Game Design

Meeple Like Us, September 2017 - by Michael Heron

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 2 October 2017 - 6:47am
This is what's been going on in the world of Meeple Like Us in September of 2017.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Brain in a Jar 1: Two Systems - by Mitchell Nelson

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 2 October 2017 - 6:47am
There are two brains, at least, in our heads. They operate as two distinct systems with different features and abilities. Well-designed games engage both systems effectively.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Let's Talk Level Design - by Ryan Krause

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 2 October 2017 - 6:45am
I talk about the steps I took to create my dungeon and puzzle layout for my newest game: The Escape Exam. Learn some tips and tricks to avoid headaches for the future.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Bringing Galaxy on Fire 3 to Vulkan: Handling Resources and Assets - by Johannes Kuhlmann

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 2 October 2017 - 6:44am
Blog series on how we brought our game to Vulkan. This is post 2 of 5 covering textures, shaders and graphics pipelines.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Writing Shotgun - A Discussion On Documentation and Team Involvement! - by Meredith Hall

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 2 October 2017 - 6:44am
Documentation is an essential in any team based environment, not only to be a guideline but also to be the answer to any questions someone may have about the general development of the game.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Astra Militarum Codex, Plague Marine Pre-Orders Available From Games Workshop

Tabletop Gaming News - 2 October 2017 - 6:00am
We’re not quite to cold and flu season, but it’s certainly on its way. And what do you use to fight against it? Why, the power and fury of the Imperial Army, of course! Well, that’s what happens in 40k when you’ve got Plague Marines on the rampage; the Imperial Guard steps in to fight […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Star Trek Adventures: These are the Voyages - Volume 1

New RPG Product Reviews - 2 October 2017 - 5:44am
Publisher: Modiphius
Rating: 5
Visually stunning, with the appearance of a Starfleet computer interface and apposite illustrations, there's a brief Introduction and eight completely-developed adventures to keep your starship crew busy. The Introduction points out that exploration is a major part of Starfleet's role, and that all the adventures are somewhat exploratory in nature. It also suggests that any of the adventures could be used either as a starting-point for a campaign or dropped into an existing one as preferred, and that they are amenable to modifications as necessary to fit in with what is happening in YOUR universe. Reassuringly, each is written without the need for specialist knowledge of any specific movie, era or episode; and while some are intended for a particular era notes are provided to help you fit it to the era you want to play in.

Each adventure comes with a synopsis, three acts and a conclusion... and there's plenty to get your teeth into. The first adventure, A World with a Bluer Sun, is aimed at The Original Series (TOS) era and involves a spot of time-travel. If you are not playing in TOS era, there are some interesting ideas to make it work for any other era. It all starts with a distress call... and ends with negotiations with a new alien lifeform and maybe the odd warp core exploding!

The other adventures are equally exciting, although each brings its own challenges. Border Dispute pits the party against the Romulans in a tense situation that could easily spark a war, Entropy's Demise has them investigation a planet where things get old fast, and in Forests of the Night they encounter a really strange alien vessel. Biological Clock raises issues around the Prime Directive, A Plague of Arias involves the commemoration of a major medical breakthrough that isn't quite what everyone thinks, That Which is Unknown starts off with a weapons-testing task that quickly goes astray, and finally The Shepherd discovers sentience in a very unlikely place!

Resources are good, with suggestions throughout as to what the party could check and what information they can receive, likewise their likely actions are laid out clearly so that even a novice GM should be able to handle task resolution easily, with plentiful complications and even alternate endings to enable you to accommodate player actions. This collection of adventures provides for hours of fun and should spawn plenty more of your own.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Troy’s Crock Pot: Q and A with Frank Mentzer about Worlds of Empyrea

Gnome Stew - 2 October 2017 - 3:00am

Frank Mentzer, gamer and game designer who started working at TSR in 1980, has launched a Kickstarter for a new game setting: Worlds of Empyrea.  Here is the Q&A we did discussing this new project and his thoughts about the OSR.

Q. Let’s start with the title itself: “Worlds of Empyrea.”  Not the kingdom of Empyrea, not the continent of, nor even world of, but “Worlds.”  So how broad and far-reaching is this setting?

Greetings! Yes, it’s plural. For the first time in tabletop gaming history, a setting is being released for ten different game systems. You choose your favorite game when you order it, and all the statistics in the set are for that system.

We collect all the crunch in one System Book. When you need the crunch, you’re probably headed for action, so you switch to the System Book.  Once things settle down again, you go back to the main book, bigger maps, and so forth.

Adventures have more action, so you can’t separate the crunch. A setting is far less dependent on the numbers, being more about verisimilitude and historical context. Each character and monster has to have its relevant data, and things must be described using the right words and terms. Thus, each ‘world’ is the Empyrea of that game system. We’ll have dedicated sets for each of the following: D&D 5e, 1e/2e, and BECMI (my ‘red box’ series); Runequest and Savage Worlds; and five major D&D variants (Open Game License aka OGL games) Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardry, and Hackmaster… Ten Worlds of Empyrea.

If this works as planned, the next step is actively modifying that version of Empyrea to reflect the game system, not merely ‘patch’ it with stats. This is a longer project, to be undertaken with the cooperation of each creator and/or publisher involved.

Q. If I may … publishers and game creators today are very specific about defining how their settings and hobby games fit in terms of genre and play style, mostly so they can directly target their intended audience. But from what I’m hearing, does Empyrea hearken back to an era when audience interests in fantasy, sword and sorcery,  horror, adventure and science fiction more freely overlapped?  Or is this something completely new?

With its roots in the 1970s, Empyrea has Old School origins. But most of the development has been from 1990 to present, while watching the exciting new developments in the hobby, both mainstream and Indie.

The core campaign is so ‘pure fantasy’ that Tech items are actually Forbidden by the gods. Of course that implies a black market, and a source in the first place … which leads us to orbit. Future projects will look at this planet from outside, and the intent is to address Traveller, Starfinder, and other great SF RPGs as we’re doing Fantasy on this round.

Q. The FAQ on Empyrea states it has three main premises. Can we take them in turn and can you elaborate on what each means for the players whose characters will inhabit the setting?

Each premise affects vast parts of society, so I’m glad you focused on the players.

First, “Magic instead of Technology?”

The church distributes magical light pebbles and a recommended curriculum for home education. Simple elemental transformations (removing water from mud, or earth from air) produce superhighways and a fire suppressant, respectively. To the average player character, this has all been normal for a century at least, and is all taken for granted. That’s the focus of the ‘quickstart’ adventures we provide in the set.

A sentient but indifferent planet?

A group of cultists (druids) can smooth-talk it into revealing valuable clues. One was “since you can talk to animals, ask them what THEY want,” which produced animal crossings, less farm trouble, and more cooperation all around. Again, this produces more general effects than character-specific.

Royals who place quality of life above the unbalancing mass whims like war and wealth?

The people always get shafted when a power group rises. They want life to be both worthwhile and fair. Life isn’t fair, but if everybody tries, they can make it better. Royals encourage Diplomacy vs. war, People vs. greed, Quality of life vs. consolidated power. The Arts are subsidized, and creativity flowers.

 

Q. Much of that sounds almost idyllic. What’s the source or sources of conflict in the setting? What threatens this way of life? What impels adventurers to strike out?

Enjoy it while you can; the end is prophesied. The east and west are impassible, north is mountainous and hostile, and south is deepwood where the Evil One is gathering armies. And a nearby Orc realm is trying to become civilized, and all the Dragons are tired of being hunted by adventurers. And more ….

Q. Gnome Stew readers are mostly game masters. Speaking directly to them, what are the elements of Empyrea that you would dangle before them as an enticement?

It’s easy. It can become your “other setting” for your usual game, with a very short and easy learning curve. It contains almost no new game details. The epic plot elements are continental, not personal, and become a background to your own character stories. Many new concepts and details will inspire you to create your own Empyrea adventures.

Q. Can you spare a few moment to discuss your association with Gary Gygax and how that relationship fits with regard to the setting?

I lucked out when, unemployed in the Philadelphia suburbs in the 1970s, I was hired by TSR in 1980. He soon picked me to start the RPGA, and a friendship evolved. My fourth RPGA adventure to be published, “Doc’s Island” (R-4), had a background that involved Gary’s campaign. We discussed his, mine, and ours, and decided to add it to TSR publishing plans. One routine document (at the time) approved the ‘history’ part, placing both campaigns on the same planet. However, they were to have no interaction, primarily due to a great sea between them. (Actually we wanted to keep the Intellectual Property elements entirely separate and thereby more controllable.)

Sadly Gary was ousted in 1985, and Empyrea never got to the TSR drawing board. I wasn’t going to do it at TSR without him, since I created it before TSR (1977-80) and that would simply give it away. Gary would have taken care of me, but now I was alone. So it had to wait.

Throughout the 1980s I worked for game companies, and everything I wrote (and everything Gary wrote as well) belongs to the publishers thereof. We have no quibble with that, and we don’t steal from others. This is not a Greyhawk product; it’s all new, all original.

Q. Is this an appropriate moment to ask about the OSR movement?  What does the Old School Renaissance mean to you?  What contributions is OSR making that are having an impact on rpgs, either mainstream, third party or even personal press?

In many ways, corporate methods have controlled the D&D game, and many other RPGs, for decades. We all understand that means bigger and more widespread (distribution and support primarily). “Better” is a value judgment, so let’s just say ‘different’ artistic styles have been left for the OSR and others, categorized as “Indies” or small companies or just folks with day jobs.

Lower overhead brings lower prices and encourages volunteerism, amateur, and semi-pro efforts of all kinds. Some who scorn corporate productions will flock to sincere and different offerings, seeking the obvious creativity and freedom from big-market shackles. Many don’t seek corporate success; they just want to have a voice, to contribute. It’s great that a method exists for this; it’s a broad, rich, and vital part of our hobby.

Q. While not a universal sentiment among game designers, I have had several confess to trepidation when packaging their personal setting for publication. Sometimes it’s the social ties to the players at the table that hold them back, in others, it’s a proprietary concern, they are just reluctant to see it released into the wild, so to speak. They are perfectly willing to work up something from scratch for publication, but that personal game is another matter. Where do you, and Empyrea, fall on this spectrum, and have your thoughts on this changed over time?

I felt that way decades ago. Now I’m 67, and don’t have time to hold it back. Empyrea has been in the playtest lab for 25 years online, and existed in 4 major incarnations — 1970s Philadelphia area, 1980s Lake Geneva, 1990s Online, and 2000s Chicago area. As game masters, all of our ‘home games’ are in rough shape, nobody writes them like published stuff. So there’s a lot of typing still to tackle.

Q. Share with us what you can about your partners in this venture.  Publishing is a collaborative enterprise. Who are some of the people on your team and what are their various responsibilities?

Although I’ve been preparing for this for decades, the activity team started forming this summer. (The following list doesn’t include the 20 or so Legendary Names from the history of D&D, our contributing authors and artists.) Loxley Enterprises is the parent company; Empyrea is the project. For that, Darlene agreed to be partner and graphics manager as well as producing the big campaign map herself. Ted Fauster, my aide (creative and organizational), was the first hired, and will work with me and TSR veteran Tim Beach for text and development. I invited Peter Bradley, Don Higgins, Ogmios, and Mark Quire for our general art needs, plus Alyssa Faden and Anna Meyer for cartography. Mike Myler is our crowdfunding engineer and media coordinator, and TSR veterans Steven Winter and Anne K. Brown will handle the editing. Finally, former GAMA president Chris Wiese is handling contracts and other business aspects, and Kevin “Doc” Wilson is Mr. Organization, managing the flow of the many sub-projects. We still need a business manager and some accounting support.

Q.  I’ve got D&D rulebooks with red and blue covers that, I know now, were largely the result of your efforts. At the time, I didn’t care who wrote them, only that they were the source material for a game my friends and I spent countless hours playing.  We had fun, together, at the game table. Do you have similar hopes for Empyrea? That it too, can be a source of hours of game play in a magical, timeless setting?

I hope for far more. The invention of roleplaying as a pastime triggered a major change in games. Before that, everything was competitive, from racing to sports to checkers. This was a whole new world for millions … and then it got better! It taught us how to verbalize, to compromise with others and form a team, and how to improve at numbers and visualization. In the process, we befriended others, and the resulting bonds are precious in our hearts, no matter how much time passes. These games add depth to our lives.

All game companies have to focus on paying their own people and bills, and they just can’t address games they don’t publish. In offering Empyrea for 10 game systems, Loxley is encouraging community. If we all have a common setting, it’ll be easier to try new game systems. If we have common interests, that may spur outreach and dialogue. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I know the potential is there, and that most gamers are smarter than most non-gamers, and can transcend their minor differences. Together we can do this.

We can do this, and we will. See you in Empyrea.

Thank your for your time, Best of luck with Empyrea and the Kickstarter, which begins Oct. 2.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fuzzy Thinking: Boardrooms & Businessmen

RPGNet - 2 October 2017 - 12:00am
The new papers and paychecks!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: The Creative Loot Box Observer

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 1 October 2017 - 8:12pm

Some of this week's highlights include the history of Creative Assembly, a disassembly of the loot box phenomenon, and analysis of the cyberpunk standout Observer. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: The Creative Loot Box Observer - by Simon Carless

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 1 October 2017 - 8:01am
Some of this week's highlights include the history of Creative Assembly, a disassembly of the loot box phenomenon, and analysis of the cyberpunk standout Observer.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Review Roundup

Tabletop Gaming News - 30 September 2017 - 11:00am
Woo! Saturday! Woo! As you’re reading this, I’m over at the LGS, hanging out and just taking it easy. I’m hoping you’re doing much the same (or have done so and are just reading this later, as I am typing this earlier). Either way, I hope you’re able to make good use out of the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Wyrd Previews Breachlings For The Other Side

Tabletop Gaming News - 29 September 2017 - 3:00pm
It’s Wyrds tradition to book-end the work week with previews. Mondays we get some new Malifaux artwork. Friday we get a The Other Side preview. Well, I’ve got my Friday shirt on. So that must mean it’s time for a The Other Side preview. And Wyrd’s right on time to give it to us. This […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Munchkin Magical Mess Coming In January

Tabletop Gaming News - 29 September 2017 - 2:00pm
Munchkin is a game with a thousand faces. The game has seemingly countless different versions. A new one will be coming out in January. This one brings back Moop. There’s more mashed-up monsters to mangle as you make your way to more moot… I mean loot. From the announcement: Murder more monsters for much merriment! […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fantasy Flight Games Previews World Wonders in Sid Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn

Tabletop Gaming News - 29 September 2017 - 1:00pm
Civilizations love to build great works to show off their wealth and power. Be it grand buildings like the Eiffel Tower, or massive structures like the Great Wall, or fantastic gardens like those in Babylon, they all make a grand statement to the world. In Sid Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn, you’ll be able to […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Nintendo bars Creators Program members from streaming its games

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 29 September 2017 - 12:56pm

Nintendo's turbulent relationship with the community of content creators over on YouTube seems to be in rocky waters once again. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Plaid Hat Games Announces Specter Ops: Broken Covenant

Tabletop Gaming News - 29 September 2017 - 12:00pm
The original Specter Ops game was just the beginning. Plaid Hat Games has announced that they’re expanding the universe with their next game, Specter Ops: Broken Covenant. You must decide for yourself whether humans are at their best when they’re free, or if having total control over their lives is in their best interest. Check […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Friday Snippets

Tabletop Gaming News - 29 September 2017 - 11:00am
And here we are again. Friday: threshold to the weekend. I’m sure many of you are gearing up for a weekend of gaming, possibly starting as early as when you get off of work. I’m looking to spend tomorrow at the LGS, hopefully getting in some games of Guild Ball and Bushido. But whatever your […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Z-Man Games Posts New Pandemic Legacy Season 2 Preview

Tabletop Gaming News - 29 September 2017 - 10:00am
The thing that sets Legacy-style games apart from others is that the game will literally change each time you play. What you do in one session will have an effect on the next. Card packs will be opened. Other cards will be removed. The game board will be altered. People went crazy over this aspect […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

September Releases Available From CMON

Tabletop Gaming News - 29 September 2017 - 9:01am
CMON’s got a whole bunch of new releases available for you today. There’s 5 different titles, from dungeon crawlers, to martial arts action, to an expansion for a hugely popular title, to even more. If you’ve been wanting to get a hold of Massive Darkness, Dojo Kun, Gateway: Uprising, Meeple War, or the Fifth Ingredient […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

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