Monday, September 29, 2014

Card Dungeon Interview (Part 1)

Card Dungeon (iOS, coming this week) recreates the experience of sitting around the kitchen table, playing board games, and if you ever played Heroquest (have a look at the game here), then you'll already be familiar with the atmosphere. It's a roguelike that has you control one hero battling through a series of dungeons, and I think it's a terrific game. Plus, it's funny. Really funny.

Here's a screenshot:


Now, part one of an interview with Fredrik about the game.

1. Card Dungeon has a very tabletop feel to the gameplay. Even the visuals evoke playing around a kitchen table. What kinds of tabletop games did you play growing up? How did they influence your sense of how games should play?
I knew of Heroquest and Dungeons! and the others from seeing them in stores when I was younger, but I don't exactly come from an affluent family, so they were always out of our price range. I played them with friends who had them and I always wanted to have them. It's the last decade or so that I have really started to go back and play those older board games I lusted over back then. A friend of mine have a copy of the original Heroquest and I was blown away by the little miniatures and tokens and all that card board. I also picked up Dungeons! to play with my kids, which is a straight up Card Dungeon in board game form. I guess I am reliving my childhood through my own kids, but now I can actually buy those games that were out of reach for me back then.

What we did have, though, was dungeons and dragons and a few other role playing games like Shock and Mutant and I always played those games since I was a kid. I initially wanted Card Dungeon to be have more puzzles and traps and be more like a digital version of Gygax Tower of Terror, but it was just too much work for us. Maybe I'll get to patch those puzzles and deathtraps in later.

2. When did you first thinking about the concept of Card Dungeon? How long have you been working on the game?
I think it was a bit over 4 years ago when the idea first popped into my head. It was supposed to be this simple little dungeon crawler where you had a draw deck of cards that were your actions, so that's always been there. Once you used a card you would draw new cards up to 5 from the draw pile. Once the draw deck was empty it would reshuffle and start again. I think I have the files for the paper prototype still.

This was something that we were going to knock out in a couple of months, but after finishing the first paper prototype and testing it with some friends, and seeing that the idea actually worked really well, the game just grew and grew and grew into the monstrosity it is now.

As we developed it we discovered that the randomness that works in board games doesn't really work in digital games. The player doesn't feel in control and can't plan his moves when he doesn't know what cards are coming up. We played with all kinds of ideas regarding the cards in your hand. We started with a new random card everytime a card was used, went into a collection based game, then had this crazy roulette wheel idea there for awhile, until we both started thinking that simple is better and said 3 cards, new cards must replace one on your hand. It's simple strategy, but it works on mobile where the attention span is counted in single digit minutes instead of hours on a PC platform. Once we hit on the idea that cards degenerate we found the balance that we were looking for.

The dropping down of the tiles is straight from the exploration of tile based board games like Mage Knight and Archipelago where when you hit an edge, you put down another tile from a stack of them. Ryan then had the idea of dropping everything down from the sky like people putting tiles down on a table.

3. How many people are on your team? Did you form a new team just for Card Dungeon?
Just two people, me and Ryan Christy. We did hire a musician, Ian Dorsch, to make the soundtrack for the game, and I am so happy we did. Good music really brought out the dungeoneering of the game to another level.

4. What influenced the whimsical humor that is always in the forefront? The slightly-anxious hero reminds me very much of a Monty Python character. 
Honestly, I don't know. Whatever makes us laugh goes in the game. I grew up on Monty Python and other comedy of that sort, so I guess it's built into me. And if it can make me laugh maybe some other people will chuckle. There's not enough humor in games today. I think my favorite is the mole shark. I am so happy we took a week to implement his behaviour. His goofy grin and sudden appearances makes me laugh everytime.
[I can 100% verify this. The first time I saw the Mole shark I burst out laughing.]

Tomorrow: Part Two

Games Week Featuring Card Dungeon!

Fredrik's new game Card Dungeon launches this week, so it's going to be all games this week. Going old school, so to speak.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Links!

Lots of podcast and video links early on in the list today.

From Brian Pritchard, and this is a fascinating subject: The Sound of Sports (designing the soundstage for live sporting events, including--when necessary--the addition of fake sounds). Here's another, and it's the story of the undergraduate student who saved the 59-story Citicorp building from certain collapse): Structural Integrity.

Both of those links are from the 99% Invisible podcast, and it's outstanding in general.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and boy, this is eccentric: Inside the World of Longsword Fighting | The New York Times.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: Clive Bowen 'Born, not made' - film about British slipware potter (the finest slipware potter in Britain).

From Dan Willhite, and this is quite amazing: A properly licensed gallery of Alex Wild’s amazing insect photography.

Here's a fascinating update about my very favorite bear (along with Paddington, obviously): Winnie the Pooh was based on a real bear that participated in WWI.

I still miss Phil Hartman, and here's both an excellent explanation of why he was so funny and (this is the best part) a 10-minute audition tape for Saturday Night Live: So Normal It Hurts: The Triumph And Tragedy Of Phil Hartman.

From Marc Klein, and somehow I'm not surprised: Larry Ellison Bought an Island in Hawaii. Now What?

From Craig Miller, and this is an incredible story: BILL WEAVER SR-71 Breakup.

Ending this week, two very haunting space stories. One, and this is just mesmerizing, it's Short film: The alleged story of the cosmonaut who burned in space. Two, and I've written about this before: Cosmonaut Crashed Into Earth 'Crying In Rage'. It's an incredible story, and a stunningly haunting recording.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Saw That Years Ago

The guys who did the entertaining Hatchet Job podcast have a new project (suggested by their friend Martyn Darkly) called "I Saw That Years Ago." They basically sit down and watch a film they saw years ago (but don't remember), then immediately record their impressions. Cleverly.

The podcasts are about 20 minutes long, and if you want a sample, I highly recommend the most recent episode, which discusses "Xanadu" (boy, that brings back some bad memories).

Here's the link: I Saw That Years Ago: We Watch The Old Movies So You Don't Have To.

Fortune's Tavern

I saw this description on Kickstarter yesterday:
Fortune's Tavern is a real-time, fantasy, tavern-simulator where you take on the role of Mathias Gambridge, the latest in a long line of owners of the notorious tavern. It's your job to rebuild and renovate the ailing tavern against the backdrop of a fantasy world at war.

...If you can struggle through the wars and the paranormal and still turn a profit, then an epic adventure awaits as you delve into the depths of the taverns 'endless' basements, with hired heroes to protect you, to discover the dark and terrifying secret of the tavern's founder, Xavier Fortune. Will you succeed, or like your predecessors, will you be driven into madness, poverty, and an early grave?

That entire description, when translated in my brain, says "IMMEDIATE BACKING REQUIRED."

The game has a very modest funding goal (£2800) and it's a very small team (3 1/2, including the developer's seven-year-old son), but the game looks terrific, and it's jam-packed with interesting ideas.

Here's the Kickstarter page (the trailer is excellent): Fortune's Tavern.

Card Dungeon!

Fredrik has a new game coming out October 1 called Card Dungeon.

It's very, very tough to get decent media coverage for an indie game, but the indispensable Pocket Tactics has a story about the game today, along with screenshots and a link to the trailer.

I'll have much more about Card Dungeon next week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Double Fine And The Disaster of DF-9

We all have fond memories of Tim Schafer and his games: Grim Fandango, Full Throttle,  Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, and more--it's a long list of memorable experiences.

Schafer formed Double Fine Productions in 2000, and while his games have often struggled commercially, they were still unique and interesting to play.

Double Fine went the Steam Early Access route for their latest game, "Spacebase DF-9." It was an extremely ambitious game, seemingly, described in some places as "Dwarf Fortress in Space", and had an incredibly ambitious development roadmap in October of last year.

Well, that's absolutely the kind of substantial project people are willing to buy into for Early Access, even at $24.99.

The problem, though, is that Double Fine pulled a a bait-and-switch.

Last week, Double Fine announced--out of nowhere--that development was winding down. The alpha version was going to get one last coat of paint, get renamed to "1.0", and there you go.

Oops.

Oh, and here's a forum post by Double Fine designer JP LeBreton (since deleted, but cached here) from only a month ago to address user concern:
DF JP LeBreton - 19 August 2014 06:47 PM
Double Fine is not a random fly-by-night indie dev and we are not going to silently pull the plug on Spacebase or any other in-development project.  Doing so would be disastrous for our reputation and it would kill us emotionally ;____;

What has happened lately on Spacebase is that we’re trying something different with regard to communication.  Our hypothesis is that short, regular, relatively low-value updates (things like in-progress screenshots of new UI) don’t really serve much more purpose than telling people “we’re not dead!”  The time cost of doing those is pretty small, but our team has been 3-4 people since Alpha 1’s release and I wanted to see what the impact would be - both on our side and on the player side.

...Regarding Alpha 6 specifically… hmm, what should I say?  When we DO have something to say, you’ll know it!  We don’t have Valve’s resources so don’t expect lush animated shorts for each update, but we do have a surprise waiting in the wings for Alpha 6, and you’ll hear about it pretty soon now.  We want to tell you a story, we want to make you curious about things.  Please be patient for a little while longer.  Thanks so much for your continued passion and support.

That was less than five weeks before Double Fine pulled the plug.

Here's Schafer's explanation, and be warned, it's garbage:
"We started Spacebase with an open ended-production plan," writes Schafer, "hoping that it would find similar success (and therefore funding) to the alpha-funded games that inspired it. Some of its early sales numbers indicated this might be the case, but slowly things changed, and it became clear that this was looking like a year and a half of production instead of five or so. With each Alpha release there was the hope that things would change, but they didn't."

...Obviously, spending more money than we were making isn’t something we can afford to do forever. 

Here's the problem, Tim, and it's a big one: when you enticed people into paying for Early Access, you put up a hugely ambitious development plan, and there was no big asterik that said "this development plan only happens if the game is wildly successful." You made a pitch, and based on that pitch, a lot of people spent a lot of money. They trusted you. Then you yanked the rug out from under them with the game still far, far short of what you promised.

This is crap.

Even worse, less than a week before the announcement that development was ending, the game was part of a 50% off sale on Steam. Knowing that the game was going to be released in a state that was far short of player expectations, trying to pump sales just before the public announcement that development was ending was disingenuous, at best.

At worst, it was slimy.

What I always appreciated about Tim Schafer was that he seemingly held himself to a higher standard. It's too bad that in this case, he didn't.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Wait Is (Almost) Over

Daniel Willhite sent me the following quote:
Atman Binstock, chief architect of Oculus, quite succinctly summed up the biggest challenges facing Oculus and virtual reality in general: “actually delivering compelling experiences and not making people sick.”

That actually describes my dating days very well.

I broke down and ordered the Oculus Rift last week. DK 2, which is the last developer's version before commercial release in 2015 (supposedly).

Why now?

There can be a delay of several months before receiving the DK2 after ordering, and Elite: Dangerous is releasing late this year. I am required by every law in my brain to play Elite: Dangerous with a virtual reality headset. There is just no other option.

This time, after so many false starts over the years, virtual reality is going to be a big, big deal. And I think Elite: Dangerous is going to be one of the games that demonstrates why it's such a big deal. So even though DK2 is not a consumer-ready experience, I'm willing to put up with the rough edges.

I also can't wait to see what Eli 13.1 thinks.




Tom Chick: This Sucks

Tom Chick, a landmark figure in gaming journalism and criticism, announced on the most recent Qt3 Movie Podcast (around the 1:20:00 mark) that he has Stage 4 hypopharyngeal cancer.

In case you're wondering exactly what that is, here's a description from Wikipedia:
Hypopharyngeal Cancer is a disease in which malignant cells grow in the hypopharynx (the area where the larynx and esophagus meet).

This is a particularly difficult and dangerous kind of cancer, both because of its location and because it's rarely detected early. Tom says in the podcast that his doctors said his treatment regimen has an 80% chance of a cure, but it's not like a board game where you'd take those odds every time because it would all even out in the long run. He has to make the roll or there is no  long run.

This is stunning news for everyone. Tom is a gaming legend, both for his long and distinguished writing career as well as his creation and curation of Quarter to Three, which is one of the most intelligent gaming communities in existence.

His treatment is going to be arduous and expensive, and a Fundgate project has been set up if you would like to donate: Tom Chick Beats Cancer.




Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Train Wreck

Eli 13.1 had a scrimmage out of of town last weekend (his team outshot 48-10, he had 45 saves and they lost 4-3 in a shootout), and while we were gone, I caught some kind of respiratory virus. So I felt like crap today, then at 1:30 Eli called from school and said he was sick, too.

With something entirely different. What are the odds?

At about 4 p.m., with Gloria holding down the fort, I decided to go get some chicken soup for dinner, and Chic-Fil-A was the closest place. I drove up and here's what I saw:


Seriously? So that's been my day.

Eli and I have this very odd synchronicity about illness, and we've had it for years. I don't get sick very often, but when I do, he's usually sick with 36 hours. It's never the same illness, though. I know he's not faking, and he's often more sick than I am, but it means I never get enough rest when I'm ill, which is exhausting.

So no additional posts today. I'm going to get what rest I can and hopefully be better tomorrow.
b


Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and this is an unsettling, fascinating read: The Online Legacy of a Suicide Cult and the Webmasters Who Stayed Behind.

From J.R. Parnell, and the unexpected implications of genetic testing continue to interest: With genetic testing, I gave my parents the gift of divorce.

From Dan Willhite, and yes, this is fantastic: 20 Fun Grid Facts (Hex Grids).

From Steven Davis, and this is both unexpected and tremendous: Images of the Leonid meteor storm of 1833. Also, and while is a bit longish (25 minutes), it's excellent: What's in a Ballet Shoe.

From Dan Rowland, and this is hilarious: Our Ancestors Wore Babies Into Battle.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is the future, it's A War Photographer Embeds Himself Inside a Video Game.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is terrific: 365 Paintings for Ants with Lorraine Loots.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is certainly one of the greatest headlines ever: SHERIFF: BURNED ARMPIT HAIR LED TO IDAHO CAR CRASH.

This very short film is entirely wonderful: Practice!

DQ Reader My Wife sent this along, and these images are stunning: Finalists Of The 2014 Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Competition Will Leave You Wanting More.

The incredibly Laura Shigihara's new game, Rakuen: Paradise Found, has a new trailer.

One more, and art forgery never fails to fascinate (me, at least): Talking With America’s Best Art Forger and the Man Who Tracked Him Down.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

If You're Curious

If you're a non-UK reader who is curious about the Scottish independence vote (which has already happened earlier today, with results about to start tricking in), this looks like a decent spot to follow what's happening:
Scottish referendum results - live coverage of the independence vote.

It's All The Rage

Gloria is in the kitchen, some small something appears to be broken, and she's putting gloves on.

"I've just accepted that I can't use super glue without getting it on my hands, so gloves," she said.

"That's a good idea," I said. "Plus, if you don't use gloves, you have to be super careful if you need to make a vag adjustment."

She looks at me.

"Well, guys need to make crotch adjustments," I said. "That could be a disaster in a super glue retention situation."

"We do not make VAG adjustments," she said. "There's nothing to adjust."

"I got you," I said. "I just like saying the word. Female comedians have this hip thing now where they combine "vag" with something else to make new words, and it's hilarious."

"I'm glad you enjoy that," she said.

"Plus, it's easy," I said. "I bet I can do one right now." I pause for a few seconds, thinking. "Okay, here's one: what do you call an all-female city?"

"I'm afraid to even guess," she said.

"A Vag-opolis!" I said. "See?"

"I am not going to encourage you," she said.

Questions I'd Never Considered, #3 In A Series

This was on the menu of a restaurant we went to Sunday night:


I looked at Gloria and said, "I wonder how long they have to scrape the seal?"

Summer intern wanted. Must be dexterous with giant tongue depressors and large marine mammals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

As A Counterbalance To All The Depressing News Lately

We'll be having Very Silly Thursday tomorrow.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson (NFL star) hit his four-year-son repeatedly with a switch.

The switch left "welts" on his buttocks, as well as lacerations on his thighs and hands. Plus one laceration on his scrotum. The pictures are difficult to view, and they were taken a full week after the incident.

Adrian Peterson, in his carefully worded public statements, always brings up that his own father beat him with a switch. That's how he was raised, he says.

Adrian Peterson is 6'1", 217 lbs. His son, if he's of average size (and he doesn't look big for his age), is 3'6" and about 40 lbs.

If Adrian Peterson forced an adult to take his/her clothes off, then beat her or him with a switch, leaving multiple, visible wounds, it would be a crime, and a serious one. How can there somehow be circumstances where physical abuse from an adult--that would be a crime were it done to another adult--can somehow be considered acceptable or even appropriate when done to a child?

This is very, very sad.

Ray Rice (your e-mail)

Ian Tyrrell sent this in last weekend:
I just wanted to point out that when you say that female->male domestic violence is considerably rarer than the other way around, you may hurt any of the male victims who read your posts by belittling their experience.

In Australia it's called 'family violence', which I think makes it feel worse (rightly so) than 'domestic violence', but over here, and I'd assume it would be similar in the US, the rate of male victims is actually around 1 in 3, or even higher [in the U.S. it's roughly 1-6]. There's some interesting reading about it here: http://www.oneinthree.com.au/overview/.

I used to think that violence of this type was purely enacted by men, but after having interacted with some male victims, I can see that I was completely wrong. But I imagine that my response was fairly typical when first hearing about it. What would your first thought be if a friend told you his wife had hit him?

I'd love it if family violence of all types was a thing of the past, but unfortunately it's definitely still a reality now, and it is very much not relegated to men beating women. 

This was certainly not my intention.

While men are, on average, larger and stronger than women (and we generally have much higher testosterone levels), that's not to imply that women never hit men, or that men can't be injured as a result. Statistics do not matter when you're getting punched in the face.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #122: Marketing and Ideas

I've gone through about 800 of the 1200 entries in the Game Youtubers Megalist, which is a massive list of YouTube gaming channels.

I've learned some stuff.

First off, only a tiny fraction of these channels play sports games. A slightly larger fraction play indie games, but slightly. Minecraft is staggeringly popular, though, as is Nintendo.

Out of the 800 channels I've checked, I've found 16 that might be appropriate locations for a Gridiron Solitaire inquiry. Yes, that's 2%.

If even 1 out of 5 are willing to make a Let's Play of the game, or even mention it, that would be a nice outcome. That would be a final hit rate of .4%.

Such is marketing an indie game.

That's okay, though. Like I said last week, I'm okay with the long haul.

Gloria was in Dallas Saturday night, and Eli 13.1 was spending the night at a friend's house, so I was by myself. I had a list of things I was going to do, but at some point early on, I tried to remember the last time I was alone in the house and wasn't working on something.

For the life of me, I couldn't remember. Four years, at least.

So on Saturday night, I sat on the couch and watched football, reading when the commercials came on. Played NHL 15 on the PS4. Consciously did nothing that could even resemble work (even though, funny to say, it was hard).

On Sunday, I had a wild idea out of the blue that I immediately loved, even though it's highly unlikely that it will ever make its way into the game. What if those "big images" shown in the game were "big animations" instead? So instead of an image of a receiver catching a touchdown pass that displays for 5 seconds, there would be an animation of a receiver catching a touchdown pass. It would display for the same 5 seconds, but there would be so much more energy coming from an animation than a still image.

There are lots of practical objections to doing that, though, and like I said, it probably won't ever make it into the game. It's a sexy idea, though.

I talked to DQ Legal Advisor Lee Rawles last week, and he asked if I had ever considered adding a college variant of the game.

I have, actually. I've thought about adding a 32-team college version and integrating it with the existing "pro" version, with a relegation mechanic that would shuffle two teams a year.

The relegation mechanic in soccer is fantastic. It's entirely fascinating, and as a game mechanic, it would be just as good.

This would be set up so that if you won the college championship, you'd have the option of taking your team to the pros. You wouldn't be forced to play at one level or another, though. It would be entirely flexible.

Structurally, I think that works very well.

What doesn't work well is that I have no way to distinguish the gameplay of the college version from the pro version, and without that, there's no reason to consider doing it. College football has distinct gameplay from the NFL--faster, higher scoring, and more wide-open offensively, and I would have to capture that same feeling for there to be a reason to add the college structure.

So far, I haven't, so for now, it's an interesting but ultimately unworkable idea.

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