Posts Tagged ‘yugen’

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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Metatopia continues to grow both in size and energy. The show was tremendously instructive, as usual, and I’m going to revise the priorities of many of the projects on my agenda currently to reflect the feedback received:

  • During the first Ghosts of Atlantis session, I made a spontaneous change to the rules that went over smashingly, and then took that change to the second session, which was disastrous. While I continue to mull over the disconnect between the two experiences, the game goes into the drawer for later work.
  • The horror game was a hit with the focus group, and we also came up with ideas regarding what form factor the game will ultimately take. I think that’s going to move to the top of the queue.
  • The card game idea (tentatively titled Yūgen) will serve as an interesting complement to other development, and gives me a nominal NGDM project, so that is going alongside the horror game in the development queue. 
  • Pitches for the quest-giving game received modest but positive response. I think it’s more salable if I find a stronger hook. I’ll give that one some attention this month between working on the other games.

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Which is both a relief and a stressor, because it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to meet my self-imposed challenge. I’ll have perhaps four games out of the experience (thanks to an idea I stumbled into a couple of days ago), which is half of what I had set out to do, but at the same time, I also acknowledge that it was a pretty difficult bar to set for myself to create eight fully-functional games in 31 days, particularly since I knew that this month was going to have some other very important tasks to complete outside of my game design work.

For the final week of the month, I’m going to focus on refining these games, as well as Ghosts of Atlantis and the new horror game, so that they’ll be showable next week. Tomorrow, I hope to have an initial post on the fourth (and ostensibly final) game design, a card game of abstract expression.

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