Agent Decker: One week later

Agent Decker, boardgame, boardgame prototype, event, playtest

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A very important thing happened one week ago. International Tabletop day was a worldwide celebration of boardgames that is celebrated in the best possible way: by playing!

It was also the day I published Agent Decker online.

First I thought of simply sharing a dropbox link but ended up hosting it on itch.io because it’s quick to put together, gives me a nice landing page and allows me to track views, downloads, and where they come from. Behold!

AD_week1Views

First I spread the link on Twitter, Facebook and BGG, and got a moderate response. The next day I was out so I just let it spread naturally. See that massive spike on the next day? That’s Reddit.

Given the fact it’s a game for one player only, I wondered how many people would care to download it. It’s been downloaded 496 times so far!

AD_week1Downloads

It was fun to take part in a mini-interview, which you can read here. BGG user Morten Pedersen is interviewing all the designers in the competition who have released the components online, and the posts are well worth reading!

What’s next? Now I’m gathering feedback about the game, especially about the rulebook! This is the first time I’m really doing a blind playtest, which means I can’t be there to teach the players how to play and answer any questions they might have. I’ve made some quick sneaky changes to make it more clear, but it can be hard to reach the people who have already downloaded it.

There’s still a lot to do, but the motivation that came from seeing the player’s reactions and suggestions can’t be overstated.

Releasing games for free is a lot of fun!

iDIG Music Festival

Agent Decker, boardgame prototype, competition, Contactics, event, Multiuniversum, Pizza-go-round, Sinking

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I spent the end of last week at the iDIG Music Festival showing my games to the visitors! I was surrounded by irish game developers showing their awesome games, and my boardgames stood out due to how different they were.

A lot of people wanted to know more about them, and some even sat down to play after asking how they worked! Agent Decker was the one that got played the most, mainly because nobody had heard about solo games and I could help them rather than compete against them.

I quickly put together a digital version for the show, and two players managed to complete it!

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The main goal was to have a version which looked a bit better than my scribbles on paper, and figure out how much room there will be for proper art later on. It worked pretty well!

It was my first time showing games at an event, so I didn’t know what to expect. A word of advice: if you’re presenting at an event bring some eucalyptus drops! If you’re lucky people will check your games out and ask about them, so you’ll be talking constantly and the voice will start to go away.

Time to write the Agent Decker manual so I can publish it online!

 

Contactics – part 2: Bringing the game to the players

boardgame prototype, Contactics, event

Without a player, there is no game. Following up on my last article, here’s how I brought my game to the players.

EGX Rezzed: ONE MORE GAME ON THE SHOW FLOOR

Other than the #Contactics hashtag and posting the game on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, I didn’t have any plans for its distribution.

“I’ll improvise. It will be fun!”

The official twitter account for Rezzed was talking about all the cool games that would be playable on the show floor, and I mentioned mine. People asked for copies, so I made sure to meet these people and hand them some.

I didn’t want to take the game developer’s hard earned space, so I placed some cards around the food hall and tweeted about it.

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There were so many Nintendo 3DS consoles around, I changed my Streetpass greeting to mention the game!

It was a great chance to meet game developers I admire: Rami Ismail (Vlambeer), Mike Bithell (Thomas Was Alone), Dean Hall (DayZ), Ed Stern (Splash Damage), Paul Dean (Shut Up & Sit Down), Team 17, Creative Assembly, Destructoid and Boneloaf to name a few!

I handed each a copy and their faces lit up once they realized what it was!

“I brought home invaluable amounts of motivation.”

GAMASUTRA: THE first article

After coming back, I published my first article on Gamasutra. It got featured, and stayed on the front page for two days! The readers shared it, which lead to the game popping up in a lot of websites.

If anyone mentioned the game on twitter, I thanked them!

gamasutra

This was a big milestone for me. Having learned a lot from reading articles on Gamasutra over the years, it was my chance to help other aspiring game designers.

MCM Dublin Comic CONTACTICS

Next up, I brought it to the first MCM Dublin Comic Con!

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Canada Photo Convention

I left the coolest one for last! One of the organizers for the Canada Photo Convention saw my game online and thought it would be a great way to break the ice and get people networking.

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She asked me for some adjustments to better suit photographer’s business cards, I looked up Creative Commons and, starting from April 22, the game will be at Canada Photo Convention 2014!

“Suddenly I have players on the other side of the world!”

Better yet: every person who registers will get a copy of the game and the one who collects the most business cards during the event will get a prize!

Designing the game is just the start. Don’t overlook the marketing aspect! Without a player there is no game.

Contactics – part 1: Game Design

boardgame prototype, Contactics, event

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I needed a business card.

Soon after booking my tickets to EGX Rezzed I realized there were only a few old cards left. While I could just print more of those, they felt outdated. They were made three years ago and they represent a very different phase of my life.

“Could I fit a game there?”

It was not the first time I had poked around the idea of handing out a game as a business card. I remember checking the prices for printing Carousel to give at events, but the printers would only accept orders of large quantities and that made it very expensive and cumbersome to carry around. Worse of all, if it was cumbersome to the person I was handing it to, that would have ruined that first impression.

I wanted a simple game, which would not take long to learn but dynamic enough to provide different playthroughs. I wanted to prove it was possible.

The following were the main design issues, and how I solved them:

Design issue 1: Components

What will the players play with? Can the game be in the card itself? Sure, it could be a crossword puzzle which would reveal one of my contacts when complete, but that wouldn’t be that original and, frankly, it could turn out boring. It would also require some work from the person, and I didn’t want to create an obstacle.

Then I thought of using coins, but this idea was short lived. Even if they were used as tokens, I didn’t want money to be a part of this. Also, it would be too easy for the player’s coins to get mixed, and that could lead to heated arguments.

“What will the developers carry with them at all times? Smartphone? Keys? Wallet?”

Then it dawned on me. Business cards! Just like me, the other developers will be networking. Some might be looking for publishers or teammates, and they will be handing out their cards to promote themselves and their games.

My card only needed to provide the rules for you to play, and the cards you collected would form your deck. It fits the networking theme. Better yet, if the winner got one card from the player, it can even facilitate it!

Design issue 2: Whose cards are they?

I couldn’t expect each player’s deck to have a unique look, so I used the card’s orientation to define that. One player pays their card in portrait and the other in landscape.

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Design issue 3: Filtering types of cards

The cards can have so many shapes and sizes but I had to find a way to make them all fit. My solution was to create a system which would filter them into categories. You go down a list of features and you stop once one matches. Each category would have its own special property, which would take effect when you played it.

Initially I had a lot of categories, but I realized it could be really boring to go through the list, especially when learning how to play. The size of the card was also a factor which contributed to having only three (and an “other” category for unpredictable ones that don’t fit the list).

Design issue 4: Balance

I couldn’t really predict the shapes and features of cards people would be handing out. I made a rough estimate by looking back at the cards I had been given at such events and from print shop prices. Even if these estimates were right, I had absolutely no way to predict which ones the people would have with them at the moment, so I left that open.

This turned out to be a good decision, because that brought deck building to the game! It gave the reward some appeal, and a great excuse to play more than once as your deck improves.

Design issue 5: Fitting everything into the card

I wrote the rules down and instantly noticed they were a lot longer than I could fit on a card. I started searching out for alternatives (like foldable cards, which would give me four faces instead of two), but Sara Mena quickly mocked up a couple layouts which proved me it was possible. I then simplified the text and used icons to convey mechanics, making it more appealing.

“When it was done, I had more than a card. I had a fresh idea.”

This card represents what I like to do the most, and it was built around a solid core concept: More than just having ideas, I can develop them, use the limitations in place and work with what you have.

It’s exactly the first impression I wanted to convey!

Stay tuned for part 2, where I talk about how I released Contactics.

Nintendo Post-E3 showcase 2012

event

Last week I had the chance to play on Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U.

The very first impression is that the controller is light, very responsive and comfortable to hold.  As for the console itself, it looks very much like a Wii with rounded corners and a longer backside.

The available games and tech demos show it has a lot of potential for original gameplay mechanics. Nintendo has a clear idea of where they want to go next, and it’s not just shinier versions of last year’s blockbuster games.

Panorama View is a 360º video that you can look around in, zoom and, in the case of the London tour, switch from night to day. It is very easy to see how this can be used for non-gaming applications but I couldn’t stop thinking that it’s the perfect platform for a new generation Pokémon Snap or even Beyond Good & Evil.

It is easy to imagine something like a roleplaying game where the one with the pad is the dungeon master, shaping the adventure for everyone else in the room. ZombiU‘s multiplayer allows you to play the “AI director”, creating obstacles for the other player as he goes along.

The asymmetrical side to the Wii U’s pad is what draws me to it. It brings a range of social interactions I had only found in board games. This allows for games that will bring people together, and I’d love to have a go at developing for it.

There were future 3DS games on display as well, and one completely took me by surprise: Luigi’s Mansion 2. It is polished, charming and I didn’t want to let go. I had never even played the first one but I jumped straight to ebay as soon as I got back home.

Lisboacon 2011 highlights

boardgame prototype, event, Sinking

Lisboacon 2011 was great! I don’t know the official visitor count, but everyone was saying there were more people than last year’s 1000.

It was inspiring to see other Portuguese designers and their creations. All of them were kind enough to answer all my questions about publishing and copyright. I had met some of them previously and it was really cool to see that they remembered me and they asked how my game was going.

Hat’s off to Criações a Solo and “Trench”! It’s an abstract strategy game that revolves around the concept of WWI trench warfare, and most of your strategies will be around using it for your advantage. It’s clean, polished and has a lot of potential. I get why they’re marketing the game as an art piece as well because it’s easy to imagine it being displayed on any modern house – it’s playable jewelry.

I also playtested “Sinking” with great feedback. I also found out that two of the colors I am using for the game (red and green) are very hard to tell apart by the colorblind. I brought all of my available tokens the following day and we chose new colors that don’t cause as much hassle. I’ll update the boards ASAP.

I had no idea this issue was so common. If you’re curious about this and want to see the world through the eyes of the colorblind, check this site. I’ll be paying more attention to this in the future.

Prototype update: Hold on to that piece of wood!

boardgame prototype, event, Sinking

Finally the new wooden tokens have arrived! The coins stacked up nicely but the cubes take up less space, allowing me to print smaller boards if it need be. It brings a more familiar, warmer feel to the game which works well when opposed to the cold crew member pieces.

I tested the game again with a new player and he got sort of confused about the way the ties are solved. I had a couple of different situations with specific rules, but it seems like a unique universal answer is a lot easier to memorize, so I’ll be sure to try that out. That’s what I get for not cancelling them out like most games do! I do get why they do that though, and I’ve been tempted to do that as well because it has the potential to add to the mind game and scatter the resources in interesting ways.

That’s all fine and dandy, but here comes the real question: Did I win? No.

Showing the game at Eurogamer Expo was nice, I got to meet some of my idols and definitely got some people curious about the game. Showing it as part of my design portfolio seemed to pay off because too many game designers pay attention to videogames exclusively and they end up running around in circles. There are a lot of fresh ideas in boardgames that haven’t made it to videogames yet, and I believe clever designers will eventually pick that up and run with it.

Eggscape got 10th place!

boardgame prototype, competition, Eggscape, event, Game Jam, Ludum Dare, Overpopulous, Sinking

Eggscape got 10th place in Ludum Dare Jam 21, ranked the 5th most innovative game! As if that wasn’t enough, it got into PC World‘s “10 Free addictive games to play in your browser”  and Nerd Age‘s “Ludum Dare’s Favorite Games”! This is great motivation to finish everything that was missing and officially release it to the world as a complete game.

With all of the ties solved the boardgame is running pretty smooth! I’ll still keep on testing but seems like it’s complete – until I spot a splinter, which hasn’t happened in a while.

This week I contacted two portuguese boardgame designers with a respectable portfolio and they gave me some very good advice. Seems like odds are strongly against boardgame designers at this time. I reached the point where I have a fun game that people enjoy and that was the most important part of this project. Editing it would be another great step forward, but one that has to be carefully planned first.

I’ll be in Eurogamer Expo in London this next week. If you’re there too come and say “Hi!”, I’ll be the smiling guy with the tired eyes and the accent you can’t quite identify.