Exploration Phase

So Corporate America is off to the printers. I’ve been making appearances at conventions, but what else have I been doing to keep myself busy?

The short answer to that is a lot of businessy stuff. I’ve been trying to find a distributor to help me with Corporate America (it turns out I was a little late to the party on that one). I’ve been setting up the online store and making sure I have a seller’s license. I’ve been getting ready to deal with 1,500 board games!

But businessy stuff really isn’t my favorite thing, so while it’s been my main priority, I’ve been sneaking in as much game design time as I can get away with. And without a looming deadline, my design work has been very free. I can start a project one day, forget about it for a month, and pick it up again when the fancy strikes me.

I believe this is a luxury of the independent life style. While some studios take time out to explore their options, knowing that most of the work will be thrown out (most famously the Amnesia Fortnight program at Double Fine), I feel like most studios have a charge forward mentality driven by the bottom line. If you’re not making something that will make you money, you’re doing something wrong.

In my view, taking some time to determine what to focus on is not only fun, it’s a good idea, since it ensures that whatever you do dedicate your precious time towards will be the best thing it can be.

But enough justification. Let’s get to some of the projects I’ve been toying with or plan on toying with in the near future!

Xaat Disi

Xaat Disi in action.

Run salmon run!

Xaat Disi is a project I have spent years working on. “Xaat Disi” means salmon season in Tlingit, and that’s what the game is about: salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The game adopts the beautiful art style of the Tlingit and other native peoples of the Northwest coast.

I’m not going to get too into it at the moment, but suffice it to say that Xaat Disi has proven to be a project worthy of dedication, and I hope to begin working on it in earnest in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for future blog posts with more details.

Code Name Bubbles

Use blue balls to bounce pink balls into green balls. Sounds fun, right?

Use blue balls to bounce pink balls into green balls. Sounds fun, right?

Also on the digital game front is a game I’m currently calling Bubbles. Toward the end of the Corporate America Kickstarter, things weren’t looking good, so I started thinking about what I would be doing with myself after the Kickstarter didn’t succeed. I brainstormed some possible html5 game ideas, and Bubbles was the best I came up with.

The idea is simple. Create blue circles to bounce the falling red circles into the green circles! The basic premise is simple, but often times simplicity makes the best games, especially on new platforms like html5.

This game will most likely see the light of day in the coming months, but it likely won’t be called Bubbles. Stay tuned!

Nothing Sacred Cards

Let’s begin to ease our way toward non-digital games, shall we? I’ve alluded to this project in some of my other recent blog posts, but Nothing Sacred Cards is slowly but surely becoming more of a reality.

Rather than a game, Nothing Sacred Cards is the software I developed to help with rapid iteration while designing card games. It is a tad fragile at the moment, but I’m working to clean it up and I’m hoping to introduce it to some new users (who aren’t me) in the near future. I have high hopes that Nothing Sacred Cards will be able to help many designers quickly make and update nice looking prototypes in the near future!

Strange Rituals

Strange Rituals is a strange little game I started working on almost a year ago. I’ve mentioned it before, but I haven’t put a whole lot of time into it for many months.

In Strange Rituals, you use your body to act out silly actions.

In Strange Rituals, you use your body to act out silly actions.

Strange Rituals is a departure from many of my other games because strategy is not very important for it. It’s more of a toy to get people to loosen up and act silly around each other. It’s also a bit of a critique about the politics surrounding organized religions.

There are two things holding Strange Rituals back. First, even though the main mechanic works (acting out silly combinations of actions), the game structure surrounding that is still weak. Second, there isn’t a clear audience for the game. Should a game like this be targeted at children? Should it be marketed as a drinking game? I’m not sure who would buy it.

I’m glad to have Strange Rituals in my repertoire of games. It’s a fun idea and an interesting exploration into psychology and group dynamics. Sadly, I don’t see it having much of an immediate future.

Code Name Ecosystems

While my more recent games, like Corporate America, have focused on human systems, my older games like Arachnophilia and Xaat Disi should indicate that I have a strong affinity for natural and biological systems. One of my all time biggest aspirations is to create a game in which players create entire ecosystems, from plants to herbivores to predators, competing to create a balance between their own organisms while disrupting the food chains of their opponents’.

Originally conceived as a SimLife style digital simulation game, I recently attempted to create my vision in the form of a tile placement game. Unfortunately, results weren’t terribly encouraging, and while the premise has a lot of potential, the current implementation will probably not survive. I will almost surely come back to this game in the future, but in the short term it will probably stay on the sidelines.

Code Name Speculators

Speculators is a game I toyed with for some time a month or two ago. The basic idea behind the game is to play with hidden and incomplete information. Players act as speculators, trying to invest in commodities to maximize their returns in an environment of unknown market forces. Players get a chance to peek at cards that will affect commodity values and try to glean information by inspecting the behavior of their competitors, and can even use cards to affect the market themselves, but ultimately they have to make decisions without knowing what the best decisions are.

Speculators has potential, and I even iterated on the game a few times, but the basic structure definitely needs some serious work. To top it off, people had a lot of trouble accepting the game with the flimsy theming it currently has. Speculators is something I’m happy to have in my back pocket, but isn’t a game I’ll be dedicating a lot of time toward in the near future.

Heartbeat of the Fickle Gods

Odysseus, one of the tragic heroes in Heartbeat of the Fickle Gods.

Odysseus, one of the tragic heroes in Heartbeat of the Fickle Gods.

If you read my post on the Global Game Jam, you’re already familiar with Heartbeat of the Fickle Gods, a game about Greek gods toying with mortals for their own amusement. I’m ashamed to say I’ve barely playtested this game since the Global Game Jam, which took place a month ago 🙁

I think this game has a lot of potential, and I’d really like to explore it more. It’s fairly light weight but still offers some interesting and fun decisions, and the potential for zaniness is high without dragging on too much like Munchkin. This is definitely one I’ll be playing with more in the next few months, if only casually.

Code Name Fungus

Thanks to Nothing Sacred Cards, Fungus is almost ready to test!

Thanks to Nothing Sacred Cards, Fungus is almost ready to try!

This is the game I’m currently most excited about, but that’s probably because I have yet to test it, so I don’t know how broken it is! It began as an abstract desire to make a draft game that is a bit more wholistic than Magic (rather than draft first play second) and a bit more interactive than 7 Wonders. After pondering themes for a bit, I decided the one I like most is fungus competing for territory to release spores from a tree that was recently chopped down. Sounds fun, right!?

Thanks to Nothing Sacred Cards, this game is almost ready to test, and I plan on doing so in the next week or so. It’s pretty speculative at this point, but Fungus could be the next big project I tackle.

Corporate America: Military Industrial Complex

S-Mart, an old favorite I hope will make a triumphant return in Military Industrial Complex.

S-Mart, an old favorite I hope will make a triumphant return in Military Industrial Complex.

You didn’t think I was completely done with Corporate America, did you!? I’ve already mentioned that I’ve started testing out a new expansion for the game called Military Industrial Complex, which will focus primarily on weapon manufacturers and how wars fuel their sales.

So far, playtests have been quite good, but there’s a long way to go on this. Also, since it’s my first expansion, I’m not sure how much time is worth dedicating on the project at this point… after all, the potential audience for this game is quite small (only people who already have Corporate America and want more). Still, Corporate America is definitely one of the funnest projects I’ve worked on, and the prospect of more sounds irresistible.

Boundless Horizons

There you have it. Another Corporate America might be a ways off, but I’m keeping plenty busy, exploring lots of options and having fun doing so.

What do you think? Which of those projects sounds worth pursuing, and which sound like dead ends?

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  1. You know, the premise behind Ecosystems immediately makes me think of a deck building game. Deck building (and some drafting) games typically revolve around building the most efficient engine as fast as possible. . . You might be one of many people out there with a bias against the mechanic, but it sounds like a perfect fit to me.

    • Derik, I actually envisioned Ecosystems as a deckbuilding/drafting game! Before I worried about that, though, I wanted to determine the base structure of the game, and I was never satisfied with how it worked. So a year and a half after writing this post, I’m no closer to making the game a reality :\

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