Game Design

Cultural Concepts as Principles of Design - by Justin Reeve Blogs - 7 November 2018 - 8:27am
What makes Breath of the Wild uniquely Japanese? This article examines how cultural concepts can be used to guide game design.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Sharebait drives surge in Facebook Instant Games - by Conor O'Nolan Blogs - 7 November 2018 - 8:25am
In the second half of October Facebook’s Instant games platform has seen a huge surge in users, and it’s down to one extraordinary sharebait app. OMG, from Supergene Inc. has surged from 31,000 users on October 19 to 58m daily users in just 17 days.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Conflict0: Revolution - Designing an Intelligent Artificial Intelligence  - by Gabriel Padinha Blogs - 7 November 2018 - 7:43am
This post cover through the lens of a game designer the way we created a fun to interact with Artificial Intelligence in our last turn-based strategy title.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

My Time at Telltale Games - by Larry&Brandon GDU Blogs - 7 November 2018 - 7:42am
I worked QA at Telltale games during Tales from the Borderlands, Game of Thrones, and Minecraft. I was a regular QA tester, and it was my first job in the industry.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Psycho Tricks of the Game Designer - by Thomas Johnson Blogs - 7 November 2018 - 7:14am
We are all being manipulated!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Troy’s Crock Pot: If You’re Gonna Fail, Fail Spectacularly

Gnome Stew - 7 November 2018 - 1:02am

I was recently invited to a friend’s house to take part in their playtest of the second edition of Pathfinder RPG.

The first week went fine.  Gameplay quickly revealed that my player character —  Spindle, a gnome bard — had little affinity for the shortbow he was carrying.

It was hardly surprising. Singing and inspiration were his hallmarks.

If Spindle’s arrows went ker-plunk, that was to be expected. He was a first-level character, after all.

The following week I arrived determined to emphasize Spindle’s bardic skills. One problem — the player with the dwarf fighter couldn’t make it. I looked at the player with the rogue, and he looked back at me. Then we both looked at the druid and the wizard.  For this night’s play, our characters would be the melee combatants?

OK Johnny, rosin up that bow …

But this isn’t a story about how our misfit band of spellcasters prevailed in a dungeon designed to test the ruleset — although that did happen. It’s really about me rolling spectacularly bad, owning those rolls in the moment, and incorporating that into the role-play.

Spindle’s first d20 attack roll of the night was a 1.

It appeared to be a continuation of Spindle’s record of near- and not-so-near misses.

So be it.

As a player you can throw a pout, get angry at the die, curse, or demonstrate your displeasure in any number of ways.

Or, you can scoop up the die and describe how spectacularly bad that arrow shot was.

I chose the latter. (If I was GMing, it’s what I hope my players do.)

It was a move that paid off.

Not by getting better rolls, but by continuing to roll poorly and bringing those fails to life with energy and interaction that other players could feed off of.

Spindle offers to assist the rogue attempting to disable the trap by holding back a distracting gate.


Spindle searches for the key to the locked chest.


Spindle attempts to climb the rope to reach the ledge.


Spindle makes a skill check.


And with each 1, Spindle was coming alive at the table. With every miss, his personality emerged. Admittedly, he wasn’t contributing to the general welfare of the party — which could have used a nice solid attack roll. But I was getting to know Spindle, and so were the other players.

Hands jittery and nervous hovered over the quiver. Reaching in, they shook so badly he knocked two or three arrows out for each one he withdrew.

He might be a hapless, inept bowman, but he was my hapless, inept bowman. And that’s what the table got to experience. A gnome that was out of his league, out of his element, off-balance … perhaps, even a liability.

Spindle renewed his attack and almost tossed another 1, but the die stopped on the seam in the table … hovered at 1 … but then teetered onto 19. Clearly, that shot ricocheted past the target, bounced off the back wall and got the goblin on the rebound. Something like that.

With that, I sensed I was in for a change of fortune, so I switched gears.

“Enough!” Spindle declared, tossing down the bow. He drew out the rapier, tossed magic missile and true strike at the boss opponent and was suddenly back on offense.

I have written in a GS post before about the importance of the GM taking roleplay cues from dice results.  

But having a player do it is important, too.  Probably moreso than relying on the GM to shoulder the burden. When four players around the table are riffing off their dice rolls, the narration sizzles. The rogue takes poison from the needle trap, and despite the illness and the loss of hit points refuses to retreat. The druid steps up into the fight, slicing at her foe with her scimitar. The wizard calls forth lightning, but it fizzles out, doing only 1 point of damage. Oops.

Unlike a stage play, an rpg session doesn’t have a script.

But it does have lines, of a sort, and they are revealed with each toss of the dice. Hit those cues and you’ll have a session to remember.


Categories: Game Theory & Design

The RPGnet Interview: Joseph A. McCullough, Rangers of Shadow Deep

RPGNet - 7 November 2018 - 12:00am
A talk with the author of Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Payday 2 is responsible for 62% of Starbreeze's Q3 sales

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 6 November 2018 - 11:26am

The 2013 heist game continues to be a major earner for Starbreeze, bringing in a total of 20.9 million during the company's latest quarter. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Just Dance 2019 under fire for advertising paid subscription in 'Kids Mode'

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 6 November 2018 - 9:57am

An online complaint from a parent has prompted Ubisoft to apologize for how it advertises songs locked behind a paid subscription when the game is in "Kids Mode." ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Rogue's Run

New RPG Product Reviews - 6 November 2018 - 2:16am
Publisher: Gamer Printshop
Rating: 3
An review

This module, billed as an extended one-shot (or two-shot) clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 65 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

All righty, first things first: If you’re looking for a one-shot for 7th level, this module can easily be condensed to be a smaller module, should you choose to do that; it’s also important to note that about ½ the page-count of this pdf deals with supplemental material. This may sound like much, but in this case, it generally should e considered to be a plus, as it does offer depth if you choose to dive a bit deeper – at least in theory.

The module does sport well-written read-aloud text for your convenience.

All righty, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. I will denote the end of the SPOILER-section further below, as the supplement does contain a ton of supplemental materials we should discuss. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.



All right, only GMs around? Great! The pdf assumes that the PCs are trader-smugglers/for hire with their own Medium starship (the Jack of Diamonds, as an example for the like, should your PCs have none, is provided with full plans and pictures!), and the basic premise is a pretty simple one: The PCs are to pick up goods and deliver them from frosty Niflheim, a mining planet to Port Carthage, which is a rather notorious pirate haven – somewhat akin to Freeport in space, if you will.

We thus join the PCs as they can explode the icy outpost Hvergelmir (including a fully-mapped inn/tavern, player-friendly, I might add!), and as a plus, their contact gets stats. These are incorrect in a variety of ways, but thankfully, they probably won’t impact the game and should be considered to be optional.

Anyhow, the issue of the smuggling is as follows: Hostilities between the MegaCorps and Port Carthage’s pirates have recently escalated, and a corporate navy has basically created a huge dimensional lock-like effect to prevent Drift access as part of the blockade of Port Carthage. Thus, it’s up to the PCs to engage in some old-school, pre-Drift smuggling via the old smuggler’s route, the eponymous Rogue’s Run. Exiting Drift near the begin of the notorious route will have an Adam 12 sector-police patrol (fully mapped and statted) on the PC’s trail. Two statblocks for the police are provided, and the good news is that they are more precise than those provided in the appendices (more on that later); they do have a couple of glitches and lack plusses for skills, and equipment/damage values for melee attacks. In fact, they don’t seem to have melee weapons. Oddly, all seem to have awards for heroism as per the morale line. They seem to have been built with PC-rules, but regardless of whether you look at them with PC-rules or NPC-rules, there are serious glitches here. If correct statblocks matter for you, then this will have you grit your teeth. (As written, they, as level 6 and 8, can be mowed down by PCs without much hassle.) No values are provided to bribe/fool the police.

Now, the first part of the route would be the Hellgate – passing it will take a tool – 1 Hit Point…and on a failed Fort-save after the journey, that loss will be permanent! OUCH! Pretty epic, though: exiting the portal of pulsing flames will have the PCs immediately facing a minefield and a centurion class mine laying vessel – passing the field may rock the vessel, but soon thereafter, the PCs can witness the sight of the Sisters – twin black holes…and, to make matters worse, the minefield#s rocky ride has caused a crate to burst open – and now a crazed assembly ooze is on the loose in the ventilation system! Corralling it into a trap can make for one cool mini-game – and yes, ventilation system maps for the ship are provided! The PCs will also be seen by a star-eater nymph, a ginormous thing that may take the ship for a morsel. It may be dissuaded with some pain, though.

Easily my favorite encounter of the whole module would pertain the Sisters. Their Event horizons spin in opposite clockwise direction – and they can, when timed properly, act as basically a horrid super-catapult. Personally, I made timing this a proper mini-game where the PCs could show their knowledge, and then handed out the cool diagram for passing them as a reward-handout of sorts. I think that this encounter could have used a bit more mechanical meat on its bones. Arriving near Port Carthage, the PCs are contacted by the Cyberian, obviously a pirate vessel, which requests their aid triangulating an out-of-phase corp ship that may be responsible for the Drift-blockade.

Arrival at port carthage will show that the PCs have not been the only ones dealing with crazed oozes, and indeed, the PCs will get a chance to impress the Baroness of Port Carthage in a final conflict with a more…massive ooze, potentially starting a promising career as smugglers/space pirates!


The first of the aforementioned appendix-sections details the Kronusverse, the implied setting that was introduced in “Dead in Space” – I welcomed the brief introduction provided within, since I don’t yet own that massive book. The ideas presented are pretty interesting: Earth, turns out, is actually a sentient plant, who proceeded to receive an ultimatum from the being now dubbed Kronus, who pronounced a 1-decade countdown: After that, it would destroy any remnants of mankind left on it. Thankfully, humanity had already taken to the stars. After that, the underclass)es) sought freedom from the reign of the MegaCorps and ventured forth into what is now known Colonial Space, to differentiate it from Corporate Space. (Odd here: The first sentence of this section is printed twice.) Beyond even the frontier of Colonial Space lies the stretch, as of now the true frontier of humanity exploring space.

The second appendix gives us a summary o Port carthage (bonus points if you quote Cicero), a station salvaging vessel built into the shell of an asteroid, the slowly turned into basically a planetoid-sized station with the help of assembly oozes. Led by Admiral Baroness Ching Shi as a constitutional monarchy, where your profession and standing determines the amount of votes you get. A kind of pirate constitutional monarchy, if you will. Pretty cool: We not only get more detailed descriptions, we also get a fully mapped version of Port Carthage, with a separate pdf for full one-page-sized maps as well. Indeed, as always with Gamer Printshop, the map-support is extraordinary: The pdf comes with no less than 6 (!!) bonus pdfs containing read-to-print maps. Only one of them, the Outpost Hvergelmir, does have somewhat jarring labels on it – the other ones all could be printed and used as hand-out-style maps, if you want. For me, that is a huge plus.

The pdf does come with 5 pregens, though it should be noted that the formatting of this pregen presentation is very busy and cluttered – it makes more sense to take a sheet and fill them in. Plusses are missing before skills, attributes lack modifiers in brackets, and so on. Spells are not formatted correctly, etc. Personally, these made me twitch and I’ll pretend that they’re not here. Yeah, sorry, but the formatting’s that messy.

Unfortunately, this extends to the next appendix, at least to a degree – here major NPCs (Including a really nice 1-page artwork of Baroness Ching Shi) are provided with full stats. Or rather, half stats. The good new first, the stats are easier to read than those of the pregens – they are not as cluttered and messy. Good news: They generally seem to adhere, for the most part, to the monster/NPC-creation guidelines presented in the Alien Archive, at least when it comes to the basics. Alas, e.g. mastered skills and good skills do not check out for the CRs, offensive/defensive/other abilities are not correctly assigned, there are not enough Languages noted, attack bonuses don’t check out, there is no gear noted and the attack values note BABs that are not correct for the CR-values. Not even remotely. A level 19 envoy notes +23 for melee, +29 for ranged attacks. The Envoy class graft requires the expert base array, and this one clearly states +31 for the high, +29 for the low atk value. No damage or weaponry is given, so you basically look at something like that: “Melee +23”. That’s the entirety. Perception also is nonstandard throughout. There are only 3 of these statblocks, but try as I might, I can only describe them with one word: WRONG.

Thankfully, the author seems to have taken a much closer look regarding the details when it comes to the new ship bays like the assembly ooze reprogramming bay, the asteroid processor, etc., as well as landing claws, an ooze system one-use enhancement – these are genuinely cool and interesting and some armor augmentations from the Starships, Stations and Salvage Guide are reprinted here as well. Alas, the table does lack bay, PCU and BP-costs for ship mines. The entry’s there, just not the proper values – but then, this may be intentional, as their cost is based on capital tracking weaponry and a flexible means of calculating cost. Still, having the full information here would have been nice.

The pdf also includes a section of personal equipment and these tend to be interesting – there, for example, would be a heavy multi tool spanner, which is a cool visual indeed. However, skill-references don’t capitalize them properly, and it does deviate from standards in a couple of ways: For one, the table does not note bulk, requiring the reference of the text. Secondly, add-ons are a lower level than the weapon, which is odd. I am pretty sure that the base damage should be “B”, not “A”, as there is an acid-add-on…which does “B” damage. *sigh* These add-ons are a cool idea, allowing for flexibility. Alas, they don’t state how the critical effects are supposed to interact. I’m pretty sure the item’s melee should not have “explode” as a critical effect. This one really hurt me, as I really like the idea, but the implementation is pretty rough. Not unusable, but it does require some serious fixing by the GM to work in a precise manner.

The two vessels, the CCN Dido and the Geode Survey Rig 23 (with images from the outside for both and full maps for the Geode Survey Rig 23) are tighter, thankfully. (We don’t get tier-ratings for either, though. Five further ships are provided, and we get two more full-page pictures of them, which is rather neat.

The next appendix presents the space pirate base class, who gets 6 Hit Points, 6 + Constitution modifier Stamina per level, 6 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, Charisma as key ability modifier and proficiency in light armor, basic and advanced melee weapons, small arms, long arms and grenades, ¾ BAB-progression and good Reflex and Will-saves. (As an aside: In the table, the “Will” word at the column’s header seems to have drifted to the class abilities.) The class adds a class skill every level (!!), and every other level, you get +1 to that skill. Okay…shouldn’t that, I don’t know, be a free rank or something like that? The ability also contradicts itself, suddenly stating that, at 13th level, you get a second class skill, when RAW, at this point, you’d have already received +12 class skills! The class also receives a unique weapon, which uses the highest attribute modifier (!!) to atk and which receives a fusion equal to the class level and may be used in conjunction with trick attacks at 9th level. Guess who RAW does not receive trick attacks? Bingo. The space pirate. The class comes with an array of talents, tricks of all trades, which basically poach from other classes in some cases. Rules-language and formatting is inconsistent. This class does not operate properly RAW and would have been better off as an archetype. The section also includes a theme, which, at 12th level, lets you take a gear boost, envoy improvisation, mechanic trick or operatives edge. Wait. The latter is a fixed ability. Should that be exploit?? It should also specify that prerequisites other than those contingent on class abilities should still be met.

The bestiary chapter is more interesting – here, we get an vessel-sized assembly ooze (including starship assembly/disassembly-rules), which is pretty neat. If you’re very particular about monsters adhering strictly to the values proposed in the Alien Archive, you may be irked to see that the creatures herein do deviate from the standard values. However, on the plus side, formatting here, while not perfect, is MUCH better than the mess we witnessed for the NPCs and pregens, and from control cube oozes to crazed ones, we get some interesting fellows here.


Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level. When it comes to rules-integrity and consistency, I unfortunately can’t claim the same. There is no nice way to say this, so here goes: There is not a single correct statblock herein; some have glitches so blatant you can see them at a single, cursory glance. The rules-integrity of non-statblock related components is also quite compromised in a couple of cases. If you’re picky about correct rules, then consider yourself to be warned. Layout adheres to a crisp and neat 2-column full-color standard and the artworks range from really nice to a bit goofy. The big formal plus, as far as I’m concerned, would be the cartography: If something even tangentially shows up, you’ll have full-color maps. Ships get depictions that show them from the outside, and maps for each floor; even tangentially relevant settlements get detailed full-color maps…it’s really impressive, and the maps come as pdfs as well and are player-friendly. That is a HUGE plus as far as I’m concerned, and depending on your priorities, may be enough to warrant checking out this module. The pdf also comes with extensive bookmarks that render navigation comfortable.

Michael Tumey’s “Rogue’s Run” is a module that has me torn: The angle of engaging in an old-school pre-Drift smuggling run is really cool, and the complications are interesting, to say the least. It is by design a linear experience, yes, but it is a linear experience that knows how to make the encounters feel exciting: From the first step on Rogue’s Run to the end, I was reminded of an episode of Firefly or Cowboy Bebop, and I mean that as a huge compliment. The encounters, even in the instances where they are mechanically not too exciting, do *feel* exciting – the ideas presented here are fun and evocative and the module can be a really exciting experience. The writing side of things is pretty darn cool, and if I were to rate this only on the merits of its ideas and vistas, it’d get a definite recommendation.

If, on the other hand, I’d solely rate this on the merits of its design-components, I’d have to tell you to steer clear. The rules-issues are pronounced and require serious GM-work to fix the statblocks. The crunch of the supplemental material, from the broken class to the half-way done NPC-statblocks, is, alas, a mess. It’s a mess that you thankfully (for the most part) don’t need to run the module. Still, were this a crunch-book and not a module, It’d, at the very best, would get a 2-star rating. This was in desperate need of a critical eye of a system-savvy editor.

So, how the heck should I rate this? I’ve mulled over the final verdict longer than for a pretty significant of modules I’ve covered. If you don’t mind the editing and formatting glitches, and if the cartography is something that’s important to you, then you may well check this out! It has its merits! On the other hand, if you want go-play and incorrect rules-language irks you, then you may want to give this a pass. Since almost half the page-count of the module is devoted to appendices of dubious rules-integrity, I’ve considered rating this to account for this component, but on the other hand, the massive amount of maps does offset this, value-wise, even if you ignore the majority of this part of the pdf. Hence, I chose to rate this primarily with a focus on its integrity as a module.

I can see folks really getting into the flavor and cool environments – I can see this working as a good module; similarly, I can see folks utterly loathing this for its flaws. I mulled it over time and again, and ultimately, my official final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded up – without the cool maps, it’d have been 2.5, rounded down, but they and the per se neat environments do have the potential to really enhance the experience for some folks. If rules-integrity is important to you, then consider this to be 2 stars instead.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Advanced Designers & Dragons: A Look at Art & Arcana

RPGNet - 6 November 2018 - 12:00am
The newest D&D history book is a visual masterpiece.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Horror survival game The Forest has sold over 5.3 million copies

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 5 November 2018 - 11:34am

Endnight Games†™ survival game The Forest has sold over 5.3 million copies in four years, a milestone that comes just ahead of the game†™s PlayStation 4 release this week. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

It's time to re-think A/B testing - by Viktor Gregor Blogs - 5 November 2018 - 6:53am
Using Bayesian statistic, we completely changed our approach to A/B testing. We can now test faster and get more actionable results. Instead of p-values that are so often misinterpreted we directly get the answers needed to make an informed decision.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The process of remaking the UI art for Conflict0: Revolution - by Ricardo Bess Blogs - 5 November 2018 - 6:43am
This post presents the process behind the remaking of the UI art for Conflict0:Revolution.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: Diablo's Deltarune... To The Stars?

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 5 November 2018 - 6:21am

This week's highlights include the top news from Blizzcon around Diablo and other devilish titles, Toby Fox's Deltarune & his radical transparency, and Marty O'Donnell talking 'The Music Of The Spheres'. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

PixelFest 2018, David Hernly (Starship Horizons, Mythric Mystery Master) - by Jeremy Alessi Blogs - 5 November 2018 - 5:49am
David Hernly is a long-time indie game developer focused on a combination of hardware control systems and starship simulations. Somehow, his journey has taken him to the escape room space? Watch to learn more!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Rapid XR Content Creation, from Reallusion, Pixologic and Noitom to Unity - by Gaspar Ferreiro Blogs - 5 November 2018 - 5:48am
A super-fast and easy way to prototype animated characters for Unity, using Reallusion, ZBrush and other common tools.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Multi-Platform VR takes a bold new step with the Mixed Reality Toolkit beta launch - by Simon Jackson Blogs - 5 November 2018 - 5:48am
Reimaging and redeveloped from the ground up in to a true multi-platform / Multi-vr framework, the Mixed Reality Toolkit releases it's first stable beta. Enabling Mixed Reality experiences with the least amount of effort to get started.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Life is Strange and the Power of Subplots - by Nicole Barelli Blogs - 5 November 2018 - 5:47am
This article discusses the function of subplots inside the structure of a story - only by understanding it we can decide if it really improves our narrative or exists only as decoration.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

AI detecting player from vision using camera and shaders - by Kévin Drure Blogs - 5 November 2018 - 5:46am
In this post I will explain how I gave my AI a real vision using a camera and a compute shader to detect player with more accuracy than ray casts.
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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