Game Design

Bringing Galaxy on Fire 3 to Vulkan: What We Have Learned - by Johannes Kuhlmann Blogs - 9 October 2017 - 7:04am
Blog series on how we brought our game to Vulkan. This is post 3 of 5 where we talk about what problems and pitfalls we encountered and how we solved them. We also have some useful tips and pointers on what to look out for.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

4 Management Tips to Run Your Indie Development Studio’s Finances Like a Hyperion Executive - by Remy Albillar Blogs - 9 October 2017 - 7:02am
A quick lesson in tightening company finances directed at indie game developers. Add a twist of Borderlands, then let sit on your noggin for 10 minutes.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Game Design Analysis: The Stranger Things - by Ludi Dong Blogs - 9 October 2017 - 7:02am
Look into the mobile game The Stranger Things on its game design, systems, story, art and sound. Analyse the reason Netflix develops it.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Always Give Your Players A Receipt

Gnome Stew - 9 October 2017 - 3:00am


“The sword of duquesne gets stolen by the naked man…”
Community did an excellent episode where they played Dungeons and Dragons, and it was advanced! One of the things that has always struck me about that episode was the part where the character Neil’s sword gets stolen out of spite by another player . It sets up a ton of plot threads and talks about inter-party conflict, but it has always struck me that the episode could have gone a totally different way had it not ended with them recovering the sword. It would have sucked for Neil, having an heirloom and important part of his concept of his character get stolen and not recovered, and would totally have changed the outcome of the effect of the game on Neil’s mental attitude towards life (a major part of the plot of the episode).

It also struck me how similar that experience of having something taken away from a character is similar to experiences I’ve heard about from people, and how similar it is to experiences I’ve had as a player. The ability to threaten things that are close to characters is an important tool in the GM’s toolbox, as it gives them a way to make the game’s outcomes feel meaningful, but the legacy of adversarial GMing — where it is the players vs the GM and everything victory is hard fought — can totally sink a player’s morale if they suddenly lose some part of their agency in moving the story forward.

There’s an easy way to overcome that though:


Always Give Your Players A Receipt For Things You Take Away

A character losing a valuable item, the party being thrown in jail by the guards, or really anything that removes the players ability to react to the situation or attempt to get out of it, deserves some assurance that you aren’t going to be an asshole and make things horrible for them. Pretty much anything that asks the player to bear with you for a bit deserves a receipt, a promise that you’re not taking their ability to interact with the story away, just putting it on pause and they’ll get it back.

“The Guards apprehend you and demand you go with them to jail! Ok everyone, this is a bit meta, but if you go with them without a fight, this token is my assurance that it won’t stop everything. You’ll get your gear back, you’ll get out of the jail at some point, however you make that happen, but it won’t stop the story. Maybe you’ll break out and have a record, but we’ll keep moving on and I’m not taking anything away, and if you lose something, like a guard steals your magic sword, you will get it back at some point, or something as cool. June, maybe this is how you get that ice sword you were talking about rather than the fire one, I don’t know yet. So, you don’t have to go with the guards, but if you do I’ll make sure you get everything back.”

That’s all a bit meta, but what matters most from the players side of the table is knowing that the things you are doing to move the story along aren’t just out of spite. They may already know that by your play style and have full trust in you, and they may be 100% down for that style of play and won’t get annoyed when you burn up their gear because they didn’t explicitly say they were being super careful around the fire elemental — and if those expectations are set, awesome. No need to change the paradigm you’ve already established. It is never a bad idea to reaffirm that you are on their side though.

 Pretty much anything that asks the player to bear with you for a bit deserves a receipt, a promise that you’re not taking their ability to interact with the story away, just putting it on pause and they’ll get it back.  I will never forget an early game in my career where I wanted to make use of my characters tanning skills to make some leather while we were camping, and with a gleeful smirk that said “I like screwing with your character” a GM told me that creatures made off with the leathers I was tanning in the night. No real reason, maybe a passing roll to see the likelihood behind the screen, no moving forward of the story or hilarious side quest where we chase down creatures chewing on the leather that was supposed to be my new hand-made armor, just that sense of “Wow, the GM just wants to screw with us if we don’t stay in line.” That was the second to last game I played in that campaign, and I think the third to last game that ever occurred in it. A different take on that situation, a validation that there was a reason for it other than “I’ve had a crappy day and you are my target” might have saved the campaign.


The Other Side

But doesn’t this take away risk? Yes, yes it does if not done correctly, but that is all dependent on your play style. A receipt in a game can take many forms, and it is best used when you are looking at removing something core to a character for a plot reason or asking the players to bear with where the story is headed. If mercenaries sneak on-board the star ship and flush all the cargo out the airlock while the crew is tied up, it is assumed that is part of the story and there is going to be an eventual escape and retaking of the ship. What can the players expect to still have intact after that episode plays out? Whatever moves the story along, or else give the players a receipt. There is still the risk that Jayne dies while fighting off the crew, if that’s your play style, but if he survives and Vera gets flushed out the airlock or broken, the receipt is a promise that he will take a bigger/better gun from one of the mercenaries OR that Vera will pop up in a vendor’s stall and a hilarious fight/kerfuffle will occur that puts Vera back in Jayne’s loving hands.


Final Thoughts

There is a natural power imbalance that comes up in games, when you as the Game Master can say “Rocks fall and you die” whenever a player annoys you. Giving a player a receipt in any type of game you are playing helps counterbalance that effect. You are assuring the player that you’re not just screwing with them, but instead you’re there to help them progress the story along. A receipt isn’t always a necessity, but it’s a token of respect for the players’ agency in the game and the sanctity of their characters. You’re promising you are going to screw with them, but only in the ways that push the story forward. It might not be a tactic that is great for every game, but it’s one that can be super effective, especially during one-shots or when used with a new table.

What experiences have you had that a receipt might have made better? Do you feel this eliminates too much risk from a game? Have you used something like this as a GM?




Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fuzzy Thinking: Slimes and Oozes

RPGNet - 9 October 2017 - 12:00am
Fuzzy jello.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: XXX Loot On Your Steam Death

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 8 October 2017 - 8:15pm

Some of this week's top longform articles/videos include more loot box opinions, the history of the ill-fated BMX XXX, what happens to your Steam account when you die, and more. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: XXX Loot On Your Steam Death - by Simon Carless Blogs - 8 October 2017 - 8:07am
Some of this week's top longform articles/videos include more loot box opinions, the history of the ill-fated BMX XXX, what happens to your Steam account when you die, and more.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Review Roundup

Tabletop Gaming News - 7 October 2017 - 11:00am
It’s not just Saturday. It’s a 3-day weekend Saturday! The best kind of Saturday! (well, except for 4-day weekend Saturdays, or week-off Saturdays, but let’s not get pedantic here) I’m just kinda chillin’ today. Why go and run yourself ragged? Instead, I’ll just hang out and pass along some reviews for you to check out. […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Zombie Doctor Card Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 3:00pm
I used to work at a hospital. It was a pretty dangerous place. Sharp objects. Strange chemicals. Zombies. Ok, maybe there weren’t zombies… that I know of… But in Zombie Doctor, the zombies are definitely there, and they’re the doctors, themselves! In the game, players are looking to keep themselves from becoming the undead, while […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video: Game career advice from women who have been there and done that

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 6 October 2017 - 2:04pm

This fantastic series of microtalks (delivered at GDC 2017's Game Career Seminar) offers would-be game devs (especially women) some career advice gleaned from notable devs' own industry experiences. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Digital Version of Ogre Now Available

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 2:00pm
Auroch Digital has released the digital version of the Ogre tabletop miniatures game over on Steam. … I should get a Steam account at some point… maybe… Anyway, for those of you that actually have such an account, you can bring this classic game to your computer screens, sending your Fencers versus enemy G.E.V.s, or […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Fall of Hispania Board Game Up On Verkami

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 1:00pm
“If you’re such a goth, where were you when we sacked Rome!?” Well, we’re not quite to the sacking of Rome yet, but it is certainly the final part of the Roman Empire that we find ourselves in The Fall of Hispania. Tribes like the Vaandals, Suebis, Alans, and Visigoths are looking to take over […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Knuckleduster Posts Free Gunfighter’s Ball Rules

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 12:00pm
We all know my love of “try before you buy.” Being an informed consumer is very important in this day and age. I also think it shows a company feels they’ve got a quality product. “Look, we’ll let you try it for free and we know you’ll come back for more.” That’s what Knuckleduster is […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Friday Snippets

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 11:00am
Reasons why today’s pretty awesome: 1) It’s Friday 2) It’s going to be a 3-day weekend 3) We’ve got our chili and dessert cook-off today I mean… how does it really get much better than that? Well, I guess I could be gaming afterward. But I don’t have any lined up for the evening. But […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Medieval Board Game Coming to Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 10:00am
Occasionally, games get purchased by a new company who look to give them a good overhaul. That’s what’s going on with Medieval. HGN Games has picked it up and gave it a good scrubbing. The art has been entirely changed, and the rules got a good streamlining. They’re looking to bring this new version to […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Wyrd Previews Electrocutioners For The Other Side

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 9:19am
I hate when the power goes out. And I’m sure most of you would agree. It’s never an opportune time. It’s always, “damn. I was right in the middle of ____.” Well, if you were an Electrocutioner, you could probably just plug your big gun-thing into the socket and power up whatever you needed. They’re […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Clash Yunval Card Game Now Available

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 9:00am
Clash Yunval is a new strategy card game available from Verithran. Summon powerful allies in your quest to defeat monsters and gain stars. The game will feature different sets, each that are able to be played on their own, or mixed together for an even bigger melee. You can pick up your copies through the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

AEG Posts Up October Releases

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 8:00am
AEG’s got two new releasing that they’ve posted up for the month of October. They’re even taking pre-orders. One’s Mana Storm, a new expansion to Mystic Vale, the deck-building game where you actually alter the cards as you’re playing (though not permanently like a Legacy game). The other is Cutthroat Kingdoms (had to keep myself […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Death Korps of Krieg Sets Available to Order From Forge World

Tabletop Gaming News - 6 October 2017 - 7:00am
One of the more-popular Imperial Guard groups is the Death Korps of Krieg. I’ve always loved how they look, with their trench coats and gas masks. It’s a very WWI-feel to me, which I think is awesome, since I think that war gets overlooked a lot more than it should. Anyway, there’s some new units, […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

100 Days of VR: Day 21 Creating Game Over UI in Unity - by Josh Chang Blogs - 6 October 2017 - 6:51am
Welcome back to day 21. In the past couple of days, we worked on creating a health system for our player and fixing some problems with our enemy that relied on it. Today the first thing to do is create a game over state when the player’s health reaches 0.
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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