just a game I’ve been working on a while and iterated on a lot. I’m going to do a history of the design for Patreon (which will be posted here, for free), because it seems to me an interesting project.

And third, it’s one of the first games I’ve made where I could afford to pay both for the game’s art (which is Stock) but also for consultancy fees, and send promotional copies out! This was enabled in part by you, on Patreon, so thank you so much.

Making video was another one, which I fulfilled early in the month; another episode about Magic: The Gathering.

As always, this work is being financed, in part by my Patreon! Over there, we did our first Bundle Sale and I floated the idea of making a simple ‘game a month’ tier, where for, like, $15 or $20, depending on how shipping costs work out, I just send you a game each month. We’re still feeling it out, but please, feel free to become part of the conversation.

On a personal life front, well, I had some medical woes, and some payment woes, but I’ve also now got some work at the Uni that seems to fit with my like, life schedule really well, and kind of uniquely needs my skillset of ‘check this thing out, can you make it work, and then tell us how we can make it work.’ That’s pretty neat. I’ve also been teaching, and I love doing that.

I did get some news about my diet, which is more embarassing than anything else (ie, ‘don’t eat all the pasta’, and other stuff I should know already), and I hung out with my family some more. I’m taking care of myself.

Also this is the first month I’ve had lately where I haven’t been itching for the next month’s game release. We might have a simpler game up next, or maybe we’ll have a surprise that comes out of nowhere. I don’t know. We’ll see!

February 2018 Wrapup

And now with the last day of February, what was that month like?

As before, we had a daily blog post. In this month I’m particularly proud of The Power of Hate, The Art Of Your Normal, and Monsters.

Our three regular segments – Weekly MTG, Game Pile and Story Pile – posts? Check!

T-Shirt design? Check, here’s DON’T NEED NO REASON, on Redbubble and Teepublic.

Game launched? Winston’s Archive, here at Invincible Ink and DriveThruCards! It’s a two-plus player drafting game where you’re both sorting books, full of silly joke book titles!

I really like Winston’s Archive because rather than use the drafting as part of some greater, more complicated play of the game, the game is the drafting. It’s also a useful system to understand, and taught me a lot about distribution in games and catch-up mechanisms. You should check it out!

Video? Episode 7 of Making Fun went up! Episode 8 will be coming, hopefully, and we’ll talk about some mechanics.

I launched my Patreon! This is a way you, the people who enjoy this work, can kick me a dollar or two a month in exchange for more content. This is a way you can request Micropodcasts, and partake in bundle sales, which I’m still getting a handle on.

In this month I also started some casual work for the uni (after some paperwork snafus, which led to more paperwork snafus), shifted my PhD to part-time, started to work on teaching game making at the uni, and spent more time with my family.

Talen Lee is now on Patreon!

DEEP breath.

Hey folks! Do you like the stuff I do? Do you like that I write about games, Magic: the Gathering, media and everything else? Do you like my guides on how to make your own games, or terminology in games that we don’t use well? Do you want to give me guidance on stuff you want to hear me talk about? Do you want to buy some of our games, but find the shipping costs or the schedule intimidating? Do you want to see me do more podcasting and video stuff? Well, I have some great news for you, because you can now directly incentivise my work and consider yourself invested in it directly, thanks to a Patreon!

My intention is still to make as much of my work free as possible – if I use the Patreon as a content footing, it will be almost entirely for early releases or the sort of miscellaneous poll-or-feedback kind of questions I sometimes use Twitter for. I’m charging it per month rather than per product, and will include such things as group sales and bundle rates for our games.

So please, check it out, and if you can’t afford it, don’t worry about it! If you don’t want to do it, because you think I’m not worth paying for, well, dang, hurtful, jeeze. What’d I do to you? Unless you’re Ryan ██████, I know why you have it out for me.

Anyway, please please please: Check it out.

Check Talen Lee out on Patreon!

January 2018 Wrapup!

How’d January go?

Daily blog posts? Check.

Weekly MTG, Game Pile and Story Pile posts? Check!

T-Shirt design? Check, here’s EWOKS ARE COOL, on Redbubble and Teepublic.

Game launched? LFG – Looking For Group, here at Invincible Ink and DriveThruCards!

Video? Well it’s been made but it hasn’t been launched

Also on this month was a long weekend of D&D, AGDQ, my first PhD meeting and our three-day long weekend at Can-Con!

2018 Going Forward!

Let’s mark out some clear, distinct, achievable goals.

  • One completed game design a month.
  • One t-shirt design a month.
  • Daily blog posts, with weekly entries for:
    • a Magic The Gathering article
    • a Game Pile article
    • a Story Pile article
  • A video a month

That seems doable to me. What makes this complicated, though is that I’m also going to be doing a PhD. So… that might transform my workload. We’ll have to see.

So why do I bring this up? Well, first, laying it out like this is a good way to make sure I have a plan. I’ve found making something of what I do accountable is important. The other thing is, I’m going to spend January looking into launching a Patreon, which will be about:

  • work-in-progress stuff on game designs
  • group sales of games where if I can get 20~ people interested, I’ll send out bulk copies of games without postage
  • voting and contributions directly on future game content
  • raising money to hire artists!

There. That’s it. Stated. A plan.

I can’t necessarily weasel out of this easily. Weasily? We’ll see.

Announcing: Decemberween 2017!

I had a whole month of writing planned about December, which has all just been bumped to January. I don’t think anyone’s going to be spending their December trying hard to crack some personal puzzle about how to make paper look torn, or looking for a project that’s just waiting for the right artist to bring it to life.

In this month, we’re going to continue Game Pile, weekly TV and weekly MTG articles, as normal – but in the intervening days? It’s all going to be me telling you about something a friend does that I think is cool. No long-form articles or big goofy work, just sincere, honest appreciation for the work of people I love.

Amerimanga Covers II

Nevermind the Dust

If you’ve not noticed, there’s been some changes around here. Minor stuff, just keeping on top of things like giving the blog compression, fixing up its themes. There’s more stuff in the pipeline, but here’s the quick stuff:

  • Blogging More Often – I’ve been trying to make sure I blog daily about something of some size or substance. There are some more whimsical mid-pieces, but mostly, I want this to be a consistant source of interest
  • Blogging More Prettily – Look at all those pictures! I’ve been trying to get in the habit of including visuals in my work more now.
  • Blogging On Suggestions – I want to write about things you want to hear about. This is in part because I like the challenge but also because I like the idea of you getting something to read that interests and intrigues you
  • Blogging Tools – There’s a bunch of stuff behind the scenes here that I’ve just never considered trying out, and it means that the blogs I’ve been doing in the past have been trying to solve problems in really ugly ways. Now we get things like decklist and card popups and good integration of video and whatnot.
  • Blogging About Academia – I did a degree in this stuff, and I’m looking to do a PhD in it – why exactly wouldn’t I want to share what I’ve learned? One of the problems Academia even has is we’re bad at explaining things to people who didn’t do the same courses. This seems a good practice.
  • Blogging Better – I don’t know if you knew this but the old category system I was using was kind of like not using a system at all. Now I’ve gone back, taken all the uncategorised posts and put them in appropriate categories; there’s more proper use of the meta category to be about posting on the blog itself, and the new space Media to talk a bit more about, well, media.

So that’s the basics. Hope you’ve been appreciating the #content so far!

About Talen

Hi folks! I’m Talen Lee, an Australian game designer, and this is my Blog! Chances are you’re looking to contact me, so real quick, you can @ me:

  • Via Email: talen[at]
  • Via Twitter

I use this avatar on online spaces when I can, and I look a bit more like Generic Male Caucasian Nerd Model Number Three (Ponytail Potato).

I make stuff. That’s a super nebulous thing to say, isn’t it, especially these days? Let’s explain a little:

I make games!  I make card and board games as part of Invincible Ink, a small independent game development group that’s interested in making games that respect your intelligence, respect your time, and respect your space.

I write about games! I blog here reviews of games, or talk about game lore and things that games do that mean something to me. I look at and consider games both as critical pieces, and as consumer products, with a deliberate effort to avoid the 7/10 ranking problem, and instead look at what makes games good for you.

I write about making games! I’ve taught University classes on making games, and have a whole host of thoughts about how that’s a good thing in general. I talk about how to make things, and I believe in your ability to make them, too!

I write fiction! I’ve written a bunch of books, at least one of which is good enough that I’m willing to let you pay me for it! It’s about teen assassins murdering the heck out of some terrible people, in a wealthy city at the heart of a great empire!

I write about lots of things, too! I talk about voting systems, about books and movies, and about my academic research into games and fandom and why we can take that stuff seriously. I’m even branching into doing this sort of thing on Youtube, or solo podcasting!

I design shirts! I do graphic designs, which are often byproducts of other designs for card games! If you’re looking for a sort of super specific joke, I may have put it on a shirt where you can go buy it!

I make robots! Twitter robots that do silly things combining text! I try to keep my robots all tidy on this one list so you can check them out there.

I podcast! I’m part of the Downloadable Concept podcast, and the From The Rooftops podcast, with more on the way!

I tweet a lot! And I mean a lot! I tumbl, too, if you’d rather read my blog posts there!

If you’re super curious, I have an old legacy website with a bunch of art I did when I was … wow, like, nineteen? Holy heck. Anyway, you can check it out here, if that’s your thing.


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2016’s Lessons Of Gaming #26: 251-260+

251. Recognise What Computers Can Do, And You Can’t

No, you can’t just fucking translate Hearthstone to physical cards and no it’s not a good idea to fucking try, oh my god. Hearthstone is a videogame that borrows mechanical concept space from physical cards but it’s SO bad an idea to try and duplicate physically. Look at the WoW CCG for how awkward things are like ‘using counters to track damage every turn for every card’

252. Mashup Pitching

Considering odd stories as inspiration yields exciting pitches: SMOKY AND THE BANDIT is a HIDDEN MOVEMENT ASYMMETRICAL RACE GAME.

253. Look Into Fonts More

Fonts: Tall, straight, narrow fonts look really swank they are also dyslexia-hostile. Basically if your font makes d and b and p and q look just like one another rotated, it’s harder for dyslexic people to read. Sadly, one of the best, most available fonts for fixing this problem is Comic Sans

254. Avoid Comic Sans

Never use comic sans.

Even as a fucking joke.

Comic sans will get you whined at endlessly by font nerds and let me tell you that is a whine that punches through all antiwhine measures.

255. Shuffling Vs Bottoming (Stop Giggling)

Do you expect a player to go through their entire deck in your game? Consider ‘shuffle in’ vs ‘put to the bottom’ in that context.

256. Trust Artists And Pay Them

As an Indie, don’t haggle with artists. Odds are close to 100% they’re undervaluing themselves. if you are a multinational company with lots of money to spend on gaming, well, Mr AEG, pay artists more.

257. Oral Rules Vs Written Rules

MOST of the people who play your game will not learn it from the RULES, but from a player who DID. So your rules are usually going to be, as it were, a photocopy of an explanation. What makes this harder to deal with is that you can’t rely on a verbal explanation! You need to design your rules that anyone can pick them up, and that they can then communicate them to players in short, explanatory sentences. Designing good rules is REALLY hard, and worth practicing.

258. Unbearable Silence

Games that require silence/an absence of communication have to be very engaging throughout the whole silent period. Also it kinda breaks the learning process of the game if players know they can’t talk at all, so cooperative silence beats competitive

259. Don’t Add Clutter

Players will have tokens, dice, and coins if you’re pitching at an Established Gamer style. Adding them can be just adding clutter. I learned this year that players have a super weird grossout reaction to using and handling real-currency coins I have no idea why. It’s a shame, because using pennies as game counters seems an actual valid use for the damn things.

260. Holy Hell How Long Is This?

Jesus christ, you people. Anyway, mode switching works best if the two modes have an easily understood difference. Like the Runepriest in D&D 4ed? Is basically ‘Switch between A and B’ but if you’re, say, a werewolf shifting between wolf and hunk? Or even like, a penguin, turning around from white-face to black-back would be good. The metaphor conveys the mechanism.

260.5. Bonus: Hey, Remember Tits The Girl?

It applies with aliens as well, and with whole class structures in games about combat or building character types. So, here’s the obvious, simple thing: Don’t gender classes, don’t race-link classes, and work on sexual dimorphism in your alien races.

2016’s Lessons Of Gaming #25: 241-250

241. Hotline Why Am I

There aren’t enough Sunset Noir games. It’s the aesthetic you can see in games like Hotline Miami and Drive and I really dig it. Consider if you like that flavour of vile neon and summer haze, see what you can do in that.

242. Encourage People, Seek Things That Encourage You

Being encouraged is, to me, super important. I would often float ideas to people, see people express disinterest or dislike, and bail. I’m lucky, I seem to have a kajillion bad ideas I can sift through and refine, but finding people who will try shit out is super important. So, be nice to the people who are helping you, just as a general rule. Playtesters, artists, other developers you share ideas with

243. Err On High Contrast

Bright colours, clear contrasts. Printed material doesn’t look the same as stuff on a screen, so go vibrant. Muddy is bad.

244. Take Notes!


I’ve noticed an explosion in my notebooks and I’m seriously considering starting Bullet Journaling just to get into good habits of tracking information and building up a library of notes I can reference later.

245. And Then Double-Check Those Notes

Revisit notebooks a few months later. You’ll find your old ideas were a bit bad but now you have new tools to approach them.

246. Freeing From The Marble

A big part of new game design is finding the Shit That Doesn’t Work and carving space away from it. Negative design space as it were. If you’re Mark Rosewater and you have a team and a company backing you, this stops being true. But I’m talking about respecting your limits.

247. Learning How To Make Structure

Daniel Solis provides a really excellent video on designing card faces here:


Right now you get a lot of mileage out of ‘GAME, but with CTHULHU. ‘ Do this, but with other pulp stuff.




248.5. Pro Twitter Bonus Tip

Twitter will almost always get you at least a pity like for LESBIAN BIKER GANGS

249. Remember People Need To Carry Your Game!

Think of storage solutions. The LCG ‘one big box you can put expansions in’ is optimistic but kinda asshole to do up front.

250. Crowded Spaces

There are SO MANY 18XX games out right now that branding a new one has a serious problem of not duplicating another game’s year. Some clever dick went to UR 1830 BC, but that is a deep-sunk well and there’s a lot of Expectations. No 18XX game I know of, as yet, has a mechanic for clearing out the corpses of the Chinese slaves you used to build the railroads

2016’s Lessons Of Gaming #24: 231-240

231. Reward The Collector Instinct

Players like collecting sets of things. Even if the mechanical incentive to do so isn’t really there. It’ll happen.

232. Reward Player Impulses

Following 231, trying to fight how players generally behave is a losing battle. If players keep playing it wrong, try changing rules. This is one of Maro’s favourite points and he has the Time Spiral anecdote to back it up — efforts to make Suspend cards obviously unusable after casting confused players, so they just went ‘heck with it.’

233. Slim Rules, Strong Theme

The more pages your rulebook has, the more of an arduous task it is to learn. The BIGGER your rulebook is, the more difficult it seems. The Botch’s rulebook is a little a6 wee thing and it’s still pretty big.

234. Structuring Rule Writing

Three phrases to recoil from in writing your rules:

  • “Unless”
  • “In this case”
  • “Except if”

They’re sometimes necessary, BUT: If a player’s first impression, or first summary, is ‘I have to do subclause cf2 subreferences’ it’s a real bad look and puts people off. Try to structure your rules to avoid this kind of thing – introduce the broadest rule, then when things are established, then add the exceptions.

235. Start From Victory

Write your rulebook backwards. Start with how people win, and work backwards until you’re at setup.

236. Double Check Your Start

Pursuant 235, once you do that, leave it alone, come back to it, and see if that worked.

237. Evoke The Feel

Players’ first impression of your game should not be how tight the rules are or whatever, but ‘what this game lets me feel like.’ Relatedly, be super careful of describing your own game as ‘exciting’ or ‘hilarious’ on first parse. See if other people say that. This may be my low self esteem talking, mind you, I’m very shy of calling my own work ‘good’ thanks to my upbringing. You may differ.

238. Hard Is Fine

It’s totally fine to make a game nobody wins, often. Just understand the more unsatisfying play-throughs are, the less likely iteration. So if you want to kill all the players semi-randomly, make setting up again fast, make the play experience fast.

239. Let Me Outta Here!

A bailing mechanic is useful. Sometimes a player will just want to Burn Everything Down and get out. You can make that a mechanic. Consider zombie games where each player who dies becomes part of the opposition to speed up the end.

240. Inadequate Communication

Games like Mysterium thrive on limiting player communication then TRYING to communicate with a shitty method. This is a lot like Pass-The-Parcel wearing mittens, but it’s a good idea! Players individualise each game, just like charades.

2016’s Lessons Of Gaming #23: 221-230

221. Critical Spread

I watch a lot of review videos, and not just of games. Critique and commentary about other media forms is jammed with useful insights. Look at movie reviews that talk about cinematography.

222. Number Types

Prime Numbers don’t neatly fit into each other. If units move in prime values it can reduce collisions. Of course, you might want collisions.

223. Vanilla Matters

With some types of games, you need a mix of ‘boring and easily understood’ components and ‘interesting, spicy components.’ Magic: The Gathering is full of critters that don’t have abilities because they make up that ‘boring and easily understood group.’

There’s always an urge to make Everything Exciting. Resist it. You might be loading your players up with Too Much To Remember.

224. Dead Player Walking

In games with open information it’s sometimes possible players might have won or lost and it’s obvious to YOU, but not THEM. This is, again, part of player load. If no player notices a win state, you might have made that too complicated to grasp.

225. Use The Inhuman

Inhuman actors don’t have to have human expressions which can make them easier/more inherently funny/more threatening. A game about controlling a skeleton vs a game about controlling a bear, for example

226. Simple Structure Doesn’t Force Simple System

Your turns don’t need to be complex structurally to be full of interesting decisions. In The Botch, on your turn, you have 3 options: An Action, A Swap, or a Look. Turns are STILL super difficult to pick through. Dominion has three actions by default – Action, Buy, Cleanup. It’s still super complicated.


it’s 100% okay if a playtester doesn’t like your game. If only one playtester likes your game. If only you like your game. Remember, this is Print On Demand. If anywhere can handle a game for Me And The Five People Like Me, this place can

228. Easter Egg Jokes

If the jokes are unobtrusive and you don’t NEED to get them, you plant rewards for players who DO get them.

229. Recover, Not Reset

Recovery mechanics are good but reset mechanics are the WORST version of recovery. The worst example of this is from one of the worst games I’ve ever seen, OneUpManShip, which players can reset at will.

230. The Incongruous Stealth

Stealth conventionally is a mechanic for circumventing challenges. This presents a problem in team spaces: D&D has really bad stealth because one player avoiding a fight just means they miss out on 40-120 minutes of The Other Players’ Fun. Not just rewards, but just the sheer TIME involved.