Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday once-a-year online course sale for Lew's Udemy courses

Black Friday once-a-year sale: you've got to do it before someone beats you to it.
As you may know, I do not take part in Udemy's kamikaze marketing, nor in the craziness of affiliation. This may have cost me some money (all the big earners participate) but I prefer to treat online teaching as something like books and good college classes, not like get-rich-quick schemes and super-discounted PC video games. So I'm not part of Udemy's kamikaze Black Friday marketing.
I confess I haven't gone out to shop on Black Friday for longer than I can remember (and I'm 63). But I will "join in the party" online. I have not offered this kind of thing before and may not again, certainly not anytime soon.

So here is a one-time-this-year promotion. I have discounted my classes much more than normal, but there are a *limited number* of coupons for the discounts: three each at "level one", five at "level two"; and an unlimited number at the "normal" discount (which exists only because I get a much larger percentage from my coupons than when someone signs up directly, without a coupon).
As always there are plenty of free previews available in each course, and a 30 day money back guarantee.

This was offered first to people already in my classes, so it's possible that some levels are already exhausted.

Level One (three coupons each):
$20 off Learning Game Design (list $59)
$10 off How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games (list $33)
$10 off How to Write Clear Rules (and game design documents) (list $29)
$5 off Brief Introduction to Game Design (list $12)
$9 off Get a Job in the Video Game Industry (list $15)
In percentage terms this is a very large discount, 60%, because it is my one class not primarily about game design.

Level Two (five coupons each):
$15 off Learning Game Design (list $59)
$7 off How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games (list $33)
$7 off How to Write Clear Rules (and game design documents) (list $29)
$4 off Brief Introduction to Game Design (list $12)
$6 off Get a Job in the Video Game Industry (list $15)

The "Normal" discounts (you'll recall I receive a larger cut from a coupon than from someone who pays full price, so I always offer these):
$10 off Learning Game Design (actual cost $49)
$4 off How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games (actual cost $29)
$4 off How to Write Clear Rules (and game design documents) (actual cost $25)
$3 off Brief Introduction to Game Design (actual cost $9)
$3 off Get a Job in the Video Game Industry (actual cost $12)
"Joys of Game Design" is always discounted to $5 from Udemy's $9, no special discounts here:

Conventions and Conferences
I have completed the first part of a free course about game conventions and conferences. I may not be able to post it on Udemy (it will be on because so much of it is not yet done.

I'll be giving a talk about "Space Wargames" at PrezCon in Charlottesville, VA in late February.   I love designing them, though many of the published space wargames are too detailed for my liking (or too bloodless!).

Monday, November 17, 2014

Characteristics of game boards

Game Design: Discussing “The Board”
Dr. Lewis Pulsipher
“Game Design” channel on YouTube

Describing, not Defining
Because as soon as someone says “definition”, someone else will nitpick it
Given the loosey-goosey nature of English, absolutely clear definitions are nearly impossible
So, I’m just going to talk about game boards, not “define”

Why Boards?
A board is a natural way to depict maneuver and geospatial relationships
Which are virtually required for wargames
Cards don’t naturally do this
Yes, you can use a “board” as a status indicator without any reference to spatial relationships
As in some Eurogames
We’re interested in boards as fields for maneuver that depict geospatial relationships

Is there a formula for designing a board?
I’ve seen novice designers ask for a formula, as though everything in game design can be reduced to rote, to always-correct solutions
In short: NO!
Game design is about critical thinking, the opposite of rote learning
But we can see common characteristics in many “classic” game boards
And common ways to make boards

Square Grid
Chess, checkers, tic-tac-toe, Stratego, many others (even the video game Civilization (I through IV, V went to hexes)
Easy to see, easy to make a prototype, easy for players to understand
But movement diagonally is very distorted (1.41 times as far, per square)
Adjacency is a problem: is it four
squares adjacent, or eight?
But if you’re depicting walls or a city
 road grid, squares are very useful

Areas (like a map)
Looks most natural of all boards
Diplomacy, Risk, Axis & Allies, Britannia, a great many games that cover a large geographical area
Often used when more than one piece can be in a location (though Diplomacy allows only one per area)
Provides room for “individuality”, avoiding the geometric precision of squares and hexes

Hexagons (“hexes”)
Hex means six
Adjacency is clear – six adjacent vice 8
The typical wargame grid
Do hexes put people off?
Not uniform
Looked at one way, there are two ways forward
Look at it 90 degrees from that, there are three ways forward
Less distance distortion than squares (but contrary to popular belief, there IS distortion)
Not good for straight lines (such as walls or city roads)
(Illustration is a hand-drawn prototype board for my game Dragon Rage (1982, 2011)

The illustration (a space empires game prototype) is for outer space, but most are for land areas
Allows easy representation of routes, paths, bridges,  chokepoints, impassable terrain

All grids are ways of showing connectivity
Here’s a connectivity diagram of the FFG Britannia map
The relationships between areas are exactly the same
But notice lines crossing in a few places

Other Grids
Circular (IMM prototype board)
Spiral (Four Elements prototype board)
And many variations
Not always Maneuver . . .
Some games only provide for placement, not maneuver, such as Ingenious, my prototype Law & Chaos (Mayfair someday)
These are hex boards, but it’s not always hexes for placement – tic-tac-toe for example
Go, of course, is placement-only, and uses the intersections of a square grid

What do they have in Common?
Number of areas in many classic games doesn’t differ wildly from chess’s 64
When it does, it’s often a hex board
Diplomacy 70-some (IIRC), Risk 42, Britannia 37 +6 seas
This also depends on number of pieces
Tends to be fairly high in games with lots of hexes, such as wargames
Piece count: Diplomacy 34, Risk “a lot”, Britannia about 55

Number of Connections?
If we want to analyze boards further, we’d count number of connections to each area (which I actually did with that space wargame)
Hex board, this is always 6.  Square board, always either 4 or 8, depending on whether diagonals are counted
Examples of Pacific Convoy and DS – number of connections does matter
And we’d relate number of areas and number of connections to typical number of pieces
But you can overthink anything in games.  Try actually playing on a board and you’ll find out a lot, if you pay attention

Think of a board as a connectivity diagram for maneuver (or placement), and go from there to choose the grid that works best for your game.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Sea Kings: Thanks

My thanks to those who helped achieve Worthington Publishing's Kickstarter for my Viking adventure game Sea Kings, whether they are backers, publicizers, or cheerleaders!

I am not a big fan of Kickstarter for board and card games, and there's a distinct learning curve to hosting one, but achieving the goal makes up for a lot.

Someday I may try a Kickstarter myself to support writing another game design book.  This seems to be the only practical way to avoid the effects of rampant piracy.