Posts Tagged ‘NGDM’

Checking in

So how have you been?

I’ve been away for a bit due to illness, and while I’m happy to report that I’m feeling better, I haven’t been able to do a lot of work lately other than scribbling in my notebook to revisit later. Sadly, as a result, I missed the deadline for NGDM completion with a half-completed Yūgen set that never got to see playtesting. The game will still be completed, because initial focus group response was highly positive, but I apologize for not getting it out the door sooner.

The other main iron in the fire is the still-untitled horror game, which is getting some flesh on the bones in the form of guidelines and optional rules for emulating specific horror sub-genres like slasher films or the Cthulhu Mythos. A bevy of “dashboards” will be provided in the deluxe version game for those who want to customize their play experience, while the basic rules will be available as a stand-alone unit. Essentially, you can get the bare-bones version and do the tinkering themselves, or pay a little more and get a lot of that work done for you already.

Corona and Ghosts of Atlantis will probably lay fallow until those other projects are out of the way, and I have the mental space to revisit them. Corona in particular may be resurrected in a significantly different form due to some feedback; players are at least as interested in the IP itself as in the game I created as a vehicle for it, which is both unexpected and welcome.


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[NGDM] Card design

Designing Yūgen means designing an aesthetic around an aesthetic, and so all of the little physical details become an expression of the game’s feel and ethos as well as of the actual play. To that end, each specific aspect of the cards must serve both of those ends.

Due to cultural exchange, most people in the West are now visually familiar with the look of Japanese calligraphy, which makes it a natural choice for the representation of the images on the cards in a game inspired by Japanese aesthetics. Simplicity is a watchword, and the cards are kept to a simple black-on-white scheme both to reinforce the desired feel and to make the games more accessible: no color differentiation is necessary, no text is included. Another type of accessibility comes into play here: black-and-white cards are cheaper to print, lowering the cost of the game, either on my end as a producer or for a print-and-play version.

Because the cards need to connect, the strokes terminate at the center of one or more sides on the card, so that strokes merge into contiguous lines when cards are placed adjacent to one another in correct alignment. Not every side of the card has a connection, however, and as I experiment with scoring schemes, that may become a relevant gameplay issue: all cards have from 0 connections (the strokes on the card are self-contained) to 4 (a brush stroke leads to every edge of the card). Having too many cards with 3 or 4 connections in the deck creates an expectation in players that they have to create large images with their cards, or will inevitably result in players creating images with cut-off parts where brush strokes leave the card without another card to continue the image. This is not aesthetically pleasing! Thus, they will constitute a minority of cards, with most of them having 1 or 2 connections, preferring simple flowing designs over branching or spreading designs. In the cases of cards with 0 connections, they are special scoring elements that carry a risk: their inclusion can either increase the value of your image, or ruin it altogether!

As I finish the cards and move into playtesting, I’ll have a bit more on the scoring in future updates; as implied above, the actual mechanisms of carrying out play are fairly stable, but translating those activities into scoring is proving more complicated. But a few runs at the gaming table should help solve those problems!


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[NGDM] What is Yūgen?

Like so many interesting terms from other languages, yūgen doesn’t translate precisely into English. It’s an aesthetic term from Japanese, referring to what we might call an epiphany: the realization, prompted by art or beauty, of something profound that can’t be expressed verbally, only felt. Already, it’s an intriguing term, because it’s a term about two layers of being able to put something into words!

For the time being, I’ve titled the card game I’m working on Yūgen, because it’s about building abstract ideograms that convey the essence of a term without words. As you can see from yesterday’s photos, the cards are simple – black brushstrokes on white square cards – but made so that they can be assembled in a variety of ways from your hand. If you’ve played Tsuro or Carcassonne or any other of a great number of tile-matching games, you get the idea; lines that run off the card always lead to the center of a side of the card, and you can rotate your card to match up the lines from adjacent cards to form a contiguous flowing stroke.

There are some basic scoring rules to fiddle with, but those are coming along. I was inspired to include plain white or black stones as scoring tokens, extending the aesthetic theme further in a tactile and visual sense, but also had to consider that the original scoring paradigm would require a lot of those tokens, making the game heavy! The game also currently includes one or two special bonus scoring opportunities for particularly elegant or pleasing constructions. Hopefully, I’ll get the first rough version to the table tonight!

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[NGDM] A glimpse of the worktable

National Game Design Month started last Friday, and I’m starting to paint some cards for the idea I came up with. Have a look.

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Sorry for the prolonged silence, but I can apologize by offering you cool new stuff! Not only will there be Delve and Corona announcements soon, but I spent November – which you of course know is National Game Design Month – creating something brand new. Check out the fruit of this month’s labor over on the Games tab: a little strategy game called Monoliths of Titan. Hope you enjoy it!

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One of the rules required you to play your game, not just create it, which means I don’t qualify. That being said, that’s no reason to see the experience as a failure – far from it! The system (which I’m going to christen Spectrum) has legs, and I think I have a couple of projects for which it will serve as a suitable jumping-off point.

Still composing the rules document: I’ll post it as soon as it’s done. (Final editing and layout for House of Cards is going on simultaneously, so it’s taking a little longer than I expected.)

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[NGDM] One more thing, Jackie!

A lot of ideas about this come to me as I’m going to sleep at night. That makes posting about them slow, since I have to wait until the next day to put anything up, but I get to hammer things out in my head before they make it to the blog, too.

Here’s what occurred to me last night: at the current rate of advancement, in which you get 1 CP for a scene, +1 CP for each character involved, and +1 CP each time you hit a keyword, scenes can rack up some pretty hefty rewards. There are two reasons this could get out of control: first, we didn’t say anything about whether other players could hit keywords, narrate in other characters, etc., and so you have the potential for exploding CP totals; and second, we assume that every character gets that CP reward at the end of the scene. We also didn’t actually specify what it means to pass the scene and thus how you determine if you earned the CP or not.

That last part is the important one, I think, in the long run. My solution is to state that the character starting the scene also specifies what their goal for the scene is. In our example scene, Lakshmi’s player might say that she’s breaking into the atelier to find something expensive to sell. Now, it’s not a significant goal unless there’s something to gain or lose. The gain, obviously, is to find something that she can use in a later scene as a hook to get some money, while the converse is that if she fails, she’s on the verge of being pretty much broke. As with scene framing in House of Cards, I prefer to hang the impetus for the scene in terms of what could go wrong as opposed to what it means to succeed, so let’s say that in setting that goal, the player also wagers a consequence for failure: a stress keyword that persists for as many scenes as the CP reward for the scene would be.

Casting our minds back to the fight scene example, then, Lakshmi’s player bets the keyword “Destitute” and assigns it to yellow, reasoning that if she goes into debt, she won’t be able to pay off her contacts in town and thus lose some of their reliable information. At the end of that scene, then, since Lakshmi failed to meet the goal, she has to live with that keyword for five scenes (the final CP stakes of the scene: one just for having a scene, and then four keyword hits). We’ve now created a mechanism that makes sure that scenes are important and have lasting effects. As for the really high CP totals, there are a couple of ways we could go: either make CP totals go only to that player, or limit/restrict the addition of CP to the player who’s in charge of the scene. The first option disincentivizes other players’ participation, since they get nothing out of being in a scene. The second option is a little better, though it does imply that characters added into a scene that they’re not in charge of won’t have as much reason to whip out their cool keywords when they’re not getting a reward for it. Still, since scenes now provide significant drawbacks for failure, characters present in a scene have a reason to want it to succeed.

The rules for this seems therefore like they should read: Each player gets to start one scene during the session. Their character is present in the scene, and states a goal to accomplish during the scene as well as a stress keyword as a consequence for failure. The character of the player who starts the scene can hit their keywords to raise the CP stakes of the scene, but if the goal is not met, then the stress keyword persists for a number of scenes equal to the final CP stake for the scene. Other characters in the scene contribute +1 CP to the total for being present, but cannot hit their keywords to raise the CP total.

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