First impressions (cannot get Google Plus to work here)

I heard about Google Plus and wanted to give it a go. I got an invite. I was like “hmm”… and wondered where’s my “click here to join” button. After lil bit of time I couldn’t find the link and decided to click that “Learn more about Google+”. That didn’t work and I was staring at this:

Then I thought I’d copy the link to my browser and assumed there was “h” missing (“ttp://” instead of “http://”) and tried to copy that link to my browser.

Alas, there was some mysterious characters in the URL that I ended up seeing this:

It was odd that it was 400 error, not 404 error. Since 404 is usually “not found”. But anyway.

I actually don’t mind this, but if somebody can help me a bit on getting this invite thing to work… hmm. Actually. Maybe I just login to google mail and see if there’s something about this. Hang on a minute.

(minute passes)

…okay, nothing there either.

I wonder if Google is playing Apple style “we’ve sold out” game here trying limiting my access (wonder how works for viral network systems though) or if my techy skills just suck. Anyways, I’d like to check this thing out. Folks, please help me out!

Tip for web folks: instead of ranting, it might be worth asking yourself “what kind of first impression my product gives?”

Violence in games & parents responsibility

My thinking goes:
- Age ratings and content info are good things
- parents are supposed to try figure out what kids are playing and then limiting access to nonsuitable material
- I play games that have violence and whatnot in them, but I don’t play those games when my kid is watching

I don’t want government to control games, but I do like that there’s laws & regulations that require games sellers to give parents information about the game. This way parents have something to base their decisions.

(Of course kids will still get their hands on unsuitable games, no matter what governments and parents try. Kids are fun that way.)

Infected game Big Revision number 2

Couple of days ago I finally got the Infected game decks together and made order for the new decks. Shipping will take a couple of weeks or so.

I’m quite pleased how I’ve managed to reduce the impact of luck in this new version. I call it Big Revision 2, since the gameplay has gone through series of iterations. The Big Revision number uno was too self-playing where you couldn’t affect the outcome enough. In the new version, you have more options on managing resource at your disposal. Also, I’ve tried to deepen the part that was good in the version 1: the events. Now you need to consider current resources and the big picture when making decision on how to proceed.

The juicy part of the game is secret teams. For example, in a 3 player game, there’s one player who is “infected” – carrying a deadly virus, without others knowing it. The non-infected humans need to figure out who the “traitor” is and eliminate him.

The new version should give: more choices, more possibilities to take risks, and more resource management. All which tie into the one goal: finding out who the traitor is (since traitor player also now has more chances to bluff and play bad event cards and such).

My current plan looks like this:
1) Get Big Ver 2 home and playtest, playtest, playtest
2) Update the game rules to polish & make the game really fun for 1 to 4 players. Prepare the final Big Ver 3.
3) After offline testing, bring polished Big Ver 3 online and approach card game publisher.

Reporting more when I get Big Ver 2 bit shinier decks to test.

“90% done”, “almost finished”, “releasing tomorrow”

Last week I was doing proofreading and changes and about 5 revisions earlier I was thinking that I do “final touches today”. I’ve done “final touches” now about 7-8 times and now finally I think the very final touches are done, and I can get a deck ordered.

It’s quite interesting how mind works on estimating things. I was certain that 5th revision would be final, but then I made some corrections (like changed text “event” to “EVENT”, or changed card values) and went through cards again… more changes needed. Now I have about 8th revision available, and now I feel that it’s ready. Since I did “one more change”, I will check the assets once more and see if there’s something to fix.

“90% done” or “almost finished”… might as well say “under construction”.

Planning to release something “tomorrow”?

Might be tricky.

Challenges, rewards and strawberry plants

I have a strawberry project going on. My earlier farming knowledge can be summed up in one sentence: “Grass is green – or at least it is supposed to be.” But, thanks to Internet I leveled up and managed to find information about strawberries. We got some strawberry things that I planted, and there seems to be at least one strawberry flower (dunno how it’s actually called) which means chances are that we might be able to eat strawberry or two at some point during this summer.

I could go on more about how I “sealed” the ground, killed weeds, got soil and stuff but since everybody else than me, myself and I would find that terribly boring I shall approach the main reason why I’m writing about this blog post.

The point is the reward. Casual games design (very simplistically put) tells you to reward the player constantly, often and all the time. That’s probably fine, but all gaming experiences are not made equal. There was challenges in my strawberry planting operation (which strawberry brand to use? Does it matter which way is up on root mat? How much water those plants need? Is strawberry plant even the right word to use in blog posting?).

I couldn’t just click stuff to gain more things to click (I’m exaggerating here, waiting for comments to arrive how “in game X you need to do a lot more”). It’s not only casual games, also hardcore games have – possibly boring – grinding stuff in them. Many games do.

Anyway, back to my strawberry land.

I managed to overcome all those challenges, and was rewarded (the “finish each sub-mission” was the reward in itself). I took healthy looking brand (I had read earlier that “there must be at least 3 healthy leaves” which I used as the guideline when picking it), flipped coin to decide on root mat, watered so that the soil would be wet, and just decided to go with the words “strawberry plant” realizing that for making a point, that word is irrelevant. And who knows, maybe I guessed right.

But these rewards didn’t happen with one mouse click. No, I actually had to schedule things (we have a 1+ year old girl in the house, and she is in charge as every parent would know), I had to actually use a shovel (and you don’t combine it by clicking wood + rock, m’kay?) and actually dig some ground (it requires bit more work than mouse clicks) and more.

Now, this might sound like I’ve ever done anything real work ever in my life. I have no comments on that, but the main reason why I find this very interesting is that this is the first time I own a piece of land that’s mine to take care of, and I own the stuff I’m planting.

When I compare 2 “farming” operations:
1) Growing strawberries in Farmville
2) Growing strawberries in our backyard

Number 2 is like infinitely more rewarding to me. There’s challenges, but that makes rewards much more sweet.

When huge number of games are going to the “everything is rewarded” direction, that gives room for totally different gaming experiences & niches. There’s people who enjoy Meat Boy – insanely difficult, insanely fun (for some).

Click + reward works for some audience, and we gotta pick our own audience.

It’s okay to do games differently.

Here’s what I’ve been cooking… (gameplay meets card art!)

I’ve haven’t made a big fuss about the Infected game progress. I haven’t shown much game art (mainly because there hardly wasn’t any art to show) and I’ve been working on the gameplay.

I compiled bunch of card texts and arts together (using my Duckduck program, which is a program for creating deck art), and here’s few card samples:

Blood sample card
This card determines if there’s infected blood running through your veins… You keep this card secret, so nobody else knows in which of the 2 teams you belong. Each player will receive a card stating either “clean” or “infected”.

Items have gone through a big change. Essentially, I combined items and action cards into one deck (which is now called “Items”). Items are used to overcome challenges, counter nasty events and to progress on winning the game.

Event cards give players challenges which they need to overcome. A number in the top left part of the card tells something about the difficulty of the event, and then there’s always a special power on events which might trigger when they are played.

Each card won’t have unique art (at least not in this point of project), only each deck will have unique art.

All these card art are from the Big Revision II (which consists of huge amount of smaller revisions). I will go through (at least) once more all the cards and then pretty soon get things shipped to my door (which will take 2-3 weeks or so).

The current version is much simpler to play, less random, and new version aims to offer several interesting decisions (events for example are very different from earlier version, and now the item have value number which need to be considered too when playing cards). Rules are very simple to learn and the game is fast to play.

I enter sleep mode now and get back to this tomorrow.