Sometimes revisiting and reviving an old project can be as much fun as starting a new one. You instantly know when something still works and wasn’t abandoned because of a lack of fun or future. I Like It Flat is definitely one of those games.
A long time ago in true Brokwerk style Roy and I would go to this all you can eat place and design games. Back then we would still only make mobile and desktop games. We came up with the craziest games like Chocolate Chef Bros, a co-op muppet style arcade game about cooking. We also dreamed up many games that never even saw the light of day. But one was special.
I Like It Flat is one of the few games we really wanted to finish and worked on pretty extensively. But as you might already have guessed from the title we never finished it. Until recently I almost forgot about it. We developed the game initially in Flash (I know), and I was checking old Flash projects I did and it resurfaced. I instantly fell back in love with the game and decided to pick up the scraps myself and remake the game using Construct2, a sort of GameMaker. First let me tell you a little more about the game…
I Like It Flat is an infinite arcade style game where you operate three crushers with which you need to crush objects. The more objects you crush the higher your score will be. It sounds simple and it is. But I wouldn’t be me if it ended there, so I came up with a modular power system. The idea is whenever you crush and object perfectly center you get a Nut. With those Nuts you can activate powers for you next run. Each power has an single effect which ranges from slowing down the tracks, turing the game black and white, or doubling your crusher size. You can activate as many powers as you like.
This is where the real fun starts. Let me give an example. There is a power called Hyper Mode, what this power does is whenever you tap a lane to activate the crusher it automatically activates all other crushers. Super handy you would say because you don’t have to hit the right lane. BUT! Everytime you crush the speed of the tracks increase so now, every crush you don’t increase the speed once, but increase the speed 3 times. Ah! So you might also want to activate the SlowIncrease power to half the increase of speed every crush. And that is where the true modularity of the power system shines.
This doesn’t just apply to gamaplay it also creates cool effects you can experiment with. One power is called Color Swap, what this power does is everytime you crush it changes the background color. A pretty cool looking effect, but combine it with Hyper Mode and every crush you change every tracks color. And that is just the beginning there are many more cool effects to play around with.
I am working hard to launch I Like It Flat as soon as possible. At first only on the Google Play store but if it makes a little proffit I will buy an developers license and release on IOs as well.
Stay tuned for updates and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter for updates. Let me know in the comments what powers you would add to I Like It Flat!
Big News! Voting has begun for the Solo Game Design Challenge of the Game Crafter and my game Tomb Roller is in the list!
As you might know I’ve entered a game design competition on the Game Crafter website to design a solo board game. The competition just closed and they need to narrow the entries down from 42 to just 20! Of Course I’m hoping Tomb Roller will be one of those 20! You can check out more about Tomb Roller here.
Voting is done by community voting. Which means you do need a Game Crafter account and spend 10 crafter points to vote. So if you have some crafter points lying around come help support me and cast a vote for Tomb Roller here;
Even wat anders in Behind the Tabeltop! Gister had ik 20 vragen gepost over tabeltop games en game design en vandaag beantwoord ik ze zelf op de podcast!
20 vragen over mijn gaming habits en design dromen. Van werken bij Wizards, dobbelstenen, dobbelstenen, dobbelstenen tot het re-skinnen van X-wing tot destruction derby game… Wat zouden jullie antwoorden? Laat het ons weten!
En zoals beloofd in de description Mark Rosewaters GDC talk
I was searching for something to talk about on my Podcast when I stumbled upon an old interview I did when I was just starting out in the games industry. Inspired I figured it would be cool to make my own version of it about tabletop games and game design. Answer the questions in the comments or share it on social media, I’d love to read your answers!
I thought it would be nice to get to know the tabletop (design) community in a different way. On the next episode of Behind the Tabletop (which will air Friday) I will be answering these questions myself as well. For now I will post them here and on social media, and I want to encourage all you tabletop gamers out there to have a crack at it and share your answers! If all goes well it might even inspire more of these interviews on the podcast! So without further a do…
The Behind the Tabletop Interview
What’s your favorite game right now/of all time?
What’s a game you love that you wish you designed/worked on?
What is your favorite type of game to play?
Which game would you say you have spend the most time on?
What type of games do you hate playing, and why?
Do you rather play with or against other people?
What is the #1 game on your wish-list right now?
What does your “buying a new game”-process look like?
If you could only save 3 games from your collection, which would you save?
What is your most memorable gaming moment?
What is your favorite game component?
Do you have a designer role model? if so who is it and why him/her?
What would be your favorite type of game to design?
What is your all time favorite mechanic, and why?
If you could re-theme a game, which game would it be and with what theme?
What do you dislike most about designing or playing games?
You get the chance to redesign any game. Which would it be and what would you change?
If you could design a game for a specific (type of) person, who would it be and why?
What was the last “thing” (this could be anything really) that inspired you to make a game of your own?
It feels a little weird to write an article about motivation while I myself struggle to create. Or does that make me an expert? I have been offline for a while… There weren’t any new podcasts and articles, and though I finished a game (Tomb Roller, more on that later) I had trouble focusing and staying motivated. Lots of things happened, and with Roy working on Cavemen Stories I was at it alone. I found myself more often on the couch then behind the tabletop (see what I did there). But why? And more importantly what did I do about it?
Creating as a hobby/side gig is a lot of fun. You get to do what you love and make your dream projects come true. But let’s not forget making dreams come true is also a lot of hard work.
Whether you are creating a podcast, a blog, a vlog, games or whatever, staying motivated when life happens can be challenging. Whether it’s because of the kids, because of work, school or illness, sometimes you just can’t get yourself to create. For me that used to lead to feeling guilty about not working on my projects and living up to expectations (which I usually created myself!).
And yes I said used to, because that’s the first thing I did, letting go. The funny thing is, it’s ok. We get so hung up on being “a indie developer” or whatever, we easily forget it’s ok to take a break sometimes. I learned a long time ago that getting worked up and convincing yourself you have to create gets you nowhere. For me doing just that leads to failure and frustrations, which results in me being less motivated! Working hastily and without focus, just to “work”, never did anyone any good. You will find when you take a break and (really) focus on other things you might learn a thing or two or get inspired in a weird way. In the end for me it’s the quickest way to get my head back into the game.
Motivation also has a lot to do with purpose and drive, hence your “motivation to do something”. It’s good when life has you down, to reflect upon why you’re doing what you’re doing. For me motivation often comes from realizing why I create, not from me having to. I love sharing experiences, ideas, and knowledge about game design, and in doing so I want other people to get inspired. That I guess is my purpose. Of course your second question should always be “does that make me happy?” If the answer is no, odds are motivating yourself will keep getting harder and harder.
But purpose can also come from the smaller things in life. I mentioned Tomb Roller in the intro. It’s a game I made for a game design competition (more on that later), and actually managed to finish in the past couple of weeks. Doing this competition was a surprisingly fun experience. Because of the smaller time frame and clear goal it also was really motivating. So when motivation was low finding some “casual commitment” did the trick. I can imagine collaborating, or doing a challenge on your favorite forum will have the same effect.
And what do you know I even wrote a new article! These are just some really simple ways to find motivation. But I would love to hear how you get back on the horse when life happens? Let me know in the comments!
Deze week hebben we het in Behind the Tabletop over het design van Roy zijn RPG en pixel-meesterwerk Cavemen Stories!
Behind the Tabletop maakt een kleine uitstap naar de wereld van de indie video games, en wel naar Roy zijn eigen game Cavemen Stories. Cavemen Stories is een “Prehistoric role playing game with a tactical twist”. Roy vertelt ons alles over de game, het design process en de mechanics. Roy is nog hard bezig dus als je op de hoogte wil blijven volg dan @CavemenStories op twitter!
The very first episode of the Behind the Tabletop podcast is a fact! Behind the Tabletop is a dutch podcast about tabletop game design and more. In this episode Roy and I discuss Star Wars Legion and it’s mechanics.
Our very first podcast is a fact! A very weird and awkward experience recording a conversation like this. Something that will definitely get better over time as we slowly find our voice and focus! In this episode we talk about the mechanics of Star Wars Legion and how/why they work. We make comparisons with other games, and discuss how Legion breaks open the genre of miniature wargames. A side note for our international fans, for now the podcast will be in dutch. Over time, it is our intention to start podcasting in English. Be sure to leave a comment or like and let us know what you think!
A good rule book can make the heart of any game designer beat faster. Keeping rules clear and to the point however is a difficult task. Nevertheless, the greats of the industry such as Fantasy Flight Games have upped their level of teaching their games. But what makes a good rule-book great?
You won’t always personally be around to teach and explain your game, so your rules or rule-book will serve as the gateway to your game. You want your reader to easily understand and grasp the concepts of your game so they can have the experience you designed for them. This arguably makes your rule-book one of the most important elements of your game. If your player doesn’t make it through your rules because they are poorly written they can’t play your game!
A rule-book is a strange thing. It doesn’t only teach your game but also serves as a reference. So it needs to be clear, engaging, and structured. Taking all I have learned from writing design documents and rules, and the greats of the industry, I tried to look at what makes a good rule-book great. To write good rules you need to follow the rules.
A moment for Clarity
Because clarity is at the heart of getting any point across, it is the most important rule of all. Keeping your rules clear and to the point might seem like an obvious thing to bring up, but I have seen many instances where this goes wrong. Now, keeping it “clear and to the point” is a broad concept so let me break it down.
You should always assume your reader is unfamiliar with your game and has never read your rules before. Therefore, every concept, rule, and exception is a new one. To prevent confusion and the need for your reader to backtrack or skip ahead, try not to explain more then one concept in one section. Keep in mind a “concept” does not necessarily mean one rule. Think of a concept as “movement” or “actions” etc.
Consistency is key. Before you start writing your rules, write down a full list with your terminology. This ensures you keep referring to the different elements of your game with consistency throughout your rule book. In the end this also ensures each player has the same vocabulary, making it easier to talk about your game and reference the rules.
Your rules are not your story. I love adding flavor to a game, but your rules are not the place to do so. Especially when your rule-book also serves as a reference you don’t want players to read through pages of fluff and descriptive story to get to the essence of a rule. Try and write your rules, using normal language and in plain english (or any other language). This by any means doesn’t mean your rule-book has to be boring. You could (and should!) incorporate story elements, like comics or short stories in between you rules. When you do try and make them distinctive and easily (visually) separable from your actual rules.
Frame that game
To help your reader better interpret and understand what they are about to read you should provide your readers with a frame of reference or context. Before you start spewing rules briefly explaining the setting, genre and story of your game. Simply put, tell them about your game and what they can expect when playing it. This wil help your reader form a mental picture of what your game is, and what its about. Is it a game about an epic war between two huge armies or a game about buying and selling vegetables. Drawing on a readers own understanding of your subjects can help them grasp more complex concepts with more ease. Reading about hyper jumps and lasers should make much more sense when you know you are reading about a science fiction game.
However, be cautious to make any assumptions based on the information you provide. You should always assume your reader is unfamiliar with your game, your games genre and has never read your rules before. Don’t get to hung up on comments from gamers complaining they already know half of the things you explain. You are not just making your rule-book for the avid gamer, but also for new players!
To help a reader understand your rules it’s a good idea to start zoomed out, looking at your game on a macro level, providing topics and concepts one by one. Where possible try to capture what would be needed to teach it in it’s most basic form. Right away you can omit thing like rare exceptions, and complex alternative situations. After the birds eye view you can zoom in and explain the details and exceptions. Doing so, just like framing your game, will help your reader grasp more complex detailed rules with more ease because they have a basic understanding of the broader concepts.
But what do you explain first? What can help is looking at your game in terms of player actions. What is the first thing they do? Usually, setting up the game. Start there. What are the next steps a player has to take? What is the action they will most likely do first? Move a figure? Roll a dice? Draw cards? List all these steps and try to group them logically by type. For instance keeping different “actions” a player can take together. You are then likely to have a pretty good flow of how to structure your rules.
Teaching your Game
A rule-book is a list of all your rules, but how they combine and interact with each other to form your game can be hard for some people to imagine. Often I catch myself saying, “We’ll just play it and you’ll get it”, or “I’ll go first and show you what to do” when explaining a game. And for a good reason. We humans are designed to learn from mimicking, coping and imitating behavior and actions. This is off-course why we love watching video’s of games being played and teaching us how they are played. So how can we make our rule-book a teacher and not just a list of rules?
The first step is, like in the rule-book from Cephalofair Games’ Gloomhaven, to use “Examples of Play”. An example of play is an step-by-step description, often augmented with images, of how a certain element, phases or mechanic plays out in your game. In a way examples of play work the same as someone showing you how a games work. They often omit why something is done and focus more on how something is done. Off course the why should be clearly explained in the rules.
Learn to Play
But you can take an example of play one step further. A good trend are the separate “learn to play” and “rule reference” books. Something Fantasy Flight Games executes very well. A learn to play book takes a player by the hand guiding them through their very first play through. Sometimes even listing what actions to take and how to perform them. Again Fantasy Flight Games included a Learn to Play book with their most recent release of the new miniature wargame Star Wars Legion. In the book they really focused on conveying the true basics of the game, before adding more complicated rules. Leaving out rules (such as line of sight) many other wargames would consider most basic. The book provided an easy and accessible way of playing the game which was just as enjoyable as the full game, but much easier to get into!
If this bold move teaches us anything it is to not be afraid to omit what seem important concepts or elements if it helps to teach your game. Rather then drown readers in complicated rules and systems taking them ages to get going, start simple and add rules later. Remember, guiding a players first steps (for instance by using a learn to play) will ensure players have a good first experience with your game. Always get them playing as soon as possible!
Show don’t tell
Some elements of your game can be hard to explain, but are easy to visualise. Try using images whenever you can. Images can greatly improve the clarity of your rules and honestly make a rule-book look a whole lot more interesting. As a rule of thumb, if you catch yourself visually describing an element of your game, consider showing an image of it instead. Use annotations and explanations where appropriate to elaborate on any images. Keep in mind images also make for easy references. Referencing an image is much easier then reading a whole section trying to figure out where a specific thing is located on a component.
And don’t forget the visual component list… A basic but whenever you can, show a list of your components and their names. Whenever a player is looking for the “flumple” token, he or she will know what it looks like.
Test it out!
Don’t just test your game, also test your rules. The only way to test if your rules are clear is to let someone with no experience of your game read them! Get some test readers by posting your rules on forums like Board Game Geek. Setup a test session where you let people read your rules and explain them back to you or play your game. Then observe what concepts or actions are unclear. Don’t be afraid to re-write!
Let your game teach your game?
This whole article has been focused on writing rules and thus teaching your game with a rule-book. Another interesting approach is letting your game teach your game. In the videogame industry this is off course already widely implemented leading to the death of the instruction booklet. Nowadays each videogame features some sort of tutorial, tutorial world, or learn by doing feature. In my next article I’ll give my views on how this can be achieved for tabletop games!
For now thank you for reading and let me know in the comments what your tips would have for designers struggling with their rules!