Friday, March 23, 2012

Some recent developments

This is the deal: I'm trying to design a game, produce the components, print hundreds of copies, sell them locally, and distribute them nationally, all while creating a company to run these operations. The whole thing is wonderful and challenging and I'm glad I'm doing it, yet at the same time it can make me quite anxious. There is a lot of risk involved, of course, but I'm learning what that risk means and what I'm putting on the line. I'm learning about how to identify the sources of pressure and to determine what I can address and what I must abide.

So some interesting things have been happening. I've changed the name of the company from Organic Games to Grow Giant Games. Organic Games comes with a lot of potentially negative connotations, and moreover it represents the state of mind and philosophy I had several years ago. Grow Giant Games sounds better, is sexier, has good words, and is a complete improvement.

Furthermore, I am 95% sure I'm going to change the name of the game from Thief to something else, potentially "King of Thieves". Thief is a fine name and many people have said that it is a powerful word and is effective as the name of a card game. It has many different connotations and conjures up many images. However, there is a video game with the same name: Thief, the Dark Project, and I'm concerned that should my game prove successful, sometime down the road I'll receive a letter from them asking me to please kindly change the name. I don't want to limit myself, to stay under the radar, right off the bat.

What do you think of the name "King of Thieves"?

The upshot of this is that the game is going through something of a rebirth: a new website:, new artwork that I will show off soon, and a new logo that is forthcoming. The cards themselves are being reworked to present a more consistent theme, a Victorian steam-punk theme, full of poisons and pistons and clockwork and cobblestones. The imagery and text are becoming more consistent, and thus better. This is good!

One source of anxiety is, of course, funding. After working on the business plan and cash flow projections, it looks like a good course of action is to apply for $15,000 in loans. However, it is unlikely I'll be approved for such a loan without first approaching the market and seeing how well the game will sell in reality. To do this, I'll need to produce 100 or so units and try to sell them. Where am I going to get the funds to make 100 units? I'll find it somewhere.

Producing 100 units and trying to sell them in the market will be extremely beneficial to me. I currently have a big question mark hanging over my head - I can't be certain that the game will sell once it gets into stores. Seeing how those first 100 do will give me the confidence I need to take the risk and get a big loan to make a larger print run. I think it's a better approach, and it allows me to see a clearer path into the future, which is the most important thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13 Ruleset

Thief is a storytelling game for 3 to 5 players. Players come up with plans to defeat security cards they encounter when trying to steal the loot from a building.

In Thief there are five types of cards in Thief that make up three decks: Items and Options go into the Draw Deck (white back), Security cards go into the Security Deck (blue back), and Building cards make up the Building deck (green back).

Draw a Building card and place it face up in front of you. You are the defender of that building.
Draw a loot card and put it face up next to the building. The defender doesn't own that loot. 
Draw 2 security cards and place them side by side face down next to the building card.
Draw 5 cards from the draw deck.
Take 2 blank cards from the pile.
Players who have played Thief before create a new Security card and shuffle it into the top half of the security deck.

Option Cards: used once and then discarded.
Items: used until they are depleted or destroyed during a break in. Discarded when you loot a building.
Blank cards: can be used at any time to create a new item or a new option. You must discard two cards to create a new card. Blank cards don't count against your hand limit.

- Determine who goes first.
- You choose which building to break into. 
- Building defender looks through face down security cards, chooses which security to play, and turns it face up. You may ask for the defender to clarify any details about the security card, and it is up to them to flesh out the details.
- If a security card interacts with the building card, determine the realistic outcome. This may be that the security card is nullified.
- You play items from your hand to defeat security. As you play items, you may fill in any details about the items that aren't provided on the card, but other players may challenge you on unrealistic modifications.
- You must play at least one card, but you can play as many cards as you want.
- You cannot play cards that are disallowed by the building.
- Other players determine success by voting. If there is a tie, you may play additional cards to augment your plan. If there is still a tie, your plan fails.
- Other players determine which cards were used up or destroyed during the break in and which cards stick around.
- If you fail the break in, discard the cards you used in the plan, and play passes to the next player. At this point you may discard up to two cards and redraw up to five.
- If your plan succeeds, you may choose to continue on and face a new security card in the same building. You must keep the same hand of cards. Or you can end your turn, and you can discard up to two cards and redraw up to five.

If you defeat the last security card in the building, take the loot card and place it in front of you, separate from your building. Discard your hand and redraw up to five.

The defender of the defeated building draws a new building card and puts it face up on the table with a new loot card. They draw 3 new security cards. If this building is defeated, repeat the same process, drawing 4 cards instead.

When the draw deck is empty, shuffle the discard pile to form a new draw deck.
The player who gets three pieces of loot first wins.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Halifax Game Jam: Awesome Edition

Last weekend I participated in the Halifax Game Jam hosted by Twisted Oak Studios and held at The Hub. 48 hours of glorious game-making madness. A marathon of creative ideas, sleepless nonsense, and Unity3d hacking, resulting in a dozen surprisingly enjoyable projects.

I skipped the computer hacking and went straight to the index cards and colour pencils. I posted on the Facebook group that I wanted to make a tabletop game and I quickly got a few people interested. When I got there and pulled out my supplies it wasn't five minutes before I was joined by four others who wanted to work on something tangible and computer-free. Thanks to a growler of Propeller Porter, we had good ideas spilling onto the table in no time.

From the list of possible themes, we glommed onto "Randomly Generated" "Show Tunes". We came up with the idea that each player would represent an instrument on stage and would compete with the other musicians to be the most awesome. Without really working on the mechanics, we made cards that we felt were appropriate: "Frankie's Fedora", "Flying V Guitar", "Double Kick Drums," "Bass Solo". By doing this, it became clear that the cards we were making fell into a short list of categories, which eventually became codified into "Style", "Sound", "Sex Appeal", and "Stunts". Likewise, we realised that certain cards applied more to certain genres: "Jazz", "Rock", "Punk", and "Metal" were the ones we would up with, though we experimented with other genres, and instruments, for that matter. We wanted the gameplay to have mini-competitions somehow, and it seemed like those competitions would involve the 4 Esses: style, sex appeal, stunts, and sound. That was as far as the gameplay mechanics went at that point. This was all conceived by Friday night/early Saturday morning.

With an initial deck and a rough idea of how the mechanics of the turn might work out, on the Saturday we tried some playthroughs. It was clear that we had to cut out some of the things that didn't quite work, like attack cards and extra instruments. We were able to put some numbers on the cards and try out some of the mini-comps. The game wasn't near finished, but we were able to see what worked and what didn't (The Sound category of cards was one of the things that didn't work). It was enough for us to write and balance a bigger deck with 15 cards for each instrument.

At about 7 a.m. on Sunday I used that deck to try some more playthroughs. I quickly saw that each player was interested in only 25% of the deck: only the cards that pertained to that instrument. There needed to be a mechanic that made the other cards useful for all players, and able to be moved around from player to player. There also needed to be a way for the genre of the "song" to be manipulated somehow. I came up with the idea of adding to the genre by playing unwanted cards tapped, which could then be fought for in a mini-competition. Thus, players could either build up their instrument with a card from their hand, fight for a tapped card played previously by another player, or add a point to one genre by playing an unwanted tapped card.

From there the game was pretty much done. Further balancing was required plus some tweaks to the scoring. Each style card was attached to one specific genre, and so the point value of the card was equal to the base value marked on the card, plus however many points that genre had. It worked well, and it lead to a really interesting cooperative side-effect: players who wanted to work toward the same genre because of the cards in their hand would tapped cards that were advantageous to their opponent, but applicable to their own favourite genre. For example, if the vocalist was playing points on punk, but the bassist and drummer were focussing on rock, the drummer might discard a bass rock style card, so that the bassist would take the card and continue playing points on rock. It made mechanical, but also musical, sense.

I found it really helpful to keep the metaphor of the game at the fore-front of my mind, and I brought it up to the group several times. We were working on a game where the players were musicians on stage trying to get the most attention. When were thinking about how the mechanics of the mini-comps would work, we went back to the metaphor: if the mechanic didn't makes sense in terms of the metaphor, we scrapped it. That led to better decision making, because we had a model we could check our ideas against, and ultimately a better game.

We finished the game, called Ticket to Jam, about five minutes before the 6 o'clock deadline. The cards are neat and easy to read and the game is simple and fun, and so far, it doesn't seem to be broken in any way. It was a really good experience for me. It boosted my confidence in my game designing abilities, plus I met a lot of other cool designers plus musicians and artists, and hey, we made a good game!

Me and Julie Hall, game designers extraordinaire

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Business Plan

It's crunch time, folks. Draft business plan due tomorrow.
I'm finding it hard to stay positive when the numbers really aren't very promising.
I'm a one thing at a time kind of guy - projecting sales figures two years from now is difficult, and honestly, meaningless. I guarantee something is going to change between now and then that will alter the way I design games and do business.

Hoop jumping!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

This actually happened.

Stuck against a room full of laser tripwires?
Use your Sacks of Flour to reveal them and your Catherine Zeta-Jones Transmogrifier Ray to wend your way through them!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Proposed Features

Adding new security: During setup, players who have played before can create one new security card and add it to the deck.

Removing cards from the deck: During their turn, players can discard two cards to draw one new card from the draw deck. One or both of the discarded cards must be marked on the back with an X. When a card is marked with two Xs, remove it from the deck.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Games night at Monster Comic Lounge!

So I just talked with Mike down at Monster Comic Lounge, and he invited me down to run a demonstration game of Thief at his store next Friday. Should be good! They have a regular games night on Fridays so there will be some gamers there ready and willing. This'll be the first public playtest. Woo!

Latest ruleset

Draw a filter card and place it face up in front of you. Put a piece of loot on the card.
Draw 2 security cards and place them side by side face down next to the filter card.
Draw 5 cards from the draw deck.

Determine who goes first.
Player chooses which building to break into.
Building manager looks through face down security cards, chooses which security to play, and turns it face up.
Player plays items to defeat security.
Other players determine success. Other players determine which cards were used up or destroyed during the break in, and which cards stick around.
At the end of their turn players discard as many cards as they like and redraw up to five.

The player who defeats the last security card takes the loot and places it in front of them. They also take a blank card.
The manager of the defeated building draws a new filter card and puts it face up on the table with a piece of Loot. They draw 3 new security cards. If this building is defeated, repeat the same process, drawing 4 cards instead.

When the draw deck is empty, shuffle the discard pile to form a new draw deck.
The player who gets three pieces of loot first wins.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: too much downtime between turns.
GOALS: Reduce playtime to 90 mins or less.