Tag Archives: Gameslate

VOID HUNTERS: A NEW PARADIGM…

Now, of all the things I’ve been trying to get done lately, none have seemed so out of reach as the concept of the Digital Table Top Role Playing game. It just seems that no matter how many times I’ve tried to get that concept flying, from trying to Kickstart the idea to almost having an independent team ready to realize the proposal (before they backed out at the last moment), it just doesn’t seem to be able to peak the level of interest necessary for it to become a viable product. It is simply too much to do on my own, and the type of people I need to develop it with me are generally  more interested in using their skills for fully fledged video games, not hybrids.

Over time, I have come to the realization that the problem with the DTTRPG concept is two fold.

THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

First, what I was trying to create with the BoHM digital game was basically a digital charactersheet/dice roller/rulebook/GM Suite combo, which, in itself is not a bad idea. But it doesn’t really innovate as far as it needs to. You’re still looking at a screen with numbers and dials and lists, etc. so it really is no more than your standard RPG, just with less stuff to carry around. This could be why it received such a ‘meh’ response from the RPG community.

BoHMScreens02-ChargenThe answer to this issue involved really looking back at the research I did long ago on what RPGs offer us that computer games don’t, and vice versa, and coming to the realization that what I was attempting did not go far enough in moving the game further into the acoustic space that RPGs inhabit. Making the game less of a game and more of an ‘experience’ for the players.

The answer to this, of course is to make sure that the player interface should remain as thematically ‘pure’ as possible. Character creation would still be of the standard RPG variety, but once that is complete, the UI should endeavor to take them out of the ‘roll’ and immerse them in the ‘role.’ The only person with pure game info should be running the game and making all the magic happen behind the scenes, presenting the players with dramatic representations of the raw numbers they’re generating on the fly.

Don’t confuse this with a video game of the first person variety. Yes, the information is first person, in a sense (were not talking moving about a 3D or even 2D world here, as the game will still rely on the acoustic centers reinforced with a few still images or simple animations), but the AI is strictly human, generating an infinite amount of content, not through programmatic procedural generation, but with a few simple tools in their GM Suite and all the data provided in the ‘rules database.’BoHMBook

The second issue revolved around the complexity of the rules for BoHM which were, in hindsight, a bridge too far for the concept. It was going to take a lot of programming and fiddly UI design to make the thing usable, which, without the money from a successful crowd-funding campaign, was immediately going to turn off any potential co-developers.

Again, simplified rules were necessary to allow the GM to run things efficiently behind the GM Screen of his interface, and to allow the players to get the information they needed without a lot of interface acrobatics. This is where Void Hunters comes in.

VOID HUNTERS: DTTRPG

P2Void Hunters is another project that I just can’t seem to get off the ground, but whereas the DTTRPG idea is all about a lack of resources, VH is all about my lack of interest in creating yet another same old, same old TTRPG. I’ve been desperate to do something different with it. To make something that goes beyond the standard setup that is currently being done to death in a thousand different ways over at RPGNow. To make something that people actually enjoy playing, as opposed to adding to their ever growing library of games they bought but never use (and those of you who buy digital RPG books now exactly what I’m talking about).hr_giger_dreads

The beauty of VH as a DTTRPG, however, is the external rules (those utilized by the GM and players) are completely old school in conception, and easily broken down into object oriented programming modules that modify a basic rule package. In addition, the old school ethos of ‘Ruling over Rules'; and ‘Description over Dice’ means that half the game is going to be run from the GM’s description and the player’s reactions, anyway, so the user interface can be much simpler.

The internal (as in, inside the actual module) rules for VH will be designed to be resolved through programmatic methods, like an actual video game. The classes I’ve laid out will still be the core around which the game revolves, but the equipment, ships, etc. will all be designed to work as a computer game, albeit, one with a strictly human center. This allows the rules to be very simulationist, without burdening the GM or players with the simulation.

PsychotechnicLeaguevincentdifateStarship combat, for instance, can be extremely realistic, using three axis of movement, ∆V and all sorts of other factors while still presenting the player and GM with simple options (an idea I thought up last year to create a hyper-realistic, yet easily playable, space combat table top game for my friend Tom’s Sword into Darkness universe). The starship interface needn’t be very complex because, honestly, VH style starship combat would mostly occur outside visual range and would be more reminiscent of submarine warfare than Star Wars style dog-fighting.

The science fiction element of VH also lends itself to a tablet or phone based display by allowing the player interface to reflect an ‘EyePhone’ style interface. The tablet or phone screen will represent what the characters see through a smart-glass like HUD implanted in their brain that displays vital information. Through this we can show their health, equipment icons (which they touch to ‘use’), etc. and keep them in the game, instead of taking them out of it the way reviewing an external character sheet does.

The GM Suite would include all the tools necessary to run an old school game, including writing tools, random generation tools, character trackers, etc. and tools for communication with the player’s devices. They’ll be able to see what the players roll, send them secret messages, and post images of the scene, if they desire (and all the modules for the game would include scene images for that purpose). It would be totally utilitarian, like a digital GM Screen, with tabbed interfaces.

What about a rulebook? Who needs one. The computer handles all the rules and the only reference the GM will need is one that describes the classes, the equipment, ships, etc. Creating new items will be handled through appropriate interfaces and will automate the process as much as possible. And if that still doesn’t get he GM the perfect ship, alien, etc. a handy ‘House Rules’ tool will allow them to modify the database entries manually.

TO BE CONTINUED…

I’m not done with either the DTTRPG or VH yet, and I’m determined to make one last stab at turning them both into something a bit different and revolutionary for the RPG market. I’m going to be considering all the elements over the next few months and, as soon as one of my other projects is ready for production, I’ll revisit it and see what it will take to turn it into a realty. Who knows? Maybe by that point, folks won’t be so turned off by the idea of a truly digital RPG experience…160d21128da98dc567406f7e2442d9ec-d53u2f1

 

 

 

 

Good Riddance 2014. Now, Get To Work 2015…

2014 blew.

It was a terrible year for me professionally and personally. As a result, I think I got less done that whole year than I did in the 3 months I spent on my thesis. This was exacerbated by the fact that, one year after receiving my MFA, I’m still working as a substitute teacher and, in December, had to take part time work at a retail store just to make ends not quite meet.

And just to give me a good kick before exiting stage right, the year ended with my wife getting majorly ill during the week of Christmas. Good riddance 2014, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

But now it is 2015. A new year and a new stab at getting the next phase in my life and career started. Getting a job has been a bust so far, but at least I had an interview. Finally. After over a year trying. I do, however sense a change, a sense of positive renewal, as the Doctor once said in ‘The Twin Dilemma.’

So, what about all the games I have been working on?

Quarterback Blitz

20140322_133543I started this as a thesis project and it turned into what is considered by quite a few people to be an excellent playable simulation of professional football. What many do not know is that I took the game to Topps in September of last year and nearly sold it to them. Unfortunately, after consideration, they found it a bit too complex for their customer base, so no sell, but they did tell me that is was very true to the game and want me to call them up if I have any more game ideas (I may try and sell them a Baseball or Hockey game in the near future, time will tell).

So, with  the feedback from them and working out some strategic issues with a college football coach, I am on the verge of taking the game to another company. Problem is, I need to rewrite a small chunk of it, including remaking about 108 cards, and after a year and some change, I’m kind of burnt out. So, I’m giving it a rest for a month so I can come at it fresh.

The cool news is, I’m ready to release a print and play demo after I get the new cards done and will do so, probably in March. I’ll also be taking it to another company to try and sell it, and possibly get a proper job. In the meantime…

For Glory!

BoLBGMapV3The Barbarians of Lemuria board game I designed has been done for over a year. In that time, I have tried, without success, to get it into physical production. Now, as you might have ascertained from the start of this post, I am not in the position to self-finance this thing. There is too much risk, especially when you consider there is more to producing a physical game than calling up China and sending them some files. There’s production costs, shipping costs, storage costs, distribution costs, etc. So I’ve given up on producing a lavish table to board game and am switching formats.

I’ve been a huge proponent of mobile technology as a platform for board gaming and RPGs for the last 5 years. At UTD, I spent a great deal of my time trying to convince the people in charge that not only were mobile games going to increasingly challenge AAA games for entertainment dollars, but that hybrid games, using table-top components and digital interfaces, were going to eventually become the norm, allowing for incredibly complex board game simulations. Flash forward to today and we now have X-Com the board game with its mobile interface, Golem Arcana, a digitally enhanced TT wargame and a host of completely digital mobile board games.

SampleHeroesSo I’m turning For Glory! into a digital board game app.The potential audience is larger, the production costs are smaller (just time, really) and without shipping, distribution, storage, and a production company taking up at least 50% of the profit (Google Play and iTunes stores only take 30%), the profit margin will be much higher. I’m currently working on the UI screens and my programming partner is going to use Unity’s 2D platform to realize it as software. The game will be pretty much the same, it will even be designed so up to 6 can play, but it will handle all the rules work for the players. You can see the aesthetic feel I’m going for in this incomplete rough of the character select screen.

FG_Screens_01_CharSelect

Barbarians of Heavy Metal

Ozzy1People have told me what a unique concept BoHM is, and how they’d love to see it realized. My first attempt at doing that ended in a failed Kickstarter and a lot of rather pointed comments from my target audience about how unwelcome a truly digital table-top RPG is. Problem is, I don’t want to do another strictly P&P book RPG. I want to do something different. And besides, the same problems with a print boardgame apply to print RPGs, but doubly so. As a real world example, my Barbarians of the Aftermath supplement has yet to sell through its 2010 hardcover print run (as far as I know. C7 hasn’t sent me a sales report in over a year) but the 2009 PDF still sells to this very day!

So, as the IP was important to me, but the format really wasn’t (although I would have loved to have  been the one who revolutionized the RPG industry with a digital TTRPG), I tucked it away until I could find another medium for it, instead of rushing out yet another variation on the standard RPG. This month, I found that medium: the Tactical Card Game.

SpikeAn idea I’ve been noodling around with for some time, the Tactical Card game is an attempt to model the strategy and tactics of tabletop wargaming using strictly cards. During my recent research into the history of wargaming (as a hobbyist and academic), I have identified a number of elements that define wargames and can be easily translated into an abstract card based system. The system uses dice, like a regular wargame, and it also has a tactical maneuver system, based on my system for vehicular combat in Barbarians of the Aftermath. But it doesn’t require miniatures, terrain models or even a large table to play.

I had been designing the TCG concept as a vehicle for the Pirate game my business partner has been working on for some time, but I realized it was also an excellent vehicle for introducing the BoHM universe. It allows me to focus on a specific part of that setting (Titans, giant heavy metal mecha, like the one above) and reach a less niche audience: casual card gamers. It can be easily expanded, into aerospace fighters, starships and even headbanger vs. headbanger musical dueling, and all those different games can be designed to work together so that you can have truly massive conflicts that cover multiple scales simultaneously (great for team tournament play). Plus, card games are cheap to produce and much more attractive to production houses.

So I’ve also been working on that. An example of the play area (which has already evolved significantly by this point) can be seen below.

LayoutExample

VOID Hunters

event_horizon_gravity_driveI’ve been fiddling on and off with this thing for ages now. It started off as a simple supplement for DCC, but I quickly realized this was not the best way to accomplish my goals for it. Then I built a system from scratch. And scratched it because it didn’t feel right for 70’s sci-fi.

And now I’m back to wondering if it wouldn’t work best as a digital TTRPG and how the might change the design. I love the idea of the game, but as with BoHM, I don’t just want to crap out another RPG. I want to make something that adds to the industry in a significantly different way, and truly inspires people to play it, like DCC. It’s simpler than BoHM, rules wise, and like the original D&D, there is no specific setting, just thematic tools for creating your own, so it might be the best game for introducing the DTTRPG concept.

The potential for expansion through in-app purchases are practically infinite, it would (again) reach a whole new audience and the costs would (again) be minimal, so I think it would be worth doing a small demo of the app to generate Kickstarter interest and that is the plan for now.

That’s My Year Full, Then

Those are my product plans for 2015, but no plan survives contact with the enemy (the enemy in this case being not fully employed and constantly scrambling to make ends meet), so there are no guarantees that even half of it will materialize. But I design games. It is not what I do, it is who I am. I could no sooner stop doing this than stop breathing, so I will continue to plug away at my projects until they are done and out the door, regardless of my situation. Expect to see at least one or two cool things from Jabberwocky in 2015…

What’s Going On…?

If it’s been a bit quiet around here lately it’s because I’ve been very busy putting things together, working on rules, creating graphics and otherwise building on games in order get them ready for release. As a one man production band (who is also trying to join university faculty at numerous schools and do the odd job to keep the green flowing) this means that I tend to neglect the social media more than I should, so here is an update for those worried that their favorite projects might be vaporware (short answer: I never produce vaporware, it all gets done)…

QBB

Quarterback Blitz is reaching the end of the prototyping stage. I plan to start shopping it ’round to production companies at the end of this month. All that really remains is finishing the miniature prototypes, but in the meantime, play-testing is going along at full speed with the makeshift models I kludged together out of electric football players and assorted gaming bases. I even managed to get the cards done up professionally by a great printing company in Hong Kong (who printed and delivered my cards in 5 days total). Here are some images of those below:

20140630_10121520140630_101237So QBB is going gangbusters, if the enthusiasm shown in play-testing is any indicator (even with people who don’t like football as a rule), and has most of my attention at this time. It looks to be a winner with sports fans and gamers and a big seller for JM and whatever company agrees to produce it.

VOID HUNTERS & BARBARIANS OF HEAVY METAL

SpikeI have spent the last few months really debating with myself over whether or not this company will make RPGs anymore. A variety of catalysts from the state of the industry, to the behavior of the customer base, to the financial viability of making anything more than pizza money off of all the blood, sweat and soul that goes into making a good RPG, were pushing me to say to heck with the whole hobby. Seriously. It is, frankly, easier, cheaper and more rewarding to build board, card and electronic games, and wit them, good transmedia friendly IP.

After a good long think, I decided to go ahead and finish at least two of my RPG projects and see where they go before giving up on the industry altogether and just focusing on all those other things. Fortunately, I have some willing partners who are going to help me see those two games to life as the first all digital table-top RPGs.

Void Hunters is now going by the title VOID: the RPG of Seventies Science Fiction and I have completely divorced it from Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics game. I loves me some DCC (seriously, if you haven’t tried it, get your butt to their site and join the band), but the restrictions were too stifling and I’ve decided to design my own mechanics while adopting some of the attitudes of that great game: Red Shirts dying by the dozen, player characters struggling to survive in a hostile universe, unforgiving patrons and merciless horrors in the dark, all of this will be part of the experience. It is at the back of the line, development wise, but I add material to it daily and should have a demo to show soon.

BoHM is my passion project and one of the main IP concepts I want to develop along transmedia lines. As a result, I’m looking to do a lot of different things with it, including seeing it materialize as a Digital TTRPG. But first, I’m going to be working on smaller, non RPG games to develop the background and prototype systems for what will be a mechanically unique take on RPGs. Can’t say much on that  right now, but as soon as the QBB prototype is finished and the proposal sent out, I’m getting right on a slew of material set in the BoHM universe. Watch this space.

FOR GLORY! & THE PIRATE GAME

SampleHeroesFor Glory! is done, it is just waiting on production. That requires money however, and, in the course of considering gaming in the 21st century and the old models of doing things, my partner and I have decided that it is ludicrous for us to go the route of, say, Ticket to Ride or Small World and build a physical game first and a digital version later. The up front costs of production and distribution are so ludicrously high these days, we have decided that it is better to do the digital version first and, if sales justify it, use some of the money from that to produce a physical copy. The up front costs for digital games are so much lower, the entry level so much cheaper for the consumer, and the ability to automate and expand so much more convenient for everyone, that I’m all about digital devices as a board gaming platform (and have been for a number of years). So I’d expect to see For Glory! released on a tablet near you before a physical copy rolls off the presses.

The one exception to this seems to be card games. My experience producing QBB’s cards has shown me that there is a much better chance of a return on your investment with sufficient quality to justify physical card games. As such, the Pirate Game, which was formerly planned to be a proper board game, is now being redesigned using a new system I’m developing to function as a card based wargame. As this system will be the basis of the larger BoHM plans I mentioned earlier, I will be working heavily on this after QBB is wrapped up for the month.

RAAARGH! THE GAME OF GIANT B MOVIE MONSTER COMBAT

Kark01Some of you may remember this project from last year. It is an actual video game, not a table top  board game or RPG, and it has been waiting for mobile technology to catch up a bit and the right production team to come along. Well, the good news is that I am in final negotiations with a company to finally finish it. Most of the design work is done and all that is left is programming and testing, so I look forward to this tearing up a tablet near you soon.

SUMMARY

So that’s what’s on the block. Fortunately, a lot of it is well on its way to done, so we should see 2 or 3 of these out by the end of the year with the rest following up shortly thereafter in 2015. In the meantime, I’ll try and get some more specific updates on individual games up later this week,,,

BoHM UPDATE…

Over at the Kickstarter, I’ve added another couple of updates.

The first is simply a modification to the iMetal Stretch Goal so now we only need to exceed our goal by $1000 to open that one up. The second, posted today, includes new Reward Level Upgrades, a hardback version of the book and a Metal Master (our fancy term for GM) screen with an included 32 page adventure: War Pigs!

All of these were requested by backers, so if there is something you’d like to see us produce, let us know in the comments. You don’t ask, you don’t get!

Also, Jeff has provided us with some more WIP art! Let him know what you think!

Ozzy1

THE ROTTEN ONE…

Behold the first pencil sketch from Jeff Laubenstein for Barbarians of Heavy Metal: the Patron Saint of Punk, The Rotten One (click for a larger image)…

Rotten Sketch 2

It’s a WIP, but you can already see why Jeff was the only artist who could truly realize the bizarre world of the 31st century.

The Kickstarter is almost 40% of the way there after a little over a week and still going strong. Whatever reason you have for not backing BoHM, never mind the bollocks and forget your holiday in the sun! Make a submission to our pretty (oh so pretty) product if you want to be anarchy! God Save the Queen!