What you think of games where characters are talking to the player?

There’s some movies and games where main characters discuss with the player. Usually they discuss with the other characters in-game, but sometimes somebody discussed “outside of the game” (or movie) to the player.

I belong to the clan who thinks this really breaks the immersion, and thus I don’t like it when characters make side comments directly aimed to me as a player.

I’m playing Sword & Sworcery game on ipad and while the game otherwise is really interesting, I can’t but help getting slightly annoyed by certain moments.

What you think of this type of storytelling?

Monsters in my brain

Office move done (I have an actual full room here – without diapers exhange station!). I’ve got some good progress done with my upcoming (yeh, now it really feels that way, after about 3 years since ignition) Infected card game.

But anyway. Creating Thinglings card game for last months one game a month (#1GAM) challenge has got some monster neurons active.

Here’s something I drew recently.

And since #1GAM was fun to do next month, chances are this chap might be seen in a new mini-game too…

If nobody plays it… is it a game then?

Defining the word ‘game’ is tricky. There’s many kind of different ways to define a game. We all know that Diablo is a game, and a painting of Mona Lisa isn’t.

Or is it so?

But what if nobody plays Diablo? Is it a game anymore? How could it be a game, if there was absolutely nobody playing it? A game requires a player.

And what if somebody makes a game out of painting (he watches the top edge, closes his eyes, turns his head a bit and tries to make so that his eyes will see bottom edge when he opens his eyes again).

Wouldn’t this suggest that Diablo as-is, actually isn’t a game. It becomes game only when somebody plays it.

And wouldn’t this suggest that anyone can play a painting if they want. It becomes a game if somebody plays it.

What you think of App Store censorship?

If I had a grocery store, then to me it feels natural that I get to pick what fruits I’m selling there. There might be fruit providers who want me to sell their fruit, but shouldn’t I get to decide what fruits I sell?

Sure, it might sometimes (or even very often) feel not fair, or not logical (perhaps I just like orange more than bananas), but still… it’s my shop. I get to make the rules, right?

If something external force would determine what products I should sell in my shop, I feel that would be very bad situation. Imagine if there was a law that said that if you sell your games directly, you must also sell coffee cups promoting “save the whales” – good cause sure, but in terms of freedom pretty shitty.

As the shopkeeper I need to listen to my customers (or won’t have a shop very long..) but in the end it should be my freedom to have 100% control over items I decide to sell.

What you think?

The practise of fun – #1GAM reflections

I participated in the #1GAM challenge last month. In this blog post, I’ll share a bit of what was going behind the cut-sceens while I was working on my game.

I was in the middle of moving (still am), both kids were ill, I had my main card game project going on…

…yet I decided to participate. Why was that?

How on earth could I find time to create a game starting 30th of March (that’s when I got the idea to join the event), ending 31st of March.

Luckily I had too little time to think whether I could do it or not. I decided I’d do the challenge, and that’s it.

Day 1:
I collected some notes from my previous designs that I come up with every now and then. I wanted to create something really simple, but something that gives player interesting decisions to make. Something easy, fast to play. Something for single player. Something with playing cards.

I had this idea about a game where you must balance “short term benefits” and “long term benefits” and also see what the lady luck brings to you. That was my starting point. I used some of my earlier notes, and soon I had the barebones version done, and list of cards that I’d need. I started the design thinking that there should be maximum of 32 cards, because that’s the smallest Tuckbox size for game crafter service (I wanted to make sure I could also order this deck physically if I ever wanted).

I then drew art, and colored it. I shared my progress via twitter too.

Then something interesting happened. Not sure if it was day 1 or day 2, but nevertheless: I redid all the art (10 cards). Somehow the colors of those chaps wasn’t pleasing my eye, so I decided to redo them… really quick. And I feel that the new art (that took minutes to draw – I needed to take care of the kids too here…) really fit well. I was very pleased.

Day 2:

Then it was the release date. Final day of the challenge. Odd thing to say “final” when there’s just 2 days, but to me it was final. It was feature-freeze time (I’d hope) and start wrapping things up.

I decided to simply use the existing engine I had for solo playtesting. I thought that would be easiest way to get release happening. I took the engine, and made couple of playtests, prepared art, tweaked a few factors (reduced cost of some cards, changed amount of cards and such) and it was good to go. I also prepped website and created rulebook.

…all this while packing my office preparing to move, and taking care of sick kids (you know: preparing food, reading stories and stuff like that).

In the evening, after kids finally got to sleep, I had couple of hours to get everything in shape. I did the final tweaks, prepared release package, set up paypal… and there it was. My game was online. Thinglings was created from zero to existance, in just 2 freaking days.

Conclusions

After getting the release out, I felt really good. First of all, I think this sort of game idea (at least some high level mechanics) had been with me for long time. Or at least near me. The 1GAM contest was the proper push to help me refine and execute the idea. The march deadline was really tough, which forced me to make firm decisions regarding how to do the game.

The interesting thing about the deadline was that I really took action. I used whatever worked, and even took time to polish the art, and just made sure that I’d get the product out in decent manner.

Overall, only good things happened: I got a (small) fun game out, I drew some art which other devs seem to like (so do I), I think the game is actually quite fun and decent… and generally I just felt really good for being part of the challenge, and succeeding (using my own metrics here to measure success)

To me, the march challenge was a really good reminded why these challenges should be remembered. They are simply pure fun to do.

There’s something cool about being able to create something out of nothing.

The outcome:

If you want to try the game, check out the webpage: Thinglings

Tools:

Here are all the tools I used to create my game from start to finish.

My PC/win7:
- BlitzMax (engine)
- Blide (bmax “editor”)
- GIMP (for image manipulation)
- Notepad++ (editing files)

iPad
- Paper 53 (drawing art)
- Notes (the basic app for writing text, not sure what’s it called in english)

(Also bought PS Touch app but didn’t eventually use it during the challenge)

And couple of self-written pieces of software for Windows:
- Duckduck (I use it combine gfx + text, it’s one great tool if you ask me. I should sell it)
- Tabletop thing (Don’t have a name for this, but basically a very simple tool for prototyping card games, solo, offline)

Updated my website a bit… finally goes mobile

I picked the nice twenty eleven theme by wordpress, tweaked the background a bit… and will tweak a couple of other points (like slightly bigger menu buttons, test also other type of commenting, highlight comments, change sidebar font… small things like that).

And most importantly: this works great on mobile devices. Earlier my site was bad to read on mobile.

If you happen to notice something strange somewhere (you know, like errors)… feel free to mention. Any comments are also most appreciated.

“Dinner is ready!” and other thoughts about IAP

A funny tweet by Daniel Cook regarding IAP got me thinking that not all IAP is necessarily bad. In fact, I think there could be two ways to categorize In App Purchases. One is “while playing” and other is “while not playing”.

For example, if I’m playing Magic the Gathering with friends and suddenly a salesguy walks in… trying to sell me new cards, I would not appreciate that. It’s my turn and I’m thinking of spending mana here, and *pof* that guy wants me to buy new stuff? Not cool.

That’s “selling to me while I’m playing” which isn’t that nice.

Now, if that salesguy would set up his shoppe outside my friend’s home… and was standing there after I’ve finished playing. If he then would show that there’s additional content to be purchased easily, I would appreciate that.

That’s “selling to me (if I choose to listen) while not playing”, which is good. Also, I’m not talking about what sort of content is being sold. That’s a separate topic in itself.

The point is: not all IAP are evil as is, some can serve the customer.

Remember how it was when your mom told you to join the dinner table while you were intensively playing?

I don’t want IAP to be like that.