Game Design

Industry experts worry some esports orgs are overvalued and headed for trouble

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 18 December 2018 - 1:08pm

Esports team owners and professionals are reportedly convinced that many organizations are overvalued, and because of that, a market correction is looming on the horizon.  ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

A German regulator is taking Nintendo to court over eShop preorder policies

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 18 December 2018 - 12:24pm

The German Consumer Protection Authority (VZBV) is taking Nintendo to court over Nintendo's digital preorder policies, specifically over the strict rule that eShop preorders cannot be canceled. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Battlefield 5 is having trouble balancing for both new and experienced players

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 18 December 2018 - 11:12am

Battlefield 5 developer EA Dice has rolled back a recent change to the game†™s †œtime to kill† (TTK) after the earlier alteration skewed the game's multiplayer difficulty in favor of newer players a little too much. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

20 tips when applying for a junior artist position - by Herve Piton Blogs - 18 December 2018 - 6:41am
Some pieces of advice I would have liked to receive when I was fresh out of school and applying for junior artist positions.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Putting into play - by Katarina Gyllenback Blogs - 18 December 2018 - 6:40am
"Putting into play" is about how our thinking works when putting the thoughts into play towards a desired goal in the making of an engaging and dynamic game system.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

How Games take the Player through The Hero’s Journey: Part 2 – Initiation - by Caleb Compton Blogs - 18 December 2018 - 6:40am
Last week I began a series on video games and the Hero's Journey. The first part covered the first section of the journey, known as departure. This week is part 2 of 3, and covers the second portion - initiation.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Agile Game Development process for Indies - by Fabio Ferrara Blogs - 18 December 2018 - 6:38am
In this post I would like to talk about the game development process we've acutally used during the last years for our games (in this case Agile).
Categories: Game Theory & Design

A Wicked Manifesto: Why Atomic Heart’s Existence Is Crucial In An Age of Strife - by Michel Sabbagh Blogs - 18 December 2018 - 6:37am
Bethesda Softworks alumnus Michel Sabbagh takes a gander at the current state of art in trying times and how Mundfish's Atomic Heart reminds creative industries of the indispensability of tonal/thematic juxtaposition.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Repetition vs. Repetitiveness. - by arne neumann Blogs - 18 December 2018 - 6:36am
A look into what it takes for a video game activity to be accepted by the player as part of the fun, even though it in itself might be an extremely monotonous activity.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Game Characters - by Brandon Franklin Blogs - 18 December 2018 - 6:35am
This post explored the ideal game character that leverages interactivity to its fullest. I explore the recent history, the current state, and some reasons populating game worlds can lead to better player experiences.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Improv for Gamers Review

Gnome Stew - 18 December 2018 - 5:00am

No matter how well planned out an RPG session might be, it’s hard to argue the need for improvisation. Some of the most prevalent jokes about running games deal with the degree to which the players do the unexpected.

But even considering that game moderators often have to roll with the changes offered to them by their players, players utilize improvisation even more frequently than game moderators. Many game sessions are predicated on the GM introducing situations for which the players cannot plan.

Because of this, it seems that improvisation is a skill that almost any gamer would benefit from sharpening. While modern games often contain more advice and tools for improvisation than older games, there aren’t many books aimed at creating actionable practice models to create a broad base of improvisational skills, with an eye towards tabletop gaming.

A recent release that has game-focused improvisational exercises is the book we are looking at today, Improv for Gamers, published by Evil Hat.

An Object In Space

This review is based on the PDF release of Improv for Gamers. The PDF is 112 pages, with two pages of ads at the end of the product. The PDF is black and white with line illustrations demonstrating several of the exercises introduced in the book.

The various sections include bolded headers, bullet points to explain procedures and call-out boxes to provide more information and context on the various exercises.

What This Book Is 

The opening section of the book is an explanation of how the product came to be, why it might be useful to gamers, and best practices in utilizing the material. Originally developed as a one day workshop for incorporating improv techniques into roleplaying games, it grew into a program presented at conventions, and eventually into a stand-alone guide for running the workshops.

The advice on how to use the book includes a description of the various types of exercises, which include the following:

  • Warmers
  • Yes, And
  • Character
  • Relationships
  • Status
  • Space Objects
  • Timing
  • Scenework

The section then discusses how to pick exercises to use, the procedure to follow after exercises, best practices for making the individual exercises work, and the importance of being kind, positive, and authentic.

Chapter Structure

All of the chapters have a similar structure. They introduce the general goals of the type of exercise, explain the specific details of an exercise, present a bullet-pointed list explaining the process for performing the exercise and may include call-out boxes for tips, and a section for expansion where you may wish to add or change elements of the previously presented exercise.

The explanation for the goals of the exercise often include examples of how the exercises relate back to different situations in roleplaying, so you don’t feel as if you are broadly increasing skills that may come into play at the table, but you can actually evaluate what a particular exercise may help you improve.


Warmers are exercises designed to “break the ice” and get a group ready for doing more detailed exercises later on. Compared with later chapters, this one (understandably) has the least advice on specific table ready applications learned in the exercises.

The exercises in this section include:

  • Pass the Movement
  • Sound Ball
  • Throwing Swords
  • Three Things
  • Hey Fred Schneider!
  • Convergence
  • Go
Yes, and 

These exercises are all centered around participants adding details to a scene, and other participants interacting with those details while adding their own. There is a nice introductory section that discusses the concepts of “yes, and” as well as “yes, but,” “no, but,” and “no, and.” There is also discussion on how to turn down offers that cross lines that you personally have, and that “Yes, and” often exists within an agreed upon setting, which helps establish boundaries.

The sections in this chapter include:

  • The Sliding Scale of “Yes”
  • Yes! Character Building
  • Yes, Because
  • Fortunately/Unfortunately
  • I’m a Tree
  • Tableau

The character chapter is about developing traits and details for a character that make them into a unique person. The focus is more on coming up with small details to build on, rather than deep backstories that don’t address what that person is like in more mundane circumstances. It develops mannerisms and answers questions about how being a certain thing informs reactions to other characters and events.

The sections in this chapter include:

  • Lead with Your Body
  • Been Waiting Long?
  • Conversation Trio
  • Golden Goose

The relationships chapter is about establishing connections with other characters, and finding ways for those relationships to manifest that goes beyond the relationship just being a fact between the two characters. It deals with how characters feel about one another because of those facts, and how that feeling is conveyed to others outside of the relationship.

The sections in this chapter include:

  • You Make Me Feel
  • Classic Cast
  • Work/Home/Play

Status, in the context of this chapter, deals with characters and the state they are in. How do they deal with complications or ongoing troubles, and how can they bring to bear aspects to resolve those troubles or challenges? It also discusses status as an aspect of who has the advantage or the upper hand in a scene, and how that can shift.

The sections in this chapter include:

  • Encouragement Ball
  • Status Numbers
  • Animal Secrets
  • Death in Sixty Seconds
  • Status Shifts
Space Objects

The Space Objects chapter is all about relating to objects in a manner that is compelling for the narrative that is being portrayed. This includes dealing with physical props as if they were the objects that they stand in for, or reacting to objects that do not exist as if they do exist.

The sections in this chapter include:

  • Comparing Objects
  • Giving a Present
  • Yes, Let’s!
  • Touch Three Things

The Timing chapter deals with learning the proper amount of time to spend in a scene, or with particular elements in a scene. It also deals with reaching a pivotal moment in one scene before cutting to another scene, and then back to the original scene.

The sections in this chapter include:

  • Color and Advance
  • Half-Life
  • Clap Clap, Snap Snap
  • Split Screen
  • Coffee Shop

The Scenework chapter deals with longer scenes, where the action in the scene lies, and what to include in the scene. It addresses broadly the concept of “what do you do?” that is the key driving component in roleplaying games.

This chapter is comprised of the following sections:

  • Three-Line Scenes
  • Backstory Scenes
  • Growing and Shrinking
  • Montage

The glossary is a section that is referred to in several of the other chapters, as it describes the terms used throughout the rest of the book. While some of the terms have fairly obvious meaning, there are often specific meanings in the context of improv scenes.

Appendix A through D

Appendix A discusses physical boundaries, emotional well-being, and different hand signals and words that have specific meanings in the context of the improv exercises presented in the book. It also discusses the importance of setting expectations before an exercise and checking in with everyone after the exercise.

Appendix B has page references to some of the call-out boxes that appear throughout the text, as well as assembling lists related to some of the exercises, for things like locations and relationships, to review between exercises, so that people have ideas fresh in their minds when they need random ideas.

Appendix C includes a list of recommended reading materials, broken up into sections that deal with improv in roleplaying games, improv in theatre, and improv in life in general.

Appendix D is a series of recommended games, games that specifically utilize improv elements and may have specific suggestions about using improv in play as well. These include suggestions for tabletop games and live-action games.

Yes, and . . . While many games give specific advice on how to use elements of improv in that specific game, this book has a wide range of exercises that can help build improvisational reflexes, regardless of system. Share17Tweet1+11Reddit1Email

There are a growing number of RPGs that stress improvisational elements, and it is clear that some degree of improvisational skill enhances even the most traditional RPG at times. While many games give specific advice on how to use elements of improv in that specific game, this book has a wide range of exercises that can help build improvisational reflexes, regardless of system. Unlike general advice, the exercises are specifically actionable and have some great insight into how these improvisational skills relate back to gaming.

Yes, but . . .

While I think many gamers will gain some useful insights just from reading this book, the most utility is going to be found by actually working through the exercises. Some gamers may not be comfortable with that, and others may not want to spend the time away from their actual games to develop broader skills. That’s not the fault of the book, but it does make it slightly less of a broad recommendation. There will also be a time investment for the facilitator to determine how many of these exercises to run, which ones to run, and how much time to allot for them.

It is also a minor point, but the Space Objects chapter feels less applicable to most tabletop games that aren’t going to employ props but may still be useful for games that do, as well as for LARPs that may require object interaction.

Qualified Recommendation — A product with lots of positive aspects, but buyers may want to understand the context of the product and what it contains before moving it ahead of other purchases.

If gamers have the time to devote to the exercises, and the willingness to participate in them, I think this book provides a lot of useful content for developing skills that will improve overall RPG enjoyment. Time, coordination, and a willingness to fully engage with the exercises are going to be the most important determining factors.

Do you have a story of a roleplaying session that was better for the improvisation that took place? Do you have any particular techniques or best practices that have helped your gaming group? We would love to hear about them below. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Observations From A Gamer's Chair: Sometimes I Panic with My World Building

RPGNet - 18 December 2018 - 12:00am
When creating a campaign setting gets stressful.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Steam's 'Top Wishlists' filter ranks recent wishlist numbers for unreleased games

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 17 December 2018 - 10:37am

A little-known page on Steam ranks unreleased games according to the number of Wishlists they†™ve garnered so far, though the exact metrics being tracked are still somewhat unclear.  ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

See Blizzard deconstruct Overwatch's social systems at GDC 2019!

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 17 December 2018 - 9:04am

It's a promising talk for those interested in systems design & curbing disruptive player behavior, as you'll learn how & why Blizzard implemented Overwatch endorsements and "Looking For Group" systems. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Dev Diary #10 - Player Versus Player (Season 1) - by gumi Team Blogs - 17 December 2018 - 8:12am
For this edition of Developer’s Diary, let us proceed into something impressive. Something global players have been waiting for since the launch of THE ALCHEMIST CODE over a year ago -The Player Versus Player (PvP) feature.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

How to turn your mod into an indie game - by Nick Pearce Blogs - 17 December 2018 - 8:10am
So you’ve made a mod, you’ve heard of the incredible success of mod-to-indie transformations like PUBG & Team Fortress 2, and you’re thinking about transforming your mod into a stand-alone game. Here's what I've learned, making The Forgotten City.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

11 BOSS BATTLES OF X-MORPH: DEFENSE, PART 6 - THE CHINESE DRAGON TRAIN - by Piotr Bomak Blogs - 17 December 2018 - 8:09am
The development of X-Morph: Defense took over 5 years. It seems like a very long time, but it was not enough to implement some of the crazier ideas that we came up with. We would like to share the story of a boss battle that fell victim to its own scope.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

5 trends that defined the game industry in 2018

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 17 December 2018 - 7:48am

The year 2018 lasted approximately 30 normal years. From studio closures to the Fortnite phenomenon, here are the trends that defined the game industry in the longest year in the history of humankind. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

A Wintry Adventure For Your Holiday Game

Gnome Stew - 17 December 2018 - 5:00am

In the past, I’ve written holiday articles about sinister Santas, and evil elves. This year I present a roughed out tongue in cheek Holiday adventure ready to be adapted to a system of choice or stolen for your own game.

Setup: A dark god is spawning an avatar on the material plane. The PCs find out and it’s up to them to stop the strange being from  furthering its patron’s influence. They will encounter resistance of several types and the longer it takes them to reach the final showdown with the avatar, the more difficult it will be to defeat it. Keep some sort of counter to indicate how long it takes to reach the final scene.

Scene 1:  A new red star flickers malignantly in the sky in late afternoon and a cold wind blows the first flakes of snow. It is obviously an ill omen. With skill checks or visiting a sage, PCs can discover the following:

  • The star and storm are symbols of the arrival of a new power
  • The new power can be found under the star
  • There are expensive herbs that can be burned to ward off the power and it’s minions ( All enemies in the adventure count as minions. PCs will have to gather or purchase these herbs if they want them. Gathering takes more time, purchasing more money.)

Scene 2:  As the PCs travel towards the star, the storm increases in power. It makes checks to track based on the star more difficult and failed checks add time to the counter. Before long they encounter a herd of maddened sheep. Some are simply maddened animals, others have been twisted by the dark power giving them extra limbs or allowing them to walk on two legs or bite for damage. Play these up as being each twisted in strange and unique ways. PCs will also see the remains of several eaten people littering the ground, mostly bones and scraps of cloth. While they are being harassed by the beasts, the PCs will hear cries for help from nearby. A shepherd is up in a tree and surrounded by a cluster of the monsters. The PCs can either drive off or kill the monsters attacking them and move on, leaving the NPC to their fate, or take extra time to save them. If saved, he asks the PCs why they happened to be in range to help and will accompany them if allowed to. He knows he will most likely die but considers their cause important and owes them his life anyway.

Scene 3: The storm increases in power again. Now navigating is more difficult again and sight range is limited, making ranged attacks more difficult. The PCs encounter flying demons who attempt to slow their progress with unholy song. These demons fly in the storm without hindrance and sing in an attempt to slow the PCs. Failing saves causes mesmerization for a short time. PCs can attempt to snap each other out of the effect with simple actions, or can attack the demons to stop them. If all the PCs are ever mesmerized at the same time, add some time to the counter and fast forward to when the next PC comes out of the effect. If the shepherd is with the PCs he will not attack the demons (aside from throwing stones he doesn’t have any way to do so) but will instead sing prayers to ward off the effects of their singing. This will grant save bonuses to all PCs. If other PCs join in singing they will grant the same bonus (these do not stack) and grant THEMSELVES a bigger bonus. You may wish to grant xp bonuses to players who actually sing while not describing their actions (without being disruptive).

Scene 4: The storm grows stronger and colder and starts to cause damage or roll penalties to the PCs in addition to the navigation and ranged attack penalties, unless they have warm gear or cold resistance. The star leads to a barn. Inside is a variety of livestock including a horse and her wide eyed newborn mule, a mutilated family of farmers and a large demonic entity. Some of the livestock cowers, others are mad as with the sheep from the earlier scene. While the demonic entity is a challenging foe (and the PCs will have to defeat it and any maddened creatures) it’s not actually the new evil power. Instead the new power is the baby mule. If the PCs defeat the obvious threat and aren’t thorough, they may miss the more subtle one. If the shepherd is with them and survives the fight, he may miss a save via fiat and stay and tend to the remaining docile animals.

Conclusion: There could be a couple outcomes here. Either the PCs miss the mule, in which case it may come back to be a threat later, or they deal with it in one way or another. This could be as simple as killing it, or taking it on to convert it, etc… Sky’s the limit here. If the mule is stopped, the god behind it will be angered and most certainly will send other agents to deal with the PCs later. It’s lose-lose which as a GM I love. Means there’s always more hooks to pursue.

The evil mule is of course the scion of the evil mules that occasionally turn up in my games. (See? Told you it would be relevant.) They’re fun because they’re as good as invisible, make your players paranoid as hell, and are great for anything from a one shot to a world threatening evil. They’re also just a little bit silly. Enjoy!

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fuzzy Thinking: Stab! Stab! Stab!

RPGNet - 17 December 2018 - 12:00am
Fuzzy Backstab
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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