Tuesday, March 23, 2010

All About Me

We live in an in-your-face world nowadays.  I don't think it was always this way.  It seems like it has become moreso in the past couple of decades.  Young people (especially teens) have this "It's all about me" attitude.  It's not universal, by any means.  There are still plenty of humble, philanthropic young people.  Maybe they just get drowned out by the fanfare of the others who do blow their own horns. 

It can be hard for some people to constantly live in the shadows of the horn-blowers.  For one thing, it frequently baffles one why they're so high on themselves in the first place.  When observed objectively, they're often no funnier, smarter, prettier, or more talented than everyone else.  The air about them, on the other hand, merely gives the illusion that their talents fit their presentation.  It's funny that although they might not measure up, their optimism and self-opinion seldom wane, even in the face of an ultimately ordinary life.

For those who live on the humbler side, after a while, as one goes through life, it becomes necessary to take up a horn occasionally to obtain deserved recognition, a job, a raise, etc.  I admire those people whose accomplishments speak for themselves; whose proof of deserving praise is concrete and not just a repeated assertion that they deserve it simply because they say so.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


My second prototype was much better than the first.  I made the board much simpler, and added more spaces from which players had to pick a card.  It's the cards that cause the interesting stuff to happen along the way and without them constantly entering the action, it wasn't very interesting.  I tried playing it by myself and actually thought it was fun.

Over the weekend, I snagged the family into playing it.  We had some laughs (the whole point of a family board game as far as I'm concerned) and found some more flaws, but on the whole, it was much closer.  I'm now working on my third prototype with a cleaner board layout and next, I have to work on the rules and making sure that the money works out reasonably.  After another round by myself and the family, I'll try it out with some of my creative writing cohorts at TC3.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bored Games - 2

Did I mention in my previous post that game development isn't easy?  I should have - it's not easy.  You might start with an interesting concept and a cool drawing, but the proof is in the game play.  Today, I laid out the board with pieces, money, cards - everything.  I played the role of 3 players by myself.  After about 20 minutes, it was clear that changes were necessary.  I made the changes and tried it again.  Another 20 minutes and it's once again clear that more changes are needed.

I'm back to the drawing board with some new ideas to simplify the board, make the goals a little less specific and the hazards more easily invoked in an effort to keep the game moving.  It sucks when your own game is boring, but if you don't like it yet, it isn't ready for prime time.  Soon it will be just right.  I believe in the concept, but so far, it's not entering the gameplay, which defeats the purpose.

Another shot at it tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bored Games - 1

This past weekend I invented a new board game.  The idea hit me on Friday night and I ran to the computer to jot it down so I wouldn't forget it.  Much to my wife's chagrin, I became obsessed with it and spent most of the weekend with my sketchpad, doodling designs and ideas for the rules.  On the other hand, she came up with some great ideas to help flesh it out, too - she's a great brain-stormer.  Then I hit the computer with my old copy of Actrix 2000* and worked out the details of the board.  I've since printed out everything and I'm just waiting for a time to test the prototype with my wife and daughter.  I'll tell you more about the game when I've got it nailed down better.

When I started to write fiction last fall, I started reading books differently.  I didn't just read them, but I started to analyze how the authors brought me into the world.  How did they mix action with description?  How much detail was there?  Like my last game (a card game that's sitting in a basket - it wasn't bad, just not great), this game made me think about how other games work.  What makes them good or bad, fun or boring.  I started to think about the pros and cons of various games:
  • Monopoly - one of the best games ever invented.  Pros: Not too complicated, so anyone can play. Strategy matters.  Element of chance makes it unpredictable and exciting.  Cons: Takes forever to play a game.  You need to be in the mood for several hours of game play.
  • Life - Pros: Not too complicated.  Educational for kids.  Cons: Very little unpredictability.  Very little strategy.  Dull for adults.
  • Risk - Pros: Strategy matters.  Element of chance makes it unpredictable and exciting.  Cons: Takes forever to play a game.  Screw up your strategy at the beginning of the game and you play a long, agonizing game where you know you're doomed.
  • Pictionary, Cranium - Pros: Fun for groups.  Even bad artists can play.  Lots of laughs.  Cons:  Need at least four people to play and more is better.
  • Specialized Games with wordplay, etc. - Some are fun, some wear thin after the novelty is gone.  Also, the larger your vocabulary, the better you do, like Scrabble.
  • There are tons more, but you get the idea.
For me, a great game has strategy, a short learning curve, unpredictability, and the chance to mess up your opponents.  It generates laughs.  It doesn't take hours to play a single game and doesn't get boring.  It doesn't require you to buy an expansion pack with more stock questions (think Go to the Head of the Class or Trivial Pursuit (although this is a great, classic game)).  Two of my favorites are Labyrinth (board game) and Rat-a-tat-cat (a card game).  Both are simple, strategic, can be played with 3 people and it's still fun, let you mess with your opponents, don't require any special intelligence or training, generate laughs, and can be played inside of an hour.

I've wasted enough time and money looking for games like this.  I hope my latest one accomplishes these goals.  We'll see.  I'll keep you in the loop.  If you know of any that I haven't found yet, let me know.  I'm always looking.

*Actrix 2000 is a diagramming product I helped develop years ago when I worked for Autodesk.  I still find uses for it and I'm constantly amazed at how good it is for a variety of tasks.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In the Beginning

I've been writing about software for a couple of years on my other blogs (www.wandercoding.com) and judo (cornelljudo.wordpress.com), but I wanted another outlet for my creative side.  I'm going to endeavor to write in a way that doesn't make me sound like a know it all.  I must admit that I read blogs and other writings from people who think they're qualified to give advice on a variety of topics due to their months of experience in their field.  In the field of software, I've got 22 years of professional work under my belt.  In judo, over 30 years.  In the field of writing and other creative ventures?  Just a couple.  So, I'm not going to try to pass myself off as an expert.  I might share a discovery or a thought, but until I've had some real success in the field, let's consider me an imaginary.

Welcome to my little world.