Monday, October 29, 2012

November 2012 Miscellany

Thoughts about some game-related topics that are not long enough for separate blog posts.

If you like Robo-Rally, you might like Twin Tin Bots (by the designer of Vinci, Smallworld, Evo, and other games), being kickstarted right now to help pay for the plastic pieces.

Books-a-million are offering ebook format copies of my book at $28.65 (25% off). or just go to and search for my name in electronic books.  (It isn't listed when you search the main book area!)  Useful to have an unusual name.

 I was told "Your book is also being published simultaneously in an electronic edition.  Ebook sellers are working to release the book for their particular platform."   I'll report when other electronic formats become available.

The first 27 pages, and page 268, of my book are readable on Google Books.  Or just go to and search for my name.  My publisher has given permission for this to occur, otherwise it would be a clear copyright violation.

If I can get my publisher to approve I'd like to see the same amount of text available at Amazon for those who want to read some of a book before buying it.


A real BS word: "intuitive", in conjunction with computer and game interfaces.  When it doesn't mean "familiar" it means "easy to use".  So why not say what you mean?

I have discovered common ground between Real-Time Strategy games and . . . Monopoly.  In both cases, the economy amounts to: collect a resource(s) that enables you to construct buildings that produce other resources.  The difference is, in RTS the production is deterministic, you put in Y resources and after X time you get Z unit.  In Monopoly the randomization of movement intervenes, so sometimes your buildings produce (charge rent to someone landing at the location), other times that doesn't happen.

Review of my game design book:


One of the comments to my "Seven years and a million dollars" said someone had spent two and a half million dollars developing a tabletop game.  I don't know if they were serious, I hope not.

Because when I started to calculate how you'd spend a million dollars, it got silly.

There are about 2,000 hours in the typical work year.  40/week times 52 weeks, but there are enough holidays and vacation days (for most people) that you're under 2000 actual working hours.

Now if you paid yourself $50 an hour for this - and $50 an hour is a lot for time developing a game, whether designers, artists, or programmers - you're at $100,000.  So to "spend" a million by calculating what you would pay yourself, even at $50 an hour, we're talking the equivalent of TEN YEARS of ordinary work weeks.

I'm supposing most people with ordinary jobs might also spend 40 hour work weeks developing a game, though when we count sleep, that really only leaves them two weekend days to do anything else.

Another way to look at this, even at the very high rate of $50 an hour, a million dollars is 20,000 hours!  I doubt that any tabletop game in the history of the world has had so much time lavished on it BEFORE publication.

And two and a half million dollars is truly out of this world.

Novels are 50,000 to over 300,000 words.  (The Wheel of Time books average over 300,000.)  The average novel is 90,000-100,000.  I was trying to keep my game design book to the average: it ended up at about 101,000.

Seems that most game podcasts have two hosts rather than one. I'd think that would make it much easier for the hosts.

I have said a number of times that you shouldn't design games for yourself.  Yet the people who created Doom made a game they liked, and fortunately for them, a whole lot of other people liked it, rest is history.

But they were fortunate.

It depends on the maturity of the designer.  I always keep in mind young video game design students  when I write.  They tend to think it's an easy job to take a game they like and make it better, just through enthusiasm, or some kind of magic.  For them, designing a game "just like they like" is self-indulgent.   And self-indulgence is a bad, bad characteristic for a designer, even though it may work in some situations.

Yes, they should like what they're working on, but it should not be exactly what they want, because then it's much less likely to be what the market wants.

Questions asked by novice designers:

Are there rules for how to design ?
Are there formulas for calculating .

No, game design is not mechanical, it's an art and craft.  There are best practices, but there are not design rules.
And I'm afraid anyone who thinks there are, isn't likely to be a successful designer.

Typical "gamers" (that go to conventions!) may want more control over what happens than the people who attend my "semi-local" university game club.

 Can we say a game of high uncertainty approaches random, and a game of very low uncertainty approaches a puzzle?

MANY of the games being sold (or at least, demoed) at Origins or GenCon don't NEED to be very good.  They only need to be good enough to be interesting for several plays, because the fate of most games is to be played only a few times before the owner goes on to the next game.  There are lots of reasons for this, e.g. the short attention span of the "Internet generation", and the vast number of games out there calling for play.  Moreover, in a "demo" environment such as a game convention players are strongly affected by "cool", which is often in graphics or theme, because they don't have time to learn whether the game actually has much to it, whether it can last more than a few plays.

As a result, a lot of these games simply aren't very good.  In a way it's like video games: most of the published ones aren't really very good, time killers more than anything else, though they may sound good or look good.  And that doesn't count the 90% that are funded but never see the light of day.  Board and card games are much less time-consuming to produce, so more of the "90%" are likely to actually be published.

Not very good: as far as I'm concerned, a game that's only good for killing time isn't very good.  Whether it's played a lot by people or not.  (Card Solitaire is an example, 'course that's really a puzzle, not a game.)

Result: a lot of weak games.  Yet they all compete with the good games.  Unfortunately much of the sales process does not depend on how good the game is, so the result is that the good games sometimes suffer, getting less sales and attention than they deserve.


People use their phones for pictures and video, even to modify them, and to send them, because it's easier for them than to learn to use their computers (most still have a laptop or desktop).  This is the same reason why we have people putting their memory cards from cameras directly into printers, they can't or won't figure out how to do it with their computers, even though you can do more with the computer (for example, that near-magical improvement to digital pictures, cropping).

These are the "challenged" (technology-challenged?) people game designers have to deal with in the 21st century, if they want to reach a large market..

Another review of Dragon Rage (scroll down past Rumble in the Dungeon).

"I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time."  Herbert Bayard Swope

I've posted several articles at my "home" blog recently.  Not all are posted at other locations (e.g., ones heavily video-game-related aren't posted on BGDF and F:AT, "Six Words" isn't posted on F:AT owing to antipathy to that kind of post, etc.).  Here's a list with links of recent ones:

Can we characterize tabletop game publishers? Hard to say.

Intentions versus Actions (in Game Design). A warning for new game designers

Maintenance based economies vs. “accumulation” economies OR Economic “Limits”

"Is this game like Britannia?"

Review: Atlas of World Military History

Six words about game sequels

Abstractions and plans for new edition(s) of Britannia

September 12 Miscellany

Observations about changes in game distribution (and publishing)

Getting a foot into professional (tabletop) game design  How to be taken seriously by publishers (more cautionary advice)

Zynga and Fundamental Problems with their Social Network Games 

Comparing this year’s game conventions

Interface (and other) game design lessons from a rental car

"Seven years and a million dollars"

Review: Gratuitous Space Battles

1 comment:

Jason @ Game Convention Central said...

"Moreover, in a "demo" environment such as a game convention players are strongly affected by "cool", which is often in graphics or theme, because they don't have time to learn whether the game actually has much to it, whether it can last more than a few plays."

Agreed and this is one of the big things I like about belonging to a boardgaming group, you get to actually play a game a couple of times before deciding to purchase. I always try to reserve judgement on a game until I've played it at least twice, if not more.